By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS –  The dog days of August have dissolved into autumnal discontent with the Biden administration. A Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday gave President Biden a 37% approval as his legislative agenda faltered in Congress, container ships stacked up off the U.S. coasts and illegal immigrants flooded across the Mexican border.

There are three distinct red lights flashing for Democrats. One is the Treasury Department’s proposal for the IRS to collect additional data on every bank account that sees more than $600 in annual transactions. The other is the empty grocery store shelves and prospects 0f a turkeyless Thanksgiving, and no presents under a phantom Christmas tree in December.

In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Tuesday, 62% of American voters say the administration’s policies are either somewhat or very responsible for increasing inflation, including 41% of Democrats, 61% of independent voters and 85% of Republicans. The right track/wrong track question also looked pretty grim for Biden, with just 38% of voters – and seven of 10 Democrats – saying the country is heading in the right direction.

U.S. authorities detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the Mexico border during the 2021 fiscal year that ended in September, and arrests by the Border Patrol soared to the highest levels ever recorded, according to unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Washington Post.

The supply chain issues crimping U.S. commerce began generating headlines as Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg took an unannounced family leave in August, several months after he and husband Chasten adopted twin babies.

A Transportation Department spokesman told the Washington Post on Friday that Buttigieg was “largely offline” for the first four weeks of leave, “except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” and then began taking on more work.

While paternal leave is a good policy (when I had my first son, the Elkhart Truth adjusted my schedule so I could stay home during daytime hours and work at night), the fact that Secretary Buttigieg took it just eight months into the most ambitious job he’s ever held and coinciding with the most profound supply chain issues in a generation is proving to be a tone-deaf decision.

A Rasmussen Reports poll on Tuesday revealed only 37% of likely U.S. voters have a favorable impression of Buttigieg, while 47% view him unfavorably.

These worldwide bottlenecks appear to be on the horizon well into 2022 as the pandemic fueled a shift from service purchases to products as homebound consumers decided to upgrade kitchens and rebuild decks.
 
“Certainly a lot of the challenges that we’ve been experiencing this year will continue into next year. But there are both short-term and long-term steps that we can take to do something about it,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Look, part of what’s happening isn’t just the supply side, it’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. This is one more example of why we need to pass the infrastructure bill. There are $17 billion in the president’s infrastructure plan for ports alone and we need to deal with these long-term issues that have made us vulnerable to these kinds of bottlenecks when there are demand fluctuations, shocks and disruptions like the ones that have been caused by the pandemic.”

The darker, more mysterious “deep state” problem for the Biden administration comes with the $600 bank account issue. When my mother tells me that it’s the talk of her retirement home dining room, that’s a signal that the issue has permeated into the mainstream.

Bank accounts with $600 of annual transactions would cover 90% of Americans. As criticism mounted, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats are proposing to raise the threshold to accounts with more than $10,000 in annual transactions, and any income received through a paycheck from which federal taxes are automatically deducted will not be subject to the reporting, according to ABC News. Recipients of federal benefits like unemployment and Social Security would also be exempt. The IRS would collect the total sum of deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts with more than $10,000 in non-payroll income. Information on individual transactions would not be collected.

The changes were announced Tuesday by the Treasury Department: “In response to considerations about scope, it [Congress] has crafted a new approach to include an exemption for wage and salary earners and federal program beneficiaries. Under this revised approach, such earners can be completely carved out of the reporting structure. This is a well-reasoned modification; for American workers and retirees, the IRS already has information on wage and salary income and the federal benefits they receive. The changes would exempt millions of Americans from the reporting requirement, and help the IRS target wealthier Americans, especially those who earn money from investments, real estate, and other transactions that are more difficult for the IRS to track.”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, up for reelection next year, pounced on the issue Tuesday. “At a time when the American people have lost so much trust in the leaders of our major institutions, and the institutions themselves, including government, I couldn’t think of a worse idea for our national Democrats to embrace,” Young said in a Senate floor speech. “Nancy Pelosi was asked whether she intends to include this in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion boondoggle the other day, and her response was: ‘Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.’

“Well, I’ve consulted with so many people, as I travel the highways and byways of Indiana, and what I am consistently hearing is: ‘No. No. No. No,’” said Young.

While these are danger signs for President Biden and Democrats, I’ll repeat a familiar mantra: Anyone who says they know what will happen in an election 13 months away has a bridge in the Arizona desert to sell you.

President Biden could still land his infrastructure and budget reconciliation deals, even with his tiny congressional majorities. There is the Jan. 6 House committee probe into the insurrection. And voters will be making decisions on how the messy and lethal COVID-19 pandemic is going.

While Biden’s 37% approval is anemic, Americans give Democrats in Congress a negative 30% job approval rating, and congressional Republicans get a 23% approval. Voters appear to be saying, “A pox on both your houses.”

According to the Quinnipiac Poll, 58% of likely voters don’t want to see Donald Trump run for president in 2024, including 58% of independent voters (78% of Republicans want Trump to run). That’s a pretty shaky starting point for Trump, who became the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose the House, Senate and White House within a four-year period.

A slight majority of Americans, 52% to 41%, say the country is worse off today than it was a year ago, including 56% of independents. “While a majority of Americans say, ‘been there, done that’ about Trump, and half feel he has damaged the underpinnings of democracy, support for the former president within the GOP has grown,” said Quinnipiac Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

Braun welcomes unvaxxed Chicago cops

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun made an appeal to unvaccinated Chicago cops facing suspension: “Our police do the hardest job in the world, and they deserve respect – not losing their pay or being fired for refusing to comply with a ridiculous vaccine mandate. Indiana’s police departments are hiring now and will welcome you with the respect you deserve. My office stands ready to help connect Chicago police officers to an Indiana police department that is hiring now and doesn’t have a vaccine mandate. Welcome to Indiana!” More than 460 American law enforcement officers have died from COVID-19 infections tied to their work since the start of the pandemic, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, making the coronavirus by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021.

Democrats

Small town tour scheduled

The Indiana Democratic Party announced Wednesday it would launch a statewide tour ahead of the holiday season, this time focused on Indiana’s rural communities. Called the “Small Town, Indiana” tour, Hoosier Democrats will visit more than a dozen small towns to celebrate with voters and families about how Democrats, not Republicans, are delivering for them when it comes to fully funding their public schools and the farming industry – a critical pillar to Indiana’s economic success – they are proud to be a part of. The first stop of the “Small Town” tour will be in Greendale, with Jennifer McCormick and Kent Yeager serving as primary speakers for the tour’s launch.  “Public schools and farmers are the heartbeat of rural communities and the backbone of Indiana itself, and Democrats are set to hold intimate conversations about how we are delivering solutions to the most-pressing problems facing Hoosier families in Indiana’s small towns,” said Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl.
House to vote on Bannon contempt.

Bannon contempt vote today

The U.S. House will meet at 10 a.m. and at noon will take up a vote on finding Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress, with first votes expected between 1:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. 

Virginia governor: Race tied at 46%

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are locked in a close battle for governor of Virginia, tied at 46% in a Monmouth Poll.This marks a shift from prior Monmouth polls where McAuliffe held a 5-point lead, 48% to 43%.