The Issue Is: Government involvement in the pandemic; Rep. Schiff, Hasan Piker, and Michael Knowles

What is the role of government?

Whether it’s to do with ensuring economic well-being in the face of a pandemic, putting down violent riots in major cities, or determining the risk of Americans using certain mobile apps, that is the question under consideration this week.

In that endeavor, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), as well as progressive Hasan Piker and conservative Michael Knowles for a debate that cannot be missed.


With California now the state with the most cases of coronavirus, the conversation begins with Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), and a discussion about what’s next in terms of Congressional relief.

This, as the additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits set forth in the CARES Act, is set to expire at the end of the month, leaving millions of out-of-work Americans uncertain about their economic well-being.

Schiff was quick to frame the issue along partisan lines, saying that the Democratic House passed the HEROES Act which would extend those benefits through the end of 2020, but that Republicans in the Senate have yet to take any action, leaving Democrats with no one to negotiate with.

“People want to go back to work, but right now, this $600 is a lifeline to lots of people who cannot go back to work,” Schiff said, adding he disagrees with critics who say the additional $600 in weekly benefits may serve as a deterrent for people to return to the work force.

Beyond the extension of the unemployment benefits, Schiff also discussed new legislation he has proposed with Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) that would provide unemployment relief to mixed-income earners, namely freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers, whose mixed income status omitted them from substantial CARES Act relief.

“There’s a subset of those employees and workers, who have mixed income, which means they get some sort of traditional income from a W2, maybe it’s a royalty payment, but they would get most of their income as an independent contractor, as a 1099.”

“Because of a quirk in the law in the CARES Act,” Schiff continued, “if you got some of both, you ended up getting little unemployment compensation, in some cases, none at all.”

RELATED: Rep. Adam Schiff proposes additional unemployment assistance for gig workers

Given that Schiff serves as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the conversation next turned to election security, and the ongoing threat of interference in November, now just some 100 days away.

“Russia is interfering in our election again, this is kind of an eerie and awful deja vu of four years ago, and the President is not doing enough to stop it,” Schiff said. “The message to Putin is, as long as he interferes to help Donald Trump, Trump will never call him out on it, and he may very well applaud him for it, and that’s dangerous.”

As concerns increase over Russia’s potential interference in November, tensions are also rising with China, as this week, the US and China each ordered the closure of the other’s consulates.

“There’s no question that we need to push back against China,” Schiff said. “What I’m concerned about, though, is that what the President seems to be doing is designed to create a conflict that he can use merely for political purposes.”

Also concerning in the US-China relationship is the use of the popular video-sharing app TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, and was recently banned by Wells Fargo, in India, and on US government-issued devices out of fear of potential data breaches by the Middle Kingdom. 

“There are privacy concerns with a lot of apps,” Schiff warned. “But when you’re dealing with a Chinese-owned app, a Chinese company, they are under legal obligation to give Chinese intelligence, or the Chinese government, whatever they ask for, and that is a concern.”

The conversation ended with a tribute to Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights icon who  passed away last week at the age of 80.

“John Lewis was a wonderful, warm, gentle spirit,” Schiff said, recounting the time he, Lewis, and others went to see Bryan Cranston in Broadways’ All the Way. “[Lewis] was rightly referred to as the ‘Conscience of the Congress,’ and indeed, he was.”


Next, two friends of The Issue Is go head-to-head for the first time.

On the left, Hasan Piker, a progressive, formerly ofThe Young Turks, who now broadcasts via Twitch. On the right, Michael Knowles, the conservative who hosts The Michael Knowles Show on The Daily Wire and who co-hosts The Verdict podcast with Senator Ted Cruz.

With millions of Americans out of work, and given shutdown orders, many currently unable to return, the debate begins over the role of government in responding to the economic fallout caused by coronavirus.

“I think that the government has fallen short in nearly every capacity, of course we need to be doing more, I don’t even understand what we could potentially do less than what we’ve done thus far,” Piker said, stressing the need for a moratorium on rents and mortgages, as well the beefing up of unemployment benefits.

Knowles agreed that the government had responded abysmally, but for a different reason.

“It’s true, people can’t pay their rent, they can’t pay their rent because they’ve been mandated not to go into work,” Knowles said. “The only way we can possibly get out of this, is to reopen the country, but unfortunately it has become a political issue, frankly I think it’s been a political issue since the beginning.”

Piker responded that he agrees the country should be reopened, but that there are a lot of issues making that increasingly unsafe, namely people who won’t wear masks or social distance, instead, turning those recommendations into the rallying cry of a social war.

On that point, Michaelson pressed Knowles, who has called wearing masks a political issue.

Michaelson, pointing to a May 2020 analysis from the CDC, said masks do not have a significant impact on transmission, and that the science does not support the current political argument being made in their favor.

“What I’m failing to recognized here, is that Anthony Fauci has corrected himself and said that the reason why he had originally said that masks are a social placebo for the most part is because they were worried about the lack of PPE in this country,” Piker responded, citing the fragile supply of US protective equipment and an over-reliance on Chinese manufacturing.

“You make a very apt point here… you’re saying the reason that Fauci and other people said what they said about the masks was basically they were lying to preserve the masks for the health care workers,” Knowles shot back. “The issue is the credibility, if he lied to us then, how can we possibly trust him now?”

From the role of government in regards to the coronavirus, the conversation then shifted to the role of the government in dealing with the ongoing protests.

This, as President Trump has sent federal agents into Portland, which has experienced nearly two full months of nightly protests and rioting. As crime rates rise in other major cities across the US, the President has indicated he may consider sending more law enforcement into Chicago, Detroit, and Oakland, among others.

“To put down an insurrection, absolutely, we do need to get federal officials here,” Knowles said.

“I think this is horrific,” Piker responded. “The idea that we have unmarked paramilitary troops at the federal level, violating the Constitution, and also violating our rule of law that is supposed to protect citizens, especially in a circumstance where they are exercising their First Amendment rights, is disgusting, but also expected from the Trump Administration.”

The conversation wrapped up with some speculation, specifically regarding who Joe Biden will pick in the coming weeks to serve as his running mate.

“I don’t care… it really doesn’t matter” Piker said. “Most of these officials are going to do exactly what is best for whichever industry is backing them.”

Knowles had another suggestion for Biden: Hasan Piker.

“Age requirements not withstanding, Hasan would be a great pick,” Knowles responded. “You, Hasan, are speaking much more to young, left-wing voters than the Democratic party is, I think it would be much more honest than the Democrats who are trying to hide what they believe.”


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