White House’s line on economic aid descends deeper into incoherence

It was six days ago when Donald Trump, after weeks of confusing and contradictory messages, announced that he was pulling the plug on bipartisan talks on an economic aid package. White House officials said the process was over and negotiations would not begin anew before the elections.

It was four days ago when the president, realizing he’d “messed up tactically,” began calling for renewed talks on economic aid.

And it was three days ago when Trump told Rush Limbaugh that his newest position was the opposite of the one he’d held earlier in the week.

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package than, frankly, either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering,” Trump said on an appearance of the Rush Limbaugh Show on Friday, acknowledging it was “the exact opposite” of his initial demands.

I realize that the president doesn’t generally keep up on current events, but when he mentioned the package “Republicans are offering,” he was referring to the proposal floated by his own White House. It’s his own team that’s responsible for making the “offer,” which in turn created an awkward dynamic: Trump effectively told Limbaugh that he’s against Team Trump’s plan.

While the president was delivering that message, his team was extending a new pitch to congressional Democrats: a $1.8 trillion aid package, well below the $2.4 trillion package House Democrats recently approved, and roughly half the $3.4 trillion proposal Democrats pushed several months ago.

Trump told Fox News yesterday that GOP lawmakers are fully on board with the $1.8 trillion offer. That wasn’t even close to being true: Senate Republicans actually wasted little time letting the White House know they’re staunchly opposed to the latest proposal, as are House Democrats. In fact, if Trump’s comments to Limbaugh were sincere, even he’s against his own White House plan.

If this is all starting to sound like an incoherent mess, it’s not your imagination. The Tax Policy Center’s Renu Zaretsky explained this morning, “In just the past week, Trump has said he wants a big bill, then no bill, then a small bill, then a $1.8 trillion bill, and now, perhaps, an even bigger bill than that. Or not.”

Meanwhile, Larry Kudlow, the top economics voice in the White House, told CNN yesterday that Trump is prepared to accept a deal worth more than $2.2 trillion — effectively killing the $1.8 trillion offer the White House extended on Friday — even as GOP senators tell anyone who’ll listen they want the administration to move in the opposite direction.

Many Americans are wondering if a much-needed economic lifeline is on the way. Alas, I think they should keep their expectations low.

Postscript: Senate Republicans also reportedly complained to the White House on Saturday that Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell “had gone too far in demanding Congress approve sweeping economic relief and that he went out of his lane in making his demands publicly known.”

It’s an odd thing to complain about: Republican senators don’t want to

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Rekindle the romance: How to fall in love with your house again as fall descends

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall,” Oscar Wilde wrote, and, indeed, rain and cooler weather has suddenly descended on the Puget Sound region.

And so, after staring at our walls (and bad carpet and dated cabinets) for the past six months, we’re about to spend even more time indoors. We need to figure out how to love again — love our own homes, that is.  

So we reached out to Erica Bauermeister, the Port Townsend-based author of “House Lessons: Renovating a Life,” which came out in March, for her thoughts on rekindling the romance with our spaces. The former Seattleite painstakingly (and sometimes painfully) renovated her house from a dilapidated structure into her family’s dream home, chronicling the lessons she learned about both construction and family in her new book.

Here are some of those lessons, as well as smaller tips for making your dwelling a space of refuge as the weather turns, an election looms and the pandemic drags on.

Q: What does your house mean to you right now?

A: My husband and I were talking the other day about how many things had to happen for us to end up in this house at this time. We had to find a house we weren’t looking for and commit to a huge project we had no time to do. We had to get rid of 7.5 tons of trash, take down chimneys and sledgehammer walls, pull out truckloads of ivy from the garden. 

Erica Bauermeister’s book “House Lessons” is about how she and her family renovated their home — and their lives.
Erica Bauermeister’s book “House Lessons” is about how she and her family renovated their home — and their lives.

Later, we hung on to the house, even when it made no sense to do so. But we did all that because we loved this place from the first moment we saw it; decrepit as it was. We feel so very lucky to be here now, in a house whose very layout encourages us to feel healthy and creative and generous.

Q: You moved from Seattle to Port Townsend. What are the pros and cons of being in a smaller place versus a big city?

A: Prior to this, I’d always lived in a big city, and I wasn’t sure how a small town would feel, but I love it. I love being in a place where one person’s efforts can really make a difference. I love being able to walk to everything, and the connected relationship people here have with nature.

And sure, the saying holds: “If nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen, you’ve never lived in a small town.” But I love knowing my neighbors, and the farmers who grow the produce at our farmer’s market, and the wonderful bookstore and movie theater and restaurant owners. There’s an autonomy to a smaller town that is both exciting and comforting.

Erica Bauermeister is an expert on home connection, spotting and instantly falling in love with a decrepit Port Townsend home and then renovating it to its current state. (Mike Siegal / The Seattle Times)
Erica Bauermeister is an expert on home connection, spotting and instantly falling in love with a decrepit Port Townsend home and then renovating it to its current state. (Mike Siegal / The Seattle
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