Trump announces US will cut funding to WHO

Trump seems to have changed his mind again, just announcing that the US will at least temporarily cut funding to the World Health Organisation.

Fox News: Trump announces US will halt funding to World Health Organization over coronavirus response

President Trump announced at the White House coronavirus press briefing in the Rose Garden on Tuesday that the United States will immediately halt all funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it had put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.”

“We have deep concerns over whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said, accusing the WHO of failing to adequately keep the international community apprised of the threat of the coronavirus.

“The WHO failed in this duty, and must be held accountable,” Trump said. He added that the WHO had ignored “credible information” in December 2019 that the virus could be transmitted from human to human.

If funding was cut to every organisation or Government agency that got something wrong about Covid-19 at some time there would be little money or much done about it.  It’s unlikely trump will cut funding to the White House.

And cutting funding to a health organisation during a health crisis seems an odd approach, even if mistakes had been made.

In the meantime, Trump declared that the United States would undertake a 60-to-90 day investigation into why the “China-centric” WHO had caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus’ spread.

Trump seems intent on blaming others, and throwing in a “political correctness” snipe seems more aiming at an audience in an effort to shore up falling poll support than anything.

Also at the briefing, the president said plans to ease the national economic shutdown were being finalized, and that he would be “authorizing governors to reopen their states to reopen as they see fit.” At the same time, Trump made clear that he was not going to put “any pressure” on governors to reopen.

“We have to get our sports back,” Trump remarked. “I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.”

Trump has had time to watch old baseball games on TV in between changing his mind about funding WHO and blaming others for Covid problems?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S. and a key member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, has said misinformation from China, repeated by the WHO, had affected U.S. response efforts.

Lack of good information from everywhere has been a problem, and countries are still learning as they go.

Trump may not be guilty of political correctness, but his PR has been poor at times. It’s not that long ago he was promoting business as usual by Easter and a ‘beautiful Easter Sunday’ – this spraying of ideas can’t help dealing with the virus.

Reuters: Trump’s May 1 target too optimistic for U.S. coronavirus reopening, adviser Fauci says

President Donald Trump’s May 1 target for restarting the economy is “overly optimistic,” his top infectious disease adviser said on Tuesday, after Trump and state governors clashed over who has the power to lift restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed many governors in saying that health officials must first be able to test for the virus quickly, isolate new cases and track down new infections before social-distancing restrictions can be eased safely.

Trump’s administration has recommended stay-at-home guidelines through the end of April, and the president has floated May 1 as a possible date to start reopening shuttered workplaces in some areas.

Fauci, who frequently appears with Trump at White House coronavirus briefings, has previously contradicted Trump on some issues, such as an unproven medical treatment promoted by the president. Trump on Sunday retweeted a message on Twitter from a conservative political figure calling for Fauci’s firing, but the president later denied plans to dismiss his adviser.

Trump, a Republican who before the pandemic had touted a vibrant U.S. economy as a pillar of his Nov. 3 re-election bid, lashed out at Democratic state governors, suggesting they were “mutineers,” after New York’s Andrew Cuomo said he would refuse any order by the president to reopen the economy too soon.

“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo told CNN early in the day.

At a news conference later, Cuomo said Trump was “clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue” and that he did not want a partisan battle, but added, “We don’t have a king in this country, we have a Constitution and we elect the president.”

Trump could cut funding to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and he could cut funding to states – and the worrying thing is he thinks he has the power to do this and may try to if people disagree with him.

A president obsessed with being seen as not wrong, and with a record of lashing out at anyone who suggests he may not be right or may have not done the best he could have, could do anything, especially if the polls and criticisms continue to work against him.

Tax cuts or not?

Tax cuts have been ruled out from this year’s budget (due later this month).

But there are mixed messages being given on whether their might be election bribe tax cuts in next year’s budget.

A pre-budget speech by Finance Minister Bill English last week was interpreted as ruling out tax cuts in the 2016 and 2017 budgets.

Spending pressures have also changed as a result of higher-than-expected population growth, and further opportunities to invest in better public services

As a result, the new spending allowances for Budget 2016 and Budget 2017 have been rearranged.

With the revised allowances, a portion of spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 has been brought forward into Budget 2016 in recognition of the additional spending pressures.

Another portion of spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 has been used to reduce government debt, to help reach the 2020 debt target.

This was seen as putting a priority on reducing debt.

Lowering income taxes remains a Government priority.  In particular we want to address the higher marginal tax rates faced by low and middle income earners as their incomes continue to rise.

However, as we’ve always said, tax reductions remain dependent on fiscal and economic conditions.

With continuing tight fiscal conditions, we don’t currently have an explicit provision for tax reduction in the fiscal forecasts

At this point, we’ve prioritised additional debt repayment over setting aside money in Budget 2017 for tax cuts.

And this was seen as a fairly clear signal that debt reduction was on the table for the next two budgets and tax cuts were out of the equation. However…

… we are still committed to cutting personal taxes over time, and will consider these – either in Budget 2017 or after – as and when the fiscal situation improves.

But yesterday John Key had a quite different message in his post-cabinet media conference.

Key looks to 2017 and beyond for tax cuts

Prime Minister John Key used his post-cabinet media conference to indicate he was looking at reducing personal tax levels in next year’s budget or he would campaign for a fourth term on a platform of tax cuts.

Key said that record low-interest rates and wages rising faster than inflation had limited demand for tax cuts, but that pressure from the public would grow.

“New Zealanders will say as the average wage rises to nearer the top personal rate, that it’s unacceptable that you’re on the average wage and paying the top personal rate. So there’s going to have to be movement”.

But it seems to be uncertain. Earlier in the day…

…Key indicated that $3 billion would be needed for a significant cut in personal taxes.

But at today’s media conference, he clarified that, saying a $3 billion Budget surplus would not be needed in order for the government to act.

I think it’s very unlikely there will be tax cuts in this month’s budget, but it’s impossible to tell from these mixed messages what will happen next year, when fiscal conditions and no doubt election prospects will be taken into account.

In the meantime effective personal tax rates continue to creep upwards as wage inflation puts new earnings into higher tax brackets.

It was annoyance at this bracket creep that put pressure on  Michael Cullen to give a bit back, and probably played a part in Labour losing the 2008 election, when Cullen finally tweaked the brackets  it was seen as too little  too late.

Inflation adjustment of the thresholds would technically not be a tax cut, it would be prevention of an increase.

I think tax thresholds should be inflation adjusted every budget, or else inaction should be seen as an effective (and deliberate) tax increase.

Key and English will have made up their mind about this year’s budget, it will be signed off and may have been printed.

But they should at least address bracket creep next year. They could start by not being vague and indecisive about whathe 2017 budget.