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The data case for more stimulus

New data on Americans' finances suggests the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and direct payment checks would provide a significant boost to the economy.

Driving the news: A new report from the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute finds that the increased payments for unemployment "played an important role in maintaining household spending and wider macroeconomic stability."


What they're saying: "With a March 15, 2021 deadline on supplemental and extended jobless benefits approaching, policymakers should consider the important role these benefits play in supporting the spending and saving of jobless workers, given the limited impact they appear to have had on job search."

How it works: The report analyzed the impact of supplemental unemployment benefits on job finding, spending, and saving of jobless workers between April and July 2020.

  • It found that the $600 supplement "likely played little role in discouraging people from finding work."
  • "Rather, expanded UI boosted the spending and saving among jobless workers, many of whom are facing extended or repeated unemployment spells."

Where it stands: Using the bank's data, the JPMorgan Chase Institute found a strong correlation between the spending and saving of jobless workers and the availability of supplemental unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic.

  • "We estimate that for every dollar of supplemental unemployment insurance, the median unemployed family has spent between 29 and 43 cents more than they otherwise would have."

There's more: A new report from data firm Morning Consult argues that sending $1,400 stimulus checks targeted to low-income adults and parents combined with enhancements to the unemployment benefit system "would prevent unnecessary financial hardship and mitigate future economic risks."

By the numbers: Morning Consult's data show that in January, 16% of U.S. adults said their expenses exceeded their incomes for the month, largely concentrated among low-income households. 

  • Americans with annual household incomes under $50,000 already spent roughly 67% of the money they received in the second stimulus. 
  • Among the 30.2 million adults who couldn't pay their bills, 75% fell short by less than $300, "an improvement from December that shows stimulus checks are bringing people closer to covering their expenses."

Yes, but: Both studies suggest that targeted benefits would be most effective, but neither directly states who should or should not receive benefits, a prime subject of debate given that some Americans who previously made high salaries remain unemployed because of the pandemic.

  • Other workers remain employed but have seen reduced wages and/or hours.

What's next: If $1,400 stimulus checks are sent on March 1, Morning Consult's data show the payments would allow 22.6 million Americans to pay their bills in full through the middle of July.

Report: U.S. urges UN-led Afghan peace talks and warns of Taliban "territorial gain" threat

Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani steps including a UN-facilitated summit to revive stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Afghanistan's TOLOnews first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Blinken expresses concern in the letter, also obtained by Western news outlets, of a potential "spring offensive by the Taliban" and that the "security situation will worsen and the Taliban could make rapid territorial gain" after an American military withdrawal, even with the continuation of U.S. financial aid.

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Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

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Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has taken the coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

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Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

Pfizer CEO: "It will be terrible" if COVID vaccine prices limit access

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told "Axios on HBO" that it "will be terrible for society" if the price of coronavirus vaccines ever prohibits some people from taking them.

Why it matters: Widespread uptake of the vaccine — which might require annual booster shots — will reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread and mutate, but it's unclear who will pay for future shots or how much they'll cost.

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Lindsey Graham intends to "lean into" climate change during Biden era

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told "Axios on HBO" he intends to "lean into" climate change and that he has already discussed potential common ground with President Biden's special climate envoy John Kerry.

Behind the scenes: In a follow-up interview with Axios, Graham said Kerry called him in November, around the time Kerry's new position was announced, to see if there were openings to work together.

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Lindsey Graham: Trump could make the GOP "stronger" or "destroy" it

Sen. Lindsey Graham told "Axios on HBO" that Donald Trump has a "dark side" but he tries to "harness the magic" because he succeeded where Republican candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney failed.

Why it matters: The South Carolina Republican gyrates between support and criticism of the former president, even after Trump harshly criticized McCain — Graham's longtime friend — and helped spark the Capitol insurrection.

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Senate plots its own earmark comeback

With the Senate done battling over President Biden's coronavirus rescue package, it's preparing to tackle another priority: earmarks.

Driving the news: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the top members on the Senate Appropriations Committee, are expected to work out a deal restoring the congressional spending tool in the coming weeks, committee aides tell Axios.

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