How much is enough? It’s a question America is going to have to answer, and soon, lest the need for additional COVID relief packages overwhelm the nation’s ability to pay for them. The national debt, which was close to a single year’s gross domestic product when Donald J. Trump came into office four years ago, has more than doubled, thanks in no small part to efforts to alleviate the impact of the economic lockdown used to prevent the disease from spreading.
As the numbers show, it didn’t work. The states with some of the most severe restrictions on commercial activity, like California and New York, continue to lead the rest of the states in deaths per capita and new infections. It’s almost as if the wearing of masks, the requirements that people stay six feet apart from one another and not venture out into public and the closures of small businesses like restaurants and churches have done almost nothing to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
There are more than a few commentators who’ve been bold enough to suggest that outright. It’s going to take a lot more study of the data to determine if they’re right but what we now know is sufficient to suggest there’s more truth to these presumptions than many of the so-called experts driving the national dialogue are willing to entertain may be the case.
All that is for later. What matters now is whether the latest COVID-19 package is enough or, as President Donald J. Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer believe, if the American people need another round of so-called stimulus checks from Washington to make it though.
They don’t—and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was right when he stopped the bill to do just that from moving forward. If he erred, and it is not clear he did, it was in offering his own version of the bill that, along with the $2000 checks would eliminate a provision of federal telecommunications law that conservatives say allows major platforms like Twitter and Facebook to censor posts with impunity and establish a federal commission to make recommendations to combat voter fraud.
The Democrats could never vote for such a measure—big tech has invested too much in the party’s electoral success for them to sign on—so offering it as an alternative is a crafty way for McConnell to kill the so-called stimulus while making it look like the fault of Schumer and company, not the GOP. Some of his partisan colleagues up for reelection in 2022 may need the political cover his effort provides but, in all honesty, he should have stood his ground and just said “no.”
It’s not that the money would go to families that don’t need it. The economics of the distribution algorithm would allow families making several hundreds of thousands a year declared eligible to receive a check, perhaps for more than $2000 depending on marital status and number of dependents. They don’t need it but—as both Sen. Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have many constituents among the caviar-consuming, designer-ice-cream-eating, Louis Vuitton-carrying crowd who would qualify, it’s little surprise they’re on board. They probably also appreciate the optics associated with seeming like Santa Claus while McConnell comes across as Scrooge.
Except McConnell isn’t, at least not as far as the economics are concerned. A one-time payment of $2000 may help some families clear some debts but it won’t do anything to get the economy going. What we know from the available data is that the open states, most of them red states, are doing better than the mostly blue states where the lockdowns continue.
If the lockdowns aren’t doing much to mitigate the impact of COVID, if the disease is still mostly passed from person to person in home and family settings, and if most all the people who die from it would have shortly died from something else—all things much of the available data show are true—then the best stimulus the economy could have would be for the shuttered states to reopen so everyone could go back to work.
If stopping the checks means more people clamoring for a return to normalcy, then McConnell has done the nation a great service. Larry Summers, the liberal economist who served as Bill Clinton‘s treasury secretary and director of Barack Obama‘s National Economic Council has said: “There is no good economic argument” for universal checks. The economy is roaring back, in fits and starts, with third-quarter 2020 growth at a never-before-seen 33 percent, adjusted on an annualized basis. The checks Trump, Pelosi and Schumer want can’t improve on that. They can put our children and grandchildren deeper into debt than they already are.
McConnell should maintain his hard “no.” As Ronald Reagan said, “The best welfare program is a job” which, expanded out, means the best form of stimulus—and what we need right now—is to let the American people get back to work, not subsidize their continuing to stay home.
The Democrats included huge cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas in their emergency response package.
At some point, when the election chaos is finally settled, Congress will likely turn to passing another COVID-19 stimulus/relief bill. (Despite the last one being plagued by rampant fraud and dysfunction). One starting point for negotiations will be the “HEROES Act,” a $2.2 trillion bill the House passed in October on a party-line vote by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats.
One of the most significant aspects of the HEROES Act is that it allocates nearly $700 billion in federal money for state, local, and tribal governments.
Proponents say this gives localities the funds they need to pay emergency responders and fund programs necessary to protect their communities. Critics point out that much of this money is used to “bail out” blue states that were already mismanaging their budgets and running up large unfunded pension programs before the pandemic.
Indeed, the left-leaning Brookings Institution has projected that “state and local government revenues will decline $155 billion in 2020, $167 billion in 2021, and $145 billion in 2022.” Simple math shows us that the CARES Act gives states and localities hundreds of billions more in federal money than they are actually projected to lose due to pandemic-related decreases in revenue.
This alone should be a red flag. Yet a new analysis also reveals that Pelosi and her fellow “progressives” snuck millions of dollars in cash for some of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes into their emergency COVID-19 package.
Watchdogs from OpenTheBooks.com inspected the fine print of the HEROES Act and found that it allocates $350 million to the 50 richest communities in America. The average annual income in these areas ranged from $262,988 to $525,324.
“It’s unclear why such wealthy neighborhoods need so much money to weather the storm,” Adam Andrzejewski of OpenTheBooks.com wrote.“Should American taxpayers from lower-income areas be subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous?
Some might reasonably look at a figure like $350 million and conclude that, in the context of a $2.2 trillion bill, it is a relatively small amount of money. But we mustn’t forget that this figure is only looking at a tiny sample size. It is not all the money this bill allocates to wealthy zip codes, just a snapshot.
We can extrapolate from this figure that the HEROES Act would dole out many hundreds of millions if not billions more to other wealthy towns and cities.
It’s not even the only provision of the bill that can be fairly characterized as a handout for the rich. The package also includes items such as student debt relief, which further burdens cash-strapped taxpayers yet only helps a relatively well-educated and well-off subset of society.
But wait: Aren’t Democrats supposed to be the progressive party fighting for the working class? That’s certainly what their rhetoric would suggest. Yet the Democrats included cash handouts for wealthy constituents in predominantly liberal areas such as Wellesley, Mass., Malibu, California, and Old Greenwich, Conn. in their emergency response package nonetheless.
This offers another painful reminder that government officials—no matter their professed partisan or ideological principles—will always and inevitably end up wielding their power in a manner prone to favoritism and clientelism.
“There is no such thing as a just and fair method of exercising the tremendous power that interventionism puts into the hands of the legislature and the executive,” Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote. “In many fields of the administration of interventionist measures, favoritism simply cannot be avoided.”
Humans are fallible beings—and power corrupts. This is why, from tax loopholes to crony regulations to spending bills, sweeping government interventions will always end up skewing in favor of powerful constituencies. However, when power is left to the individual level rather than government, that decentralization helps limit abuses.
It’s not a matter of electing the right people. Fundamentally, progressive and conservative government officials alike face the same incentive structures.
The only way to really prevent the abuse of government power and expenditure of taxpayer resources in favor of the well-off and well-connected is to limit the scope of the government itself.
Project chairman: 'We have certainly hit a snag with all the difficulties of the coronavirus.'
By D Magazine•
Construction for a high-speed train that will zip between Dallas and Houston at more than 200 miles per hour is still in the works. But with costs estimating almost $20 billion more than initially planned, Texas Central might need the help of stimulus money.
In a recent letter to Texas State Sen. Robert Nichols, Texas Central’s Chairman (and an investor), Drayton McLane, Jr. said the project is seeking funds outside of private equity, saying, “we have certainly hit a snag with all the difficulties of the coronavirus.” The letter was obtained by the Dallas Business Journal.
The company laid off 28 employees in March, and the Global Financial Markets hit a low, too, leaving its upcoming recovery—or lack thereof— to determine the verdict: Will the train need a stimulus fund?
Aside from exploring funding from government loan vehicles—including Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act—Texas Central may tap into government loans. According to Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar, the company has not applied for funding through the CARES Act.
“We feel that between Japanese government funding and the monies we hope to receive from President Trump’s infrastructure stimulus through the Department of Transportation, along with private equity that the project still has a great opportunity, is viable and can be construction-ready this year,” McLane added in his letter.
The project will create an estimated $36 billion in economic benefits statewide over the next 25 years, according to a news release. Texas Central anticipated it also would create 10,000 direct jobs per year during peak construction and 1,500 permanent jobs when fully operational.
Early on, Texas Central said the bullet train would be privately funded—an idea that has drawn skepticism since inception, along with its ability to be profitable.
In 2017, Peter Simek wrote a D Magazine article titled Has the Texas Central Bullet Train Gone Off the Rails? In it, he points to Travis Korson, a senior fellow with Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative Washington think tank, who didn’t believe then that the numbers made sense and that its growing budget and inflated ridership projects suggest the privately funded rail project may not be profitable. (Click here to read it)
At the time, proposed construction costs had ballooned from $10 billion to $16 billion. Currently, on Texas Central’s website, it says the system will cost more than $12 billion to construct.
In response to recent news about the potential need for stimulus money, State Representative Ben Leman, District 13, issued the following statement:
“We also were told the project would be privately financed, yet now it is revealed Texas Central is seeking taxpayer stimulus money to build it. To publicly promote to the media, to elected officials, and worst of all to the citizens of Texas the cost of the project as $20 billion when they know it to be more than $30 billion and that the project would be privately financed while they ‘hope to receive from President Trump’s infrastructure stimulus through the Department of Transportation’ to build it just reveals their true character and intentions about this project”
Aguilar told the DBJ that the $30 billion figure was “a conservative estimate of ‘all in’ numbers.”
The train’s still on the tracks toward its construction, though, as the company hit a breakthrough in an essential legal ruling just one month ago: The Thirteenth Court of Appeals ruled Texas Central and its subsidiary Integrated Texas Logistics as legal railroads.
The decision reversed a previous one made in the 87th district of Leon County. Designating the project as a legal railroad is almost as powerful as what happens next. All railroads have the right of eminent domain, which means that Texas Central can acquire all the land it needs. Project opponents are appealing the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
In response, Aquilar said the “decision confirms our status as an operating railroad and allows us to continue moving forward with our permitting process and all of our other design, engineering, and land acquisition efforts.”
Public policy intended to make layoffs less painful actually made layoffs cheaper and more common.
Why has the labor market contracted so much and why does it remain depressed? Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed were changed in more than a dozen ways—and although these policies were advertised as employment-expanding, the fact is that they reduced incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire.
You probably heard about the emergency-assistance program for the long-term unemployed that ended only a few months ago after running for almost six years. But there is also the food-stamp program. It got a new name and replaced the stamps with debit cards. Participants are no longer required to seek work and are not asked to demonstrate that they have no wealth. Essentially, any unmarried person can get food stamps while out of work and can stay on the program indefinitely. Continue reading
On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama promised the sun and the moon and the stars. That was the day, five years ago, when he signed the $800 billion “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” President Modesty called it “the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history.” He promised “unprecedented transparency and accountability.” He claimed the spending would lift “two million Americans from poverty.” Ready for the reality smackdown?
The actual cost of the $800 billion pork-laden stimulus has ballooned to nearly $2 trillion. At the time of the law’s signing, the unemployment rate hovered near 8 percent. Obama’s egghead economists projected that the jobless rate would never rise above 8 percent and would plunge to 5 percent by December 2013. The actual jobless rate in January was 6.6 percent, with an abysmal labor force participation rate of 63 percent (a teeny uptick from December, but still at a four-decade low). Continue reading
“Will we, before it is too late, use the vitality and the magic of the marketplace to save this way of life, or will we one day face our children, and our children’s children when they ask us where we were and what we were doing on the day that freedom was lost?”
by Scott L. Vanatter
Before he was elected president Ronald Reagan delivered a series of speeches on various aspects of the American experience. He focused on core principles: our founding, our freedoms, our economy, and especially and repeatedly on the great promise of our being the Shining City on the Hill.
Thirty-five years ago this month, on November 10, 1977 , the future president spoke at the Ludwig Von Mises Memorial Lecture at Hillsdale College, Michigan. His remarks were titled, “What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise.” Continue reading
by Andrew Stiles
President Barack Obama appears to be doubling down on his policies of using taxpayer money to finance green energy investments despite an increasingly spotty track record.
“We’ve got to control our own energy, you know, not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in, but also, we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now,” he said during Tuesday night’s presidential debate. “That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.” Continue reading
Let’s fact check President Barack Obama’s debate statements. He spent a lot of time since the first debate and during the second debate complaining that what Gov. Mitt Romney said wasn’t true. Yet, the facts do not support Obama’s claims. Here is the proof on Obama’s poor record on truthfulness during the second debate:
The attack in Libya — a terrorist attack? Or a spontaneous protest that got out of hand because of an offensive internet video?
On the issue of Libya, Obama said, that the day after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, “I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.”
Romney challenged Obama’s characterization that he had identified the Benghazi attack as terrorism on day one. Obama doubled down. Just as Romney was about the snare Obama in his lie, the the moderator erroneously sided with Obama and claimed that he had identified the attack as terrorism. After the debate, the moderator admitted that she was wrong and that Romney was correct. But let’s not rely on her retraction and correction, let’s go straight to the record. Continue reading
by Victor Davis Hanson
The Obama narrative is that he inherited the worst mess in memory and has been stymied ever since by a partisan Congress — while everything from new ATM technology to the Japanese tsunami conspired against him. But how true are those claims?
Barack Obama entered office with an approval rating of over 70 percent. John McCain’s campaign had been anemic and almost at times seemed as if it was designed to lose nobly to the nation’s first African-American presidential nominee. Continue reading
Every American voter is approaching a critical decision. Of the two presidential candidates before us, who is best suited to lead our nation through the next four years?
The answer to that question is a simple test: can they ignite economic growth? The economic crisis we face is our greatest threat, affecting every American. For investors – and today over half of Americans are investors in some form – this issue is particularly pressing as it impacts not just their financial situation today, but also their retirement and other long-term goals. Economic growth is the only ingredient that will help pull the country out of its present funk and allow us to solve our pressing issues. Continue reading
During the debate, Vice President made history by surpassing Al Gore for bad, boorish, and rude behavior. He laughed uncontrollably, signed, groaned, and laughed some more and engaged in generally childish antics throughout the debate. Biden’s rude and unprofessional behavior overshadowed the substance of what he said.
But as bizarre and unbalanced as his behavior was during the debate, the substance of what he actually said was perhaps the most troubling. Here are a short list of several of the most obviously false things that Biden said:
1. Afghanistan and Iraq: Biden accused Rep. Paul Ryan of putting two wars on the “credit card” and then bragged that he voted against both of them because he understood America could not afford them. “I was there, I voted against them,” Biden said. “I said, no, we can’t afford that.” But the truth is Sen. Biden voted for the Afghanistan resolution on Sept. 14, 2001 the Iraq resolution on October 11, 2002. It takes some brass to tell whoppers like this one! Continue reading
Lack of Desire, Knowledge and Confidence
by Scott L. Vanatter
Why was Obama just not that into it (the debate)? Three possible reasons include a lack of desire, a lack of knowledge of basic economic principles, and being intimidated by Romney’s real world expertise.
Obama sounded so disjointed in the first debate that mainstream media supporters such as Chris Matthews and Andrew Sullivan nearly had an emotional breakdown on camera and online. They are only two who wondered aloud why Obama seemed so incoherent. Obama’s bizarre manner that night almost resembled the infamous beauty pageant contestant of a few years ago or the reporter who had a mini-stroke on camera, so rambling were some of his answers. Surely in the next debate, Obama will up his game. At least he will appear to want to debate. Continue reading
We knew Mitt Romney would be prepared — his campaign has had him doing only one rally per day most days, spending hours and hours on debate prep. From watching the primaries, we knew Romney would come out and be aggressive and generally look good, but we have also seen Romney be stiff, or awkward, or turn to the moderator when attacked. Not tonight.
The “zingers” line appeared to be a bit of chaff; Romney did offer a few good lines — “You don’t pick the winners and losers, you just pick the losers,” “trickle-down government” — but he never seemed to force them or shoehorn them into lines. Continue reading
We already knew that the economy is sluggish and in trouble. But now we learn that the economy is far weaker than previously understood. But that is not the only unflattering truth that has come to light. Our foreign policy and national security are also in far worse shape than we understood even a few weeks ago.
It isn’t just that job growth isn’t even keeping up with population growth. It isn’t just that the Federal Reserve has effectively thrown in the towel and admitted that there is no recovery. Continue reading
“Name a single thing that has improved under [Obama’s] rule….
“Almost the entirety of the Muslim world is now rioting against an American president who promised that his olive branches to Muslims would secure peace….
“Domestically, our debt has increased by 50 percent in just four years, by some $5 trillion, with not a single observable benefit from the spending. Our bond rating already has been downgraded….