In the late spring, as coronavirus cases in the U.S. were trending way down and vaccination rates were trending up, Dr. Lucy McBride and three of her colleagues authored an optimistic Washington Post op-ed with a clear and straightforward message: “It’s time for children to finally get back to normal life.”
The risk to children was too low to justify burdensome restrictions over the summer. And when school begins, kids should return “without masks and regardless of their vaccination status,” the four doctors wrote. “Even small steps toward normality can have a large impact on a child.”
After more than a year of confusion, fear, death, school closures, and mask mandates, here, finally, was a group of respected doctors, writing in one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, that the time had come for kids to get back to just being kids, no masks required.
Fast-forward three months: The highly contagious Delta variant is surging, particularly in hot Southern states and in states with low vaccination rates. Intensive-care units are overflowing, and COVID-19-associated hospitalizations of kids and teenagers are at an all-time high. Virus-related deaths are rising again.
And with the change in conditions, McBride’s messaging has changed along with it.
“Right now, with Delta running roughshod through the country, I think it’s appropriate for unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission is high,” McBride, a Harvard-trained physician and practicing Washington, D.C., internist, told National Review. “I would want to mask my unvaccinated child in a state like Mississippi or Florida at this moment.”
This latest coronavirus surge began in the weeks before schools reopened in many states, leading to statehouse fights and heated school-board debates over mask mandates and parental freedom.
In Florida, the school boards in at least five counties have voted to defy governor Ron DeSantis’s order, which empowers parents to decide if they want their kids to be masked in school. In Hillsborough County, more than 10,000 students and 300 school staff members were quarantined last week. Earlier in the month, before classes resumed, three unvaccinated Broward County teachers died in a 24-hour span. DeSantis has questioned the effectiveness of mask mandates in schools, saying, “There’s not much science behind it.”
In Mississippi, 13-year-old Mkayla Robinson died of coronavirus complications in mid-August after attending eighth grade for a week at a school where masks weren’t required. It’s unclear if the teen contracted the virus at school. Her mother told a local TV station that Mkayla was a healthy kid with no pre-existing illnesses. Mkayla’s death came on the heels of 16-year-old Jenna Lyn Jeansonne’s death in the state in late July.
Some Mississippi schools already have reverted to virtual learning because of COVID outbreaks. Only 36 percent of eligible Mississippians are vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country.
The Delta surge has left parents confused, and it has scrambled the way many of them are thinking about how they should protect their families.
The Delta surge also has led to a renewed debate in the medical community about just how effective a COVID-19 mitigation effort masks really are for kids, with some doctors saying there isn’t enough science to back universal mandates in schools, and arguing that for some kids the masks may do more harm than good. Other medical professionals argue that the protection that masks provide — however small — far outweighs their downsides.
“People have very strongly held opinions on masks and children with very little information,” Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told National Review. The effectiveness of masks on children has been woefully understudied, so most of what we know about the benefits for kids is extrapolated from adults, Makary said.
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools, recommending that all adults and children wear makes indoors. The CDC reports that multi-layered cloth masks can block up to 80 percent of respiratory droplets. A recent Duke University study found that widespread mask use in schools can effectively prevent COVID transmission.
But a New York Times Magazine article published on Friday noted that a groundbreaking CDC study published in May found no statistically significant benefit from requiring students to wear masks. The Times article also criticized the Duke study for not using a comparison group of unmasked students, making it impossible to isolate the effects of masks. A National Institutes of Health review last year found that cloth masks have limited efficacy in preventing viral infections, depending on the materials used, the number of layers, and how the mask fits.
Many European countries, including the U.K., France, Switzerland, and all of Scandinavia, have exempted children from wearing masks in classrooms, with no evidence of more outbreaks in those schools compared with U.S. schools where masks were required last year, the Times reports.
Makary recently co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that ran under the headline “The Case Against Masks for Children.” But Makary said the headline is not exactly representative of his position. He is not an opponent of masks for children generally. He’s been an advocate of most people wearing masks since the beginning of the pandemic. As a surgeon, he wears a mask.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Masks reduce transmission, and I believe even the very flimsy, low-value cloth masks do something for kids,” he said. “I would say that wearing them in an area of an active outbreak is a good idea, even though the benefit may be minimal.”
But children are not homogenous. Some live with adults who are vaccinated, some don’t. Some live in communities where major outbreaks are occurring, some don’t.
Makary’s concern is for kids who legitimately struggle with masks: kids with physical and cognitive disabilities, kids with myopia whose glasses get fogged when they’re masked, kids with severe acne, kids with anxiety and depression from wearing masks, kids with hearing impairments or issues with phonetic development. He worries that covering the faces of children, particularly young kids and children with disabilities, could lead to developmental delays.
In some cases, the risk-to-benefit ratio falls on the side of a child not wearing a mask, he said.
In terms of effective mitigation measures to protect kids from the virus, masks are pretty far down on the list, behind vaccinating adults and teens, ventilation, social distancing, podding kids in school, and hygiene, Makary said.
“So, we have had this massive culture war over maybe what’s the sixth mitigation step, which has a small impact if any, and has not been formally studied,” he said.
Most kids who contract COVID-19 manifest with mild symptoms, and often no symptoms at all. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer than 500 deaths involving children under 18, out of more than 600,000 total deaths nationwide, according to CDC data. For the week of July 31, the rate of hospitalization with COVID of children five to 17 was 0.5 per 100,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. A study of children and young people in England found kids generally have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID than even vaccinated 30-year-olds. But children are making up a growing share of serious COVID cases now.
“A percentage of a larger number is a larger number,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, a pediatric disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and an advocate for universal masking in schools. There are concerns for kids besides just death from COVID, she said.
As of July 30, the CDC reported that more than 4,400 children in the U.S. have contracted post-COVID Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a potentially lethal condition that causes parts of the body — including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and eyes — to become inflamed. And Hobbs noted the long-term effects of COVID still are not well understood, though a large British study published this month found that only about 4.4 percent of infected kids had symptoms for longer than 28 days, with the most common symptoms being fatigue, headaches, and loss of smell. Less than 2 percent had any symptoms after 56 days.
Because kids under 12 aren’t eligible for a vaccine, adults need to do everything they can to protect them, including getting vaccinated and supporting masks in schools, she said.
Some people who got vaccinated earlier in the year and thought they could put away their masks for good are having second thoughts amid the Delta-variant surge.
Jeff Navarro, 68, who has twin 16-year-old sons in high school in Amory, Miss., was looking forward to life without masks, after he, his wife, and his kids all got vaccinated. But as an older parent, Delta has him worried, and he supports the mask mandate his school district imposed.
“I’ve learned at 68 years old that no one is bulletproof,” he said. “I take it seriously. I follow the science. I certainly do not understand it enough to dispute it; therefore, I have to accept it.”
Sean Kruer, a father of two young children in Huntsville, Ala., has been a strong supporter of a school mask mandate in his community. He and his wife had serious discussions about pulling their kids out of school if there was no masking requirement.
“From a public-health policy perspective, universal mask mandates absolutely make sense,” Kruer said. “So, as much as I understand that it would be nice if things had continued the way that it looked like they might in May, that’s not the reality. And continuing as if it were and being petulant about it isn’t helping anybody.”
Melissa Bernhardt, the mother of a high-school student and an elementary-school student in Jacksonville, Fla., said she questions the science around masks. She’s not against people wearing masks, she said, but she doesn’t believe they should be forced on all kids.
She described one of her sons as particularly high energy, but she said he became lethargic and fatigued during school last year. She believes it’s because he had to wear a mask.
Bernhardt’s kids attend private school because she thought they wouldn’t impose a mask requirement. But, she said, she was wrong.
“The private schools really disappointed me,” she said. “They have committees with doctors, and all the doctors that are on the committees are not only pro-mask, they’re pro-vaccine.”
Bernhardt declined to discuss her vaccination status, but she said she feels protected because she contracted COVID early in the pandemic and has antibodies.
Hobbs said that even though kids don’t frequently get as sick from COVID as adults, “they can and they do, and we’ve had kids who have died. . . . Any pediatric death in my mind is one too many, especially when we know that this is preventable. We have a vaccine for those who are eligible, and we know that masking works.”
McBride, the D.C. internist, said parents need to know that there is an off-ramp down the road. She believes the CDC and other public-health agencies need to offer clear metrics about when schools can start rolling back mitigation efforts, including mask mandates.
“After all, COVID-19 isn’t going away. It’s going to be an endemic virus, and we know that there are enormous downsides (of pandemic restrictions, particularly) for kids,” she said. “We can’t mask indefinitely, nor should we.”
Hobbs said it’s too soon to say when that off-ramp will arrive. No one predicted the emergence of the hyper-transmissible Delta variant six months ago, and no one knows what variants will emerge in the future amid a backdrop of unvaccinated populations. Only 51 percent of Americans of all ages are fully vaccinated, including people not eligible for the vaccine.
“Until we basically have all of those eligible to get vaccinated vaccinated, it is most likely that we will not see the end of this anytime soon,” she said. “In the absence of people getting vaccinated and doing what they can to mitigate the spread of the virus, which itself will lead to continued emergence of new variants, then I don’t know what the end of this road will be.”
Parents are entitled to worry about the virus, McBride said. “It’s how we survive,” she said. “But we also have to acknowledge that worry can take on a life of its own and cause its own problems. I think it’s a very hard time for everyone.”
Now more than ever, she said, it’s important for people to have a trusted pediatrician or family doctor to help them take public-health advice and make nuanced personal health decisions.
“There’s no way the CDC can possibly speak to every individual,” she said.
The mask debate, she said, has become divisive and political. McBride agrees with Hobbs and Makary that the most important thing adults can do at the moment to protect kids is to trust the science, listen to their doctors, and get vaccinated.
“What we really need to be doing,” McBride said, “is getting dose one into people who are unvaccinated.”
We have not just lost our minds, but given them up voluntarily.
It was never just a mask, it has always been a way of thinking. “Mask” is just shorthand.
I got dumped from my volunteer work at the Hawaiian Humane Society for choosing not to wear a mask outside while walking their dogs. Neither science, the CDC, nor the state requires a mask outdoors, and I’m fully vaccinated. Some staff bot saw my naked face and informed me of their “policy.” I asked why they had such a nonsensical policy, and her only answer was “it is our policy.” The conversation ended like an ever-growing percentage of conversations in America now end, with her saying, “Do I need to call security?” I didn’t enjoy it, but I think she did.
I was left with no good to do this week, and a simple, real Covid-19 question. Why are fully vaccinated people treated the same as the unvaccinated? Everyone on the plane wears a mask and goes through the same mock social distancing. Everyone at a restaurant, office, concert, etc., does the same. The answer is at the heart of whether public policy in America will shift and allow us to crawl back into our lives.
The biggest reason for treating vaxxed and unvaxxed people the same miserable way is the claim that vaccinated people can still get Covid enough to pass it on. Funny thing is you can actually “get” the measles even after being vaccinated. The vax is actually only 97 percent effective, similar to the Covid ones. But nobody talks about measles or demands we wear a mask to prevent their spread. We simply accept and deal with the risk.
The next question is really, really hard to find an answer to. How many vaccinated people actually get Covid, the so-called “breakthrough” cases?
That exact number is critical because it is the pivot point for the risk vs. gain decision our society needs to make. If we cannot make a wise choice we will be struggling with and fighting over the restrictions on our lives and livelihoods forever. If we assume we’ll never have full vaccination and that breakthrough cases are a non-zero number and likely always will be then we need to make an informed decision about risk. So is it a non-zero number like, duh, “smoking causes cancer,” or a non-zero number like “very few people die from meteor strikes (or from the measles)?”
The current public policy decisions on risk are haphazard. All 50 states have different rules, many large cities, too, and each and every company. There are different rules if you take a bus or want to go dancing. One grocery store demands masks, another does not. It makes no sense. It becomes not a considered decision but an example of lack of public policy leadership. Into that leadership void enters superstition, pseudoscience, politics, voodoo, and most of all, fear.
So what are the chances of a fully vaccinated person getting a breakthrough infection? It turns out this pivotal question is not clearly answerable, but we act as if it is, with consequences for our lives, mental health, education, commerce, and more. Even for our stray dogs.
I started with Google and “What are the chances of getting COVID after being fully vaccinated?” expecting the answer in 0.0039 seconds, like when you ask what year some historical event happened. Nope. AARPsays “less than one percent of fully vaccinated individuals have been hospitalized with, or have died from, COVID.” That’s a small number but does not fully address the question.
Over to NPR, which reports, “On rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.” What does rare occasions mean? This is supposed to be, you know, science, so we finally get some numbers from the CDC: Out of 159 million fully vaccinated people, the CDC documented 5,914 cases of fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died from Covid-19, and 75 percent of them were over age 65. That means only 0.0000037 percent of vaxxed people were hospitalized or died, most of them elderly. That is a very small number. It is a lot less than one percent and a lot less than rare. Chances of dying in a car wreck are many tens of thousands of times higher and yet we drive on.
However, it still does not answer the question of how dangerous the vaxxed but unmasked are in terms of transmitting the virus. No one really knows. Recent scare headlines calling for reinstated restrictions and vax mandates are based on a single outbreak, 469 cases, in one city in Massachusetts, that appears to show (at variance with existing studies) 75 percent of those infected had been vaccinated and oddly, almost all of those people (87 percent) were male. Most of the infected were asymptomatic or experienced mild symptoms. No deaths.
What is believed is the a) Delta variant of Covid makes a b) temporary home inside a vaccinated man’s nose or upper respiratory area, c) outside the immune system. It waits there to be d) blown out and then be e) received by an f) unvaccinated person. So, all these things have to work out for it to matter. It is not simply a chore of toting up how many vaccinated people tested positive and then hitting the panic button. As one doctor put it, “We really need to shift toward a goal of preventing serious disease and disability and medical consequences, and not worry about every virus detected in somebody’s nose.”
Bottom Line 1: We need to stop the obsessive, simplistic, and misleading counting of positive tests and focus on real world consequences.
Requiring everyone wear masks again based on one outbreak may seem as if it can’t hurt, but it does. Organizations waste time and credibility enforcing measures that have limited if any impact (consider how many masks are so old, dirty, improperly worn, etc., to be fully useless.) To simply dismiss the reality of numbers with a blithe “well you can’t be too careful” only works if you imagine Covid restrictions have no secondary or tertiary effects.
Economies have been devastated. Education has disappeared for large numbers of kids. Despair grows menacingly. Suicide attempts by teen girls increased 26 percent during summer 2020 and 50 percent during winter of 2021. We are killing children to save them.
Economic inequality got a booster shot. The power of government has grown alarmingly. The ability to shape how we live, shop, work, and eat has been handed randomly to a near-endless range of actors, from the president to governors empowered with “emergency edicts” to clerks ever-anxious to call security not on shoplifters but on an exposed nose.
Americans’ irrational fears were created by politicians and the media, and have become a profit center. The New York Times for months ran columns saying Trump’s vaccine was another government syphilisexperiment. The vice president refused to take the shot during the campaign. Biden took it, then went right on masking as if it didn’t work.
It was a very successful campaign to propagate uncertainty for a political purpose. It is all their fault vaccine acceptance now varies by political party, where we live, and how much education we have. It’s a form of blowback—the information operation worked too well.
So we won’t concede the reality kids are unlikely to get sick and should go to school. That the vast majority of deaths occur among the elderly with comorbidities, not the general population. That ill-fitting masks and wiping down groceries with Clorox are theater. That the debate has become a political argument instead of an evidence-based one. That everybody agrees the CDC has lost credibility until one side needs it for some partisan purpose. That previously healthcare decisions started with the premise of “first, do no harm,” while today there is no conversation allowed about the balance of benefits and damages. That we simply tally the collateral damage while the virus remains unaffected.
Bottom Line 2: If we are to heal as a society there is only one answer, at some point we must simply ask what works and do that.
But we lack the political leadership to say what’s true, so we’re going back to “let’s just argue about masks and mandates.” Meanwhile the virus continues to find unvaccinated hosts. The economy won’t snap back. Biden is facing a mini civil war over required vaccinations and restarting lockdowns but has no plan. Things will hit the fan in September as Hot Vax Summer sputters, when every school district does something different, and federal unemployment supplements run out.
People have grown weary of being afraid and grown weary of being subject to the paranoid demands of safety fetishists. Many did what they were told to do—get vaxxed—only to find themselves stuck inside the same dysfunctional loop of mask/unmask. We are killing ourselves. Somehow that must be factored into our Covid response.
Bottom Line 3: We can’t resolve the pandemic until we end the panic and the politics. Can Biden do that?
Tourists must now provide proof of vaccination. Illegal immigrants get a free pass.
For Europeans hoping to vacation in the United States anytime soon, a piece of advice: Entering through Laredo, Texas, might be easier than making it through JFK.
Reuters reports that the Biden administration will require tourists to provide proof of vaccination to enter the country because it’s the only way to safely boost the tourism industry. That’s a far more stringent standard than the White House is applying to those seeking to enter the country illegally via Mexico. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that the administration’s border policy is “rooted in preventing the introduction of contagious diseases into the interior of the United States.”
That statement flies in the face of reality. The Texas border town of McAllen declared a local disaster this week after 1,500 of the 7,000 migrants released into the city by the Biden administration tested positive for COVID-19.
In July alone, 210,000 migrants crossed into the country from Mexico. That 21-year record comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci pushes for Americans to re-adopt extreme COVID precautions and warns that “things are going to get worse.”
Things are already getting worse on the border.
According to the assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, David Shahoulian, the rate of positive tests among migrants crossing the border has “increased significantly in recent weeks.” Those migrants are getting Border Patrol officers sick, Shahoulian said, leading “to increasing numbers of Customs and Border Protection personnel being isolated and hospitalized” even as vaccination rates increase for officers, suggesting some suffer from breakthrough infections. They are surely getting American civilians sick as well.
The Biden administration’s encouraging decision to delay the repeal of Title 42—which gives Border Patrol agents authority to immediately turn away most migrants—was an acknowledgment of how dire things have gotten, but it doesn’t go far enough. Ditching the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy retards the effectiveness of any future plans by the White House to inoculate migrants at the border, given the fact that the Centers for Disease Control says the vaccine takes roughly two weeks to work. Overcrowded holding facilities will continue to serve as a vector for disease.
The Department of Homeland Security disclosed that 30 percent of all aliens in detention refuse a coronavirus vaccine. CBP holding facilities sit at around 700 percent capacity. Those kinds of numbers would bring CDC director Rochelle Walensky to tears if they were citizens packed into a Florida bar.
For all of President Joe Biden’s talk about how real “patriots” take the appropriate measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, he seems uninterested in doing his part. Biden asks American businesses to wait for a badly needed tourism boost while his border policy exacerbates the need for public-health restrictions.
The Biden White House has tried to pin growing COVID numbers on Republican governors who have ended restrictions in their states. He says governors need to “get out of the way” of the government’s COVID response. It turns out the southern border is the only place the Biden administration is relaxed about the threat posed by rising COVID numbers.
Our thoughts on Biden’s selective concern were perhaps best encapsulated by Florida governor Ron DeSantis. “Why don’t you get this border secure,” DeSantis told the president. “Until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.”
As America begins to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, the lesson from this once-in-a-generation crisis couldn’t be clearer: We need less, not more, central planning in our lives.
For example, a study earlier this year by health economist Casey Mulligan revealed that economic lockdowns mandated by government were counterproductive, given the significant steps workplaces took to prevent the virus from spreading.
The same is true with health care. By now, most folks know the story of how Operation Warp Speed — the previous administration’s unprecedented plan to trim bureaucracy from the vaccine development process — resulted in the creation of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time. But an equally important storyline is how states took a sledgehammer to their own bureaucracies to expand access to care for those in need.
Thirty-eight states increased the availably of telehealth in response to the pandemic. Another 24 states waived certificate-of-need laws, which require hospitals to receive a permission slip from the government before they can open or add new facilities.
COVID-19 is forcing a long-overdue transformation of how health care is delivered in our country. As University of Michigan professor Rashid Bashur recently put it, “the genie’s out of the bottle.”
And yet, President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others in Congress are remarkably missing this point. Even though their big government approach to health care hasn’t increased access to affordable care, they claim the solution is to double down on this failed path. The far left is pushing Biden to adopt even more radical ideas, like putting government in complete control of health care.
Instead of an even more centralized system, let’s give voters what they deserve — a personal option that keeps what they like about their health care, fixes what they don’t like, and puts people, not bureaucrats, in control of their care.
One important improvement would be to expand tax-free health savings accounts. HSAs save people at least 15 percent each time they make a health care purchase. Yet, given the current constraints, only one in 10 Americans are eligible for an HSA at any given time. By expanding eligibility, more Americans would be able to save for health care costs. For those with less income, Congress could directly fund their accounts.
There is strong bipartisan support for expanding the use of telehealth, which has the ability to level the playing field in terms of location and access. While it has seen an uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is still not available to all, especially in underserved rural and urban communities. There is bipartisan support for giving more Americans access to virtual care. Lawmakers should waste no time getting it done.
While short-term coverage is, by definition, not a long-term solution, it is a viable option for people and families, especially when the policy holder is between jobs. In some states, short-term plans cost up to 80 percent less than traditional health insurance plans. While opponents feared short-term plans would drive up prices on the ACA exchanges, the only states where premiums have gone up are in the five that prohibit short-term plans.
For far too long, the Food and Drug Administration has taken its time in approving drugs and medical devices that were approved in other advanced countries, such as Japan and in the EU. In addition, the FDA won’t allow the sharing of valid scientific information about promising experimental or “off-label” uses of already approved drugs and devices. Changing these processes could save many lives and result in cost savings.
All of this builds on reforms proposed last year in Healthcare For You, and these ideas resonate strongly with Americans. A recent poll by Public Option Strategies shows that voters prefer a personal option to the “public option” or “Medicare for All” by nearly 40 points. Among independents, the poll found that a personal option outperformed “Medicare for All” by 60 points and the “public option” by more than 35 points
The point is, there are smarter, more effective, and more popular ways to reduce costs and give people more options than simply expanding government’s grip over the system.
For years, opponents of government-run health care have made this argument but haven’t sold the public on a compelling enough alternative. That alternative has arrived.
It’s time to deliver a health care system that works for everyone. It’s time for a personal option.
It was July 29, and the rent was coming due for tenants all over the country. That is, until it wasn’t. Pressed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Biden White House turned to the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium to October 3 of this year.
The White House maintains that this is not an extension of existing nationwide policy but a new, “targeted” moratorium. Housing groups aren’t buying it, irate with what they see as government overreach and a rebranding of the same policies that saw many landlords go months without collecting enough rent to break even on managed properties. One of those groups, the Alabama Association of Realtors, is challenging the order in court.
The CDC’s latest program, instead of being a blanket nationwide moratorium, uses a region’s COVID-19 infection status as the deciding factor for whether it qualifies. With this adjustment, the administration is attempting to disconnect the “new” moratorium from the past one, which came under intense legal scrutiny.
The former moratorium survived until July 31 only because Justice Kavanaugh thought a premature death for the policy would not “allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds.” He wrote that the only way a moratorium could pass muster thereafter was if there were “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).”
Pundits and activists on the right and left have predicted the Biden administration may find it exceedingly difficult to argue this moratorium’s new and unique aspects relative to the last.
According to Luke Wake of the Pacific Legal Foundation, defenders of the most recent moratorium “are relying on the very same flawed statutory authority that they have since pronouncing the eviction moratorium last September. The only difference being that instead of a blanket, nationwide moratorium, they would only cover 90 percent of the country. But because they rely on the same supposed authority, their actions are still unlawful.” All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
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Individuals familiar with the plaintiffs’ strategy agreed with Wake, telling National Review that there’s little in the new order to meaningfully differentiate it from its predecessor. The sources pointed out that the new order retains the five eligibility requirements included in the initial moratorium, adding just the one, COVID-dependent, additional requirement.
Legal reaction to the CDC’s pronouncement is moving swiftly, explained Wake:
Now that the Government has renewed the moratorium order in apparent defiance of Kavanaugh’s warning, the Alabama Realtors have sought again to lift the stay in their case so that landlords can begin evicting. The Government was ordered [by the DC Circuit] to respond by the end of [Friday] to that emergency petition. If it’s granted, then that’s a big deal for landlords. If it’s denied, then we can assume they will immediately appeal to the DC Circuit and might very well be before the Supreme Court again quickly.
Kavanaugh granted grace to the CDC, stipulating any extensions would require legislative action. By circumventing him now, the Biden White House risks the Supreme Court’s wrath. Sources were confident that the CDC would not find Kavanaugh nearly as deferential to the government attorneys should they find themselves before him in court again.
Those familiar with the suit expect that sometime early this week, perhaps even Monday, D.C. District Court judge Dabney Friedrich will make a ruling, with a high probability that it lands in favor of the Alabama Realtors. It would then be on the government to appeal the case to higher courts.
Monday, August 9, had both sides’ attorneys before Judge Friedrich answering her questions and pleading their cases. She chose not to rule immediately, instead taking the case under consideration.
Wake estimated the Fifth Circuit would get to his firm’s case (Chambless) around October. A delay, but he figures the CDC will extend the rent moratorium during the winter months, meaning Chambless may be before the Supreme Court by year’s end.
The Biden administration’s damaging conduct is obvious to most Americans, but Texas — and other states — are not bystanders in this war for Americans’ safety, security, and primacy.
Margot Cleveland’s recent article here in The Federalist asserted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order barring the transportation of foreign nationals by non-official actors to limit the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 was not authorized under constitutional principles or federal law.
Cleveland asserts Abbott’s order is “illegal” because it interfered with federal immigration authority and that its foundation in state public health law was “irrelevant.” Cleveland also contends that “there is nothing [Gov.] Abbott or state and local officials can do about the Biden administration’s complete disregard for the security of our southern border.”
Respectfully, Cleveland’s statements are constitutionally inaccurate, reflect common misunderstandings of the basic principles that anchor our republic, and are arguably negligent from a public safety perspective.
The foundational flaw in this argument is rejecting the dual and mutually supportive concepts of state sovereignty and federalism. Bluntly stated, the American states are sovereign entities, not provinces. Our system is structurally and fundamentally different than virtually almost every other national governmental structure in the world.
Because our states are sovereigns — with their own constitutions, laws, and obligations to their citizens — and not mere appendages of our federal government, they are authorized to wield substantial, non-symbolic power within their own territories. An assertion that states function in a realm of permission-based or symbolic authority is just flat wrong.
State sovereignty, and the voter-based power that grants that sovereignty, is in turn an essential component of federalism, which provides the checks and balances that guard our freedoms. Remember, there are two crucial types of federalism at work in our system: horizontal federalism and vertical federalism. When most Americans talk of federalism, they are likely talking about horizontal federalism, the three branches of the federal government, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. These coequal branches ostensibly keep each other in check and prevent overreach.
But vertical federalism is just as important as horizontal federalism, if not more so. The same checks-and-balances philosophy behind the three-branch design of our federal government is no less a part of the interaction between state governments and the federal government.
The Founders, who created the federal government to benefit the states, did not think states would just behave like pieces of a centralized government. They fully banked on states jealously guarding their power and pushing back against federal overreach as needed. Indeed, the odds are pretty good that the U.S. Constitution would never have been ratified at all if the states had been told they were voluntarily ceding their states’ powers to a centralized government.
Applied to the situation at hand, state sovereignty and vertical federalism absolutely authorize Abbott and any other governor — Republican, Democrat, or other — to serve their citizens within the boundaries of their state constitutions, laws, and obligations. Here, we have what is state government leadership issuing an instruction to state-funded officials to protect the public health of state citizens in a situation where the federal government has opted out of its obligations to do so.
An assertion that the constitutional doctrine of preemption, which prohibits states from functioning in areas exclusively reserved for federal action, prohibits Abbott’s order is not only inaccurate, but also raises important questions about what happens when the federal government asserts preemptive authority but then abdicates that authority. Call it dormant overreach.
In her article, Cleveland notes the Biden administration’s Department of Justice argued in federal court that Abbott’s order “violates the Supremacy Clause because it disrupts federal immigration operations in Texas.” Most Texans would find that argument somewhat comical in that, by most accounts, there is virtually no immigration enforcement taking place in Texas, or anywhere else along the United States-Mexico border, for that matter. The Biden administration’s argument is the intellectual equivalent of a pilot steering a plane into the ground while preventing someone from trying to rescue the flight by claiming that only the pilot is authorized to fly the plane.
Cleveland also implies that Texas’s most meaningful — or even only — role here is to highlight the hypocrisy of the Biden administration and eventually win some sort of national conversation. She is correct to say that the Biden administration is engaging in rank hypocrisy by unleashing hundreds of thousands of potentially COVID-19-positive foreign nationals on American soil while pushing for new rights-inhibiting restrictions of American citizens.
Nevertheless, it is inaccurate to say that a state’s job in the face of federal abuse is to win a messaging fight but otherwise stand down and wait for federal rescue. This perspective approaches negligent disregard because it is essentially arguing state and local governments have no role in public safety when our federal government is failing to ensure the public’s safety.
The Biden administration’s damaging conduct is obvious to most Americans, but Texas — and other states — are not bystanders in this war for Americans’ safety, security, and primacy. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. The solutions that lay ahead will require more aggressive assertion of state sovereignty, more aggressive state action to protect their citizens, and a more thorough understanding and appreciation of what our Constitution not only allows, but requires.
With growth so uncertain, it is understandable that central banks would be wary of beginning to taper monthly bond purchases before it is clear that inflation has taken off. But they would do well to recognize that prolonging quantitative easing implies significant risks, too.
Inflation readings in the United States have shot up in recent months. Labor markets are extremely tight. In one recent survey, 46% of small-business owners said they could not find workers to fill open jobs, and a net 39% reported having increased their employees’ compensation. Yet, at the time of this writing, the yield on ten-year Treasury bonds is 1.24%, well below the ten-year breakeven inflation rate of 2.4%. At the same time, stock markets are flirting with all-time highs.
Something in all this does not add up. Perhaps the bond markets believe the US Federal Reserve when it suggests that current inflationary pressures are transitory and that the Fed can hold policy interest rates down for an extended period. If so, growth – bolstered by pent-up savings and the additional government spending currently being negotiated in Congress – should be reasonable, and inflation should remain around the Fed’s target. The breakeven inflation rate also seems to be pointing to this scenario.
But that doesn’t explain why the ten-year Treasury rate is so low, suggesting negative real rates over the next decade. What if it is right? Perhaps the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant will prompt fresh lockdowns in developed countries and damage emerging markets even more. Perhaps more nasty variants will emerge. And perhaps the negotiations in Congress will break down, with even the bipartisan infrastructure bill failing to pass. In this scenario, however, it would be hard to justify the stock-market buoyancy and breakeven inflation rate.
One common factor driving up both stock and bond prices (thus lowering bond yields) could be asset managers’ search for yield, owing to the conditions created by extremely accommodative monetary policies. This would explain why the prices of stocks (including “meme stocks”), bonds, cryptocurrencies, and housing are all a little frothy at the same time.
To those who care about sound asset prices, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s announcement last week that the economy had made progress toward the point where the Fed might end its $120 billion monthly bond-buying program was good news. Phasing out quantitative easing (QE) is the first step toward monetary-policy normalization, which itself is necessary to alleviate the pressure on asset managers to produce impossible returns in a low-yield environment.
The beginning of the end of QE would not please everyone, though. Some economists see a significant downside to withdrawing monetary accommodation before it is clear that inflation has taken off. Gone is the old received wisdom that if you are staring inflation in the eyeballs, it is already too late to beat it down without a costly fight. Two decades of persistently low inflation have convinced many central bankers that they can wait.
And yet, even if monetary policymakers are not overly concerned about high asset prices or inflation, they should be worried about another risk that prolonged QE intensifies: the government’s fiscal exposure to future interest-rate hikes.
While government debt has soared, government interest payments remain low, and have even shrunk as a share of GDP in some countries over the last two decades. As such, many economists are not worried that government debt in advanced economies is approaching its post-World War II high. But what if interest rates start moving up as inflation takes hold? If government debt is around 125% of GDP, every percentage-point increase in interest rates translates into a 1.25 percentage-point increase in the annual fiscal deficit as a share of GDP. That is nothing to shrug at. With interest rates normally rising by a few percentage points over the course of a business cycle, government debt can quickly become stressful.
To this, thoughtful economists might respond, “Wait a minute! Not all the debt has to be rolled over quickly. Just look at the United Kingdom, where the average term to maturity is about 15 years.” True, if debt maturities were evenly spread out, only around one-fifteenth of the UK debt would have to be refinanced each year, giving the authorities plenty of time to react to rising interest rates.
But that is no reason for complacency. The average maturity for government debt is much lower in other countries, not least the US, where it is only 5.8 years. Moreover, what matters is not the average debt maturity (which can be skewed by a few long-dated bonds), but rather the amount of debt that will mature quickly and must be rolled over at a higher rate. Median debt maturity (the length of time by which half the existing debt will mature) is therefore a better measure of exposure to interest-rate-rollover risk. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, PS on Sunday
More to the point, one also must account for a major source of effective maturity shortening: QE. When the central bank hoovers up five-year government debt from the market in its monthly bond-buying program, it finances those purchases by borrowing overnight reserves from commercial banks on which it pays interest (also termed “interest on excess reserves”). From the perspective of the consolidated balance sheet of the government and the central bank (which, remember, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the government in many countries), the government has essentially swapped five-year debt for overnight debt. QE thus drives a continuous shortening of effective government debt maturity and a corresponding increase in (consolidated) government and central-bank exposure to rising interest rates.
Does this matter? Consider the 15-year average maturity of UK government debt. The median maturity is shorter, at 11 years, and falls to just four years when one accounts for the QE-driven shortening. A one-percentage-point increase in interest rates would therefore boost the UK government’s debt interest payments by about 0.8% of GDP – which, the UK Office for Budget Responsibility notes, is about two-thirds of the medium-term fiscal tightening proposed over the same period. And, of course, rates could increase much more than one percentage point.
As for the US, not only is the outstanding government debt much shorter in maturity than that of the UK, but the Fed already owns one-quarter of it. Clearly, prolonging QE is not without risks.
Just when we thought it was safe, COVID is back. The delta variant is sweeping through the unvaccinated portion of the population, sending people to the hospital at an alarming rate. Government experts are once again talking openly about the need for masking protocols and the possibility of additional lockdowns just as the U.S. economy is starting to get back on its feet.
It’s clear America never really understood the disease, how it moved through the population, and why so many people died from it. It’s true the government’s response through two administrations have been uneven, sometimes swinging widely from one extreme to the other on important questions but the real blame for the public’s lack of comprehension of the dangers we face lies those to whom we look to explain what is going and why.
The surge in the number of people testing possible for the delta variant is once again dominating the national conversation as is the number of those people who end up hospitalized. Left out of the conversation is how this same variant appears to be considerably less lethal than the iteration of the disease believed by many to have originated in Wuhan, China.
You might think “More People Infected Yet Far Fewer Are Dying” would be a welcome headline. Most of us have yet to see it or anything like it. Whether that’s by design or another clue that the reporters and the experts who they interview about COVID aren’t as up to speed on what’s going on as they appear to be is something that itself probably needs to be investigated. Misinformation has been a problem throughout America’s COVID crisis and has led people to make all sorts of unwise decisions – the worst of which is probably the decision not to take the vaccine when there’s no valid medical or religious reason for abstaining.
As bad as that is, the push to have everyone take the vaccine regardless of the possible consequences does a near equal disservice to the American public. The failure of the “talking heads” to address various concerns people may have about the various vaccines while cheerleading for everyone to get vaccinated doesn’t help get people over their fears, real or imagined.
The root cause for all this is the public’s distrust of the media, which has been growing by leaps and bounds on both sides of the ideological aisle for more than a decade. Reporters promoting an agenda inside their reporting have shaken the average news consumer’s confidence they can be trusted to a significant degree. And when the coverage turns to “life and death” issues like the pandemic, that mistrust can produce fatal results.
A poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports suggests it is the media rather than policymakers who are responsible for the COVID confusion. “Only 42 percent of Americans rate the media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic excellent or good, and many have concerns about the accuracy of reporting on vaccine safety,” the pollster said. In a time of true crisis, a number that low should have news executives and network heads hanging their heads in shame.
Polls are not definitive but the trends they reflect tell us a great deal. According to Rasmussen Reports, the latest numbers are down from where they were in December 2020, when fully half the country said the coverage of the pandemic was “excellent or good.”
At the same time, the lack of confidence in COVID reporting may also be responsible for the spread of misinformation about the vaccine and the virus. “The number of Americans who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat has increased since December,” the polling firm reported, with the numbers now “dead even – 44 percent believe the media are exaggerating the coronavirus threat and the same percentage don’t think so.”
The poll found the distrust of the media to be generalized. “Among those who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat,” the polling firm found, “59 percent also don’t believe the media are accurately reporting about vaccine safety. By comparison, among those who don’t believe the media have exaggerated the coronavirus threat, 67 percent think the media are reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”
The fact younger Americans are choosing to reject the vaccine, something policymakers say is a significant factor in the way the number of confirmed cases of COVID-Delta has spiked over recent weeks, also appears correlated to attitudes about the media. In the poll, 48 percent of those under age 40 said they believed “the COVID-19 threat is exaggerated by the media,” while just 34 percent of those aged 65 and older said it was. Additionally, 38 percent of those participating in the survey said they thought “the media aren’t reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,” which probably explains a lot about why so many Americans have chosen not to be vaccinated.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 21-22, 2021, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant has spooked people who thought the pandemic had ended. Policymakers have called the rise in new infections associated with the strain first encountered in India alarming even though the data suggest strongly the latest variant strain, while perhaps easier to contract, is far less lethal than the original.
Like the disease for which it is named, America’s COVID crisis continues to evolve. The end of the lockdowns in most states has people back to work, unmasked, and happy – even as some public health professionals are urging a renewed mandate to put them back on. All that, combined with the lack of clarity coming from groups like the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers means that no parent can be sure the schools run by the government will offer full-time, in-class instruction when and if they reopen in the fall.
All this could have been avoided if the rush to lockdowns had been slowed and while greater thought was given to a plan to segregate out and protect the most vulnerable populations which, it has been lost on some people, does not include K thru 12 school-age children. Given the difference in approach to containing COVID taken by the governors of red states compared to those who lead blue states, it is not surprising to learn Democrats are hoping that masks and vaccines not yet approved for children under the age of 18 will be mandated before schools are allowed to return to pre-COVID instruction.
According to a recent survey by Rasmussen reports, just over a third of all Americans said they believed children should have to be vaccinated for COVID before they can return to the classroom. Of those, more than half – 56 percent – were Democrats. Only 29 percent of Republicans agreed.
The data, Rasmussen reports said, showed a “strong correlation” between support for masking children and for forcing them to be vaccinated. “Among Americans who think schools should require children to wear masks to protect against the coronavirus, 68 percent also think schools should require children to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Among those who oppose schools requiring children to wear masks, 79 percent are also against schools requiring children to get the coronavirus vaccination.”
The split along party lines on the issues is clear. Majorities of Republicans (61 percent) and independents (52 percent) said they opposed a vaccine requirement. Likewise, on the issue of masks, 58 percent of Democrats said they thought masks should be required as part of the basic back-to-school outfit while only 27 percent of Republicans thought this would be a good idea. Almost two-thirds of GOPers – 60 percent – and as well as a plurality of independents, the polling firm reported, said they were opposed to the mandatory classroom masking in K thru 12 classrooms.
The pollster found white Americans “slightly more in favor of schools requiring children to get the COVID-19 vaccine than blacks or other minorities” while blacks were “more supportive” than whites or other minorities regarding a requirement children wear masks. And that upper-income Americans were more in favor of requiring children to get vaccinated, with 48 percent of those earning $200,000 a year or more “favoring mandatory vaccination” while just 36 percent of those earning less than $30,000 a year agreed.The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 13-14, 2021. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
On July 5, 2021, Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist and politician of Hong Kong, published a Letter to Orban from his London exile in Politico. In his Letter’s opening paragraph, Mr. Law states that “It’s difficult to imagine how somebody who battled against the brutal repression of a communist party at a young age could later become a staunch supporter of another.” Then, he continues thus: “Since assuming power in 2010, your growing intimacy with the Chinese government has made it difficult for the EU to put pressure on Beijing when it comes to human rights violations. Hungary was the first EU country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2012, paving the way for Beijing to export its authoritarian model to the world. And in the years since, your country has served as China’s biggest defender in the EU.”
Nathan Law is absolutely correct. The second son of an unskilled laborer who became the Communist party secretary at the local gravel mine, Viktor Orban used his personal hatred toward his cruel father to rebel against the Soviet occupation and the resulting one-party dictatorship. Having entered public life on June 16, 1989, the day of the symbolic reburial of Imre Nagy the failed leader of the 1956 Revolution, Viktor Orban called at Budapest’s Heroes’ Square for free elections and the removal of the Soviet military from Hungarian soil.
From there on, his journey in the discombobulated terrain of Hungarian politics has been marked by self-induced narcissistic turns in opposition, through leading between 1998 and 2002 an utterly inexperienced as well as woefully incompetent government that failed miserably within four years, to reestablishing the one-party dictatorship of the pre-1990 Hungary in its barely disguised oppression and all-encompassing corruption in his second reincarnation as Prime Minister. As proof of his sickening egomania, Viktor Orban has repeatedly claimed that his 1989 speech was the reason for the Soviet Union to remove its military from Hungary. Notwithstanding Viktor Orban’s laughable as well as baseless assertion, the decision about the retreat of the Soviet military was made years before his speech and the actual withdrawal of several military units was already ongoing or partially completed.
Viktor Orban’s destructive transformation of Hungary from a developing democratic state to a neo-Communist fiefdom has come with a heavy price. Viktor Orban has become politically a fatally wounded non-entity and personally a persona non grata within the European Union. His Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto has only exacerbated Viktor Orban’s international misery. Having proved himself more as a pompous amateur, Mr. Szijjarto has made Hungary with his grossly undiplomatic statements about President Biden and the Democrat Party in the United States of America unwelcome too. As a result, the Viktor Orban-led Hungary has become a pariah in Washington, D.C. as well as in Brussels.
Thus, Viktor Orban’s epiphany from a young firebrand against Communist oppression to an egomaniacal monster has had its roots in his primitive communist upbringing and the related worshipping of power and money by persons who only knew hardships and destitutions in their miserable youth. Naturally, so-called scholars like Dorit Gerva are talking and writing about “Orbanism” as a new ideology. They are all badly mistaken. For Viktor Orban ideology has always meant an interchangeable and disposable semi-intellectual garbage whose sole purpose has been to conceal his insatiable appetite for power and money. Moreover, for people with Viktor Orban’s mentality, countries or individuals do not count as supreme political and humanistic values. Consequently, for Viktor Orban democracy with its glorification of individual rights and its protection of personal freedoms is meaningless platitudes that must be continuously attacked and decisively rejected. For these reasons, the combination of his ostracism by the leaders of NATO and the European Union and his personal inclination toward authoritarianism, moving closer to China has been an obvious solution.
Domestically, Viktor Orban and his propaganda machine has tried to sell his “Eastern Opening” as hugely beneficial for Hungary. However, the facts have belied his promises of large investments, preferential loans and new markets concerning China, Russia and many other Asian countries. Specifically, Hungary’s exports to China in 2020 were $2.04 billion. On the other hand, Hungary’s imports from China in 2020 have reached $8.72 billion. This means a trade deficit of more than $6 billion. Thus, while being up in arms against any foreign interference in domestic affairs, Viktor Orban is quietly and surreptitiously turning Hungary into an economic “Canton” of the People’s Republic of China.
The Chinese-built Budapest-Belgrade railway’s Hungarian section, a highly ballyhood accomplishment of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, is costing about $3 billion. Of this amount, 85 percent is financed with Chinese loans, with interest between $500 and $800 million. This means that the entire project’s cost around $3.7 billion. Thus, this railway project is wholly financed by the Hungarian taxpayers. Again, the project is much more beneficial to China than for Hungary. First, the new railway does not connect Hungarian towns. Second, tourism from the Balkan region has never been significant. Third, the railway is constructed mostly by Chinese companies. Fourth, the railway is designed to carry freight more than passengers. Fifth, the strategic penetration of the European Union’s infrastructure markets will become much easier for Chinese state-owned companies. Notwithstanding these negative aspects, the railway is being built and the entire project with all the documents connected to the bilateral deal were declared a national strategic matter, and thus top secret.
Similarly, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Viktor Orban has never criticized China. On the contrary, he and his cabinet members have only had the kindest words for Beijing’s efforts to fight the pandemic and its willingness to supply Hungary and the rest of the world with vaccines, masks as well as badly needed medical equipment. Accordingly, the Hungarian government bought at the beginning of 2021 five million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines for $36 (30 Euros) each. In comparison, the European Union paid only 15,50 Euros per dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For a dose of AstraZeneca, the European Union paid $2.15, according to Belgium’s budget secretary.
Even more suspicious is the way the Hungarian government acquired the five million medically absolutely useless doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines. The intermediary company from which the Hungarian government purchased the vaccines was an offshore company with a registered capital of $10,700 (9,000 Euros). The net value of the bilateral contract was $179 million (150 million Euros). Such arrangements clearly raise red flags for anti-corruption watchdogs, as The New York Times article on March 12, 2021, rightly stipulated.
The Chinese vaccine was aggressively promoted by Viktor Orban himself. Claiming that he got the Sinopharm vaccine, he encouraged Hungarians of all ages to do the same. Yet, while promoting and using the vaccine, it lacked full approval even by the competent Hungarian authorities until January 2021. Adding insult to injury, the European Union and the American FDA have never approved the Sinopharm vaccine for use on humans. To prove the uselessness of the Sinopharm vaccines, Hungarians who were vaccinated with Sinopharm have never developed antibodies in their bodies.
The background story of the Shanghai-based Fudan University is equally strange, or more precisely, typical Orbanesque. This story has started with the forced expulsion of the George Soros-established Central European University from Budapest, Hungary. This University was accredited in both the United States of America and Hungary. In addition, it ranked in quality way above any indigenous school of higher education. The ensuing saga of the very personal feud between George Soros and Viktor Orban has been portrayed and analyzed exhaustively by the media in Hungary as well as across Europe and the United States.
To summarize it, the Central European University rejected government control. The University’s argument was that in a democracy institutions of higher education must be independent of political influence. Moreover, the President of the Central European University Michael Ignatieff argued that the Orban government destroyed the independence and the high quality of Hungarian university education by politically as well as professionally crushing their independence, while simultaneously liquidating the free-thinking intelligentsia. Yet, utilizing his artificially created two-thirds majority in the unicameral Parliament, Viktor Orban’s party adapted a law that made the functioning of the Central European University in Hungary impossible. The Central European University departed to Vienna, Austria, leaving Viktor Orban and his battered educational system enjoying in their miserable isolation their pyrrhic victory.
This self-congratulatory gloating about the triumph of Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” over the “Leftist liberalism of George Soros” has culminated in the Hungarian government’s sudden announcement about rolling out the red carpet for the Shanghai-based Fudan University. Preemptively declaring that the Chinese university’s mission would be strictly educational, the ensuing nation-wide protest against the “Trojan Horse” of Communist influence and potential spying expressed the real opinions as well as the anti-Chinese feelings of the Hungarian people.
Clearly, the pivoting towards China, defined vaingloriously by Viktor Orban as “Eastern Opening,” is extremely unpopular among all Hungarians. Adding fuel to the already existing popular discontent is the cost and the size of the Fudan University project. Planned to spread over twenty six acres, with an additional forty acres accounting for the surrounding park, and estimated to cost a whopping $1.687 billion, it would exceed the total cost the Hungarian government spends on the annual operation of its over two dozen state-run public universities. No wonder that the suspicion of another gigantic government corruption has again raised its ugly head throughout the country and beyond.
To top this monstrous political and financial ploy, the construction of the campus is carried out exclusively by Chinese banks and Chinese companies, involving only Chinese workers. More specifically, the Hungarian government agreed that the Chinese only involvement also means that the job must be done by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the world’s largest construction company. Again, bribery and corruption suspicions are justified by the tarnished reputation of the Chinese company that has been involved across the globe in numerous scandals and foul plays. To prove this point, the Chinese company’s financing offer that would cover all expenses only amounts to $1.06 billion. The difference between the published figure of $1.687 billion by the Hungarian government and the Chinese estimate speaks for itself. Even more glaring is the Chinese financing proposal of $1,81 billion that is supposed to cover only 80% of the construction costs. This unprecedented and unjustified overfinancing of the Fudan University project potentially could be another proof of the long-suspected high-level corruption in state-funded construction business deals.
The secrecy surrounding the Fudan University project thickens by its legal construct. While in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway reconstruction an international agreement was executed, the relevant contracts of the Fudan University deal were designed to exclude public procurements and open biddings even in the management of the campus. The obvious sleaziness of these arrangements was crowned by the establishment of a consortium of two Chinese and a single Hungarian company, in which the latter is wholly owned by Viktor Orban’s childhood friend and straw man, Lorinc Meszaros.
Finally, leaked documents suggest that the Fudan University deal was in the offing for years but assiduously kept away from the Hungarian and the European public. During his 2019 visit to Hungary, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi spoke of the Budapest campus of the Fudan University as a done deal, negotiated carefully for some time before. Designating it a “priority project,” he emphasized the strategic importance of the Fudan University’s presence in the geographic middle of the European continent for Beijing. Like in the case of the Budapest-Belgrade railway project, the Hungarian government classified the Fudan University deal as a “national security” matter. The expropriation and even usurpation of great construction projects affecting the entire country by a single yes-men party, namely the FIDESZ, are another proof that Hungary is not a democracy. Even more unsettling is the state of democracy in Hungary when the one-party legislature and executive do not govern by consensus but political improvisation and greed.
Demonstrations against the establishment of the Fudan University have been held across Hungary. The Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karacsony and the opposition called for a nationwide referendum and already proceeded to rename streets around the planned campus “Dalai Lama Street,” “Free Hong Kong Road,” etc. The Chinese regime that regularly launches vigorous protests against “interference in Chinese internal affairs” has gone ballistic over the free expression of “anti-Chinese” sentiments in Hungary. Global Times, one of the many subservient mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party, called in an editorial Gergely Karacsony “an enemy of China.” The Press Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Budapest released a statement voicing his outrage thus: “As a diplomat of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Hungary, I have been working in Hungary for nearly a decade and witnessed the deepening friendship between the Chinese and the Hungarian peoples. Recently, Hungary has gradually overcome the COVID-19, and people’s daily life is beginning to return to normal. People on the streets are full of joy and laughter again. As someone who works and lives in Budapest, I am also delighted by this.” Clearly, such an idyllic description of the general mood in a country is more reminiscent of the Chinese propaganda lies concerning their own country than the reality in Hungary.
Referring again to the Mayor of Budapest, his long winded nonsense continued with the following hypocritical sentence: “In broad daylight, it is unseemly to criticize the internal affairs of another country.” However, in the same breath he goes on wadding into the internal affairs of Hungary: “The Mayor’s speech was a serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a deliberate attempt to undermine the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between the two nation, which is incompatible with the trend of the era of mutually beneficial cooperation. We firmly protest, resolutely oppose and strongly condemn it.”
To better understand the real Chinese strategic intentions, one should not search farther than the recent spring visit of the Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe to Budapest. Praising Hungary as a “good brother” and “partner,” Wei stated that China is ready to strengthen cooperation with Hungary in various fields. He grew agitated about the sanction imposed by the United States of America and the European Union against his country for the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, calling them lies and false accusations made by the West. Then, turning to the President of Hungary, Janos Ader, he thanked him for Hungary’s firm support of China on Xinjiang and other issues concerning China’s core interests. Janos Ader, on his part, praised China’s vaccine support, claiming that this support has brought hope to Hungary’s fight against the pandemic. He also called for a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and the strengthening of cooperation in the economy, trade, tourism and military matters.
In line with these essentially anti-NATO and anti-European Union declarations and actions by Chinese grandees, leading Hungarian politicians have given a slew of irresponsible and derogatory statements about both organizations, in which they have claimed to be loyal members. Just very recently, exactly on July 11, 2021, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Laszlo Kover said on Radio Kossuth that, if a referendum would be held today about Hungary’s joining the European Union, he would definitely vote against it. And on July 8, 2021, in another interview that he gave to Mandiner, he opined that Hungary will stay a member of the European Union until it collapses.
Viktor Orban’s dislike for the European Union has been well documented throughout the last nine years as Prime Minister. Equating any criticism of his government and the Hungarian Parliament that he rules through Laszlo Kover as a condemnation of the Hungarian nation, he has repeatedly insinuated that leaving the organization could be an option. On September 25, 2020, Reuters reported that he praised Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as a “brave one” and demonstration of “greatness” that Hungary should not follow. However, signaling his real feelings, he went on to criticize Brussels for its treatment of Great Britain and opined that the 2016 referendum was an act to safeguard the “good reputation” of the British people: “Brexit is a brave decision of the British people about their own lives…we consider it as evidence of the greatness of the British.”
After years of cutthroat hostility with the overwhelming majority of the European Union’s other member states Hungary’s new legislation that couples pedophilia and anti-LGBT behaviors is the newest bone of contention. Without descending into the dirty swamp of Hungarian politics, it suffices to state that the values that the Viktor Orban-led government has espoused for the last nine years and the values that the European Union views as compatible with Western civilization have been distinctly different in most of the cases. While Brussels defends values in general, the Orban government protects its parochial and thus narrow political and financial interests. For this reason, an ultimate rupture could occur at any time in the future.
Where does all this leave the Orban regime and Hungary? It leaves both in an ever widening vacuum full of lies, deceptions, existential corruption, moral depravity and hopelessness concerning the future of the individual as well as the Hungarian nation. It leaves Hungary hovering between Europe and Asia. It leaves Hungary in a state of permanent paralysis politically, economically, financially, culturally, morally and existentially. It leaves Hungary with a government that prioritizes the interests of the privileged one percent to the detriment of ninety nine percent of the nation. It leaves Hungary with a government that is despotic and inimical to the country’s real interests. Finally and tragically, it leaves Hungary in a state of utter despondency.
Historically, whenever Hungary has turned away from the West and has attempted to seek its future in the East, stagnation and even backsliding were the results. Today, when confronted with the uncomfortable facts of his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban’s and his party’s responses rest on two parts. First, they try to conceal, deny and obfuscate. Second, when such brazenly authoritarian and shamefully immoral political campaigns fail, they attack with ruthless aggression the motives of their domestic as well as foreign critics.
Clearly, the worldwide criticism of Hungary has reached a dangerous stage. Led by Hungary’s incompetent foreign minister, its diplomats call such criticism a shameless plot to slander the country and thwart its progress. The government controlled media spew ad hominem falsehoods at scholars who analyze Hungarian government statements and documents, as well as open-source materials, describing them as CIA agents or anti-Hungarian fanatics. Regrettably, such fallacious assertions have had an impact domestically. It has not been very difficult to meet Hungarians from every walk of life who treat even the mildest criticism of their country as a hostile attack directed against them personally.
Yet, facts are stubborn things. Since his election victory in 2010, Viktor Orban has governed Hungary as an elected despot. The safeguards of democracy have been eliminated gradually. With his “Eastern Opening,” Viktor Orban is preparing to tear up all pretence of democracy and develop his “illiberal democracy” into a full fledged dictatorship. The obvious question is why? The answer is almost self-evident. Viktor Orban and his associates fear defeat in the upcoming elections in the spring of 2022. As Nathan Law stated, Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has betrayed its democratic past for a semi-Feudal and arch-Communist regime, combined with nepotism and dynastic pretensions. While capturing total control over the legislative, judicial and executive branches as well as vertically the local councils, he has courted the rural population with monies that the European Union has given to Hungary. Simultaneously, the pliant media are selling in unison Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” as identical with the desires of the whole nation.
To add political insult to existential injury, the declared election alliance of the thus far fragmented opposition parties might not be enough to stop another triumph at the ballot boxes for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party. While the 2018 elections were laden with irregularities, suspicions are rife throughout the country that the upcoming poll might be fraught with more shenanigans. As in the past, the most contentious issue will be the voting rights of Hungarians living abroad without registered Hungarian addresses, mainly in the neighboring states of Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia. The emotional manipulation, financial bribery, voting by mail without proper verification, practically ensures that the overwhelming majority of these ethnic Hungarians, estimated to be close to ninety percent, will cast their ballots for FIDESZ. To illustrate the shocking political nature of courting the ethnic Hungarian votes, the Fuggetlen Nemzet (Independent Nation) revealed that ethnic Hungarians with barely any elementary school education claimed to have been directors of large Ukrainian companies with outlandishly high salaries, collect huge retirement pays from the Hungarian Pension Disbursement Office.
Such an electoral system clearly distorts the will of all Hungarians who live within the international borders of Hungary. Leaders of the opposition parties and foreign observers have claimed in 2018 that the voting laws installed by FIDESZ enabled electoral fraud through uncontrollable manipulation of the mail-in ballots. Hungarian humor has it that being buried in one of the neighboring states as a Hungarian guarantees the dead person’s resurrection and a second life in Hungary proper through elections.
In stark contrast to this extremely liberal treatment of ethnic Hungarians, Hungarians who live in Hungary proper but work or live abroad with real Hungarian residency must be registered on the electoral roll a maximum of fifteen days before election day. Moreover, on election day they must go to a Hungarian consulate or embassy to cast their votes in person. Registration has been slow and laden with bureaucratic obstructions. Consulates and embassies have posed additional hurdles to Hungarians suspected of not voting for Viktor Orban’s party. The nefarious political intent is clear. Those Hungarians who live outside the country are alleged of not always agreeing with the domestic situation. Thus, they must be prevented from voting by dictatorial bureaucratic fiat. Those who have been bribed by the Hungarian government abroad must cast their votes without any bureaucratic difficulties, because they are presumed to be loyal to Viktor Orban and his regime. This is ethnic discrimination by voting, plain and simple.
In these and similar manners, Hungary’s march away from Western values and democracy toward Socialism/Communism with Chinese characteristics is in full swing. As for the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, creating enemies and demonizing opponents have been the order of political culture for Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party. Meanwhile, Hungary proper has been torn by deep hatred, unbridgeable divisions and the danger of civil war. Moreover, the country lacks a large middle class and is divided into the miniscule group of the very rich and the vast majority of destitute survivors as well as hopeless Have-nots.
Yet, the greatest threat to Hungary’s future is the fatalistic complacency of its people. To overcome this deadly cultural disease, the Hungarian people must take back their past, present and future. In doing so, they should be able to rely on the active and decisive assistance of all the member states of NATO and the European Union. Conversely, the latter should start to take democracy as well as political, economic and cultural morality seriously – meaning that they must enforce the values of both alliances more rigorously. Otherwise, NATO and the European Union will cease to be multilateral bodies of free nations. Even worse, they will continue to nurture internal enemies within their ranks that ultimately will destroy both alliances. Clearly, it is high time to put a stop to the destructive madness of the current Hungarian government by calling it to full account. In closing, Hungary must be made to understand that membership in both organizations comes with rights and obligations that are inextricably linked. Joining both organizations was voluntary. No one forced the competent Hungarian government to join. However, once Hungary joined, it must fulfill its obligations fully. Claiming that Hungary has only rights but only selective obligations is unrealistic. Comparing Washington, D.C. and Brussels to the Kremlin of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, is wrong and self-defeating. Such comparison is simply idiotic. Yet, Hungarian politicians, with Viktor Orban in the lead, have played the victimhood card often and shamelessly in the last eleven years. Enough is enough. Either the Hungarian government will start to play fairly or it must be asked to leave both organizations. The future effectiveness and unity of NATO and the European Union are at stake. Time is of the essence. Before the Orbanesque cancer could metastasize, it must be stopped peremptorily.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man many consider to be the public face of the U.S. government’s fight against the COVID virus, now stands accused of violating a federal law prohibiting certain government employees from engaging in activities and making statements intended to influence the electorate.
Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog organization, said in a June 30 filing that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ran afoul of Hatch Act restrictions during an October 30, 2020 interview with The Washington Post in which he “intimated that the state of the nation’s public health outlook could be directly linked to the two candidates’ diverse approaches” to combating the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The virus, which some allege was created in a bacteriological research facility in the People’s Republic of China, spread rapidly around the world and is believed to be responsible for the death of more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. A recent Rasmussen Reports national survey of registered voters found 46 percent did not believe Fauci had not been truthful about U.S. financial support for the “gain of function” research — defined as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans” — conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who is also a physician and has aggressively called for a full investigation into the origins of COVID has said repeatedly that emails sent and received by Fauci and uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request show that Fauci was aware American taxpayer-funded grants were at least partially underwriting the Wuhan lab’s research that may have produced the virus.
Asked by The Post about the differences between the plans of the two 2020 presidential candidates for dealing with the pandemic, Fauci praised then-former Vice President Joe Biden for “taking it seriously from a public health perspective” while stating simply that President Donald J. Trump was “looking at it from a different perspective.”
The group’s complaint also singles out Fauci’s call for an “abrupt change” just days before voters headed to the polls. It could be inferred from his remark that he was advocating for Biden to replace Trump in the White House though, in the context of the interview it appears he was talking about the national strategy for stopping the spread of COVID.
The collection of issues related to COVID has a major impact on the 2020 election. They were, Protect the Public’s Trust recently wrote, a “paramount concern for voters entering the 2020 general election.” An August 2020 pre-election Pew Research poll cited by the group found, “62 percent of voters say[ing] the outbreak will be a very important factor in their decision about who to support in the fall.”
Post-election surveys as well as Trump’s own campaign team’s analysis explaining why he lost suggest strongly the public’s perception he’d mishandled the pandemic drove many voters — even some who typically vote GOP — to cast their ballots for Biden.
“The timing of (Fauci’s) statements, combined with the circumstances of the interview and post-election comments celebrating the outcome,” The Federalist wrote about the complaint when it broke the story in June, “illustrate further intent in Fauci’s remarks that violate the Hatch Act.”
The election, The Federalist pointed out, was decided by less than 43,000 votes across what it called “three tipping-point states” despite Biden’s popular vote total having exceeding trump’s by more than 7 million. The narrowness of the actual result could, some election professionals say, be interpreted as lending support to the argument made by the watchdog group that Fauci’s remarks assisted Biden politically even though that would be hard to prove.
The federal Hatch Act dates back to the New Deal period and is the result of allegations some connected to the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had played politics with funds intended to alleviate the economic impact of the Great Depression to the benefit of local Democratic Party political machines. In its current form, it also prohibits members of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service – of which Fauci is part – from engaging in political activity while on duty and from using their official authority to interfere with an election.
Engage Taiwan, boycott the 2022 Olympics, and impose a carbon tariff
The debate over the origins of the coronavirus—did it come from a wet market in Wuhan or from the virology lab nearby—has exposed the bias of media and technology companies and the potential danger of so-called gain of function research. But it also has led to something of an intellectual cul-de-sac. Barring a high-level defection from the Chinese Communist Party, we are unlikely ever to learn the answer. And even if we did have conclusive evidence one way or another, we still would have to decide what to do about it. The real question isn’t whether the pandemic is China’s fault. It’s whether China will pay a price for the catastrophic damage it caused the world.
Wherever the virus came from, we know that the Chinese government lied about it for weeks. Dr. Ai Fen shared information about a novel coronavirus with her colleagues on December 30, 2019. The next day, as Lawrence Wright recounts in The Plague Year, China removed social media posts that mentioned “unknown Wuhan pneumonia” or “Wuhan Seafood Market.” Dr. Li Wenliang, who warned the public that the virus could be transmitted from human to human, was arrested and forced to deliver a televised confession. He died of COVID-19 on February 6, 2020.
Beijing prevaricated for a month while the deadly pandemic spread. China did not allow the World Health Organization to visit Wuhan until January 20, 2020. The same day, one of China’s top doctors finally admitted the obvious: COVID-19 is a communicable disease. By the time the Communist leadership took action, it was too late. On January 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of coronavirus in America. China did not quarantine Wuhan until January 22. “By that time,” according to Wright, “nearly half the population of Wuhan had already left the city for Chinese New Year.”
The dishonesty and incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party turned a national crisis into a global one. A March 2020 study estimated that cases might have been reduced by anywhere from 66 percent to 95 percent if Chinese authorities had acted earlier. Why was Beijing slow to move? Because bureaucratic collectivist societies such as Communist China are especially prone to delays and coverups as underlings attempt to avoid punishment from above. The same powers of draconian coercion that China used to lock down its population inspired fear among the midlevel and regional officials who allowed the virus to leave China in the first place. The problem wasn’t scientific. It was political. And punishment is deserved.
What to do? Writing in the Washington Post, Mike Pompeo and Scooter Libby call on the “leading democracies” to “act together,” leveraging “their great economic power” to “persuade China to curb its dangerous viral research activities, cooperate with the investigation of the coronavirus’s origins, and, over time, pay some measure of the pandemic’s damages to other nations.” It’s a worthy strategy with a potentially fatal flaw: The other democracies might put economics ahead of accountability.
Another proposal in Congress would strip China of its sovereign immunity and make it liable for damages in U.S. courts. That plan would also leave American foreign policy dependent on outside actors—in this case, judges. And millions of potential claimants attempting to seize Chinese assets in the United States could make for a mess.
China never will volunteer to open its labs. Nor will it compensate either nations or individuals for the havoc it unleashed. Costs must be imposed that Beijing cannot avoid.
I have three suggestions. Each is more controversial than the last. But all of them would ensure that China paid some price for its lax hygiene and sanitation standards, loosey-goosey research protocols, and reckless attitude toward human freedom and human life.
Engage Taiwan. To its credit, the Biden administration has continued the stepped-up engagement with Taiwan that began under President Trump. In April, Biden sent an unofficial delegation to the island that included his close friend Chris Dodd. Most recently, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised the prospect of new trade talks in a conversation with her Taiwanese counterpart. This pattern of contacts bothers mainland China to no end.
Keep it up. But also do more to train and equip Taiwanese military forces, as my American Enterprise Institute colleagues Gary Schmitt and Michael Mazza suggested last year in The Dispatch. Taiwan is a reminder that Chinese people can be free and that open societies can deal effectively with pandemics. The very existence of Chinese democracy in Taiwan is a threat to the legitimacy of Communist rule in the mainland. It’s an obstacle to Beijing’s ambitions in the Pacific. Taiwan’s defense is imperative.
Boycott the Olympics. One day before he left office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Chinese Communist Party “has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” Here, too, the Biden administration has not deviated from its predecessor’s course. The United States openly accuses its arch-rival of crimes against humanity. This is a pretty big deal, is it not?
Well, start acting like it. Why the participation of U.S. officials in the Beijing Olympics next year is even up for debate is a mystery. The White House has said that it is not exploring a boycott. That needs to change. On June 7 a bipartisan resolution was introduced in Congress demanding that the International Olympic Committee explore other venues. A declaration that no U.S. government personnel will participate because of China’s actions at home and abroad would embarrass Beijing. It would encourage other democracies to do the same. China deserves neither the honor of nor the revenue from the participation of U.S. officials. Let the athletes compete. But cheer them on from home.
Impose a carbon tariff. President Biden has also maintained the tariffs that President Trump levied against Chinese goods. Economist Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute has a better plan. He would replace these tariffs with a border tax on the carbon content of Chinese exports. The strategy has appeal for environmentalists and China hawks alike. Everyone knows that China is the world’s largest emitter. Everyone knows that China’s promise of greenhouse gas reduction is worthless. Beijing won’t do anything that jeopardizes the economic growth on which it bases its claim to rule.
“In effect,” writes Stelzer, “by selling us ‘dirty’ products, China is adding to the competitive advantage it has from selling us stuff made by slave and other laborers paid wages with which we cannot decently compete, around $2 per hour in Beijing.” The EU already is at work on what it calls a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” on Chinese exports. By pushing for a carbon tariff of its own, the Biden administration would please not only hawks and greens, but also the European allies whose opinion it values so highly.
The problem with a “carbon border adjustment mechanism,” of course, is that the process of calculating a good’s carbon content might turn out to be overly complicated, bureaucratic, and subject to politicization. I’m not in the habit of taking economic advice from Brussels. But these problems must be weighed against the justice and potential benefits of such a tax. And the additional cost could be rebated to low-income U.S. consumers along the lines that Senator Tom Cotton proposed in a slightly different context in 2019.
In the end, whether or not the United States adopts a tax on Chinese carbon is less important than moving the debate from the pandemic’s origins to the pandemic’s endgame. The despotic regime whose malign indifference killed so many and cost so much cannot be allowed to pretend that nothing happened. We can hold China responsible. And we can make China pay.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has become increasingly defensive and evasive in answering legitimate questions posed by members of Congress.
This is a problem.
Fauci has no statutory authority to preside over a public health crisis. Nonetheless, he has become the nation’s de facto doctor in chief during the COVID-19 pandemic. He clearly relishes the attention — making an astronomical number of media appearances that promote himself, but not public health. Unfortunately, Fauci has been a horribly ineffective doctor in chief.
Fauci started off the pandemic by telling us that “people should not be walking around with masks.” This initial dismissal of masks was fact-based and rational. But now, Fauci advocates wearing two masks even after vaccination. Where are the reliable scientific studies proving that masks save lives? Or that they are necessary after vaccination?
The idea that those who’ve been vaccinated or have natural immunity should still wear masks for the next year or two on a seasonal basis is one of the most insanely idiotic and anti-science statements made since some worry-warts on Christopher Columbus’s crew expressed concerns that they might sail off the edge of the Earth.
I’d like to hear Fauci explain what he has been doing for the last 50 years to avoid contracting or spreading the deadly smallpox virus or polio. Answer: He’s done nothing because vaccines work.
But Fauci advocates people get vaccinated while also suggesting that it won’t actually help. We still can’t return to normal life, he says. It is little wonder that many question why they should get vaccinated. It is the logical result of Fauci’s anti-science approach!
Here’s the truth — Fauci isn’t a serious doctor or a serious scientist. He’s just a serious government bureaucrat who happens to have a medical degree and often wears a white lab coat.
However, Sen. Rand Paul is a real medical doctor. Even as a senator, he performs eye surgeries for at-need patients around the globe. Paul has asked some very good questions of Fauci. But it is Fauci who sounds like the consummate politician with his bureaucratic two-step of word games and obfuscation. His answers have often been dismissive, combative, and evasive. He defiantly tells Paul he’s wrong but doesn’t bother to explain why. We are simply supposed to take his word for it. That’s not very scientific.
Consider what happened this week when Paul asked Fauci about U.S. government direct and indirect grants (via third party Eco-Health Alliance) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Since the Wuhan lab may have been where the virus escaped from, taxpayer funding of the lab is an important question. Yet, Fauci flatly denied funding any Chinese “gain-of-function research” — a risky and controversial approach that involves making pathogens more infectious and deadly. But Fauci also admitted he funded “gain-of-function research” in the United States. He also admitted he couldn’t account for how the Chinese used U.S. taxpayer dollars.
If Fauci doesn’t know how the WIV spent U.S. money, he cannot categorically deny that this money was used to fund risky research.
We can draw a lot of conclusions from the way the totalitarian Chinese regime has blocked and interfered with investigations into the origins of this pandemic. That is precisely how the guilty behave. Likewise, Fauci’s answers to Paul give rational people good reason to question his credibility. If Fauci wants to be taken seriously as a doctor and scientist, he should act like a doctor and scientist rather than a politically motivated bureaucrat.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has allowed the process of recalling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist for abusing their powers and mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic to move ahead.
The effort to recall them is based on the argument they violated the Michigan Constitution’s separation of powers clause by continuing to issue virus-related orders through the state health department even after the Michigan Supreme Court found last October that Whitmer had abused her emergency powers, the website JustTheNews.com reported Wednesday.
The recall petitions, which Michigan’s Board of State Canvasser have already approved charge Whitmer with having exceeded her authority in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, including an extension of a promised “15-day pause” of indoor dining out over an additional two months.
“Whitmer’s continued actions which show an ‘It’s OK for me but not for thee’ mentality is not the mentality of an effective leader to bring Success and Growth to Michigan,” recall petitioner Chad Baase said.
The two Democrats have attempted to keep the recall process from moving forward by arguing in court the petitions fail to “adequately describe the authorities cited as reasons for the recall” and because the language used in them is unclear, citing as an example the use of the term “bars” to mean a public space.
The appeals court rejected that argument, “Any person invited to sign the petition would very likely envision a reference to a conventional tavern, where people can purchase and consume alcoholic beverages” while slapping Whitmer down further in the totality of its decision.
“We conclude that although the governor relied on the appearance of a string of nonsensical characters to support her challenge to the clarity of the petition language, the governor’s hasty conclusion about a word-processing irregularity does not arise often enough to compel reading the petition as featuring some gibberish in place of several normal characters that appear the rest of the time,” the court wrote.
The governor, speaking through a spokesman for her 2022 re-election campaign, said Whitmer intended to appeal the ruling in a further effort to block the attempt to recall her as she prepares to mount a bid for a second term.
Is China weakening US intellectual property protection?
There is a global effort afoot to get the United States to suspend intellectual property rights (IP) for any and all COVID-19 medical innovations. Interestingly, China is a big backer of this global effort and has been using the World Trade Organization (WTO) to put pressure on the US. The Biden Administration fairly predictably is now backing the China backed pressure campaign. The communist Chinese state-controlled media has praised President Biden for giving into “global pressure.”
The US can certainly help the rest of the world deal with the COVID virus. Humanitarian efforts are about helping save lives, not giving the Chinese regime billions in intellectual property. The US now has a surplus of vaccines and we have the supply chain and the manufacturing set up to continue pumping out the vaccine for the rest of the world. If China and others wanted access to the vaccine as quickly as possible, that’s already available to them — all they need to do is ask.
But stealing the IP of those who invested billions in developing it won’t help the rest of the world because it would take them a year, or two, or more to set up the manufacturing process and organize the supply chains to replicate what the US is currently is able to do. If nations need help to deal with the virus, it isn’t in a year or two — it is now. So what the WTO and China are pushing for won’t help them solve any immediate problem or save lives. But it will help the communist Chinese regime access billions in research and development which they can use to undercut American jobs and innovation for decades to come.
So that’s how you know the global effort isn’t about helping vaccinate the world. It is about stealing the IP rights of American innovators. China has made a living stealing American IP and it has not only harmed us economically, but it has also endangered our national security. And one thing that the Chinese regime is very good at is using every tool at its disposal to weaken America and seek its own long-term advantage. If we don’t wake up to this, we will live to regret it.
If people are interested in helping those around the globe get vaccinated, let’s do that. But why is stealing IP part of that discussion? Especially, since it won’t provide any vaccinations for a year or more from now. But will be used by hostile regimes to undermine American innovation and American jobs.
The bottom line is that suspending intellectual property rights is bad policy. It does nothing to help those around the globe who need a vaccine right away. And it also undermines American medical innovation, and American jobs. Plus, under our Constitution, the government may not unilaterally take the property of its citizens without just compensation. The Constitution specially provides for the protection of intellectual property. And that is why America has been the world’s greatest engine of innovation. Let’s not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
The very reason American pharmaceutical companies were able to provide vaccines so quickly to deal with the COVID-19 virus is because our system of intellectual property told them that investing billions of dollars in finding a cure was a good idea. If we remove that, future innovations and future discoveries will be far less likely. If we hope to continue to find new earth-breaking cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc, and new vaccines for the next horrible disease, we had better keep our intellectual property protections strong.
There is a why the United States leads the world in innovation — we’ve historically had the most robust intellectual property protections. As we’ve allowed those protections to slide, we’ve seen our innovation advantage start to slide as well. So rather than abrogating IP rights, we should be strengthening and reinvigorating them.
This global initiative to pressure the US into voluntarily destroying its system of intellectual property protections would be very costly — not only the US, but to the entire world because our innovation ultimately benefits the entire globe. Let’s hope Congress puts a stop to this foolishness. The Biden Administration has already caved in and signaled its willingness to compromise American law and American strength. Sure, America can, and should help the rest of the world. No one is suggesting that we hide the vaccine or prevent it from other nations or peoples. But using the pandemic as an excuse to kill off American IP protections and violate US law is akin to a beggar demanding access to your home equity loan when asking for help to buy dinner. You offer him a nice meal, and he says, “No, I want your home equity loan! Don’t you want to help a guy down on his luck?!” Beware, it’s a scam!