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Week in politics: Stock market, Trump, add to party woes ahead of midterm elections

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled yesterday to its lowest point so far this year. Other stock indexes also fell. Analysts said recession fears drove the declines. And where the economy goes, politics usually joins it. We look now - we go now to NPR's senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving.

Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates also this week, another-three quarters of a percentage point. And you'd have thought the stock market might have been happy seeing that as a way to control inflation, but apparently not. Why?

ELVING: The most fundamental force driving Wall Street at any point is the expectation of higher or lower future profits. We don't know yet whether the rate hikes will bring on recession, but higher rates will eat into profit margins, even if companies remain profitable. So that's the big thumb on the scales. And it's why the summer bounce is long gone and the markets are back to full-on bear mode. And the major indices are likely to continue seeking the bottom, as they say, for some time before they begin making their way back up. And it would help a lot if the next set of numbers on inflation were just a little more encouraging than they were this past month. That was really the buzzkill that ended several heady weeks when stocks were heading up.

SIMON: House Republicans this week released their Commitment to America platform, and a lot of it seems designed to try and make the November midterm elections about President Biden and the struggling economy. How is it being received so far?

ELVING: It's a campaign document. It's long on ideals and goals but short of specific plans or any difficult choices. There's an obvious homage here to the Contract with America. That was touted by Newt Gingrich and the Republicans of 1994, the year they took control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It's never been clear, really, how large a role that document had in the politics of 1994. But it certainly makes a good script for a campaign. And you won't find here some of the more controversial ideas we've been hearing from some prominent Senate Republican candidates this fall - things like making Medicare and Social Security subject to annual budget changes and cuts or banning all abortions nationwide after a stated period of time. And, Scott, by the way, we should mention that a court in Arizona has just decided that state ought to go back to a total ban on abortion, a ban with only medical exceptions that was first put in place in the 1800s. And that's a huge distraction from the rest of the Republican agenda. They'd much rather be talking about inflation or immigration and rather not be talking about the travails of former President Trump.

SIMON: Which mounted again this week - an appeals court ruled against him. The New York attorney general sued him. Then he went on Fox News and said he could declassify documents just by kind of thinking about them.

ELVING: Yes. And obviously, that last little bit has launched countless mocking internet memes all about things that Trump could do just by thinking about them or perhaps other things that any of the rest of us might like to change just by thinking about them. Trump's always been a big proponent of saying things with confidence, making even the most preposterous claims with a straight face and actually an attitude of wounded innocence. It's taken him a long way, Scott, and he cannot be expected to abandon it now.

SIMON: This week, the House passed an Electoral Count Act. Will the Senate follow suit?

ELVING: Hard to say. They got nine Republicans to vote for it in the House out of 200 and some. In the Senate, they're going to need 10 out of just 50 to support this. The bill clarifies that the vice president's role in the process is just ceremonial. So a future vice president could not even be asked to stop the certification of his own defeat the way Trump wanted then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on January 6. So we shall see if the dynamic works over there. It's probably going to have to be a version of the bill written by a Republican.

SIMON: Vladimir Putin signaled that he intends to keep Russian forces in Ukraine for the long haul. What do you make of what he said this week?

ELVING: It was a huge gesture of defiance, an expression of his anger at the West. He's calling up 300,000 more troops overnight and opening the door for a million or more. And it came after some of his better friends in the world, or closest thing he has to friends in the world, had started to back off and suggest he ought to find an off ramp in Ukraine.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving.

Thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF DESMOND CHEESE'S "DOPE VHS MASTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.