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On the roster: The end of the end of recessions - Bailout deal poised for final passage - Big labor moves to push Bernie out - ‘We kind of overshot the hole on that one’

One of the great punch lines of 20th century history is the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the 1929 treaty signed by every major world power outlawing war… 10 years before the start of the farthest-reaching, deadliest war in human history.

A perfectly apt foreign policy capstone for the Hoover administration – highly idealistic, very modern and utterly misguided – it was the result of tireless work of Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, a progressive Republican former senator from Minnesota who made his fame busting up big businesses in Teddy Roosevelt’s Justice Department.

Not only did the Nazis and the imperial Japanese care little about the legal power of the two-paragraph document when it came time for war, the pact itself may have even made thwarting such noxious ambitions harder. When war is outlawed, only outlaws will make war.

We were thinking very much about dear, sweet Secretary Kellogg and his pact in the past six months or so as we heard increasingly adamant assurances that recessions were things of the past. We were told that thanks to the bipartisan decision to disregard any apparent limits on spending and the aggressive interventions of central banks, the normal vagaries of the business cycle and the threat of periodic recessions had been all but outlawed.

Even in the longest period of economic expansion in American history, leaders in Washington and in finance were more than bullish. They were even using extraordinary measures to boost the already growing economy. When the bears have been banished, why not give the bulls their head? 

But nobody told the coronavirus.

The tiniest, crudest of organisms have overwhelmed the capacities of the planners of every party and nation. Banks can intervene and governments can borrow, but there is no sane man or woman in the halls (or Zoom meetings) of power in Washington and New York who doesn’t know acknowledge that we are in for a serious economic beating. We don’t know how bad or for how long, but it is upon us.

It has for years not been much in anyone’s political interest to complain about the constant stimulus borrowing or the Federal Reserve’s sugar highs. President Trump and his Democratic sparring partners couldn’t agree on how to wind a watch, but they certainly agreed that sloshing trillions more of funny money into the already growing economy was a good thing.

But that meant that when the recession did come, the means we had been employing to keep juicing growth were insufficient for an actual rescue effort. Like antibiotic resistance, careless use on minor matters demands more and more extraordinary measures on larger threats.

We can measure the consequences of these escalations not just in dollars, but also in diminished confidence in the institutions and individuals working so feverishly now to salvage as much of the supposedly unsinkable economy as they can.

There are a lot of reasons that America has been wracked by spasms of angry populism for the past two decades. How we communicate, work, live and learn have all gone through massive changes in our young century, so it’s natural that our political lives would be disrupted too.

But if you wanted to hold up a couple of lightning rods – real static collectors of this new populism – you might pick the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bank bailout and President Barack Obama’s stimulus, both intended to address the financial panic spurred by the collapse in the housing market, became instant odiums.

The government had been using extraordinary measures to keep the economy going for years after the dot-com bust and 9/11. And when the real estate bubble that our leaders themselves had helped to inflate went kablooey, they had to pump and pump and pump like they had never pumped before.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party were coming from very different places, but they both agreed that the federal government was recklessly rewarding insiders and elites while ignoring the concerns of ordinary Americans. The government was putting the burden on all by borrowing money and levying taxes, but the benefits were only for some.

We don’t know yet what components of the coronavirus stimuli will most infuriate voters in the elections to come. Bailouts for cruise ships? Another $20 billion in agriculture subsidies? Who knows?

But the people in power now – many of whom rode into office partly on the strength of the anger over past bailouts – face the same kinds of pitchforks they once wielded. They will say the same things their former victims did, “But it was a crisis!” 

And fickle public opinion, desperate now for maximum intervention, will shift as the threat abates. Voters will tend to forget how scared they were and go back to being angry about the members of a government who failed to sufficiently protect them and then responded by dumping money on their friends in high places.

NYT: “The Senate on Wednesday moved toward a vote on a sweeping, roughly $2 trillion measure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal with the Trump administration on direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses. The legislation, which is expected to be enacted within days, is the biggest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history, aimed at delivering support to companies forced to shut their doors, relief to Americans suffering layoffs and financial ruin, and critical aid to hospitals on the front lines of the rapidly spreading disease. The compromise was a package whose sheer size and scope would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. It touched virtually every aspect of American life, and amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars more than Congress provides for the entire United States federal budget for a single year, outside of social safety net programs.”

What’s in the plan - Fox News: “The package provides direct financial help to Americans in the form of stimulus checks sent out to many Americans. The proposal would include a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult, $2,400 per couple in the U.S. and $500 a child. … The massive economic relief package would provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. … A large chunk of the bill focuses on public health, including $100 billion for a new program to provide direct aid to health care institutions on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic and $16 billion being allocated to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies… One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines…”

What’s next - WaPo: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave an upbeat assessment of the bill early Wednesday, but the logistics of the legislation’s passage through the House remained unclear. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said House members needed to see final Senate text and would have 24 hours notice before any vote, ensuring that it could not happen before Thursday. … Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) raised major concerns of their own on Wednesday. They said a ‘drafting error’ in the bill would create incentives for companies to lay off workers instead of retain them on the payroll, citing a problem with the way unemployment benefits were changed.”

“Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 42

The Writer’s Almanac: “It’s the birthday of the writer who said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd,’ and ‘Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.’ She didn’t want a biography written about her because, she said, ‘Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.’ That’s Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia (1925). When she was five years old, she trained a chicken to walk backward, and a newsreel company came to her house to make a film about it, which was shown all over the country. She said, ‘I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax.’”

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Biden: 1,215
Sanders: 910
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

Average approval: 45.4 percent
Average disapproval: 49.6 percent
Net Score: -4.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 3.8 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 49% approve - 45% disapprove; Monmouth University: 48% approve - 48% disapprove; NPR/PBS News/Marist: 43% approve - 50% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove.]

Politico: “First came the National Education Association. Then the United Food and Commercial Workers. The American Federation of Teachers came next, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees followed. Joe Biden has racked up endorsements from four of the largest — and most politically influential — unions in the past 10 days, a show of force that has bolstered his standing as the de facto Democratic nominee for president and dealt a serious blow to Bernie Sanders’ flickering hopes. ‘Bernie has a real decision to make,’ AFT President Randi Weingarten said without explicitly calling on Sanders to drop out. … The coalescing of major labor support — including three of the four large public employee unions — behind Biden came as the latest blow to Sanders, a union ally whose progressive campaign is built around helping working people. Absent an unforeseen turn of events, Sanders has little realistic hope of overcoming Biden’s sizable lead in the race for enough delegates to clinch the nomination.”

But he’s warming up for the next debate - NYT: “Senator Bernie Sanders plans to participate in the Democratic presidential debate in April if one is held, his campaign said on Tuesday, the strongest indication yet that he plans to continue competing against Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the 2020 primary for the foreseeable future. The Democratic National Committee has said previously that there would be a debate in April, but one has not been scheduled. The committee has not announced a media partner or a site host — critical elements that are typically agreed upon at least a month in advance. The coronavirus crisis has already upended most facets of the Democratic primary, and there is no guarantee that the debate will take place. Still, the fact that the Sanders campaign is signaling, for now, that he would be on a debate stage in April is a strikingly public sign of the Vermont senator’s determination to wield political influence and challenge Mr. Biden for primacy despite the former vice president’s nearly insurmountable delegate lead.”

Biden struggles with tone, purpose in media tour - AP: “[From] a newly constructed television studio in his Wilmington, Del., home, Biden sat for a series of high-profile interviews on Tuesday. The appearances were a preview of a more public role he’s hoping to assume in the coming weeks as he emerges as the Democratic counter to Trump. In an interview with CNN, Biden took an increasingly aggressive stance against the president’s coronavirus response, urging him to ‘stop talking and start listening to the medical experts.’ He sounded similar themes in an afternoon interview on MSNBC, and during an earlier appearance on ABC’s ‘The View,’ where Biden said he’s trying to balance his critiques of Trump against anything that would seem to undermine the president during a crisis. ‘I’ve not been criticizing the president, but I’ve been pointing out where there’s disagreements on how to proceed,’ Biden said. ‘When the president says things that aren’t accurate, we should not say, ‘You’re lying.’ We should say, ‘Those aren’t the facts.’”

RNC says full steam ahead for Charlotte convention - National Review: “North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley said that the Republican National Committee ‘is firmly committed to moving forward’ with its presidential convention, set to be held in Charlotte in late August, despite coronavirus concerns. ‘At this time, the RNC is firmly committed to moving forward with the RNC Convention which is scheduled to be held August 24th-27th in Charlotte,’ an open letter to North Carolina Republicans reads. ‘However, the RNC is closely monitoring conditions regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and is working closely with federal, state, and local governments in order to determine whether they will need to make any changes to the schedule.’ Democrats also have insisted that their convention, set to be held in Milwaukee in mid-July, is still on, despite reports that they were already planning for a backup, with sources telling Politico that planned walk-throughs of the convention site were delayed and convention organizing staffers are currently working from home.”

Montana Republicans bankrolled Green Party - KTVH

Georgia moving toward a mail-in primary for May - AJC

Nevada switches to mail-only primary - The Nevada Independent

Poll: Trump gets a boost in approval - Gallup

Pro-life groups push administration to stop Planned Parenthood abortions during health crisis - National Review

“Democrats need little from the front-runner beyond his corporeal presence.” -- Subhead on an Atlantic piece by former MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner declaring presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden personally irrelevant but conceptually useful.

“[Tuesday’s Time Out headline] What’s a nine-letter word for puzzle? Answer: ‘Conundrum’ P.S. As my prize, please just send toilet paper or hand sanitizers.” – Ken Levine, Lionville, Pa.

[Ed. note: We were thinking “crossword,” Mr. Levine, but you’ve got us there! But you’ll still have to squeeze your own Charmin…]

“I don't know about Michigan ginger ale, but you need to get hold of Blenheim Ginger Ale from South Carolina. I have heard it described as ‘like having a mouthful of yellow jackets.’” – Mary Martin Bowen, Decatur, Ga.

[Ed. note: Oh, I have indeed, Ms. Bowen. The NYT in 1998 quoted John T. Edge of Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi calling Blenheim ''a slap in the face from a spurned lover.''  It’s funny that with the new love of Moscow mule cocktails that I haven’t seen more of a resurgence of Blenheim. It’s so spicy that it would make the vodka the mildest component of the drink!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

KPVI: “Six years ago, Rubicon Dental Associates in Billings [Mont.] was growing quickly…The growing company found itself struggling a little to keep its practices supplied with medical equipment, including face masks. One of the company’s founders, dentist Remington Townsend, traced the source of the masks the company was buying back to a factory in China and ordered a shipping container full of supplies, not fully realizing how large a shipping container is. ‘We kind of overshot the hole on that one,’ Townsend joked. Good thing they did. With the spread of the coronavirus, masks are suddenly in short supply and the dental group was sitting on more than 700,000 masks in storage. They spread the word about their good fortune and soon were supplying surrounding hospitals with much-needed masks at cost. … One hospital couldn’t wait for the shipment and sent an employee to Billings to load the several cartons of masks into a horse trailer.”

“Don’t misunderstand. It is not that football is decadent. To say that in the age of Twisted Sister and low-cal dog food would be unfair. The problem with football is that it is imperial.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Jan. 25, 1985.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.