Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 27, 2020, to highlight the new Republican coronavirus aid package. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Cross your fingers for new week

This week begins bleakly for the nearly 30 million workers set to lose $600 in enhanced weekly unemployment benefits.

It's bleak for all of us, actually. Those enhanced benefits have kept spending going in grocery, drug and department stores, holding much of our nation's economy afloat these past four months of the coronavirus pandemic.

But thanks to an impasse among top lawmakers in Congress — amplified by the chaos of the White House — the program that has been helping us all was set to officially end on Friday. Set to end with no replacement agreement.

Instead Democrats and Republicans spent last week trading barbs over who was to blame for the failed negotiations.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Democrats had rejected reasonable offers while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, derided Republicans for trying to advance a short-term — really short, one week — unemployment insurance fix.

The federal government also is ending a moratorium on evictions, as well as a program that provides aid to small businesses. Meanwhile, state and local governments, already starved of tax revenue, can look for more dwindling revenues. School districts need money for safety equipment. Hospitals, too, need aid.

The New York Times noted in an editorial Friday: "The abject failure to act is not the fault of Congress in a collective sense. House Democrats passed a serviceable aid bill more than two months ago. Responsibility for the current debacle rests specifically and squarely on the shoulders of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and the other 52 Senate Republicans."

Perhaps like the president, they hoped the virus would "just go away." But it didn't. Meanwhile McConnell and the Senate spent the summer stacking conservative federal judges rather than confronting the growing crisis.

So now nearly 30 million unemployed people are losing still more. And there simply aren't new jobs for them to find. Yet the Senate just bickers.

It's shameful. Just shameful.


Trump sows more chaos

Was anyone surprised when, as former President Barack Obama and two other former American presidents were warming up to eulogize civil rights great John Lewis, President Donald Trump loosed a tweet about delaying the November election?

Was anyone surprised that the tweet also came just minutes after the federal government reported the worst economic contraction in recorded history and just a few hours after the nation passed the 150,000 COVID-19 deaths benchmark?

Is anyone surprised that Trump doubled down on his message Friday? Is anyone surprised at any bright shiny spaghetti this man throws at any and all walls anymore?

Trump has no authority to delay an election, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting. Lawmakers from both parties were quick to say there was zero chance the election would be delayed. Even some of Trump's allies said his message reflected the desperate flailing of a badly losing candidate.

But that wasn't the point. There was no point. Trump was missing a little attention, so why not blurt out some nonsense and create some. And if it prompts a little more outrage and uncertainty — all the better. He's happy with any attention that his chaos brings.


TVA looks for dual solution

Last week, TVA threw some spaghetti at the wall, too.

With schools and more of the economy trying to reopen even as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, America's biggest public utility offered financial aid for schools, restaurants, nursing homes and other buildings with public places to install ultraviolet germicidal irradiation lights in air ducts. The idea is to minimize the spread of airborne microorganisms such as COVID-19.

The decades-old technology, known as UV-C lighting, is a short wavelength ultraviolet light that can zap virus pathogens out of the air. Portable ultraviolet units have been used for years to sterilize surfaces in hospital rooms and subway cars, but portable units can be used only when those spaces are unoccupied because UV-C light can harm humans in its direct path, as well as kill a virus. That's why TVA suggests this lighting be used inside air ducts.

Because the installation of this technology in air ducts can be quite pricey — an estimated $50,000 for a school or $100,000 for a warehouse-type store, TVA is offering the aid.

But there's another angle, too. TVA is in the business of selling electricity, and power consumption has shrunk in recent years thanks to energy conservation of more energy-efficient appliances and habits.

We're reminded of former TVA President Tom Kilgore some years ago who relished the idea that electric cars would someday be more the norm than the exception.

At a 2007 Rotary Club meeting, Kilgore urged members to use more electricity — except during peak demand periods. Promoting too much conservation would be "like McDonald's telling you not to eat hamburgers," Kilgore told the laughing crowd. "We are in the business of selling electricity."

But if UV-C lighting helps curb COVID-19, we're with TVA on this one.