Happy Monday! Congratulations to the United States’ Olympic delegation, which rallied over the weekend to finish first in gold medals for the third straight Summer games, and overall medals for the seventh straight. USA!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs in July—the largest single-month gain in nearly a year. The unemployment rate dropped from 5.9 percent to 5.4 percent, though the economy remains 5.7 million jobs underwater compared with February 2020.
Taliban fighters captured five provincial capitals in northern Afghanistan over the weekend, continuing their aggressive push to fill the vacuum left by retreating U.S. forces. On Sunday, the State Department urged U.S. citizens in the country to leave immediately, warning that “given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul.”
The White House announced Friday it would extend the moratorium on federal student loan payments through January of next year, prolonging a policy first put into place by the Trump administration in March 2020.
United Airlines announced Friday it would require all of its 67,000 employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first U.S. airline to do so. Google, Facebook, Walmart, and Disney have implemented similar mandates for some or most of their employees in recent days.
The Centers for Disease Control on Friday released data showing that people who had COVID-19 and subsequently got vaccinated were less than half as likely to be reinfected as people with natural immunity alone.
Iran’s newly inaugurated president, Ebrahim Raisi, met with leaders from several Palestinian terror groups Friday, telling them that “Palestine has been and always will be the number one issue of the Muslim world.”
California’s Dixie Fire, which has been raging for nearly a month, has become the second-biggest blaze in state history, surpassing 2018’s Mendocino Complex Fire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted Sunday that more than 8,500 firefighters are currently battling wildfires across the state.
Strong Economic Numbers in July
In the days leading up to Friday’s jobs report, there were plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the impending July numbers from the Department of Labor (DOL). The Delta variant had been spreading like wildfire, many virus-related restrictions had been reimplemented, the incentive-warping enhanced unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium both remained in effect, and payroll processing firm ADP’s private jobs tally—which typically tracks fairly closely with the DOL’s figures—sharply missed expectations earlier in the week.
But when 8:30 a.m. rolled around and the Bureau of Labor Statistics blasted out its monthly Employment Situation Summary, recipients were met with some welcome news: The U.S. economy added 943,000 jobs in July—the highest monthly total since last August—leading the unemployment rate to drop from 5.9 percent to 5.4 percent. The May and June reports were revised up by a combined 119,000 jobs as well.
We’ve still got a long way to go—approximately 5.7 million fewer people are employed today than February 2020—but economists struggled to interpret Friday’s data as anything other than a massive step in the right direction.
“I have yet to find a blemish in this jobs report,” said Jason Furman, erstwhile chair of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, who hasn’t been shy about critiquing the Biden administration. “I’ve never before seen such a wonderful set of economic data.”
That might be a bit hyperbolic—the U.S. economy, for example, added 4.8 million jobs in June 2020 when the pandemic-induced hole was much deeper—but July’s numbers presented policymakers and lawmakers with a whole lot to love.
As has become customary in just about each one of these post-vaccine reports, the leisure and hospitality sector led the rebound, adding about 380,000 jobs last month—including 253,000 restaurant and bar workers alone. Education came next, accounting for approximately 261,000 of the new jobs—though much of this school-teacher surge can be chalked up to COVID-inspired fluctuations in hiring seasonality. Business service employment rose by 60,000, transportation and warehousing by 50,000, healthcare by 37,000, and manufacturing by 27,000.
The labor force participation rate ticked up ever-so-slightly from 61.6 percent to 61.7—still well below February 2020’s 63.3 percent—and the number of long-term unemployed (27 or more weeks) fell 560,000 to 3.4 million. Employees’ average hourly wages inched up $0.11 to $30.54, while their weekly hours more or less held steady at around 35.
President Joe Biden delivered remarks Friday morning to revel in—and take credit for—the progress. “The Biden plan is working, the Biden plan produces results, and the Biden plan is moving the country forward,” he said, referring to his administration’s vaccination rollout and the American Rescue Plan. “We’re now the first administration in history to add jobs every single month in our first six months in office, and the only one in history to add more than 4 million jobs during the first six months.”
The Republican response to the jobs numbers was more muted than it had been in recent months when the data looked less promising, but GOP lawmakers who did speak up credited their own policies for the improvement. “Thanks in part to Republican governors removing the Biden work barrier that pays the jobless more to stay home than to work, the July jobs report finally met expectations,” Rep. Kevin Brady—Ranking Member on the House Ways & Means committee—said.
Show Me the Candidates!
With longtime GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri set to retire next year, the race to replace him is shaping up to be a fascinating test of where the current political energy is in a longtime Blue Dog Democrat state that has been trending redder and redder in recent years. Up at the site today, Chris Stirewalt has a breakdown of the rogues gallery that has turned up in the Republican primary, vying for the attention of the general public on Fox News (two candidates have announced on Tucker Carlson’s show, a third on Fox’s Special Report) and wooing a certain private citizen on trips down to Mar-a-Lago.
[Mark] McCloskey knows from his work how important promotion is, so he is working a Ron DeSantis primary strategy to try to become the Fox News candidate in the field. That makes [former Gov. Eric] Greitens the Newsmax nationalist in the race, a posture that helps him drum up small-dollar donations from the MAGA community to try to offset his weak support from traditional donors. Greitens has already sewn up the support of Trump insiders and kooky cable stalwarts including Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, Joe DiGenova, Sebastian Gorka, and Bernie Kerik. And don’t forget Rep. Billy Long, who declared for Senate after traveling to call on former President Trump and who went on Tucker Carlson Tonight last week to announce his candidacy.
Unless Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán decides to stage a Budapest cage match to determine who deserves to be the true tribune of the people, that leaves McCloskey, Long, and Greitens substantially fighting over the same pool of votes. And that’s very good news for Republican chances in Missouri. With those three fighting each other, that should leave space for a semi-normal candidate to get through the primary. The situation here is like the Ohio Senate primary, where Republican elders also hope that a safer general-election candidate might slip past noisy nationalists J.D. Vance and Josh Mandel. It worked in this year’s Virginia and New Jersey GOP gubernatorial primaries, so that may be the party’s best model for the 2022 Senate races as well.
But who is the semi-normal candidate in Missouri? The bar is pretty low given how Republican the Show Me State has become and the presumed GOP lean of the midterm electorate. Plus, Missouri Democrats may be even worse basket cases than the Republicans. Seeming determined to become the Ilhan Omar of the Middle Mississippi Valley, Rep. Cori Bush is regularly dashing to the cameras to provide new fodder for Republicans to use in discrediting her party in the eyes of the state’s persuadable voters. And it’s also been up to Democratic mayors in St. Louis and Kansas City to reimpose limited mask mandates in the face of skyrocketing coronavirus infections. Indeed, Democrats’ narrow hopes of flipping the Senate seat rely on getting a little-known generic Democrat through their primary and then drawing a real kook on the GOP side. If Republicans can keep it together, the seat should be a safe one for them. But the semi-normal lane is a little crowded, too.
Worth Your Time
In the latest entry for The Ruffian newsletter, Ian Leslie provides an additional perspective on last year’s Central Park dog walker/birdwatcher sagar, using it as a lens through which to discuss how reporters should do their work. “Journalists, like good novelists, should be curious about everything and empathetic about everyone. They should seek to tell a different story, not the story everybody else is telling,” Leslie writes. “They should instinctively want to report on what it felt like to be Amy Cooper that morning in Central Park, as well as Christian Cooper. The corollary of this attitude is a deep suspicion of stories with angels and demons which perfectly fit our own story about how the world is. Moral clarity means nothing to report.”
Is the CDC’s eviction moratorium a win for the “politics of love” or a total abdication of congressional responsibility? In a detailed and compelling piece for the Washington Post, David Von Drehle makes a case for the latter. Instead of distributing funds expressly set aside for struggling tenants, the Biden administration has expanded the executive branch’s extralegal powers, punting the difficult decision-making over controversial policies to unelected judges. “The long-term solution was to restore the economy, which has been done in significant measure. The midterm solution was to provide financial aid to pandemic victims so they could keep up with their rent through the crisis. That money—tens of billions—was appropriated. But through failures of government, the bulk of the relief is sitting unused. … Remember: The moratorium is no longer protecting needy renters,” Von Drehle writes. “It is protecting the government agencies that are failing to connect those needy renters with available resources to assist them.”
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Toeing the Company Line
The State Department’s social media blitz calling for a diplomatic settlement in Afghanistan—#CeasefireNow—is effectively an announcement of America’s lack of will. The Taliban, which has taken city after city across the country in recent days, is not going to cede any political capital to the Afghan government in a war it is clearly winning. In his latest Vital Interests, Thomas Joscelyn reflects on the Biden administration’s fundamental misunderstanding of the jihadists’ goal to control Afghanistan in its entirety. “American diplomats and military leaders alike are fond of saying there is no ‘military solution’ for the war in Afghanistan. That’s because the U.S. gave up on any possibility of victory years ago,” he writes. “The same cannot be said for the Taliban.”
Richard Goldberg—Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior adviser and frequent Dispatch contributor—joined Sarah and Steve on Friday’s Dispatch Podcast to talk all things Iran. In President Biden’s breakneck shift away from Trump’s diplomatic and rhetorical approach to the Iranian regime, Goldberg explains, Tehran has expanded its illicit nuclear proliferation more than ever before.
American conservatives tend to recoil when politicians muse about transplanting Europe’s governmental systems and traditions to the United States, which makes the nationalist right’s infatuation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán all the more perplexing. In Friday’s G-File, Jonah argues that drawing on Orbán’s strongman leadership to push for particular policies is both politically misguided and futile in a large, diverse society. “I no more want to live in an America crammed into a Sweden-shaped hole by Bernie Sanders types than I want to live in an America shoved into a Hungary-shaped one,” he writes. “But I’m more dismayed by this crap on the right precisely because it concedes a crucial argument to the left. Shopping abroad for a duty-free model that lends credibility to social planners who wish to impose their will here at home is becoming a bipartisan affair.”
In Sunday’s French Press, David delves into the Christianized toxic masculinity pushed by Pastor Mark Driscoll and his congregants at Mars Hill in Seattle before its dissolution. While some of Driscoll’s tenets—purpose, drive, and personal responsibility—resonated with young men in a positive way, its emphasis on dominance as inherently and valuably masculine glamorized the worst, and least Christian, male impulses. “His ministry did change lives. Others like him—before and since—have changed lives. And when you change a man’s life, you can inspire fierce devotion,” David writes. “But pastors and leaders must handle that devotion with great care. When countering a culture that often attacks traditional masculine inclinations as inherent vice, the answer isn’t to indulge traditional masculine inclinations as inherent virtue.”
Let Us Know
How much of this year’s Olympics did you end up watching? What was your favorite moment from the Games?
Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), Tripp Grebe (@tripper_grebe), Emma Rogers (@emw_96), Price St. Clair (@PriceStClair1), Jonathan Chew (@JonathanChew19), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).