The administration wants to double the funding for a federal program that has failed in its aim to close achievement gaps between low-income and higher-income students.
This week, President Joe Biden released his $5.8 trillion budget proposal for 2023 which included a plan to more than double Title I education funds for low-income students. Biden’s 2022 budget proposal included the same plan to double federal Title I spending, but in the end, Congress only approved a 6% increase, about $19 billion less than what the administration requested.
While Congress is equally unlikely to pursue the president’s proposal this year, it’s important to note why doubling down on Title I funding would be such a flawed strategy. Research consistently shows the program, intended to provide federal funding for schools with higher percentages of children from low-income homes, has failed in its aim to close achievement gaps between low-income and higher-income students since its inception in 1965 as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For example, a study by researchers at George Mason University concluded:
“Given the modest evidence on academic gains and gaps closure attributable to Title I, and considering that the program costs about $15 billion per year, we conclude that Title I compensatory program has been largely ineffective in accomplishing its goal of closing the achievement gaps between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.”
The ineffectiveness should come as no surprise to those familiar with how Title I works. After Biden proposed the 2022 Title I windfall last year, my colleague Christian Barnard and I highlighted just a few of the program’s faults in National Review:
“The current formulas are riddled with complexity, including political provisions that have nothing to do with students’ needs. For example, states are guaranteed a minimum amount of funding even if their share of Title I–eligible students doesn’t warrant it. As a result, Title I dollars are delivered like buckshot, ranging from Idaho getting $984 per eligible student in 2020 to Vermont getting $2,590 per eligible student — 163 percent more per pupil than Idaho. Title I spending needs to be fixed, not increased.”
Keep in mind that President Biden’s Title I proposal comes at a time when many public schools are already flush with cash, thanks to $190 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding that is supposed to prioritize students in high-poverty school districts. Not only that, but public schools are also facing sharp enrollment declines, meaning the budget proposal calls for spending more money on fewer kids when K-12 spending is already at record levels.
Policymakers should be skeptical of continuing to pour more money into a broken federal program. Instead, they should pursue reforms that make Title I dollars flexible, so they support giving families more opportunities and the ability to customize their education. For example, Congress could update the program’s allocation rules and ensure the aid follows students to their public or private school of choice.
Lawmakers could also overhaul the program’s complex web of formulas and non-transparent compliance rules that contribute to school districts’ ineffective spending of the federal funding.
There are a lot of needed reforms to reduce achievement gaps and improve outcomes for low-income students, but pouring more money into Title I isn’t one of them.
The White House's latest attempt to scapegoat rising prices ignores everything that happened before the past three weeks.
Ten months ago, Jeremy Siegel issued a dire warning about the trajectory of prices.
“The money supply since the beginning of the pandemic, so a little over a year, has gone up almost 30 percent. Now, that money is not going to disappear. That money is going to find its way into spending and into higher prices,” Siegel, a professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told CNBC during an interview on May 14. “Over the next two, three years we could easily have 20 percent inflation with this increase in the money supply.”
He was hardly the only one sounding the alarm. A few months earlier, before Congress approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, several prominent economists had warned that the stimulus bill—the third major one passed since the outbreak of COVID-19 just a year earlier—was too big and threatened to overheat the economy.
Among the critics were people like Lawrence Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary during the Obama administration. “There is a chance that macroeconomic stimulus on a scale closer to World War II levels than normal recession levels will set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation,” Summers warned in a Washington Post op-ed in February 2021. “Administration officials’ dismissal of even the possibility of inflation, and the difficulties in mobilizing congressional support for tax increases or spending cuts, there is the risk of inflation expectations rising sharply.”
“I think we do not need to spend $1.9 trillion…and we should have a smaller program,” Olivier Blanchard, the former chairman of the International Monetary Fund, wrote on Twitter in response to Summers’ op-ed. Biden’s plan to shovel another $1.9 trillion into the economy was coming on top of unprecedented fiscal stimulus and high personal savings rates (due to the pandemic). Americans were already poised to spend a lot more money chasing the same amount of goods as the pandemic waned, and the increase in demand would require impossible levels of output to match. “Strong inflation” would be the natural result, he warned.
“This would not be overheating,” he wrote. “It would be starting a fire.”
By July, a few months after the American Rescue Plan passed, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal said Americans should be bracing for levels of inflation not seen in more than 20 years. That dire prediction was an underestimation.
This history matters because the White House’s latest attempt to explain away inflation rates that have hit their highest levels in 40 years is to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the war he has started in Ukraine, for the whole mess. After the Labor Department released new data last week showing that inflation had jumped to 7.9 percent over the past year, the White House responded with a statement claiming that “today’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans’ budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of Putin’s price hike.”
The argument is that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and the global response to it, which has included cutting off purchases of Russian oil and gas—are pushing prices higher throughout the economy. “Make no mistake, the current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin and has nothing to do with the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said Friday.
It’s true that gas prices have spiked dramatically in the weeks since Russian troops invaded Ukraine. But Biden’s attempt to pin a year of steadily rising prices on the events of the past few weeks makes little sense.
For one thing, last week’s report from the Labor Department showing that inflation had hit 7.9 percent looked at prices from February 2021 through February 2022. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, so the White House is asking you to ignore 361 days of data in order to focus on what happened during the last four.
It’s certainly possible that the war in Ukraine—and the disruptions it has caused to global fuel and food supply chains—will put more upward pressure on prices. But that information won’t be visible in the government’s official data until the next consumer price index report is released in early April.
What about Biden’s more narrow claim: that rising gas prices are largely to blame for inflation. It’s true that higher gas prices will push other prices higher as a result—because higher fuel prices make it more expensive to ship anything from place to place. And the White House is correct that energy prices are rising faster than prices overall. Overall energy prices are up 25.6 percent since last year, and gasoline prices are up 38 percent, according to the Labor Department’s most recent data (which, again, captures prices through the end of February).
But if that’s all Putin’s fault, how do you explain the fact that energy prices—and gasoline prices, specifically—had been rising faster than just about anything else for much of the past year? In November, the Labor Department reported that energy prices were up 33 percent and gasoline prices up 58 percent over the previous year. In August, those numbers were 25 percent and 42 percent, respectively. What’s happening here seems to run a lot deeper than the events of the past few weeks.
“Yes, Putin’s invasion is making a huge difference. But demand for gasoline surged much earlier when consumers, with money in the bank and uninterested in flying because of COVID-19 concerns, put family cars on the road in the midst of the great COVID shutdown, making the number of miles traveled in spring 2021 rise to new heights,” wrote Bruce Yandle, former executive director of the Federal Trade Commission and economist at the Mercatus Center, last week in Reason.
Finally, this brings us back around to the economists who were warning last year that Biden’s stimulus bill would be a recipe for high inflation. It’s unlikely that Siegel, Summers, and the rest had a crystal ball that could predict Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What they were predicting—and, indeed, what we are now seeing—was persistently rising prices due to an excessive amount of money being dumped into the economy. Any attempt by the Biden administration to explain inflation that doesn’t include a hard look at its own policies is simply dishonest.
Having watched Democrat politicians aspiring to project the appearance of FDR-like progressive reformists into their domestic and foreign policies, a discerning person must necessarily hark back to the well known Bible story about the first couple’s removal from the heavenly paradise. Overwhelmed by the supposed cruelty of their Creator and feeling miserably alone, the Tempter Serpent promised them another way of creating their earthly paradise. Seemingly robbed of any other rational alternative, the mythical Adam and Eve followed the false deity. Tragically for their descendents, this earthly paradise still has not been found. What human history has produced thus far have been a series of undivine and tragic comedies, which have unfailingly ended up in the bottomless black holes of the reincarnated past.
While Presidents Putin and Xi have been busy undermining the domestic stability and international standing of the United States of America, America’s present duo of executive leaders, President Biden as well as Vice President Harris, have been laboring under establishing the perfectly equitable society at home and abroad, in which the pseudo-spiritual triumvirate of racial division, economic decline and energy dependence are the rule and not the exception. In this manner, they and their undemocratic party have presented the American people and the rest of the world with a closed political regime, in which the counterfactual idea of pacifistic-multicultural brotherhood of mankind does not correspond to the domestic and international realities.
Now, the “War in Ukraine” somehow has been linked by President Biden’s idiotic State of the Union Speech with his ruinous Build Back Better domestic political agenda. Rephrasing his essentially failed Marxist program to an equally fallaciously sounding Build a Better America, he blamed his predecessor for all the ills of America. Specifically, he has also blamed former President Trump for the Russian invasion and stated that the United States of America will not undertake any game-changer action to counter the illegal territorial grab by President Putin.
To add insult to injury, he assured the Iranian people that his sympathies lie with them and counterintuitively, he told the Ukranians that as far as he is concerned they do not deserve the same brotherly love as the Iranians do. Never mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a terrorist state that has threatened the peace and stability of the greater Middle East since 1979, President Biden agreed to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, to withdraw sanctions on Iranian terror masters as well as missile and WMD proliferators and ignore most of the nuclear safeguards. Moreover, when the deal is signed, and without congressional oversight, the Islamic Republic of Iran will automatically receive $90 billion in sanctions relief. Finally, Iran will receive at least $50-55 billion annually in the coming years from oil and gas sales because of the end of sanctions of its energy sector. In addition to enabling the Mullahcracy to build and acquire new and more sophisticated weapons, Tehran will be in the position to expand geostrategically with the help of Russia and China, threatening America’s allies, such as Israel, the GCC countries and beyond.
The upcoming deal will also entitle Russia and China to label Israel and its allies in the UN as aggressors, if they decide to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear bombs. More importantly, the American delegation in Vienna lacks any coherent strategy. Led by Robert Malley, who is well known for his extremist pro-Iran views, has also surrendered the conduct of negotiations between the White House and Tehran to the Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov by appointing him a “mediator” between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As far as President Biden’s pseudo-foreign policy is concerned, it is an insolvable contradiction between being restricted by the requirements of individual freedom and national liberty on the one hand, and the Marxist destruction of the natural relationships of societies, states as well as alliances under the banner of absolute equality and multiculturalism that, in turn, fatally atomizes the world at large, on the other. Instead of American exceptionalism, President Biden has adopted the Marxist cum Bolshevik idea of international relations, in which the contradictory compromise between state centralism and the romantic but unworkable Slavic notion of the primitive Mir communities coalesce. The right to national sovereignty and free agency in international relations have been replaced by the naked despotism of the rulers’ de jour. Russia’s war on Ukraine and President Putin’s uncompromising inhumanity are the newest examples of President Biden’s anti-factual and antisocial psychopathology.
His responses to Russia’s wholesale invasion of Ukraine have also mirrored his demented mind’s sick ideas that do not correspond to the realities of the raging war. While President Putin has initially played the enlightened and Westernized Russian leader, domestically he has instituted cruel repression. When he gave his now infamous speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 10, 2007, President Putin stated: “NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself, or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.” Then came an ominous warning: “No one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them,” meaning the United States of America and its allies. Finally, he intoned thus: “I consider the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world…. Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.”
For all practical purposes, President Putin’s speech was a declaration of war mainly on the United States of America. The response of the Obama Administration, in which President Biden was the Vice President, was “reset,” represented by the language handicapped Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose qualifications for the job did not go beyond having been married to a former president. Naturally, the “reset’ was the product of totally incompetent minds. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton did not grasp that for President Putin the end of the cold war that was preceded by the collapse of the Soviet Union was an unacceptable occurrence, and a monster that must be defeated at any cost.
Driven by hatred and fear of the monster, he has begun a ferocious persecution of all former Soviet republics. Up until the invasion of Ukraine, President Putin’s entire foreign policy seemed to be a perpetual preparation for the decisive military confrontation with the West. On March 16, 2022, addressing his cabinet, President Putin compared the West to Nazi Germany, declaring that they have been banding together against Russia the same way Nazi Germany did in the 1930s. In the same vein he has said that Russians must “protect themselves from the Western fifth column.”
To wit, neither President Obama nor President Biden has understood that President Putin does not aspire to becoming a democratic leader. The republican form of government with its democratic structures and individual liberty are completely foreign to his whole upbringing, professional background and limited intellect. All these were committed to the sphere of influence of the devilish West.
Thus, instead of responding in kind and defining his own red line, President Biden has never understood the significance of the internal psychology of the fall of the Soviet Union within Russia. In spite of the superficial mimicking of certain Western phenomena, Russia has remained despotic and backward, and thus differing radically in her political culture and institutions from the West, and has been separated from Europe by Ukraine. Corresponding to this untenable situation, is the condition of the Russian economy and its finances. Instead of a lengthy analysis, suffice it to say that Russia’s GDP in 2020 fell from $1,687.45 billion to $1,483.50 billion – a drop of 12.09%. Inflation, unemployment and national debt have risen correspondingly. 2021 and 2022 have been even more disastrous.
With the wholesale invasion of Ukraine, Russia will be bankrupt very soon. Thus, sanctions are the correct measures. However, more needs to be done. President Putin must be presented with an ultimatum – withdraw immediately or face the full might of NATO. President Putin must understand that might does not make right under international law. Moreover, no peace without a complete withdrawal from all the territories seized by Russia since 1992 from Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, including Crimea. Finally, complete reparations must be paid by Russia for all the war damages that it caused to those states. To acknowledge these demands is the precondition for Russia’s readmission to the community of nations. Otherwise, the two principles of sovereignty and self-determination would be sacrificed on the altar of Russia’s military despotism.
The same fallacious notion of “equity” is the driving force behind President Biden’s China policy. In his demented mind, the international dominance of the United States of America must be brought down and ultimately depressed for the sake of not frightening the People’s Republic of China, which might render the latter more aggressive. It must be so because historically America has claimed to be exceptional and, therefore, has behaved arrogantly toward the rest of the world. Only through the cooperation of America and China could the world tame anarchy and chaos and permanently avoid a nuclear catastrophe. According to him, passivity and pacifism are the only solutions for America to survive. In reality, however, his impotent foreign policy would result in the total collapse of Western civilization. Weakness would invite aggression and unopposed aggression would lead to regression as well as global decomposition of the smaller states. The end result of such a “progression” would be the end of mankind as the world has known it.
President Joe Biden has a problem with numbers. He can’t make them add up and it’s not clear that he knows what they mean. He’s so devoted to his progressive narrative that he becomes confused when the data doesn’t support the conclusions he and his economic team want to reach.
This leads him to say all kinds of wacky things about taxes and prices and spending and inflation that are undermining the American public’s confidence in the U.S. economy. It is possible, as has been proved more than once over the last 25 years, to talk us into a recession. And, with the Atlanta Fed projecting zero growth for the first quarter of 2022, the president and his team may be doing just that.
Consider Biden’s remarks in his most recent State of the Union Address. As a way of pumping up the enthusiasm over his plan to fight inflation and rebuild the American economy following the lockdowns, he criticized the pro-growth tax cuts enacted under his predecessor. “Unlike the $2 trillion tax cut passed in the previous administration that benefited the top 1 percent of Americans,” he said, his American Rescue Plan “helped working people – and left no one behind.”
That, to put it mildly, is an exaggeration of the worst order. The Trump tax cuts benefited the top 1 percent of income earners because they benefited everyone who pays federal income taxes. The only people they didn’t help directly were the roughly 50 percent of Americans who don’t make enough money to pay income tax to Uncle Sam.
Some people, including Mr. Biden, think that’s unfair. Then again these are the same people who confuse tax avoidance – which is the lawful attempt to minimize one’s tax payment – with tax evasion. The latter, which is the practice of not paying taxes legitimately owed, is illegal. If the president and his congressional allies like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had their way the former might become illegal any time now too. But that’s a matter for another day.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Biden derides as only benefiting the wealthy increased the incentive for those “of means” and those who wished to someday be “of means” to make more frequent and more valuable capital investments expecting, as was shown to be the case before the pandemic-inspired lockdowns jiggered the system, that greater financial risk produced greater financial rewards.
This created an environment in which almost every American was a winner. The economy grew, jobs were created, and unemployment sank like a stone among the demographics that garner the most media attention like single women, young African-Americans and Latinos. Productivity rose and with it, as most analysts reported, so did wages.
Biden doesn’t get that. He still believes that for the rich or powerful to do well, the poor and struggle must suffer. It’s an outmoded way of thinking that most people thought died out with the Soviet Union but, as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reminds us, some threats just never go away.
He’s got it all cocked up on energy too. Asked Thursday about rising prices at the pump, Biden blamed the war in Ukraine and the sanctions that have been imposed on Russia for the spike. That has something to do with it to be sure. The bigger cause is the way the president used what former House Majority Leader and Ph.D. economist Dick Armey calls “the invisible foot of government” to kick America’s energy independence to the curb.
The price of gasoline is rising because America’s energy sector cannot increase production to levels sufficient to meet the demand for gasoline at less than $3 per gallon. To put it another way, Biden broke the spigot by suspending oil leases, restricting exploration, reinstating economically counterproductive regulations, killing the Keystone XL pipeline and doing whatever else he and his brain trust could to conceive to force consumers to speed up their adoption of wind and solar power.
How’s that worked out? Well, since he’s come into office the average American family have seen their annual energy costs increase, by some estimates, by more than $1,000, gas prices have reached the highest level ever recorded – above $4 per gallon on average in 38 states – and congressional Democrats are once again talking about instituting a special tax on “excess” energy company profits that can be paid out to low-income individuals and families to help them deal with higher prices. To call that madness is an insult to the insane.
When asked what he plans to do, the best answer Biden could come up with was to suggest there wasn’t much he could do about it right now. Then he talked about oil companies and production increases and investments as though he understood it all. Here’s what he told the members of the Democratic National Committee Thursday night:
“We are increasing oil production with a [sic] record productivity. By the end of the year, we will have produced more oil than any time in the last number of years. … The CEOs of major oil companies have said they’ll increase investment and production… My message is: It’s time — in this time of war, it’s not a time of profit. It’s time for reinvesting in America. And they hear it. You know, there’s a — there’s an impediment to production in the United States, and it’s called ‘the bankers on Wall Street.’ And this crisis is another indication of why we need to get off dependency on fossil fuels.”
That may be confusing to follow so, to translate, in the president’s view: 1) Energy companies are bad because they profit when prices rise because the politicians have created a global crisis of the 1st order; 2) We have plenty of oil but business isn’t producing it so they can make more money; 3) The big bad bankers on Wall Street are behind it all; and, 4) We need to go green.
As they say, there’s nothing like letting the facts get in the way of a good narrative.
Biden forgot to mention a lot, including how the national average price of gas was already up by $1.14 before Russia invaded Ukraine because of the anti-fossil energy initiatives his administration had taken or announced plans to take — like the Biden SEC’s effort to force public traded companies to disclose the potential economic impact to their business from global warming and greenhouse gas production.
From the largest Cabinet Department to the smallest independent agency, the Biden administration is waging a regulatory war on fossil fuels that touches every sector of the economy. And all the president can say is “What? Who? Me?” A convenient memory lapse assisted by a fundamental misunderstanding of economics is killing off the American energy renaissance.
Thousands are dying from Russian missiles and bombs in the suburbs of Ukraine.
In response, the Biden Administration’s climate-change envoy, multimillionaire and private-jet-owning John Kerry, laments that Russian President Vladimir Putin might no longer remain his partner in reducing global warming.
“You’re going to lose people’s focus,” Kerry frets. “You’re going to lose big-country attention because they will be diverted, and I think it could have a damaging impact.”
Did the global moralist Kerry mean by “impact” the over 650 Russian missiles that impacted Ukrainian buildings and tore apart children?
Are Russian soldiers losing their green “focus”? When Putin threatens nuclear war is he merely “diverted”? Would letting off a few nukes be “damaging” to the human environment?
Climate-change moralists love humanity so much in the abstract that they must shut down its life-giving gas, coal, and oil in the concrete. And they value humans so little that they don’t worry in the here and now that ensuing fuel shortages and exorbitant costs cause wars, spike inflation, and threaten people’s ability to travel or keep warm.
The Biden Administration stopped all gas and oil production in the ANWR region of Alaska. It ended all new federal leases for drilling. It is canceling major new pipelines. It is leveraging lending agencies not to finance oil and gas drilling.
It helped force the cancellation of the EastMed pipeline that would have brought much-needed natural gas to southern Europe. And it has in just a year managed to turn the greatest oil and gas producer in the history of the world into a pathetic global fossil-fuel beggar.
Now gas is heading to well over $5 a gallon. In over-regulated blue states, it will likely hit $7.
The result is left-wing terror that the voters in the coming midterm election might rightly blame Democrats for hamstringing the American ability to travel, keep warm in winter and cool in summer, and buy affordable food.
But how will the Biden Administration square the circle of its own ideological war against oil and natural gas versus handing the advantage to our oil- and gas-producing enemies, as Russia invades Ukraine?
Or put another way, when selfish theory hits deadly reality, who loses? Answer: the American people.
President Joe Biden lifted U.S. sanctions on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline designed to provide green Germany with loathsome, but life-saving, natural gas.
But first Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States. He has no problem with pipelines per se, just American ones.
While Biden doesn’t like the idea of Germany burning carbon fuel, or Putin reaping enormous profits from Berlin’s self-created dependency, or Germans importing liquified natural gas from America, Biden also does not like the idea of forcing German families to turn off their thermostats in mid-winter when there is Russian-fed war not far from Germany’s borders.
Here at home, Biden gets even crazier. As our enemies around the world reap huge profits from record high oil and gas prices, did Biden ask Alaska, North Dakota, or Texas to ramp up production?
In other words, did he ask Americans to save fellow cash-strapped Americans from a self-created energy crisis, in the way he assured the Germans that during war reality trumps theory?
Not at all.
Instead, Biden came up with the most lunatic idea in recent diplomatic history of begging autocratic and hostile regimes the world over to pump more oil to lower America’s gas prices.
For years, America has sanctioned the oil-rich Venezuelan dictatorship, a narco-terrorist state that wars on its own people and its neighbors. Now Biden is begging strongman Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pump the supposedly dirty fuels America has in even greater abundance but finds it too icky to produce.
Biden also has beseeched the once sanctioned, terrorist Iranian government. He wants Tehran to help us out by upping the very oil and gas production that America has tried to curtail for years. In return, Iran is demanding a new “Iran Deal” that will soon ensure the now petro-rich theocracy the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
On the eve of the Russian invasion, Biden begged Putin to pump even more oil to supplement its current Russian imports to the United States.
Did Putin see that surreal request as yet another sign of American appeasement that might greenlight his upcoming planned invasion? In Russian eyes, was it more proof of American weakness and craziness after the humiliating flight from Afghanistan?
Biden has blasted the human rights record of Saudi Arabia’s royal family. Now he is begging the monarchy to pump more of its despised carbon-spewing oil to make up for what his administration shut down at home. Is that why the Saudi royals refused to take his call?
The moral of Biden’s oil madness?
Elite ideology divorced from reality impoverishes people and can get them killed.
Instead of taking responsibility for his self-inflicted problems and laying out solutions to fix them, Biden has repeatedly deflected blame.
he White House repeatedly uses the Russia-Ukraine conflict to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the crises President Joe Biden created. Even when Americans point out the administration’s hypocrisy, the White House refuses to take responsibility for the domestic problems that it knows could result in the downfall of Democrats in the upcoming midterm election.
“Inflation goes up today, the president’s statement blames the ‘Putin Price Hike.’ Are you guys just going to start blaming Putin for everything until the midterms?” Fox News’s Peter Doocy asked during the White House press briefing on Thursday.
Psaki, of course, refused to give Doocy a straight answer and instead told reporters that “we’ve seen the price of gas go up at least 75 cents since President Putin lined up troops on the border of Ukraine.”
Doocy countered by asking why the White House’s statement on January’s high inflation didn’t indict the Russian president then, especially if he was so guilty for causing the problems afflicting Americans since January of 2021, but Psaki didn’t bite.
Biden and his team at the White House will absolutely keep blaming Putin for all the domestic crises weighing on Americans because they have nothing to lose by refusing responsibility and everything to gain in the 2022 midterms.
Things in the U.S. are not going well for the Biden administration. The president’s approval rating may have slightly climbed after he made dozens of empty promises and lies at his State of the Union address but his first year in office was a complete disaster.
Under Biden’s watch, the U.S. Southern border was overwhelmed with illegal migration and increased drug trafficking, gasoline prices climbed astronomically, and the supply chain crisis hurt Americans already struggling under the weight of steadily increasing inflation.
Instead of taking responsibility for these problems and laying out solutions to fix them, the Biden administration has repeatedly deflected blame onto the pandemic and even corporate greed. One year into steadily rising and record-high energy costs, Psaki still had the guts this week to claim that high gas prices and expensive goods that have been plaguing Americans for months are Putin’s fault.
She also said they are “temporary and not long-lasting” even though the White House and the president himself previously insisted that price hikes were“expected” and would be “temporary.” Eight months after their predictions, inflation is at a 40 year high and is expected to climb higher in the coming months.
As a result, Americans do not view the administration or Democrats favorably. Just recently, Biden and his leftist allies have tried to ditch their own detrimental Covid agenda in an attempt to win over frustrated voters. So far, their plan to satiate Americans, 40 percent of whom recently testified that they were “nervous” under the Biden presidency, is not working.
Americans largely vote with their pocketbooks. When gas costs $7 a gallon in parts of the country because Biden wants to broker deals with foreign enemies instead of reinstating American energy independence, voters who agree that economic conditions are their top priority are not happy. Recent polling suggests that more Americans, 51.6 percent, disapprove of the president and vice president than approve.
Biden and his team have epically failed in multiple ways. Despite the administration’s efforts to call U.S. attention to a foreign conflict, Americans affected by Biden’s incompetence won’t forget all of the domestic crises he’s created and then tried to ignore.
The White House has nothing to lose by blaming Putin and everything to gain by ignoring the crises Biden created. The more the administration spins the narrative, with the help of corrupt corporate media, to absolve themselves of blame, the better Democrats believe they will do in this year’s key election.
Half measures won't save Ukraine or restore American deterrence
The strongest part of President Biden’s State of the Union address was the section on the war in Ukraine. Biden condemned the Russian invasion. He welcomed the Ukrainian ambassador. He led Congress in a statement of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight against the Russian aggressor. He announced that the United States was closing its airspace to Russian planes, cutting off Russia from the international financial system, penalizing the Russian central bank, sanctioning the Russian government and its leadership, and targeting Russian oligarchs. He made it clear whose side the United States is on. “Together with our allies,” Biden said, “we are providing support to the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom. Military assistance. Economic assistance. Humanitarian assistance.”
All good. All sensible. And not nearly enough. Defeating Russia in Ukraine and restoring American deterrence will require much more than Biden has announced so far. The State of the Union was a chance for Biden to explain the nature of the threat, the stakes for America, his plan for rolling back Putin’s offensive, his strategy for American revival, and the potential costs to American citizens. He ducked the hard questions. He relied on bromides. He left the impression that the road ahead will be relatively painless, and that victory is assured. It isn’t.
“Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people,” Biden said. He meant to say the “Ukrainian people.” A laudable sentiment. And a misleading one. What does it matter to Putin if he gains the “hearts and souls” of Ukrainians? He doesn’t want their love. He desires their territory. And he won’t just encircle Kyiv with tanks. He will level it. Biden could have warned America and the world about the sorts of horrible images already being broadcast from Ukraine. He could have explained why the misery will grow worse long before it subsides. He could have steeled the nation’s spine for the uncertain years ahead. He chose not to.
“Freedom will always triumph over tyranny,” Biden said. Another lovely idea that crumbles under scrutiny. Ask the North Koreans or the Cubans or the Venezuelans or the Iranians or the Chinese or, for that matter, the Russians if freedom always triumphs over tyranny. The tragic fact of the matter is that freedom is rare. Authoritarians are resilient. Biden left out the element essential to freedom’s victory. Freedom requires more than will. It requires force. And in today’s world of proliferating dangers, the only nation with the power to shield freedom from its enemies is the United States.
I’m not talking about the power of our example. I mean the military and strategic assets at our disposal. These elements of national power are the foundation for a world of democracies. But they have atrophied. America’s armed forces labor under budget constraints. America’s nuclear deterrent requires modernization. America’s research and development has withered, and American energy has been constricted. America’s alliances are force multipliers that Biden has leveraged well against Russia. They can only get us so far, however. In the end, it will be American will and American might that guarantee international security in Europe, East Asia, and the Greater Middle East. Every minute spent evading this reality is wasted.
Which is why Biden’s easy confidence in the eventual victory of freedom over oppression troubles me. Take the defense budget. Biden mentioned the Department of Defense a single time—in reference to his plan to “end cancer as we know it.” He spent an hour calling on Congress to pass legislation that has failed already. Not once did he ask Congress to pass the defense appropriations bill. Nor did he ask for more to be spent on defense in this global emergency. America spent an average of 7 percent of gross domestic product on our military during the first Cold War. Now we spend about 3 percent. To win a Second Cold War against an expansionist Russia and a belligerent China, we must spend more. Failure to do so isn’t just unserious. It’s reckless.
Biden’s energy plan was similarly troubling. He announced the release of strategic petroleum reserves to tamp down the rising cost of oil and gasoline. The problem with reserves, though, is that they eventually run out. How will we replenish them? Biden left no clue. He wants to provide “investments and tax credits to weatherize your homes and businesses to be energy efficient.” He wants to “double America’s clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more.” He wants electric vehicles to be cheaper. He’s deluding himself. The words “drill,” “natural gas,” and “nuclear” never passed his lips. He won’t ban Russian oil imports—meaning that we continue to fund the butchers of Ukraine. The American energy sector is the key to national independence, freedom of action on the world stage, and long-term weaning of Europe from dependence on Russian energy. You wouldn’t know that from listening to Biden.
But you would get the impression that the president is averse to conflict. “Let me be clear,” he said, “our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine.” The reinforcements he’s deployed to Europe are there to defend NATO if Putin turns against the Baltic States, Poland, or Romania. America will send weapons to Ukraine, but otherwise the Ukrainians are on their own. This message doesn’t inspire confidence. It gives Putin a green light to conduct the war on his terms. The best way to prevent the expansion of the war is to make Putin second-guess his actions. How? Not by continually reminding him of what you won’t do. You deter Putin by forcing him to consider what you might do.
The State of the Union contained nothing that might stop Putin from continuing his assault. Biden’s silence about the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was telling. He said the word “Afghanistan” just twice, in a section devoted to spending more resources on American veterans. I’m all for spending money to help the troops—active duty as well as reserve and retired. But the 13 servicemen killed as America retreated from a land that we protected for two decades deserved better. The Afghans themselves deserved a mention, as well, especially the ones we have welcomed to America. Their absence was odd.
The whole speech was odd. It lacked the seriousness required during a national trial. Its logic was nonsensical: Biden argued with a straight face, for instance, that protectionism somehow will reduce inflation. His policy proposals either had nothing to do with, or will actively undermine, national priorities such as reducing inflation, securing the southern border, and reestablishing a peaceful world through military strength. “We are stronger today than we were a year ago,” Biden concluded. It’s pleasant to think so. But that doesn’t mean it’s true.
For Joe Biden, the February jobs report provides a reason to celebrate. It looks like America is finally getting back to work. COVID is over. The recovery has begun – if you don’t look closely enough.
The Biden Boom, which someone is sure to call it eventually, is full of holes. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, which the president talked up ad nauseam during the State of the Union Address, there were billions of dollars pumped into the economy without having anywhere productive to go. As a result, we got what the Republicans have taken to calling “Bidenflation” as prices rise at a rate many of us have not seen since the 1970s.
If you were born during or after the Reagan years – which kicked off a genuine “long boom” that continued far beyond his presidency – you’ve never seen anything like what we’re now seeing. That alone would blame the precipitous drop in Biden’s job approval numbers and why some polls are showing the Republicans leading the Democrats by as much as 20 points on the question of which party do you feel will do a better job handling the nation’s economic challenges.
As to inflation, it looks like the president doesn’t have a clue. In his speech Tuesday, he said the annualized increase in prices – which is hovering near 10 percent – was juiced upwards by the outsized impact the rise in the price of automobiles had on the total:
Last year, there weren’t enough semiconductors to make all the cars that people wanted to buy.
And guess what, prices of automobiles went up. So – we have a choice.
One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer.
I have a better plan to fight inflation.
Yes, he has a plan – but how can we trust it when it’s clear he doesn’t get the fundamentals. As the Committee to Unleash Prosperity put it in the Thursday edition of its Hotline:
“We’re still scratching our heads trying to figure out what the White House strategy is for bringing down inflation which is now running between 7% and 10% depending on the measure used…. Then old Joe told a whopper when he said that new vehicles accounted for a third of all inflation over the last year. New vehicles accounted for only 6% of inflation. Even if you add new and used vehicles together, it accounts for only 17% of inflation, half of what he claimed. Inflation is everywhere right now.”
The Biden plan, whatever it is, doesn’t build back anything better. It relies on price controls and government intervention in the marketplace to bring Bidenflation to heel. The problem is it won’t work now any better than it did when presidents in both parties tried in the 70s. What he’s bringing back is Jimmy Carter 2.0, only without the federal deregulatory efforts that were the one bright spot in four otherwise malaise-filled years.
Still, the job growth in February 2022 was impressive. The economy added a total of 687,000 jobs, 654,000 of them scattered throughout the private sector rather than confined to just a few parts of the commercial and industrial sectors. The service sector added more than half a million workers while the leisure and hospitality industries badly battered by the lockdowns added almost 200,000 workers.
These are all positive signs. The good news is the U.S. labor market is recovering. The bad news is that Joe Biden thinks he and his American Rescue Plan are responsible for it all because, as he said Thursday night, it “created jobs. Lots of jobs.”
Biden didn’t create a thing. It was the Republican governors who ended the lockdowns who are responsible for the job growth America has experienced coming out of the pandemic. Month over month, most of the top ten states that had the most “new hires” were led by the GOP while the states that showed no job growth or continued to lose jobs were run by folks who practice Bidenomics.
In his hubris, in the rush to demonstrate his policies are having a positive impact on the economy, he’s claiming credit for jobs that existed until the people who had them were, along with most everyone else, forced to stay home in a futile attempt to stop the spread of COVID. “Our economy created over 6.5 million new jobs just last year, more jobs created in one year than ever before in the history of America,” Biden said, an easy claim to make when the people who see the economy as you do were responsible for killing those jobs (or their predecessor positions in the first place). It’s an assertion that makes as much sense as the observation from a soldier in the field in South Vietnam who explained to a reporter how “We had to burn the village down to save it.”
What’s next? That depends on whether the Republicans in Congress can continue to hold the line and block any further assistance spending packages. As economist E.J. Antoni of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told me, the U.S. economy is currently experiencing “strong, widespread job growth, undermined by inflation.”
“We are at 99 percent of the jobs we had before the pandemic so there’s no reason for any additional stimulus,” Antoni, who also advises the Committee to Unleash Prosperity said. The real problem, he continued “is that there is too much money sloshing around while real wages are plummeting.”
Bidenflation is the real economic enemy, not joblessness. Forecasters had already “baked into the cake” some large price increases for the coming year before the crisis in Ukraine began. That means, Antoni said, “the Middle Class is in for a lot of pain.
Indeed, it’s beginning to look like things could come off the rail at any time, especially if Biden gets his way on initiatives like the Green New Deal – under whatever name it is known now – and other attempts at central economic planning that didn’t work in the 70s, didn’t work in the former Soviet Union and won’t work here in America ever. Prosperity initiatives leading to growth like those enacted before the 1982 recession may be the only way out of the mess we’re in. As a senator, Biden voted against most of them when they were before Congress in legislative form. There’s no reason to believe he’ll offer them up now as president but, if he were serious about restoring the health of the U.S economy, he could do a lot by taking off the brakes he’s imposed on the U.S. energy sector. That alone could lift our economic prospects by making essential energy cheaper, creating new opportunities for exports, and millions of new, well-paying jobs. Real growth, real increases in real wages and a reality check to remind everyone the free market works.
BIDEN’S BORDER DELUSION. Before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, there was some speculation about whether he would mention the mess he has created on the U.S.-Mexico border or whether he would simply pretend it did not exist. As it turned out, he did both — he mentioned the border, and he pretended the mess did not exist.
Biden did not give the subject prominent placement — he got to the border nearly 50 minutes into his hourlong speech. He had just made a pitch for the confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and segued into the border, seeking to link the court, the border, and the broader issue of comprehensive immigration reform under the concept of “liberty and justice.”
“If we are to advance liberty and justice, we need to secure our border and fix the immigration system,” Biden said. “We can do both.”
It was astonishing to hear Biden declare that “we need to secure our border,” given that he has done so much to ensure that the border is not secure. After Biden’s 2020 campaign promises to end restrictive Trump policies and stop deportations, millions of would-be illegal crossers flocked to the border beginning immediately after the new president took office. U.S. border officials encountered more than two million illegal crossers in calendar year 2021.
2022 has started on an equally bad note. In January, border authorities encountered 153,941 illegal crossers. That was almost double the number from January 2021, which was 78,414. And the 2021 figure was more than double the number from the year before that, January 2020, when authorities encountered 36,585 illegal crossers.
They are coming in huge numbers because they believe the Biden administration will allow them to stay in the United States. And indeed, as Robert Law of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports more restrictive immigration policies, points out, “removals fell by more than 70 percent in fiscal year 2021 [at the same time] the Biden administration has granted, or extended, amnesty-lite (read: work permits, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses) to approximately 500,000 illegal aliens through an abusive application of Temporary Protected Status.”
And then, there is the fact that under Biden, would-be illegal crossers from all around the world — not just Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries — are coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Look at this from the Feb. 1 Daily Memo: “A new report in Axios has some of the numbers. ‘More than 800 people from India illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Yuma, Arizona in December,’ according to Axios. ‘And for the second month in a row, more than 500 migrants from Turkey crossed into El Paso, Texas.’ In the area around San Diego, 2,000 Russians arrived, as well as 300 Ukrainians. There were 15,000 illegal crossers from Cuba and Haiti. And the big number: In December, according to Axios, ‘Border Patrol agents arrested close to 53,000 migrants from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.'”
Beyond that, the Biden administration is also secretly relocating illegal border-crossers all around the country. It is doing so secretly because it does not want local residents to know that the U.S. government is moving unvetted, illegal crossers into their towns and communities.
In late January, Fox News obtained video of a passenger plane arriving in the middle of the night at the Westchester County Airport, about 30 miles outside of New York City. A stream of single, adult men began to walk down the plane’s steps. When a local security guard asked what was going on, an official with the immigrants described the arrival as “down-low stuff that we don’t tell people, because what we don’t want to do is attract attention. We don’t want the media. Like, we don’t even know where we’re going when they tell us.” In this case, “they” refers to the Biden administration.
In light of all that, it was downright delusional for Biden to declare that “we need to secure our border.” He simply cannot have meant that statement in the way that most people would understand it, because Biden is at this moment pursuing policies that make the border less secure. This is why it was important to listen very carefully when Biden moved on to his next point:
At our border, we’ve installed new technology like cutting-edge scanners to better detect drug smuggling. We’ve set up joint patrols with Mexico and Guatemala to catch more human traffickers. We’re putting in place dedicated immigration judges in significant, larger numbers so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases heard faster and those who don’t [sic] legitimately here can be sent back. We’re securing commitments and supporting partners in South and Central America to host more refugees and secure their own borders. We can do all this while keeping lit the torch of liberty that has led generations of immigrants to this land — my forebears and so many of yours.
The short version of any analysis of this paragraph is that Biden is not directing his policies toward stopping the flow of millions of people who seek to cross illegally into the United States. He will stop drug smugglers, which, if he actually accomplished it, would be a good thing but would not address the millions of illegal crossers problem. Likewise, focusing on human traffickers would be a good thing, but Biden hasn’t come within a mile of doing it.
The part about more immigration judges was interesting — in the final text of the speech handed out before Biden’s delivery, the sentence ended with “have their cases heard faster.” Biden apparently ad-libbed (and partially mangled) the part about “those who don’t [sic] legitimately here can be sent back.” And then the rest of the paragraph was essentially the old “root causes” approach to illegal border-crossing that does nothing to address today’s problem.
From there, Biden went on to a boilerplate pitch for comprehensive immigration reform, with the admonition, “Let’s get it done once and for all.”
But it was Biden’s reference to securing the border that was, in retrospect, a great moment in political dishonesty. Here he is, president of the United States, sending a message to millions of would-be illegal border-crossers that if they cross into the U.S., they will be allowed to stay. And then he stands before Congress and the entire nation and says, with a straight face, “we need to secure our border.”
Pentagon gives $35 million to subsidize MP Materials's rare earth mineral production
The White House on Tuesday featured a mining company partially owned by a Chinese mining conglomerate at an event dedicated to strengthening the domestic supply chain.
President Joe Biden announced at the event that the Pentagon would award $35 million to the Las Vegas-based MP Materials in an effort to boost U.S. rare mineral production. But MP Materials has arguably allowed China to tighten its grip on the world’s rare earth minerals supply chain. Shenghe Resources Holding, which is partially owned by the Chinese government, owns 8 percent of the company. Shenge spearheaded the deal in 2017 to help MP Materials purchase a mine at Mountain Pass, Calif., out of bankruptcy. The Chinese company is also MP Materials’s largest customer, accounting for nearly all of its $100 million annual revenue.
MP Materials’s links to China have long concerned American officials. The Department of Energy warned its scientists in 2020 not to collaborate with MP Materials executives because of China’s links to the company, Reuters reported.
“Clearly, the MP Materials ownership structure is an issue,” Tom Lograsso, an official with the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute, told Reuters.
The Pentagon award will subsidize MP Materials’s production of heavy rare earth minerals at its mine at Mountain Pass. The minerals are used to produce high-powered magnets used in electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, and defense systems.
James Kennedy, a consultant in the rare earth minerals industry, has raised concerns about other Pentagon grants to MP Materials. Kennedy called Shenghe’s investment in MP Materials a “geopolitical ruse” that helps China maintain a monopoly on the rare earth minerals market.
Those concerns have not deterred the White House. MP Materials chairman James Litinsky spoke at the virtual White House event alongside Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D., Calif.), White House infrastructure czar Mitch Landrieu, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Litinsky said MP Materials was “committed to bringing the supply chain home” to the United States but made no mention of his company’s links to Shenghe Resources Holding. He said MP Materials has partnered with General Motors to produce magnets for 500,000 electric vehicle motors.
It is unclear whether the Pentagon has placed any restrictions on MP Materials’s dealings with Shenghe going forward.
Shenghe’s investment in MP Materials is part of an ambitious plan to stabilize China’s supply of rare earth minerals. The company has also partnered with companies in Greenland and Australia to mine rare minerals, Quartz reported. One goal is to “consolidate the achievements of overseas cooperation projects.”
MP Materials did not respond to a request for comment.
The goal of President Biden’s State of the Union Address Tuesday: reset his presidency after one of the worst inaugural years in American history. Mission unaccomplished.
How bad was 2021? Biden’s omissions in the State of the Union were telling. He didn’t mention last summer’s catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal. Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t come up. The phrase “Build Back Better” never crossed Biden’s lips. Instead, he talked about “building a better America”—subtle, I know. Biden focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, his two legislative successes, and a host of proposals that have little chance of passing a closely divided Congress in an election year.
The two major bills he signed into law are no trifle. The $2 trillion American Rescue Plan was a massive expansion of government that many economists believe helped fuel the inflation ripping through America’s economy. The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was a rare example of both parties reaching a compromise on an issue several presidents have tried to resolve. Importantly, the success of the infrastructure plan undermined legislative support for the $4 trillion Build Back Better law, which Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) pronounced dead last December.
Not that you could tell Build Back Better is dead from Biden’s speech. He repeated the same proposals he’s been talking about all year, without the “Build Back Better” branding. Biden’s plan is no more likely to pass this year than last. This lengthy portion of his speech was directed to his Democratic base. Stands to reason. It’s all he has left.
That base won’t be enough to salvage Biden’s dismal job approval rating, however. Nor will it rescue the Democrats from the shellacking awaiting them in November. With the exception of masks and returning federal workers to office buildings, Biden gave no sign of changing course on his liberal agenda.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a historical turning point. The moment demands a serious reevaluation of current energy policy, of defense spending levels, of strategic weaponry and arms control. Biden gave no indication that he is ready to engage in such thinking. But he gave every sign that his biggest worry is losing more soft-Democratic voters who dislike his style of leadership and are unhappy at inflation and the direction of the country.
More evidence that Biden is aware of his predicament was his mention of the crisis at the southern border. “We need to secure the border and fix the immigration system,” Biden said to a bipartisan round of applause. Then he went on to outline policies that will do little to stop the flow of illegal immigration and an immigration reform that won’t pass Congress during his term.
The entire speech had this dream-like quality: Biden outlined an agenda that a popular president with substantial majorities in Congress would have a hard time passing into law, while Biden is an unpopular president with the narrowest congressional majorities in a century. He began and ended with gestures toward national unity, by invoking Ukraine and the danger of Russia at the outset and ending with calls to address the opiate crisis and help veterans. The bulk of the speech was a Democratic wishlist divorced from political and electoral reality.
If Biden wants to turn his presidency around, conditions in the country and the world need to change. For that to happen, though, Biden must reorient his agenda. The State of the Union demonstrated that Biden has no interest in doing so. Maybe November will change his mind.
Senior Biden administration officials pledged in sworn testimony to Congress they would robustly enforce sanctions on Iran. More than one year after these promises, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) says there is mounting evidence the officials lied to Congress.
Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to China, and Ramin Toloui, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, were both pressed during their Senate confirmation hearings late last year on Iran sanctions enforcement. In sworn written testimony to Cruz, copies of which were obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, Burns and Toloui vowed to uphold sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade and pressure China on the matter.
Since their confirmation last year, however, Iranian oil sales to China and other countries have skyrocketed, jumping 40 percent and sparking accusations that the Biden administration is turning a blind eye to sanctions enforcement as it works to ink a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal. With Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly united in opposition to a new deal, the promises by Burns and Toloui are under renewed scrutiny. Cruz and his colleagues suspect these officials never intended to uphold sanctions and misled Congress in order to win their confirmation.
“The new agreement President Biden hopes to finalize with the Ayatollah would open up vast new weapons markets to Putin and more energy for Xi’s expansion, all while injecting billions of dollars for terrorism around the Middle East and beyond,” Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon. “President Biden and Biden-Harris officials are feverishly appeasing Russia, China, and Iran—and those countries are then allying together to collectively undermine American interests.”
One senior congressional Republican aide, speaking only on background about the matter, said, “It’s increasingly clear that Biden officials will say and do anything to get confirmed, but then they all implement Biden’s fringe anti-American, pro-China, pro-Iran agenda. No wonder the administration has zero credibility with Congress or anyone else.”
Burns, who was confirmed by the Senate in mid-December, positioned himself as a sanctions enforcer who would pressure China to wind down its purchases of Iranian oil.
“China has long been importing Iranian oil, and the administration will continue to oppose Iranian sanctions evasion efforts, including those involving Chinese entities,” Burns wrote to Cruz on Oct. 20 in sworn testimony. “The administration will continue to raise this issue directly with the Chinese as part of its dialogue on Iran policy and I agree that, in general, this is a more effective path forward to address our concerns.”
“If confirmed,” Burns said, “I will engage vigorously with China to discourage them from taking steps vis-a-vis Iran that threaten our interests.”
Toloui offered similar assurances.
“I expect the administration to continue to oppose Iranian sanctions evasion efforts, including those involving Chinese entities. If confirmed, I will work with others in the administration to raise this issue with the Chinese as part of a dialogue on Iran policy,” Toloui told Cruz on Oct. 26, prior to his confirmation in mid-December.
Evidence indicates these promises were not upheld.
From 2020 to 2021, Iranian oil exports increased by 123 million barrels, or 40 percent, according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which closely tracks Tehran’s armada of illegal oil tankers. China was by far the top importer and continues to purchase illicit Iranian crude.
In January, after both officials were confirmed, China announced for the first time in more than two years that it is violating U.S. sanctions by importing Iranian oil.
“Up until now, the U.S. has been notably reluctant to enforce its own oil sanctions against China, but the administration has also had an excuse not to act because ‘officially’ Beijing was not importing,” UANI officials wrote at the time. “In plainly declaring its willingness to violate the most critical aspect of the U.S. sanctions architecture, China is probing President Biden’s seriousness and testing American commitment to enforcing its own oil sanctions.”
The Biden administration has made clear that all sanctions on Iran’s oil sector will be removed as part of a new nuclear agreement, which is likely to emerge in the coming weeks.
The Biden administration last week was forced to vehemently deny it will fund the distribution of crack pipes, after the Washington Free Beacon‘s reporting uncovered plans for “safe smoking kits” included in a $30 million “harm reduction” grant. The denial surprised not only administration officials—who still seem unsure if they were ever going to distribute pipes—but also some advocates, who claimed the administration was letting “clickbait” and “racism” drive policy.
A bigger question has been lost in the dispute over the administration’s plan: Why did anyone think handing out government-funded crack pipes was a good idea in the first place? Why would HHS be funding “safe smoking kits” which, even if they don’t contain “stems,” do include other paraphernalia that facilitate the use of crack cocaine, meth, heroin, and other drugs?
Such methods are just one example of “harm reduction,” an approach to drug policy that has attracted attention in some big, blue cities; the “unprecedented” harm-reduction grant program is one of several signs that federal policymakers are similarly interested. Amid a historic wave of drug overdose deaths, it’s little surprise that policymakers are considering unorthodox ideas. But while some harm reduction ideas have merit, the label is often a cover for radical proposals backed by the shoddiest evidence, proposals that could do real harm.
In principle, “harm reduction” refers to practices that mitigate the harms of drug use without reducing use itself. Such approaches need not be controversial. HHS’s grant outline, for example, mentions funding disease-testing kits to help people who use drugs be informed about their HIV or hepatitis C status, and therefore hopefully reduce transmission. In the broader context of drug policy, harm reduction can operate alongside enforcement, treatment, and education to minimize the harms of illegal drugs.
But the term can also include policies pushed by more activist-minded “harm reductionists” who are concerned not just with particular policies, but with a wholesale critique of (their understanding of) American drug policy.
These activists tend to view the “drug war” and drug criminalization as more harmful than drug use. They argue that overdose deaths are driven by an “unsafe” supply of drugs, which is itself (they claim) a product of criminalization. Some—including Columbia University professor Carl Hart—insist that most drug use is not problematic, and that most problematic use is a product of social “stigma” rather than the intrinsically dangerous characteristics of drugs.
The distribution of “safe smoking kits” including “glass stems” is typical of the harm reductionist approach. As the Drug Policy Alliance, a major harm reduction group, describes it, such policies are meant to “meet people where they are at, and keep people free of diseases and alive so they have a chance of recovery and healing.” The group claims that distributing safe smoking kits is an “evidence-based” practice, rhetoric often deployed by harm reductionists to paint political opponents as “anti-science.”
In reality, the evidence on which safe smoking kits are based is paper-thin.
One common argument for crack-pipe distribution is that it reduces hepatitis C and HIV infection among users, by reducing pipe sharing and therefore hypothetical contact between drug users’ cut lips. This was HHS’s stated justification for funding safe smoking kits, for example.
But the evidence that pipe sharing is actually a disease risk is weak, relying on surveys of drug users that correlate sharing with infection while doing little to account for confounding variables. Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not seem to accept the “pipe spread” theory, counting needle sharing as a risk factor for HIV and hepatitis C, but not pipe sharing. One study claims to find an effect of Vancouver’s pipe distribution on users’ self-reported health, but there appears to be no actual trend in the data. Some evidence suggests that pipe sharing persists even when pipes are distributed, possibly because sharing is done as a social activity as much as out of necessity
A better-supported argument for distributing pipes is that users may switch from injecting to smoking, which can in turn reduce disease and other risks. The measured effects are not huge, though: One year after a safe smoking program was rolled out in Ottawa, 56 percent of users reported injecting at the same rate, while only 29 percent said they had started smoking more. Further, it’s hard to square that evidence with the harm reduction commitment to also distributing syringes, something HHS will also fund.
The standard argument against the distribution of drug paraphernalia, and indeed many harm-reduction interventions, is “moral hazard,” the idea that if policy reduces the risks of a harmful practice, people will be more likely to engage in that practice. Even if pipe distribution reduces the average user’s risk of infection per use, for example, it might also lead him to smoke more, increasing the total number of infections overall.
Harm reductionists often dismiss “moral hazard” as a non-issue, but it can show up in even seemingly benign policies. Studies have found that expanding needle exchange programs may lead to an increase in opioid deaths, and that laws which make it easier to access the overdose-reversing drug naloxone in turn cause an increase in opioid-related ER visits, and no reduction in opioid-related deaths. The latter study, by economists Jennifer Doleac and Anita Mukherjee, attracted fierce criticism from harm reductionists when it debuted—criticism that was often more personal than “evidence-based.”
The aforementioned examples do not mean, of course, that pipe distribution necessarily increases drug use or OD deaths. But the evidence is not there to say that distribution works, either. That makes it alarming that states and localities have accepted it as standard practice, or that the Biden administration will fund safe smoking kits—in whatever form—without better research into their effects.
Indeed, policymakers are increasingly accepting harm reductionists’ favorite policies absent evidence against the risk of moral hazard. Major U.S. cities have recently opened so-called safe consumption sites, facilities where people can consume drugs under the supervision of medical staff with access to overdose-reversing medication. The evidence to support their efficacy is similarly weak; some sites saw increases in deaths and drug use in their immediate vicinity.
Nevertheless, the Biden Department of Justice indicated earlier this month that it was “evaluating” such sites “as part of an overall approach to harm reduction and public safety.” That would be a reversal of the Trump administration’s enforcement of the federal ban on drug consumption spaces, and another sign of sympathy for harm reduction from the White House.
Such a policy shift would be uncharted territory, at least for the United States. With drug overdose deaths pushing 100,000 a year, the experiment might be worth it. But it will more than likely cost more lives than it saves, a risk to which progressive leaders seem plainly blind.
The Biden administration is expanding the size of migrant processing facilities on the southern border, a sign it does not see the immigration crisis ending any time soon.
An internal document sent to senior Customs and Border Protection officials, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, describes plans by the agency to construct three permanent processing facilities for up to 1,000 migrants at a time in Del Rio, Laredo, and El Paso, Texas. An existing temporary U.S. Border Patrol processing site in Yuma, Ariz., will double in size and also be made permanent.
CBP’s expansion of permanent processing facilities comes as the Biden administration has given no indication of how it plans to decrease the number of attempted crossings at the southern border. In January, immigration officials arrested more than 75,000 migrants at the southern border, an increase of 6 percent over the previous month, despite migration generally dropping during winter months due to colder temperatures.
CBP did not respond to a request for comment.
“Border Patrol working as processing dummies is the new normal,” one senior Department of Homeland Security official told the Free Beacon. “Enforcement and protecting the border is secondary now.”
The decision was made, according to the document, after analyzing surge patterns from migrants. The permanent facilities will replace temporary facilities in the same sectors. The sectors in the memo have faced some of the highest numbers of migrants in the entire country. Del Rio, for example, saw more than 259,000 migrants apprehended in the 2021 fiscal year.
CBP’s memo says the plan to replace temporary facilities was made out of cost concerns. The new sites, the memo says, will also help “sustainably meet operational needs.” The memo does not elaborate on how these new facilities will cut costs.https://c405c5a6fca1dd65a7f92d69bb1e0d81.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
President Joe Biden has largely avoided commenting on the border crisis, although members of his administration, such as Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris, have said they are focused on “root causes” rather than border security. DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has admitted to Border Patrol agents that there are few signs of a slowdown in attempted crossings. In leaked remarks last month, Mayorkas said, “The job has not gotten any easier over the last few months and it was very, very difficult throughout 2021.”
“I know apprehending families and kids is not what you signed up to do. And now we got a composition that is changing even more with Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and the like, it just gets more difficult,” Mayorkas said.
Republican lawmakers and current and former DHS officials have criticized the Biden administration for redirecting Border Patrol agents, whose chief responsibility is securing the border, to processing facilities. Last June, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said that agents distracted by lengthy processing responsibilities present opportunities for cartels to “move large quantities of illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, into the United States.”
The 2021 fiscal year saw more migrant apprehensions than any other year on record, with law enforcement reporting more than 1.6 million arrests and more than two million migrant encounters.
… and the fact-checkers actually are
The Biden administration thinks you, the American people, are stupid. That much is clear given its response this week to a Washington Free Beacon report exposing the administration’s plan to “fund the distribution of crack pipes to drug addicts as part of its plan to advance ‘racial equity.'”
Despite confirming the details of reporter Patrick Hauf’s story, the Department of Health and Human Services subsequently determined—more than 24 hours after publication—that the story was “blatant misinformation.” A spokesperson offered no evidence to support this claim. Asked for clarification, the spokesperson responded 10 hours later to denounce once again the report as “misleading and misinformed” but offered no evidence as justification.
Media “fact-checkers” willingly repurposed the administration’s talking points in an attempt to discredit our reporting. Not surprisingly, the result was an incoherent mess. Snopes, for example, said our story was “mostly false” because crack pipes were “just one of around 20 components of the grant program.” (We know, because we listed several others in the report, such as “syringes, vaccinations, disease screenings, condoms, and fentanyl strips.”) Not a single word contradicted what the Free Beacon reported.
Another “independent” “fact-check” by a website called Lead Stories (we’ve never heard of it, either) resulted in Facebook censoring the report for containing “false information.” The site was co-founded by a former CNN journalist and a Colorado personal injury attorney who has donated thousands of dollars to Democrats and zero dollars to Republicans, so it must be a reliable source.
Both fact checks have been updated after the administration announced on Wednesday that “no federal funding will be used” to distribute crack pipes to underserved communities in an effort to promote racial equity. White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted that crack pipes “were never a part” of the “safe smoking kits” described in government documents. She blamed “inaccurate reporting” for the confusion.
The Drug Policy Alliance was also confused, and understandably so. The group’s executive director, Kassandra Frederique, accused the administration of “backtracking” and expressed disappointment that “they will no longer allow federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies.”https://3675ec6066ba5383f948888a8eac51e0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Got that? The administration “will no longer” provide free crack pipes that “were never a part” of the taxpayer-funded smoking kits. Because the right-wing media are publishing “inaccurate reporting” and spreading “blatant disinformation.” It’s almost as if the White House is full of shit and thinks you’re stupid. (Fact check: They are and they do.)
That’s the only reasonable conclusion. The administration’s story is utter nonsense. Existing harm reduction programs across the country include pipes in the smoking kits they give to crack addicts. Take, for example, a program from California’s Department of Public Health, which openly advertises glass pipes. Other programs in cities such as Annapolis, Md., New Haven, Conn., and Seattle, Wash., all include crack pipes in their smoking kits.
These are exactly the sort of cities the administration was targeting when it announced the funding opportunity, and there is nothing in the announcement that tells these communities they would have to modify the contents of their smoking kits to qualify for funding. In fact, the HHS spokesman told the Free Beacon that the department does not specify what is in the kits, leaving that detail to program participants at the local level.
Even after the White House denial that crack pipes will be funded, the administration still won’t say it never planned to include them. “The department did not respond when asked by the New York Times if glass pipes were ever allowable under the grant provisions,” the paper wrote on Thursday evening.https://3675ec6066ba5383f948888a8eac51e0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Like most Democratic institutions, the Biden administration has a habit of dismissing inconvenient stories as “misinformation” without actually refuting them. Administration officials tend to lash out at anyone who questions their authority or expresses an ounce of skepticism. Last week, for example, journalists who requested evidence to back up the administration’s claims regarding a military strike in Syria or the situation in Ukraine were accused of siding with the enemy.
It makes sense that the Biden administration would be especially sensitive when it comes to inconvenient stories about crack pipes. But that doesn’t excuse the blatant misinformation or their shockingly low opinion of the American public’s intelligence. You deserve better and, at least according to the supporters of this administration’s original plan, so do America’s crackheads.