Mar 9, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌞 Good Monday morning, and welcome back.

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,144 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing ... Behind the curtain: Biden's secret governing plan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Animation: Nathan Goodell/The Strangeworks

Joe Biden confidants are privately discussing potential leaders and Cabinet members for his White House, including the need to name a woman or African American — perhaps both — as vice president, top sources tell "Axios on HBO." 

  • John Kerry would love to take a new Cabinet position devoted to climate change, or might even accept a curtain call to return as secretary of state.
  • Mike Bloomberg, who swiftly endorsed Biden after the former mayor's campaign collapsed, would be a top possibility to head the World Bank.
  • Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general under Obama who stood up to Trump and was fired, would be a leading contender for attorney general.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Treasury secretary could help unite the party.
  • Jamie Dimon — chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, and mentioned over the years as a potential presidential candidate — would also be considered for Treasury.
  • Another possibility to head Treasury: Anne Finucane, vice chairman of Bank of America.

Behind the curtain: Campaign officials say the name game isn't where Biden's head is — he knows he has major primary and general-election fights ahead.

  • Officials point out they don't yet have a transition — and haven't run a process that would surface new talent, like Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize physicist who was Obama's first secretary of energy.

But it's a sign of the sudden optimism around his candidacy that some in his circle of trust are starting to think down the road, starting with the V.P. pick:

  • Some Biden advisers hope he could overcome hard feelings from the Obama years and pick Warren for V.P. to excite party progressives.
  • Also high on the list of potential Biden picks for #2 are several African Americans: Sen. Kamala Harris (first on many lists) and Sen. Cory Booker, both of whom ended their nomination fights before the voting began ... former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who ended his presidential campaign after New Hampshire ... and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who electrifies crowds.

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2. What record-low interest rates mean
Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. long-term interest rates have plunged to unprecedentedly low levels — lower even than was seen at the depths of the global financial crisis, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: The economic world has never looked like this — not in the U.S., anyway. Rates this low don't make rational sense, and they speak to severe economic pessimism and dislocation.

For a homebuyer looking at 30-year fixed mortgage rates of 2.75%, the current state of affairs can seem unambiguously positive. But these rates violate common-sense intuitions of what money is worth.

  • Consider a $1,000 tax refund that you're expecting from the government this month. Would you perhaps prefer $1,5o0, payable to you (or your heirs) in the year 2050?
  • Very few individuals would accept that offer. After all, $1,500 today buys only as much as $740 would have bought 30 years ago.
  • The market, however, prefers the distant promise to cash today. A U.S. government obligation to pay $1,500 in 2050 is worth more than $1,000 today.

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3. Virus and climate: Risks we ignore

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forget black swans. We’re getting run over by two gray rhinos: coronavirus and climate change, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" energy column.

  • A gray rhino is a metaphor coined by risk expert Michele Wucker to describe "highly obvious, highly probable, but still neglected" dangers, as opposed to unforeseeable or highly improbable risks — the kind in the black swan metaphor.

The big picture: The coronavirus spreading infection and fear around the world is prompting black swan references from the media and investors alike, as is climate change’s impact on financial markets.

  • But epidemics like the coronavirus and the slower burn problem of global warming are actually gray rhino risks, because there have been plenty of warnings for those who were paying attention.

For most people on the street — or a cruise ship — it’s probably OK if they haven’t been paying attention until now to a potential epidemic.

  • But governments, companies and experts around the world should have seen it coming because epidemics are not new and are likely to become more common, Bill Gates says.

Keep reading.

4. 🗳️ Manufacturing counties struggle ahead of Michigan primary
Adapted from Third Way. Chart: Axios Visuals

The counties in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that flipped from blue to red in 2016 all have this in common: They're heavily reliant on manufacturing — and are still struggling amid industrial decline, Axios' Kim Hart writes.

  • Why it matters: Michigan's primary tomorrow will serve as a significant litmus test for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who are trying to win the trust of workers in those counties.

In 2016, President Trump won by a total of 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

  • "[U]nderstanding those three states will be crucial to determining whether 2016 constitutes an aberration or a new reality," Third Way writes in a report, "Flipped & Floundering: Diverging Dynamism in the Blue Wall."

Michigan added 19,500 jobs in 2018-2019, but at the same time lost 5,300 manufacturing jobs.

  • While jobs have increased overall, many come with low pay and limited benefits.
  • Per capita income in the state is 14% below the national average, writes Crain's Chad Livengood. That's a big drop from 20 years ago.

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5. Trump loses ground in battleground polling
Graphic: Firehouse Strategies

Quarterly polling by Firehouse Strategies (founded by Republicans) and 0ptimus finds that President Trump’s lead dropped considerably against both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders since December in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

  • "In each of the three states, Trump polls better in head-to-head matchups against Sanders than against Biden."
  • See polling memo.
Graphic: Firehouse Strategies
6. 🦠 Coronavirus quick catch-up

Spotted today outside a mall in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Sakchai Lalit/AP

The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, a prominent Episcopal church in D.C., was in stable condition after being hospitalized Saturday night — the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.

  • The church suspended all activities. (AP)

🇺🇸 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said they'll self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone at CPAC who tested positive.

🚨 "We're past the point of containment": "As a cruise ship with nearly 3,000 stranded travelers prepares to dock [today] in the Port of Oakland, top health officials warn that the country has entered a new stage ... one in which containment is no longer possible." (L.A. Times)

  • Number of U.S. cases passes 500; death toll rises to 22. Go deeper.

💰 Wall Street's coronavirus anxiety hits new heights, overnight trading shows. Go deeper.

  • "Oil Crashes 31% in Worst Loss Since 1991." (Bloomberg)
A passenger waves aboard the Grand Princess off San Francisco as a media boat approaches. Photo: Noah Berger/AP
7. Female protesters often spark change

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Gender-based violence, WhatsApp message taxes and the rising cost of bread have set off some of the largest protests in the past year, and women were among the first in the streets, often risking their personal safety, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.

Why it matters: There is a direct correlation between the success of protest movements and the participation of women, Harvard professor Erica Chenoweth finds.

  • Protests are more likely to remain nonviolent when women participate, according to a UN report.
  • Women effectively take on many roles during protests and mass movements, from organizer to caregiver to protector.
  • Women playing visible roles in protests have become symbols of freedom and progress.

Keep reading.

8. 1 fun thing

Photo: Crocs

In time for Easter: Peeps-themed crocs. (USA Today)

  • Per Crocs: "Due to the popularity, our adult styles are sold out."
Mike Allen

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