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Shareholders Press Google and YouTube To Disclose White House Requests To Scrub COVID-19 Videos

Big Tech under fire for removing content that questions Biden administration COVID policies

By Alana Goodman • The Washington Free Beacon

Shareholders in Google and YouTube are pressing the tech giants to disclose any requests they have received from the Biden administration to scrub politically “problematic” information from the platforms, according to a copy of a shareholder proposal obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group that holds a voting stake in Google and YouTube’s parent corporation Alphabet, submitted the shareholder proposal to the company this week, following a string of controversies over Google and YouTube’s removal of videos that question the Biden administration’s COVID-19 policies.

The proposed disclosure requirement could shed light on whether the administration has directed tech companies to remove information that it deems misleading, a scenario that raises concerns about government censorship. In July, the White House said it was “in regular touch” with social media platforms to discuss ways to combat “misinformation” online.

“The case for this kind of disclosure is double barreled. All citizens should be aware when the government engages in censorship, even if it is through a private-sector company, and shareholders of that company should know when they become a party to it,” said NLPC chairman Peter Flaherty.

“The administration keeps labeling certain information about the pandemic ‘disinformation,’ and gets it yanked off social media, only to later embrace the same information. Alphabet should not be contributing to such a farce.”

If the proposal is approved by a shareholder vote—a significant hurdle since the company’s voting shares are largely controlled by its founders and insiders—Alphabet would be required to “provide a report, published on the company’s website and updated semi-annually—and omitting proprietary information and at reasonable cost—that specifies the Company’s policy in responding to requests to remove or take down material from its platforms by the Executive Office of the President, Centers for Disease Control, or any other agency or entity of the United States Government,” according to a copy of the NLPC’s submission.

Alphabet would also have to disclose “an itemized listing of such take-down requests, including the name and title of the official making the request, the nature and scope of the request, the date of the request, the outcome of the request, and a reason or rationale for the Company’s response, or lack thereof.”

The NLPC said coordination between Alphabet and the Biden administration could amount to “unconstitutional censorship, opening the Company to liability claims by victims,” citing Supreme Court rulings “that private entities may not engage in suppression of speech at the behest of government, as it has the same effect as direct government censorship.”

YouTube faced criticism this week after deleting a controversial but widely shared video of Joe Rogan’s interview with virologist Robert Malone that criticized the COVID-19 vaccine. Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R., N.Y.) have blasted Google and YouTube for scrubbing their videos that questioned certain Democratic policies, such as mask mandates and vaccine passports.

Google has also acknowledged manipulating its autofill feature to discourage users from searching for claims that COVID-19 originated from a lab in Wuhan—a theory that was later determined to be credible by intelligence officials.

In July, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration was “in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team, given, as [Surgeon General] Dr. [Vivek] Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic.”

Psaki said the administration flagged “problematic” posts for social media companies and urged the platforms to “take faster action against harmful posts.”

Alphabet is likely to seek a waiver from the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid bringing up the NLPC’s proposal for consideration. Under the Biden administration, the SEC has taken a supportive stance toward left-leaning activist shareholders. In November, the administration expanded the type of proposals that companies are required to consider to include “certain proposals that raise significant social policy issues.”

In 2021, progressive shareholder activists successfully installed three fossil fuel opponents on the Exxon Mobil board, after forcing the company to disclose its impact on carbon emissions in 2017. The past year also saw a record number of corporate board diversity proposals from activist shareholders.


The Ghost of Christmas Inflation

In a pandemic, you can send people all the money in the world and they still won’t go out to dinner or book a flight, especially if those services are suspended by government fiat. A pandemic is like a blizzard: If people get a lot of money when the snow is falling, they will fuel inflation once it has been cleared.

By John H. Cochrane • Project Syndicate

cochrane3

Inflation continues to surge. From its inflection point in February 2021 to last month, the US consumer price index has grown 6% – an 8% annualized rate.

The underlying cause is no mystery. Starting in March 2020, the US government created about $3 trillion of new bank reserves (an equivalent to cash) and sent checks to people and businesses. The Treasury then borrowed another $2 trillion or so and sent even more checks. The total stimulus comes to about 25% of GDP, and to around 30% of the original federal debt. While much of the money went to help people and businesses severely hurt by the pandemic, much of it was also sent regardless of need, intended as stimulus (or “accommodation”) to stoke demand. The goal was to induce people to spend, and that is what they are now doing.

Milton Friedman once said that if you want inflation, you can just drop money from helicopters. That is basically what the US government has done. But this US inflation is ultimately fiscal, not monetary. People do not have an excess of money relative to bonds; rather, people have extra savings and extra apparent wealth to spend. Had the government borrowed the entire $5 trillion to write the same checks, we likely would have the same inflation.

Other purported factors – including “supply shocks,” “bottlenecks,” “demand shifts,” and corporate “greed” – are not relevant to the overall price level. The ports would not be clogged if people were not trying to buy lots of goods. If people wanted more TVs and fewer restaurant meals, the price of TVs would go up and the price of restaurant meals would go down. Greed did not suddenly break out last year.

By contrast, inflation, when all prices and wages rise together, comes from the balance of overall supply and demand. The economy’s capacity to produce goods and services turns out to be lower than expected. Here, the labor shortage – the “Great Resignation” – is a key underlying fact. Employers can’t find people to work because many people remain on the sidelines, not even looking for jobs.

The US Federal Reserve was completely surprised by the surge of inflation, and through most of the year insisted it would be “transitory,” and go away on its own. That turned out to be a major institutional failure. Is it not the Fed’s main job to understand the economy’s supply capacity and fill – but not overfill – the cup of demand?

One might expect that among the thousands of economists the Fed employs, there is a group working on figuring out ports’ capacity, the effects of microchip shortages, how many people have retired or are not returning to work, and so forth. One would be disappointed. Central banks have sketchy ideas of supply, mostly centered on statistical trends in labor markets.

Why did this fiscal stimulus produce inflation when previous stimulus efforts from 2008 to 2020 fizzled? There are several obvious possibilities. First, this stimulus was much bigger. Former US Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence H. Summers correctly prophesied inflation in May 2021 by simply looking at the immense size of the spending packages, relative to any reasonable estimate of the GDP shortfall.

Second, officials misunderstood the COVID recession. GDP and employment did not fall because there was a lack of “demand.” In a pandemic, you can send people all the money in the world and they still won’t go out to dinner or book a flight, especially if those services are suspended by government fiat. To the economy, a pandemic is like a blizzard. If you send people a lot of money when the snow is falling, you do not get activity in the snowdrifts, but you will get inflation once the snow has cleared.

Third, unlike in previous crises, the government created money and sent checks directly to businesses and households, rather than borrowing, spending, and waiting for the effect to spread to incomes.

Will inflation continue? Fundamentally, inflation breaks out when people do not think the government will repay all its debts by eventually running fiscal surpluses. People then try to get rid of the debt and buy things instead, which drives up prices and lowers the real value of debt to what people believe the government will repay. Given that prices have risen 6%, people evidently believe that of the 30% debt expansion, the government will not repay at least 6%. If people believe that less of the debt expansion will be repaid, then the price level will continue to rise, as much as 30%. But inflation will eventually stop: A one-time fiscal helicopter drop leads to a one-time rise in the price level.2

So, whether inflation will continue depends on future fiscal and monetary policy. Fiscal policy is the big question: Now that we have crossed the Rubicon of people believing that a fiscal expansion will not be fully repaid, will people think the same about additional persistent deficits? The danger here is obvious.1

If fiscal inflation does erupt, containing it will be difficult. If monetary policymakers try to curtail inflation by raising interest rates, they will run into fiscal headwinds as well as a political buzz saw. First, with the debt-to-GDP ratio above 100%, if the Fed raises interest rates five percentage points, interest costs on the debt will rise by $1 trillion – 5% of GDP. Those interest costs must be paid, or inflation will just get worse. Similarly, if the European Central Bank raises interest rates, it increases Italy’s debt costs, threatening a new crisis and imperiling the ECB’s vast portfolio of sovereign bonds.Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday

Second, once inflation works its way to higher bond yields, stemming inflation requires higher fiscal surpluses to repay bondholders in more valuable dollars. Otherwise, inflation does not fall.

Monetary policy alone cannot contain a bout of fiscal inflation. Nor can temporary “austerity,” especially sharply higher marginal tax rates that undercut long-run growth and therefore long-run tax revenues. The only lasting solution is to get the governments’ fiscal house in order.

Finally, supply-oriented policy is needed to meet demand without driving up prices, to reduce the need for social spending, and, indirectly, to boost tax revenues without a larger tax base. Given supply constraints from regulations, labor laws, and disincentives created by social programs, potential solutions here should be obvious.


The Placeholder President

When Trump is the issue, Biden wins. And Biden's troubles begin.

By Matthew Continetti • The Washington Free Beacon

President Joe Biden speaks about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot / Getty Images

The most impassioned speech of Joe Biden’s presidency was about events that took place before it began. I’m talking about the president’s remarks on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. The energy, force, and direction of Biden’s delivery have been missing from practically every address he’s made since his inauguration. The Biden who spoke from Statuary Hall on Thursday was not his usual self—listless, reactive, defensive, and confused. This Biden was angry and purposeful and on the attack.

True, it was a partisan speech. How could it not have been? The driving force behind the events of January 6 was a Republican president who remains the most important figure in his party. Many Republicans will accuse Biden of divisiveness. They will say he ignored the faults of his own side. Well, sorry, but what did you expect? Biden was lively and pointed because public opinion is with him. A majority says the 2020 election was legitimate. A plurality blames Trump for the mob assault on the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of adults don’t want Trump to run for president in 2024. When Trump is the issue, Biden wins.

And Biden’s troubles start. Trump for now is the least of his worries. Trump is on the sidelines. He’s out of office. He’s banned from social media. He doesn’t figure in the everyday lives of most Americans. He won’t be on the ballot this November. A White House midterm strategy based on portraying GOP candidates as Q-Anon shamans ready to storm the Capitol won’t work. The hundreds of state and local campaigns will be too diverse. The candidates will be too distinct. And public anger over the economy, the pandemic, the schools, the border, and the cities will matter most of all.

Biden’s January 6 speech was a reminder that he’s a placeholder president. He’s in office because independent voters in the suburbs rejected Donald Trump’s personality and Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus. No one expected—or wanted—Biden to be a world-historical statesman. Biden himself said he’s a “transitional” figure with a singular goal: Keep Trump away from the White House. He accomplished that task, which is why he began his presidency with healthy approval ratings. The electorate didn’t sour on him until he took on additional employment: live-action role-playing FDR and LBJ, dismantling immigration protocols on the southern border, deferring to public health experts and regulatory bodies, and midwifing the Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan. Now Biden is at 43-percent approval in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls.

Biden’s dilemma is that “I’m not Trump” is a winning message only when Trump is on the ballot, holds office, or is tied to a major event such as January 6. The message doesn’t work on the other 364 days of the year. If Biden had grasped why he became president, he would have pursued a modest agenda directed at the independents who elected him. He would have sounded and acted more like Governor Jared Polis than like Senator Elizabeth Warren. Instead, Biden has catered to the left at the expense of the center. He’s at odds with the median voter as he fails to control the coronavirus, inflation, the border, and events overseas. His domestic agenda is stalled. And the Democratic congressional majority is at risk.

But not all is lost. A GOP Congress in 2023 may provide Biden with a rationale to shake up his staff, work with Senator Mitch McConnell, and distinguish himself from the cultural left. And the 2024 cycle may not be as good for Republicans as the 2022 cycle is shaping up to be. The last two Democratic presidents won reelection during periods of divided government. The mix of issues may be different. And Biden will be able to play his “I’m not Trump” card if the former president enters the presidential race and wins the GOP nomination.

Listening to Biden speak Thursday, I kept thinking of his recent interview with David Muir of ABC News. When asked if he’ll run for reelection, Biden gave the only answer possible: Yes. But he added an escape hatch when he said that his health would be the deciding factor. Then Muir asked Biden if Trump’s decision would shape his 2024 calculus. And the president became animated. He sounded as engaged as he was on January 6. “You’re trying to tempt me now,” he said. “Sure. Why would I not run against Donald Trump for the nominee? That’ll increase the prospect of running.”

Biden has seen the Democratic bench. He works with Vice President Kamala Harris. He understands that despite everything he remains the Democrats’ best chance of preventing a second Trump term. Joe Biden is an unpopular, unloved, and ineffective president. But he’s beaten Donald Trump once and isn’t wrong to think he might do it again. He won’t transform America. He might keep his job for a while longer if voters don’t like their options. That’s what a placeholder does.


Pence Group Asks High Court to Block Biden’s Vaccine Mandates

By Peter Roff • American Action News

Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons

The United States Supreme Court is scheduled this week to take up two cases critical to the survival of President Joe Biden’s executive orders mandating, separately, that businesses that employ more than 100 people and healthcare workers all be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus commonly called COVID-19.

Advancing American Freedom, an organization founded by former Vice President Mike Pence, announced Monday it had filed an amicus brief opposing the vaccine mandate and in support of the petitioners’ requests for a stay.

In its amicus, AAF argues that OSHA’s vaccine mandate published as an “Emergency Temporary Standard” is a means to “shortcut normal rule-making requirements” established by Congress and should be stayed in order “to prevent the irreparable harm to Americans, to jobs, to constitutional governance, and to our cherished freedoms.”

The mandates are a thorny issue, pitting the individual’s freedom of choice against the government’s responsibility as regards the general welfare of the American people.  Most observers expect the court to rule against the Biden mandates but only because that’s what the tea leaves say a conservative court should do.

“America is about freedom and the ability to make the best decision for your family or business, and Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate must be stopped in its tracks in order to preserve freedom, protect American livelihoods and businesses, and to safeguard our constitution,” Pence said. “Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is not the American way.”

Most other conservative commentators seem to be siding with Pence. Comments published Monday by highly regarded author Andrew McCarthy – a former chief assistant U.S. attorney – on the National Review website, echoed some of the points the former vice president made.

“Very simply, Biden is in violation of the Constitution. We have a republic, not a monarchy, and there is nothing inherent in the executive power conferred by Article II that authorizes the Biden decrees. So, the president lacks even arguable authority to coerce people into being vaccinated absent statutory authorization. Indeed, I must say “arguable” because it is doubtful that even Congress itself has power to force private citizens to submit to an invasive medical procedure, much less to delegate that authority to the executive branch,” McCarthy wrote.

The Biden workplace mandate is scheduled to take effect soon, affecting as many as 84 million working Americans. Last Thursday the administration asked the Court to leave the mandates intact because they were essential to helping public health officials contend with the continued number of COVID-19 cases still spreading across the United States.


Peaceful Demands For Secure Elections Do Not Constitute ‘Insurrection’

To corrupt media, Democrats, and Big Tech, anyone who protested the 2020 election is no different than the fools who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

By Jordan Boyd • The Federalist

Save America Rally 01/06/21

YOUTUBE/PHOTO

n the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the corporate media is working overtime to convince the American public that Republicans as a whole stormed the nation’s beacon of democracy at the beginning of 2021 and have waged a war on all that is good and decent. While lunatics and fools did invade the Capitol last January, tens of thousands of Americans peacefully assembled to demand answers from the government about what they believed to be the sloppiest election in which they’ve ever voted. 

Political violence should always be condemned, but a majority of the people present in Washington, D.C., and on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 weren’t violent. Yes, hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol in a riot, but tens of thousands of people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and lifestyles gathered together that day at the Save America Rally to protest the Democrats’ sleazy election manipulation and hear from President Donald Trump. 

Crowds began to form early at the White House Ellipse where Trump was scheduled to speak beginning at noon. After hours of waiting in the cold, Trump supporters finally heard from the president, who encouraged them to head to Capitol grounds and “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Following Trump’s urgings, tens of thousands of people slowly and peacefully marched to the Capitol grounds to rally at multiple planned events, all of which were permitted through the proper, official channels. Many of the peaceful protesters were unaware until the end of the day of the vandalizing and looting that had occurred inside the Capitol.

As multiple reports suggest, violence was not even considered by the vast majority of the rally attendees who simply wanted answers about what they saw as the messiest election in their lifetimes. Multiple states had used COVID-19 as an excuse to loosen absentee voting protocols, opening up a window for bad actors to push their preferred candidates to the top.

In Pennsylvania, the Democrat Party circumvented the state legislature and instead used the leftist courts to make six changes to the state’s Election Code ahead of the 2020 election. These changes included expanding mail-in voting and drop-boxes and relaxing verification standards for absentee ballots. Some key states and counties even accepted money from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg through shady election-manipulating organizations designed to increase Democratic voter turnout.

These voters became even angrier when they realized how corporate media and Big Tech worked together to suppress stories that should have tarnished Joe Biden’s reputation and therefore his chances in the election. Whether the Democrats and their media cronies agree, these voters had every right to be upset and express their frustration peacefully at the feet of the government, legislators, and the system that they felt had betrayed them. 

The idea that everyone who was at the Capitol grounds that day is an insurrectionist is patently and deliberately false. Yet the same corporate media outlets, Big Tech oligarchs, and Democrats who defended the arson, looting, and crime associated with the political riots after George Floyd’s death as “fiery but mostly peaceful” branded nearly everyone within a 10-mile radius of the Capitol an insurrectionist. These institutions gladly overlooked the numerous accounts of peaceful assembly, to wrongly conflate the rioters with protesters. Anyone who protested the election was no different than the horned-hat guy and the other fools willing to vandalize the U.S. Capitol. 

The mischaracterizations didn’t stop in January of last year. For urging their state legislatures to listen to and take action regarding their grievances, Republicans as a whole are still being smeared by The New York Times for engaging in a so-called “bloodless, legalized form” of the Capitol riot. Just because of how they vote, Republicans are shunned for using the legal, rightful means presented before them to enact change that ensures safe and secure elections. 

It is a familiar tactic often employed by the anti-Trump crowd, who use everything in their power, including political censorship, to disparage and tear down the reputations of conservatives and the former president. They think that by tarring all Republicans as Jan. 6 insurrectionists, they can prevent future GOP victories, and therefore prevent Republicans from taking action to ensure that the sloppiness of 2020 is never repeated.


More Government, Less Religion — the Progressive Doctrine

By Star Parker • Townhall

More Government, Less Religion -- the Progressive Doctrine
Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

One great mystery is the persistent refusal of those on the left to abandon what is clearly not true.

That is, that the means for reducing the burden of poverty is more government spending.

It all really started in the 1960s under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He declared in his State of the Union address in January 1964 an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Despite tens of trillions of spending since then, poverty remains, and so does the conviction of progressives that it can be wiped out with government spending.

Worth recalling is that the avalanche of government spending launched in the 1960s was followed in the 1970s by runaway inflation.

We now face the latest round of this misguided idea with the expansion of the Child Tax Credit in the Build Back Better Act — now derailed thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin.

Fellow Democrats are now all over the beleaguered senator for allegedly not caring about child poverty.

Build Back Better would have increased the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000, or $3,600 for children under 6.

In a particularly destructive move, they detached any work requirement from receiving the Child Tax Credit.

A team of University of Chicago economists estimates providing a new generous Child Tax Credit, with no work requirement, would result in 1.5 million parents leaving the workforce.

More government, less work. This is somehow the answer that Democratic Party leadership is serving up to us for how to build a better future for our nation.

Where does the passion of Democrats really lie — in improving lives of Americans or in dramatically expanding government?

Equally revealing is what does not interest progressives at all.

A little more than a decade ago, Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution publicized what they called the “success sequence.”

The success sequence consists of three steps in behavior to avoid poverty. Complete at least a high school education, work full time, and wait until age 21 before getting married and then having children.

According to testimony of Haskins in the U.S. Senate in 2012, those following the “success sequence” have a 2% chance of being in poverty and a 75% chance of reaching the middle class.

But the success sequence doesn’t much interest progressives because the focus is about individuals taking personal responsibility for their lives in a free country. The “personal responsibility” part and the “free country” part have little standing in the Democratic Party.

Also of little interest to our progressive friends is that larding down our economy with massive amounts of government retards economic growth. Why would anyone think slow economic growth is good for the poor, let alone any American?

As Americans allow themselves to be convinced that government is the answer to their lives, they become more likely to abandon faith and religion, which provide the light and principles for individuals to take control of their own lives.

New data from the Pew Research Center shows the toll that secularization is taking on our country.

According to Pew, 63% of Americans in 2021 identify as Christians, compared with 78% in 2007. In 2021, 29% indicated they have no religion, compared with 16% in 2007. Whereas in 2007, 56% said religion was “very important” in their lives, in 2021 this was down to 41%.

Perhaps as we close out 2021, we should again recall the words of America’s first president, George Washington, in his farewell address.

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”


Schumer Threatens To Eliminate Filibuster To Pass Voting Rights Bill

Bill would restore voting rights to felons, require states to provide mail-in voting

By Cole Carnick • The Washington Free Beacon

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) / Getty

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on Monday threatened to scrap the upper chamber’s filibuster to pass Democrats’ controversial election reform bill.

Schumer said the Senate will “debate and consider changes” to Senate procedures by Jan. 17 to overcome the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, saying Republicans have exploited the rule to “embarrass the will of majority” and block Democrats’ so-called voting rights legislation.

“In June, August, October, and once more in November, Republicans weaponized arcane Senate rules to prevent even a simple debate on how to protect our democracy,” Schumer wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. “We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before.”

Schumer’s letter comes as the Freedom to Vote Act languishes in the Senate amid staunch Republican opposition. Without a change to Senate rules, Democrats would need 10 Republicans to back their legislation—a number they have thus far failed to reach.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema’s (D., Ariz.) opposition to eliminating the filibuster has stymied previous efforts to alter Senate voting procedures. A group of Democratic senators, however, have in recent weeks tried to persuade the two lawmakers to back reforms that would weaken the vote threshold, according to Politico.

The Democrats’ election reform bill would restore voting rights to convicted felons, require states to offer mail-in voting, and mandate two weeks of early voting, among other measures. Republicans have long opposed the legislation, calling it a partisan power grab.

“This is clearly an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of the political system,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in March 2021.


Biden’s Troubled Relationship With the Truth – and Consequences

By Andy Puzder • Real Clear Politics

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Biden’s approval rating has plummeted, and Democrats wonder why. The United States is facing hardships, but hardships alone don’t make a president unpopular. Leaders who are honest about the problems we face and forthright about the solutions they offer tend to do well (think, say, of Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan). Unfortunately, that is not the leadership Americans are getting from this president.

Instead, the Biden administration has tried to convince the public of things that are not just untrue but implausible. To note a few, Biden did not (and does not) have a “national strategy” to defeat COVID; our southern border is not “secure;” the Afghan withdrawal was not an “extraordinary success”; the current bout of inflation is neither “temporary” nor “a good thing”; and government spending never takes “the pressure off of inflation.”

Of course, politicians often overstate things and sometimes outright lie. Nothing new there. It’s the in-your-face nature of the administration’s falsehoods that is stunning.

For a recent example, take Biden’s efforts to promote his Build Back Better bill. The administration often claims that the legislation really “costs zero dollars” because it is “paid for.” Most Americans realize that paying for something doesn’t make it free. Otherwise, literally everything would be free. Seriously, people get this.

In fairness, Biden was attempting to state that BBB wouldn’t add to the deficit because taxing the rich would pay for it. But even that claim didn’t pass the smell test. Just about everybody outside of Washington, D.C., knows that government programs are never actually “paid for.” We are already borrowing from our great-grandkids just to cover our current profligate spending.

So, the Democrats resorted to various accounting tricks and budgetary chicanery to make it appear as though taxing “the rich” would pay the BBB bills. Few were fooled. Analyzing the bill using realistic assumptions, the Congressional Budget Office found that it would result in around $3 trillion in new deficit spending.

In yet another implausible claim, Biden said that BBB’s massive government spending would take “the pressure off of inflation.” No less an authority than former Clinton and Obama economist Larry Summers warned in February that profligate government spending would “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” The Democrats ignored him and passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief boondoggle. In hindsight, Summers was prescient. In November, he recommended that the administration “not compound errors” it had already made “with far too much fiscal stimulus and overly easy monetary policy” and reject Build Back Better.

To counter these concerns, Biden claimed that BBB’s massive government spending would bring down inflation because government would pick up the tab for certain household expenses, such as child care. Of course, this ignores the impact that the bill would have on the supply of – and demand for – child care.

Child care providers are already in short supply. According to Sen. Richard Burr, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the bill would shrink the supply further “by killing off faith-based providers, small family child care homes, [and] kinship care,” while increasing the demand for child care with massive government subsidies. Not surprisingly, a study by the Progressive Peoples Policy Project, a think tank as left-leaning as its name implies, found that the bill would actually increase the cost of child care for middle-class families by about $13,000 per child annually.

The supply-and-demand dynamic and its impact on inflation seem to be mysteries to the administration – but not to most Americans. According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, the average American family will incur an additional $3,500 in expenses this year solely because of already-surging inflation. It’s the kind of thing people notice.

Of course, the administration made this implausible claim only because the bill needed West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s support to pass. Manchin, however, made it clear that, with inflation already at a 40-year high, he wouldn’t support legislation that added to the deficit or further swelled prices.

Like most Americans (including Larry Summers), Manchin refused to be fooled. He announced that he won’t support the bill – effectively killing it in its present shape. Rarely deterred by reality, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then announced that the Senate would move forward with a vote on the bill nonetheless.

Progressives have long lived in a bubble that cuts them off from the concerns of the “deplorables” in “fly-over America.” During the pandemic, the left hermetically sealed that bubble, shielding its leaders from the discontent that runs across political, geographic, racial, and ethnic lines. Otherwise, they would have foreseen the declining popularity of a president who repeatedly makes patently implausible claims and attempts to advance policies at odds with basic common sense.

The lesson here is not a new one. As someone said long ago: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”


Does President Biden Know What’s Going On in His Own Administration?

By Jim Geraghty • National Review

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 21, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”

The antigen tests at the center of the plan can detect the virus when patients are at their most contagious.

Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official. Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.

The rapid-test push, in particular, seems to have bumped up against the peculiar challenges of fighting COVID-19 in the 21st-century United States. Difficulties include a regulatory gauntlet intent on vetting devices for exquisite sensitivity, rather than public-health utility; a medical fiefdom in which doctors tend to view patient test results as theirs alone to convey; and a policy suspicion, however inchoate, that too many rapid tests might somehow signal to wary Americans that they could test their way through the pandemic and skip vaccinations altogether. “It’s undeniable that [the administration] took a vaccine-only approach,” said Dr. Michael Mina, a vocal advocate for rapid testing who attended the October White House meeting. The U.S. government “didn’t support the notion of testing as a proper mitigation tool.”

President Biden, before departing on Marine Force One, Monday:

Q    President Biden, why did your administration reject the holiday testing surge in October?  Does the buck stop with you there — rejecting the surge?

THE PRESIDENT:  We didn’t reject it.

We’re left with the same feeling after President Biden insisted no military adviser recommended to him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, after U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley told Congress under oath they had recommended that action. Or Biden’s claim that he himself had predicted that the Afghan government would collapse by the end of the year. Or Biden’s claim that his late son Beau served in the U.S. Navy in landlocked Afghanistan, or his claim to have been opposed to the war in Afghanistan from the beginning. Or the number of times Biden stated that vaccinated individuals cannot spread Covid-19, or that “you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”

Sure, maybe Biden is just lying when he says his administration didn’t reject a holiday testing surge. But what if the president genuinely doesn’t remember what he’s been told in briefings, conversations, and decisions?

Or in the case of the rejection of the massive expansion of testing, was this decision made without Joe Biden’s involvement?


Citing ‘Safety’ Concerns, China Tears Down Statue Commemorating Tiananmen Massacre Victims

By Edmond Ng and Jessie Pang • The Washington Free Beacon

A woman and child look at the ‘Pillar of Shame’, a statue that commemorates the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in Hong Kong on October 10, 2021. / Getty Images

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A leading Hong Kong university has dismantled and removed a statue from its campus site that for more than two decades has commemorated pro-democracy protesters killed during China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

The artwork, of anguished human torsos, is one of the few remaining public memorials in the former British colony to remember the bloody crackdown that is a taboo topic in mainland China, where it cannot be publicly commemorated.

Known as the “Pillar of Shame,” the statue was a key symbol of the wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong at its 1997 return to Chinese rule, which differentiated the global financial hub from the rest of China.

The city has traditionally held the largest annual vigils in the world to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The Council of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) said in an early Thursday statement it made the decision to remove the statue during a Wednesday meeting, “based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the University”.

“The HKU Council has requested that the statue be put in storage, and that the University should continue to seek legal advice on any appropriate follow up action,” it said.

Late on Wednesday night, security guards placed yellow barricades around the eight-metre (26-foot) high, two-tonne copper sculpture.

Two Reuters journalists saw scores of workmen in yellow hard hats enter the statue site, which had been draped on all sides by white plastic sheeting and was being guarded by dozens of security personnel.

Loud noises from power tools and chains emanated from the closed off area for several hours before workmen were seen carrying out the top half of the statue and winching it up on a crane towards a waiting shipping container.

A truck later drove the container away early on Thursday. The site of the statue was covered in white plastic sheets and surrounded by yellow barricades. University staff later placed pots of Poinsettia flowers, a popular Christmas decoration in Hong Kong, around the barricades.

‘MEMORIES WRITTEN WITH BLOOD’

Several months ago, the university had sent a legal letter to the custodians of the statue, a group which organised the annual June 4 vigils and has since disbanded amid a national security investigation, asking for its removal.

A June 4 museum was raided by police during the investigation and shut, and its online version cannot be accessed in Hong Kong.

Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot, who created the statue, said in a statement he was “totally shocked” and that he would “claim compensation for any damage” to his private property.

Galschiot, who values the statue at around $1.4 million, had offered to take it back to Denmark, but said his presence in Hong Kong was necessary for the complex operation to go well and asked for reassurances he would not be prosecuted.

HKU said in its statement that no party had ever obtained approval to display the statue on its campus and that it had the right to take “appropriate actions” any time. It also called the statue “fragile” and said it posed “potential safety issues.”

Tiananmen survivor Wang Dan, who now lives in the United States, condemned the removal in a Facebook post as “an attempt to wipe off history and memories written with blood.”

The campus was quiet early on Thursday, with students on holiday. Some students dropped by the campus overnight after hearing the news.

“The university is a coward to do this at midnight,” said 19-year-old student surnamed Chan. “I feel very disappointed as it’s a symbol of history.”

Another student surnamed Leung said he was “heart-broken” to see the statue “being cut into pieces”.

TIANANMEN ERASED

The removal of the statue is the latest step targeting people or organisations affiliated with the sensitive June 4, 1989, date and events to mark it.

Authorities have been clamping down in Hong Kong under a China-imposed national security law that human rights activists say is being used to suppress civil society, jail democracy campaigners and curb basic freedoms.

Authorities say the law has restored order and stability after massive street protests in 2019. They insist freedom of speech and other rights remain intact and that prosecutions are not political.

China has never provided a full account of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Officials gave a death toll of about 300, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands may have been killed.

“What the Communist Party wants is for all of us to just forget about this (Tiananmen). It’s very unfortunate,” John Burns, a political scientist at the university for over 40 years who had called for the statue to remain, told Reuters.

“They would like it globally to be forgotten.”

(Additional reporting by Sara Cheng, Alun John, Eduardo Baptista and Marius Zaharia; Writing by James Pomfret and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Michael Perry)


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