It’s 8.6 versus January 6. Two stories are competing for our attention. Both are important, and related. One spares no victims and threatens our wallets, the other – for those paying attention – is exposing an unprecedented attack on our system of government. New data tells us which might be more potent at the ballot box.
First there’s the 8.6 percent inflation rate (highest in 40 years), and the stock market has already lost 11 trillion dollars this year, laying siege to Americans’ pocketbooks and life savings.
Second is the ongoing televised congressional hearings uncovering alarming details of the January 6, 2021 assault on our democracy.
The stock market has gone into bear territory, bringing fears of recession. The selloff has erased around $3 trillion from U.S. Retirement 401K and IRA accounts. This week alone, the DOW fell 4.8 percent, the S&P 5.8 percent, and bitcoin fell around 30 percent.
Meanwhile, costs are up:
• A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now more than 6 percent – double what it was last year.
• The average credit card rate, auto loans, auto insurance premiums – all up.
• The cost of food consumed at home rose nearly 12 percent.
• Food away from home rose by 7.4 percent.
The gasoline index has increased 48.7 percent. The average national price of a gallon of gas this week is five dollars – the highest. In California, it’s $6.42.
Trying to stem inflation, the Federal Reserve said it will raise interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point, the biggest hike since 1994. New projections show interest rates may hit 3.4 percent by the end of this year.
But because inflation is rising far faster than any of those rates, any money in savings is still being eroded. There’s also a spate of layoffs adding to investors’ fears.
CNN reports that two U.S. real estate companies that had flourished in the pandemic announced layoffs of 8 and 10 percent. Coinbase laid off 18 percent of its staff. Spotify plans to reduce hiring by 25 percent. Elon Musk, who has already said he wants to lay off 10 percent of the Tesla staff, is now intimating that if he acquires twitter, job cuts could follow.
Meanwhile, the January 6 Committee has methodically presented the build-up to, and events of, January 6th. Perhaps the most damning testimony was aired on Thursday and chronicled how (then) Vice President Mike Pence spent five hours in the bowels of the Capitol Building after coming within 40 feet of a mob, whipped into a frenzy by his boss, who were wielding baseball bats and pepper spray while calling for his hanging.
For Pence, it was part of a whirlwind day that began in prayer and included an abusive telephone call in which he was derided as a “wimp” by his onetime running mate – though Trump denies use of that word.
For those watching the congressional hearings, it would be easy to conclude that the revelations are a political death knell for any attempt by the former President to return to office.
But a new survey says otherwise.
A new Yahoo! News/YouGov survey found that if the presidential election were held today, voters prefer Donald Trump to President Joe Biden – 44 to 42 percent.
Like the markets, Biden’s approval rating continues to decline – he’s now at 56 percent disapproval – 47 percent say strongly – with only 39 percent approving.
There’s no mystery as to what is driving those numbers.
A new poll from Quinnipiac says 34% of Americans rank inflation as “The most urgent issue facing the country today.”
For Donald Trump to get the rematch he covets, he needs to stay clear of the law. I’ve long said that Trump is positioned to be renominated so long as he is healthy, solvent, and unindicted.
The view on this seems to depend on where you get your news.
Whereas only 19 percent of viewers at CNN or MSNBC think the President acted appropriately, 59 percent of Fox viewers do. That’s because many of them are not being shown, or watching, the hearings.
But this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is watching the January 6 hearings. And according to the New York Times, the Committee might start sharing witness transcripts with the Justice Department as early as next month.
Perhaps only an indictment could stop Trump from a return to office. So h
ow likely is that?
The Committee charged with investigating the insurrection has frequently cited a ruling by U.S. District Judge David Carter, who said that Trump most likely committed a felony. Earlier this year, Judge Carter found that a memo written by Trump attorney John Eastman influenced his plans for Vice President Pence to prevent the certification of electoral votes and likely furthered two crimes that Trump may have committed:
“obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
Former Acting Solicitor General for the Obama administration Neal Katyal agrees, arguing that there are more areas in which Trump could face prosecution. In an Op-Ed for the New York Times, the Georgetown Law Professor lays out what he calls “The Future Criminal Case Against Donald Trump.”
He outlines three charges that Attorney General Merrick Garland could bring against Trump.
1) Obstruction of an official proceeding
2) Conspiracy to defraud the united states
3) Seditious conspiracy
And finally, there is the added possibility that Trump and or his associates could face mail and/or wire fraud charges stemming from fundraising appeals to the extent the money raised was not used for its stated purpose.
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.