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Biden has no excuse for his massive spending because the crisis is over

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Biden has no excuse for his massive spending because the crisis is over

If Joe Biden wanted to spend massively in response to a nearly unprecedented public-health emergency, he was elected too late.

The conventional wisdom justifying the president’s new FDR-sized ambitions is that the country is in crisis and he has to meet the proverbial moment, which can only be done with 13-digit spending bills.

The truth is, though, that there is no crisis and there is no moment. There’s only an excuse, an occasion and a procedure.

The excuse is the supposed downtrodden state of the country such that only $6 trillion can save it from rack and ruin.

The occasion is very slender Democratic majorities in Congress that are willing to contemplate levels of spending that, not too long ago, only the likes of Bernie Sanders and AOC openly agitated for.

The procedure is reconciliation, the process that allows fiscal measures to pass the Senate with just 51 votes rather than the usual 60.

It is true that the nation was in a double-barreled public-health and economic emergency for about a year, but Biden took office in January just when, thanks to the advent of the COVID vaccines, the end was finally in sight.

Now, new cases have declined steeply from their peak and are down nearly 30 percent over the last two weeks.

Even New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are lifting their COVID restrictions in coming weeks.

A hundred million Americans have been vaccinated. The problem no longer is producing and distributing enough vaccine for the public but finding enough people who want to get it.

Whereas FDR confronted a 25 percent unemployment rate during the Great Depression, Joe Biden inherited an economy on the verge of takeoff.

GDP grew by 1.6 percent in the first quarter, or at a 6.4 annual rate. Some projections have GDP this year growing at the fastest clip since 1951. Consumer spending is expected to be the highest on record.

Biden strained, and mostly failed, in his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill to find priorities directly related to COVID and to relief to spend money on. It’ll be even harder in a roaring economy, with the virus on the wane.

So it’s on to other alleged dire emergencies. But there is no infrastructure crisis. Contrary to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which has a vested interest in promoting more infrastructure spending, the condition of the nation’s highways and bridges has been getting better or stayed the same.

There’s no climate crisis. Creating a sense of a looming planetary doom usually involves going beyond the science to attribute every weather-related disaster to greenhouse-gas emissions.

In his speech to the joint session of Congress last week, Biden correctly stated we are in a competition with China, then declared the way to prevail is to spend on every single one of his domestic priorities, as if Beijing’s threat to Taiwan can be deterred by spending another $80 billion on Amtrak and $174 billion on electric cars and charging stations.

No, none of this makes any sense. The real justification for the Biden spending spree is that Democrats, who have marched steadily to the left, are in the mood to do as much to transform the country as possible while their tenuous unified control of Washington lasts.

The spending isn’t responsive to any groundswell in the country, it isn’t in keeping with the way Biden campaigned in 2020 (as moderate old Joey from Scranton), it isn’t being forced on us by events, and it isn’t carefully modulated or thought through.

The best case is that conditions in America, rather than being dire, are so propitious these levels of spending can be absorbed without anything going wrong.

But presidents are often defined by genuine, unexpected crises. The worry has to be that Biden will have spent a huge amount of cash and political capital before he even learns what real crisis he’ll have to confront.

Twitter: @RichLowry

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Opinion

People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

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People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

With just 59 percent of adults fully or partially vaccinated and the number of daily vaccinations falling, one supposed solution is to offer a financial reward — as much as a million dollars! — to get jabs. Turning public health into a lottery, though, is a stretch of medical ethics: People reluctant to get a shot should be persuaded, not bought off.

The most obvious appeal to the pocketbook is in Ohio. There, Gov. Mike DeWine is giving away chances to win five $1 million cash prizes and five full public-college scholarships to teens who get a vaccination. 

Will this work? The only way to tell is to wait and see. If Ohio sees a surge in vaccinations, good. 

Yet the game-show approach is unnerving. Like any lottery, it appeals disproportionately to compulsive gamblers — the 1 percent who feel they can’t miss out on a chance to win.  

For hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, preying on the fear of losing a prize may feel more like coercion than a public-health measure.

Less seriously, what is the motive Ohio wants people to have in desiring a vaccine?  

All available science indicates the vaccine is safe and effective. (I got two, more than two weeks ago, am still alive and haven’t gotten COVID yet. If my non-doctor opinion matters to anyone, I would recommend getting it.)

But the vaccine is still a serious medical choice, having to do with both public and personal health.  

People should weigh the benefits, which seem high, against the risks, which seem low for most people, to the best of their own abilities.  

Adding a massive payoff skews these decisions. People have to feel happy with the choices they made and feel they made their choices freely, without pressure — especially important if it turns out that we’ll all need booster shots every six months or every year.

Being hesitant or skeptical — or just distrusting the government, after years and months of incompetence by both political parties — does not mark someone as an idiot or conspiracist.  

For the most hesitant, attempting to buy people off may backfire: If it’s so great, why do you need to dangle seven figures in front of me?

Before looking for big headlines, governments should consider why some people are hesitant. The good news is hesitancy rates are falling, according to a new University of Pittsburgh public-health study, dropping from 27.5 percent in March to 22 percent.

Of the hesitant, half are worried about side effects, a worry that should continue to fall as they observe that vaccinated people have lived to tell the tale.

Far smaller percentages don’t trust the government, don’t think the COVID vaccines safe or don’t like vaccines overall. (The last is a truly small category, at only 3 percent of the population.) 

For those who don’t trust government, a lottery may be far less important than recent news that eight Yankee employees got COVID despite being vaccinated. This could be a PR setback for the vaccines, unless public-health officials aggressively acknowledge that this is not what people should expect. They should answer questions about it, including during baseball games, where it’s the topic of much of the banter in between the play-by-play.

The short pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine didn’t help, either.  

What about people who just haven’t gotten around to it yet? Making the vaccine ever easier to get is a good idea. Availability at train stations will lure the path-of-least-resistance people, as might tented curbside service outside pharmacies and supermarkets, so that people are reminded on their regular walks.

Then there’s the immigration and insurance issue. New York state repeatedly tells people that they don’t need to be in the country legally to get the vaccine and that they don’t need insurance — yet it still asks people signing up whether they have insurance and, if so, demands their policy numbers and the like. There’s no reason to ask these questions at all and deter people afraid of getting a bill later.  

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with free donuts, fries and beer offered by private companies — although one fears for the republic if anyone is actually persuaded to get their shot just because of a chocolate glazed.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.  

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Opinion

Joe Biden is even more of a ‘master of disaster’ than Jimmy Carter

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Joe Biden is even more of a 'master of disaster' than Jimmy Carter

President Joe Biden entered office poised to oversee a record recovery and a return to the booming economy and all-round stability of pre-pandemic life. Instead, he’s turned out to be a master of disaster, with self-inflicted crises across the board threatening to set America back to the 1970s — with that era’s infamous “stagflation” as well as a foreign policy in flames.

When Biden took office in January, the nation was on the mend from a post-holiday surge in COVID cases and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines produced at unprecedented speed and nearly a million jabs a day going into American arms. With the unemployment rate — 3.5 percent — at a five-decade low in February 2020, Biden inherited a strong pre-pandemic economy that was already bouncing back strong as the pandemic and lockdowns began to end.

President Donald Trump had also done him a favor at the southern border, getting what was once a real crisis under control by prioritizing strong border security, negotiating a Remain in Mexico policy that saw asylum-seekers await the conclusion of their cases outside the country and instituting a public-health order that kept migrants out while we focused on eradicating the virus.

Biden even looked set to negotiate more peace deals in the Middle East, building on Trump’s Abraham Accords, the first deals in decades between Arab nations and Israel.

But barely four months into his presidency, it’s disaster after disaster as Biden wastes every opportunity his predecessor left him.

US consumer confidence fell unexpectedly this month as rising prices, a hiring slowdown and energy uncertainty hit hard. On Friday, the University of Michigan said its Index of Consumer Sentiment declined to 82.8, from 88.3 in April. Economists had predicted it would rise to 90.4.

It wasn’t the first disappointment for prognosticators this month. Economists expected the country to tack on 1 million jobs in April after seeing gains of 770,000 in March. Instead, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported just 266,000, as the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent.

And then it announced that consumer prices rose 4.2 percent year-over-year in April — far worse than economists had predicted. It was the largest such jump since September 2008, when the financial crisis was at its height. Oh, and core inflation rose 0.8 percent from March to April, the biggest rise in nearly four decades.

You can thank Biden’s focus on expanding government at the expense of everyone else. Democrats (alone) passed his $1.9 trillion COVID “relief” bill — which had little to do with either — in March, as things were finally picking up. Throwing money into the economy without much consideration of its necessity directly led to the inflation we’re seeing now, with the money supply up by 25 percent over last year.

That “relief” bill also extended the $300 weekly federal unemployment supplement to Sept. 6, meaning nearly half of people getting checks make more by staying home than going back to work. Employers coast to coast have cited it as a reason they’re having trouble hiring.

Biden claims the jobs numbers show his two other big proposals ($5 trillion total for “infrastructure” and “families”) are desperately needed, but that “medicine” would mean more disasters, not least because they’re (partly) paid for via huge tax hikes on investments and business.

He’s also adding fear and gloom now, by refusing to rule out making his planned tax hikes retroactive.

Gas prices were already on the rise under Biden before the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline led to long lines at the pump. It now costs $1.05 more per gallon than it did a year ago. With Biden closing the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office and generally vowing to wage war on all fossil fuels, it’s no wonder there’s uncertainty and higher prices.

Nowhere is the self-inflicted nature of Biden’s disasters more plain than on the border. He put a moratorium on deportations his first day in office and ended the Remain in Mexico program as well as all construction on any border barriers. Border apprehensions were at a 20-year high last month, but deportations were at a record monthly low.

And the feds have a record number of unaccompanied minors in custody — around 22,000 — because Biden ordered the public-health rule keeping migrants out to be lifted for solo kids.

Meanwhile, Hamas and its allies have gone on the attack against Israel, leaving it no choice but to defend itself. As Jonathan Schanzer notes, the Biden team’s drive to restore the Iran nuclear deal plainly inspired Tehran’s terrorist clients to start firing, even as it makes Israel less willing to listen to Washington’s efforts to broker a ceasefire.

It’s stunning how much success Biden has managed to reverse in not even four months. With long lines at the pump, slowing growth and rising inflation, it’s looking like the Jimmy Carter era — except that it took Carter years to produce the disasters that this president has fostered in scant months.

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Opinion

Attacking test-in schools is anti-Asian

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Attacking test-in schools is anti-Asian

On Wednesday, a handful of students — including a couple of Brooklyn Tech kids — demonstrated against the specialized high school entrance exam in front of Stuyvesant HS in Lower Manhattan. Teens Take Charge, the group sponsoring the event, chose Stuyvesant as the venue because it is 70 percent Asian and this year just eight black students did well enough on the test to win entry.

What made this affair sad, besides the low turnout, was that The New York Times and NY1 took the rally seriously — thinking this somehow represents a majority opinion. Democratic politicians also pretend that the existence of elite schools, and the tests required to enter them, is a problem. During Thursday’s mayoral debate, only Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia (a Stuyvesant grad) stood up for the entrance exam.

The problem is not the test. It’s a sign of the larger problem of too many underperforming elementary and middle schools in our city — and the absence of Gifted & Talented classes — in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The SHSAT is a color-blind admissions test where neither political influence nor money can buy entrance. For over 80 years, these schools have offered advancement to all through a high-quality, merit-driven education.

Remarkably, many of the same voices decrying the surge in anti-Asian assaults as the product of “systemic racism” also denounce a race-blind exam that happens to lead to elite high schools being predominantly Asian high schools, even suggesting that this, too, is somehow the product of (extremely well-hidden?) racism.

Dropping admission standards for the specialized high schools means sending in students who aren’t prepared for the rigorous workload, which helps no one and robs others of the challenging education they’ve earned. It’s the pursuit of “equity” at the expense of justice and excellence.

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