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Mail-In Mayhem

Today in the NYT:

Now, nearly six weeks later, two closely watched congressional races remain undecided, and major delays in counting a deluge of 400,000 mail-in ballots and other problems are being cited as examples of the challenges facing the nation as it looks toward conducting the November general election during the pandemic.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other officials are trading blame for the botched counting in the city, and the Postal Service is coming under criticism over whether it is equipped to handle the sharp increase in absentee ballots.

While Americans support mail-in voting during the pandemic, and many Governors have moved to make doing so easier, 17 states (including New York) have never before conducted no-excuse mail-in absentee voting for a presidential election.

The disaster in New York should be a clear warning sign that we need to better anticipate problems, better deploy strategies, and then actually have the competence to execute when it comes to holding elections during the COVID-19 era.

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Blog Post

MLB’s COVID Outbreaks Cast Higher Doubt Over School Reopenings

The long-awaited return of the “core four” American sports led off with Major League Baseball on July 23rd. In the 10 days since, we’ve seen Trump vs. Fauci first-pitch drama make its way to the diamond. More disconcerting, we’ve also seen COVID outbreaks sideline 6 of the league’s 30 teams this past weekend, and a warning that the MLB season could be shut down without improvement in containing COVID-19.

So far, the NBA and NHL “bubble” experiments have fared better, and questions loom for the NFL’s kickoff in September. But outside of sports — school officials, business owners, and everyday Americans are still pondering if and how to “safely” resume their normal lives. If pro sports teams and their robust testing and safety protocols couldn’t avoid an outbreak, how can everybody else?

On the topic of schools, Adrienne LeFrance of The Atlantic didn’t mince words this weekend when she wrote “This Push to Open Schools Is Guaranteed to Fail.” And if you look at the estimated risk schools will take on by re-opening, can we really expect any other outcome for our country?

What it comes down to is Leadership and the qualities that people are looking for in leaders right now. Our own CSIP findings point to Looking after People and Workers, Being Careful, Communicating, and a Roadmap for What’s Next as top qualities that Americans want leaders to be focusing on and exhibiting.

However, if you look at what’s happened so far in MLB and the jump ball we’re seeing in the debate around Schools, we’re not seeing enough effective leadership — not by a long shot. Last week the NYC Public Schools, the largest school district in the country, submitted a “plan” that was largely insufficent. Gov. Cuomo’s team went on to say “it looks like an outline, not a plan” and noted it was just 30 pages, while smaller school districts submitted much lengthier plans.

The virus isn’t going to magically disappear in time for September. We need to contain it, and the strategy to get there should come from the top. Last week the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released an eleven-point plan for A Way Forward on COVID-19. Whether or not this plan is the answer or will even be adopted is to be determined, but at least it’s a plan.

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Blog Post Opinion Politics

How Policy Matters

There is an old adage in American politics that people vote for character and values, not policies.

And while character and values may very well be the best way to position a candidate to win an election, policy is how the the consequences of our electoral processes impact our lives.

In new research from Marquette University, Philip Rocco examines the role that state budget shortfalls have had in encouraging premature reopening , and ascribes these decisions to the failure of the CARES Act to provide any meaningful relief to states or local municipalities.

Rocco’s research found that Holding all other variables constant, a shift in states’ revenue share derived from the income tax from 5 to 10 percent is associated with a 43 percent increase in the probability of reopening.”

Writing on the study in the American Prospect, David Dayen concludes:

If economic precarity played a role in reopening, and induced states to reopen early, then the CARES Act could have put states at ease by ensuring fiscal support. Nearly four months later, no such support has arrived, practically every state has reopened, and we have virtually the same level of outbreak we did then, completely wasting the lockdown. The CARES Act structure helped lead to that outcome. “This is, I think, very much the story,” Rocco said.

You can put on a partisan hat, blame it on Trump, blame it on idiots like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott and Doug Ducey. They certainly all were bad at their jobs. But you can’t discount that the CARES Act’s lack of fiscal aid nudged states to reopen early. We now have some evidence suggesting that to be true. And the effect of that was catastrophic.

The massive surge in COVID-19 cases as a result of premature reopening and the CARES Act’s indifference to state and local relief is but one example of how policy impacts our lives.

Another example is that 5.4 million American families lost health insurance during a pandemic, but because of a recession. Let that sink in.

And yet a third sits behind the backdrop of the protests that have rocked the country over the past two months since George Floyd’s murder. The “systemic” part of systemic racism isn’t just confined to the hearts and minds of Americans, it is has been turned into policy, and written into law – sometimes obviously, but other times more insidiously.

Policy matters. Elections have consequences, but policy changes lives and often continues long after the leaders we voted for retire from public life.  Americans who have committed to learning, listening and personal change as they rethink society in these tumultuous times should question not only what they think individually, but also the consequences of what we do collectively.

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Blog Post Data

Trump vs. Fauci

Per NBC news yesterday:

The White House is seeking to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, as President Donald Trump works to marginalize him and his dire warnings about the shortcomings of the U.S. coronavirus response.

Dr. Fauci continues to enjoy higher ratings than President Trump when it comes to his trustworthiness on COVID-19, and Americans have far more confidence in Dr. Fauci in dealing with the pandemic moving forward than they do in the President.

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Blog Post Politics

The Election Question

Sometimes politics is a game of checkers, not chess.

It’s exceedingly difficult to win an election when 2/3rds of America thinks you’re doing a bad job on the #1 issue facing the country.

The American people have always viewed pandemic response as something that needs to be addressed by the President at the Federal level. And while they were willing to forgive early errors by President Trump & the CDC, America’s patience has worn out.

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Blog Post Data Opinion

The Wisdom of Crowds: The Worst Is Yet To Come

Very little good news this morning.

U.S. COVID-19 cases set new daily record as the virus decimates the South & West.

And 1.5 million new unemployment claims were filed last week despite re-opening of many regions. That marks the 14th straight week with more than 1MM new jobless claims.

Our CSIP data suggests that a plurality of Americans believe the worst is yet to come regarding the virus, and a majority feel the worst is yet to come on the economy.

And they may be correct. The United States has not been able to contain the novel coronavirus even as other developed nations have.

Even more sobering – during the Great Recession unemployment in the US peaked at just under 8% – but took nearly 6 years to recover. We are currently at nearly 13% with no end to COVID-19 spikes causing ongoing disruptions to our economy in sight.

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Blog Post Data Opinion

The Great Rethink

We’re entering the era of the Great Rethink.

Our initial natural response to the disruptions that have occurred during the COVID-19 era as been reactive. What will come next is different.

This era has wiped the status quo off of the face of the earth. Worldviews and ideologies that failed to hold up are being questioned.

Americans are increasingly rethinking the fundamentals of society, their own lives, and the political beliefs they hold.

The Great Rethink is about asking the bigger questions, it will define the next era, and it is taking place all around us.

The Great Rethink is not “how can I safely open up my office” it is “what is the future of work for my organization?”

The Great Rethink is not “how can I issue a generic corporate statement about something political” it is “how can we truly make a difference?”

The Great Rethink is not “how can we reduce police brutality” it is “what role should a police department play in our society and what do we need to do to go about building that?”

More to come…

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Blog Post

Our Inaugural Post

Hi folks, Scott here.

Every blog needs to start somewhere, and although this post will likely be covered over and pushed back into the virtual dustbin of irrelevancy with much much better content in a very short period of time, it seems appropriate to explain in a bit of detail the story behind our COVID-19 Societal Impact Project.

Our team lives and works in New York City. A few days before we shut down our office, we held a white-boarding session to discuss how we thought some of the different industries we serve would be impacted by the pandemic.  The meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes.  It lasted for nearly 2 hours.

In the weeks that followed we decided to turn that passion into the COVID-19 Societal Impact Project (CSIP)

The initiative is predicated on 2 ideas:

One, that during times of crisis, the changes that will shape the future are measurable in the present if you know where to look.

And two, that we’re all totally overloaded with data these days to the point of being desensitized to it.  CSIP is also about communicating insights and perspectives in formats and in channels that are more in tune with telling meaningful stories about the human experience than numbers on a page.

Thank you in advance to the CSIP team @ Whitman Insight Strategies, our clients who shared their perspectives with us to help spark this idea, our partners (including Dynata) who helped make this all possible, and to our friends and family who have had to put up with launching CSIP out of our respective homes.

-Scott