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Ian Bremmer: US response to COVID-19 is mediocre

I continue to see incredible polarization: the United States is a hot mess, a disaster, vs no, best response ever, depending on what side of the political agenda you're on. I think that the US response so far, continues to be mediocre.

The big story: people dying. Trump should not have been a cheerleader. He said less than 100,000 would be great. Now, even the most conservative model the US government is using is now expecting 147,000 deaths by August. Well over 150,000 by election day. Trump will say, if I had done nothing, we would have 2.2 million deaths, framing for advertising. But it's hard to sell that.


On the messaging front, the US is a hot mess. On Twitter, the American president is more divisive than anyone in developed world, though less so than Bolsonaro in Brazil. But actual per capita deaths in the United States compared to all of Europe - slightly better than average. Worse than Germany, which is best of the large economies. But considerably better than Spain, Italy and France. We should be looking at per capita death, not overall. Given the size of your population, how many people are suffering? Especially as you're thinking about opening the economy and how quickly. Spain opening earlier, their numbers are going up. That shows what we can expect in parts of the US with similar caseload. If you look just at New York, we look a lot worse. If you look only at cities that are the worst hit, they look a lot worse than the United States.

I wish we could have Merkel type response; I'm glad we don't have Macron or Boris Johnson response. What's in between? On the economic front, the United States so far has been strong. Why? We have a federal government that functions. The Europeans don't. As a consequence, you've got talk about lawsuits between the German High Court and Europeans. Von der Leyen from the European Union saying this won't stand. The fiscal environment is incredibly contentious in Europe. So far early days, US bipartisan support for the economy has been strong. Same from the Fed. That's one of the reasons the American markets are performing well, right now.

Concern that I have with an election coming up in November is that we're not going to be able to sustain that. Most Senators that I talk to are worried about that, even though the Senate is pretty moderate and there's good connections between Republicans and Democrats. Not everyone is like Rand Paul, disruptive, irresponsible. But they're worried that we're not going to be able to get the trillions necessary to keep the unemployed and underemployed afloat. To keep businesses from going bankrupt. And to keep large companies that don't have a profitability model, like in hospitality, entertainment, airlines, other companies that get hit the worst on the back of this crisis. This is going to get a lot more problematic and the US economic response, which earns an A-minus so far, probably looking like a B, a C or even a D, as we get closer. Bill Gates famously gave Trump a D-minus for his response. I think Bill is focusing mostly on the lack of health care coordination side early, plus the communications.

Short of a vaccine, almost everything on treatments so far doesn't look like it changes how quickly we can reopen economies. It's more about how comfortable you feel about caseload and tracing. And contact tracing, even though we do have apps that are coming online - wonderful to see Google and Apple working together, but if you're going to need 60-70% minimum compliance for populations for that to work effectively - Facebook has 70% penetration. There is no way you get that voluntarily from Americans, major European populations. Even in Singapore, which is a tiny population, very wealthy, and doesn't care as much about democracy, only had 15-20% compliance with their contact tracing app.

Contact tracing works, but you need to have data in one place and share it. People doing the work, making phone calls, contact tracers, millions of people across the developed world. We are nowhere close.

A vaccine needs to not only be developed but proven and manufactured at scale, distributed with education. That process, start to finish, is three years. That's why I continue to think that the economic implications of this are going to be much worse than we've seen.

The role of the public library has evolved over time. As we move online at an even faster rate, knowledge, entertainment and opportunities for education and employment are found on the internet. Those living in well-connected, affluent places may have come to take internet access for granted. But there is a digital divide in the U.S. that has left people at a disadvantage – particularly since the arrival of COVID-19.

Finding ways to overcome that divide in a sustainable, community-led way could help bring the benefits of the internet to those who need it most. One solution is to use technologies such as TV white space to facilitate wireless broadband – as Microsoft's Airband Initiative is doing. To read more about Microsoft's work with public libraries, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

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So let's put you in Vladimir Putin's size 9 shoes as you weigh up Donald Trump vs Joe Biden while refreshing your own personal PyatTridsatVosem (FiveThirtyEight) up there in the Kremlin.

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Less than a week out from Election Day, 66 million Americans have already cast their ballots, and many of those are people who are voting "early" for the first time because of the pandemic. In fact, the early vote total alone this year is already equal to nearly half of all ballots cast in the 2016 general election, suggesting that 2020 turnout could reach historic levels. Most important, however, is how things are playing out in key battleground states where the outcome of the US election will be determined. In Texas, for instance, a huge surge in early voting by Democrats this year has raised the possibility that a state which has been won by Republican candidates since 1976 could now be up for grabs. Here we take a look at early voting in battleground states in 2020 as compared to 2016.

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

One week before the US election. What do other world leaders want to happen?

Well, I mean, let's face it. Outside the United States, most of the world's leaders would prefer to see the back of Trump. An America first policy was not exactly made for non-Americans. That was not the intended demographic audience. Trump doesn't really care. In fact, to a degree, it's kind of a selling point that a lot of foreign leaders don't want Trump. It's showing that Trump is strong in negotiations and indeed is doing better for the American people.

That's largely BS, but occasionally it's true. I mean, his willingness to use American power to force the Mexican government to actually tighten up on Mexico's Southern border and stop immigration from coming through. AMLO would have much rather that not have happened, but the fact that it did was an America first policy, that rebounded to the benefits of the United States. And there are other examples of that. But generally speaking, it would be better for the US long-term, and for the world, if we had more harmonious, smoother relations with other countries around the world, certainly pretty much all the Europeans would much rather see Trump lose. The United Kingdom is the significant exception given the nature of Brexit, and the fact that Trump has been in favor of that, like being called Mr. Brexit by five or six Brits or however many did.

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