May 2, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

💻 Join me live! On Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET, I'm hosting a virtual event on gene therapy and the future of disease treatment, with Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman.

  • I did pregame interviews yesterday with both these guests, and they're each fascinating on today's race for a coronavirus cure Rep. Scott Peters of San Diego, a biotech hub, and Dr. Jane F. Barlow, an expert on clinical outcomes.
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1 big thing ... What Matters 2020: Coronavirus edition

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Getty Images

The pandemic's impact will reverberate long beyond today's calamities — lives lost, businesses crushed — to drive generational debates on each of the Axios "What Matters 2020" mega-topics, White House editor Margaret Talev writes.

  • The Axios experts narrate these collisions:

Automation: The COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing policies it demands have made human workers both potential victims and vectors of disease, Bryan Walsh reports.

  • S0 we're likely to see an acceleration of the trend towards greater automation in the workplace — with industrial robots and AI agents online.
  • Our thought bubble: If this results in human workers losing jobs to machines, as many experts expect, it could worsen an already terrible recession.

Misinformation: The pandemic is driving misinformation research that may serve as a roadmap for other episodes moving forward, Sara Fischer writes.

Health care costs: Millions of people have lost their health insurance as they’ve lost their jobs, health care editor Sam Baker reports.

  • And though the government has stepped in to cover the cost of coronavirus care, that’s no help to people with chronic conditions, or who get sick with anything else. 

China: The coronavirus has unraveled Washington's bipartisan consensus on China, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian tells me.

  • Until now, there was general agreement among leading Republicans and Democrats that America's policy must address China's hard authoritarian turn. Now they're split over Republicans' efforts to blame China for the pandemic.

Climate change: As the pandemic has overshadowed most other news, climate change has receded from its perch as a rising political topic, per Amy Harder.

  • But expect climate change to be a key part of larger arguments Joe Biden makes against President Trump — accusing him of disavowing science of all kinds, and calling for clean energy to drive an economic recovery if he wins in November.

Capitalism: Countries with strong job protections and welfare states have had many fewer struggles than the U.S. when it comes to keeping workers employed, so that they can go immediately back to work when lockdowns are lifted, per Felix Salmon.

Demographics: The virus' widely disparate racial and ethnic impact will have a potentially transformative effect on Generation Z, and lasting implications for immigration policy, per Stef Kight.

  • Graduates face a workforce with no jobs or internships for them.
  • Immigration could slow because of the economic downturn.

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2. Analogy of the day
Screenshot from CNN

Effective yesterday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) eased closures of restaurants, shops, libraries, gyms and malls in 77 of the state's 99 counties — ones where  virus cases have been minimal or declining, the Des Moines Register reports.

But in Davenport, still under tight restrictions, Glory Smith told The New York Times that the reopening was coming too soon, since the virus doesn't respect county boundaries:

  • "It is like having a smoking section on a plane or in a restaurant,” she said. “It doesn’t work."

How it's playing ...

The New York Times
3. "I don't know what else I can say to you"
Photo: MSNBC's "Morning Joe" via AP

Hours after his interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Joe Biden sent a letter to the Secretary of the Senate asking for records search to try to locate anything about a sexual harassment complaint Tara Reade says she made in 1993.

  • Why it matters: Alexi McCammond reports that there's an expectation among some Democrats that the interview was just the beginning for Biden in addressing the allegations by a former Senate staffer.

Biden told Mika Brzezinski: "I don’t remember any type of complaint she may have made. It was 27 years ago, and I don’t remember, nor does anyone else that I’m aware of, and the fact is that I don’t remember. I don’t remember any complaint ever having been made."

  • Asked if he or his campaign has reached out to her, Biden replied: "No, I have not reached out to her. It’s 27 years ago. This never happened, and when she first made the claim, we made it clear that it never happened, and that’s — it’s as simple as that."
Image: Biden for President

Brzezinski:: "If you could speak directly to Tara Reade about her claims or anything, what would you say?"

  • Biden: "I would — this never, ever happened. I don’t know what is motivating her. I don’t know what — I don’t know what’s behind any of it. But it’s irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened, period. I’m not going to start questioning her, her motive. I’m not going to get into that. I’m not going to start — I’m not going to go after Tara Reade for saying these things. It’s simple: What are the facts? Do any of the things she’s said, do they add up? It never happened."

Go deeper: Interview details. ... See the 18-minute video. ... Interview transcript (subscription).

4. Buffett to lead online meeting

Warren Buffett at his 2019 annual meeting. Photo: Johannes Eiselee/AFP/Getty Images

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is being hit hard by the pandemic, the 89-year-old oracle said at his annual meeting today, with a record quarterly net loss of nearly $50 billion. (Reuters)

  • Berkshire now has $137 billion in cash, up $10 billion since the end of 2019.
  • Bloomberg: "That’s a contrast to the financial crisis in 2008, when his Omaha-based company dipped into its vast cash reserves to gain lucrative preferred shares and rescue businesses teetering on the edge of collapse."
  • Headline of the day ... Axios, "Berkshire Hathaway didn't buy the coronavirus dip."
5. Podium du jour
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On the day of her first formal briefing, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds her 5-month-old daughter, Blake Gilmartin, while posing with her parents, Mike and Leanne McEnany, and younger sister, Ryann McEnany.

Asked during the briefing if she would pledge never to lie to us from the podium, McEnany replied:

  • "I will never lie to you. You have my word on that."
6. Farmers markets in time of virus
Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. Photo: Gotham/Getty Images

Farmers markets are adding drive-thru shopping, cutting their hours and using fencing for crowd control, AP's Corey Williams writes:

  • The farmers market in Overland Park, Kansas, has been moved to the city's convention center, where last Saturday about 700 customers drove past vendors who brought produce to their vehicles.
  • In Vermont, officials have banned entertainment, children's activities and cooking demonstrations to prevent people from congregating in small spaces.

Keep reading.

7. 👀 Spot the difference

These are end-of-the-month fundraising pleas I got from Joe Biden and President Trump:

Graphic: Axios Visuals
8. 1 smile to go
Photo: The Call to Unite via AP

Livestreaming from home, Oprah Winfrey said on The Call to Unite, a 24-hour global relief event, that we should be selective about virus news consumption, AP reports:

  • "If you leave it on all the time — as I know some people do — you will be consumed by the agitation, the hysteria, the confusion and constant angst that has been put into your phone, home and into your spirit."
  • "I have chosen to focus on so many acts of courage and valor, determination and people not giving up."

President George W. Bush said: "Even at an appropriate social distance, we can find ways to be present in the lives of others to ease their anxiety and share their burdens."

  • President Bill Clinton also sent a message of encouragement in a divisive age: "We can get through this together."
Photo: The Call to Unite via AP
Mike Allen

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