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Team Biden making up excuses for shuttered schools to please unions

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Team Biden making up excuses for shuttered schools to please unions

Remember the good old days, when the issue of reopening schools to full-time, in-class instruction was about COVID? It’s not about helping people avoid contracting the novel coronavirus any longer.

Now it’s about saving them from . . . mold. And asthma. And other conditions that have nothing whatever to do with COVID and everything to do with coming up with reasons why schools should remain closed until teachers unions decide it’s all right for their members to go back to doing what teachers have done since the days of ancient Athens — instruct their charges in person. Face to face.

Professional education journalists and Democratic politicians shift the goalposts daily, to make it harder and more complicated, not easier, to get kids back in a classroom with a teacher in front of them.

Case in point: The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, who archly informs us that “many schools were not healthy environments for human beings before the pandemic. In too many places, this is the ordinary: crumbling buildings, unhealthy air quality, bugs and rodents, mold, broken or nonexistent air conditioning and heaters, nonfunctioning toilets, etc. If you don’t think that takes a daily toll on everybody inside a school, guess again.”

By The Washington Post’s lights, before we can reestablish the central precept that most kids need to learn in a school, we must address ancillary health concerns that have nothing whatsoever to do with COVID-19.

Team Biden is part of the problem. After she said flatly on Feb. 3 that “there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen,” newly minted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky was taken to the woodshed by her White House bosses. She came back chastened with new “guidance” that just moved the goalposts to higher standards of cleanliness beyond the virus.

Walensky told reporters: “We very much advocate for another layer of mitigation to be improved ventilation. And that is not just really for COVID-19, but that is for many other things, that public health things that will improve when we improve ventilation in our school, including things like asthma and exposure to mold.”

Note carefully: This is guidance that’s “not just really for COVID-19.” Once again, all we should be discussing at this moment is the necessity or lack thereof of the emergency declarations that sent tens of millions of American kids into their bedrooms to try and learn somehow through Zoom.

Such moves need to be ended the minute the overwhelming crisis has passed.

We shouldn’t be trying to mitigate asthma right now. We shouldn’t be trying to limit exposure to mold. We should be trying to save a generation from illiteracy, ignorance and existential despair.

But why should we care about the students, when what we really need to do is empower the “stakeholders” in education? At the same news conference where Walensky spelled out the guidance she herself would likely have classified as dilatory nonsense a month earlier, a new Department of Education official named Donna Harris-Aikens took to the podium to discuss the process by which the guidance was developed.

“We have talked to a variety of stakeholders,” Harris-Aikens said, “and look forward to continuing our robust engagement with all sorts of stakeholders, not only in the school community but in the community at large. That includes superintendents, principals, civil-rights groups and all sorts of other folks.”

I was unaware that “civil-rights groups” are specialists in the science of disease transmission — which is, I want to point out again, the sole basis on which any of these decisions should be made. That we have moved beyond the data into the realm of the special-interest wish list should be galling to everyone who expressed indignation at the way the Trump administration was supposedly elevating politics over science.

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Opinion

Why does it take a Post story to get a public-health problem fixed?

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Why does it take a Post story to get a public-health problem fixed?

Within hours of The Post’s report of a festering junk heap on an Upper West Side side street, the city Sanitation Department showed up with NYPD support to handle the eye-sore. We’re glad we got results, but why did area residents’ complaints go unheeded for weeks?

The hoarder turns out to be a former fashion designer who admits he has “no aspirations for sanity whatsoever,” so this is yet another failure of the city’s mental-health system, too. That he’s not homeless is no excuse for the city allowing him to mound up chairs, books, baby toys, bedspreads and other of trash over the course of months.

Leaving property unattended on a public sidewalk is against the law, and the makeshift flea market (he occasional got some gentle soul to buy some of his junk) was beginning to butt up against a nearby school.

“We’re trying to do the best we can. We’re trying to help him,” said a Department of Homeless Services rep. But what about the garbage?

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer says she wrote city officials in November to complain about the junk pile, and neighbors had complained to police for weeks and saw cops speaking with the man.

A neighborhood group featured it on social media, too. But nothing happened. Nor does the belated cleanup mean the man is getting the help he so clearly needs. Where’s Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC?

Such is #DeBlasio’s New York, where public problems fester until it bad publicity threatens.

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Democrats’ #MeToo hypocrisy and other commentary

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Democrats' #MeToo hypocrisy and other commentary

Cuomo watch: Democrats’ #MeToo Hypocrisy

Gov. Cuomo should be facing “explicit calls to resign from President Biden on down, if you apply the standard that Democrats set for similar allegations against Republicans,” reason Axios’ Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen. “And it’s not a close call.” During the #MeToo moment, Democrats “led the charge” in purging powerful men in politics, media, fashion and the movies for exploiting and harassing young women. Their silence now “seems more strange — and unacceptable by their own standards — by the hour.” Their only plausible explanation would be to claim Cuomo’s three accusers “are exaggerating or misremembering things.” Yet that’s “precisely what Democrats said was unacceptable in GOP cases.”

Media desk: Nursing-Home-Scandal Deflection

Cuomo is “finally getting his comeuppance,” but it’s odd that the backlash is for a few “icky” comments and not “for killing thousands of nursing-home residents,” notes Spectator USA’s Amber Athey. The media are trying to establish “a pattern of abusive behavior” to distract from the real scandal, which “might force progressives to challenge many of the lockdown policies they have so eagerly embraced since last year.” Alas, “introspection and mea culpas aren’t the left’s strong suit”; they would rather cover up the “far more serious and damaging story” — and it’s obvious which that is: “I don’t much care if Andrew Cuomo is a bit sleazy. I do care that, in his arrogant incompetence, he might have killed my grandmother.”

Education beat: Beyond Student-Debt Relief

There is a better way to deal with student debt than loan forgiveness, argues Beth Akers at National Review. It’s called income-driven repayment, and it ties monthly payments to borrowers’ income, minimizing “moral hazard” and, “in a true progressive manner,” delivering more benefits to people who took on debt to go college but didn’t see the ­return they expected in the form of a high-paying job. Compare that to loan-forgiveness programs that would “encourage students to borrow more than they would have otherwise, attend more expensive schools and make less of an effort to constrain living expenses.” Universities would also hike prices. IDR loans are already available, but they need to be “replaced with a single user-friendly” plan that can be “universally marketed and better understood.”

Foreign desk: Beware Playing Politics With MBS

President Biden seeks an easy human-rights win by tightening the screws on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman — but, warns Karen Elliott House at The New York Sun, “playing politics with an ally in such a dangerous part of the world” is risky business. Biden recently released an old intel report linking MBS to the killing of a Saudi journalist, inviting “relentless pressure from Democrats on the left of his party” to squeeze Riyadh. But “the Biden team is exposing its own hypocrisy,” since the president is determined to ­renew talks with the Tehran regime, which has gallons of dissident blood on its hands. Then, too, Team Biden ignores the fact that “MBS has, over the past four years, engineered a breathtaking expansion of individual liberty” by curbing the religious establishment — reforms that a hard-line stance from Washington could undo.

Centrist: Due Process Matters

In today’s “hair-triggered culture of Twitter attacks and ‘canceling’ opponents, due process is treated as hopelessly arcane and inconvenient,” observes Jonathan Turley at The Hill. As Gov. Cuomo is proving, it’s “rarely valued until its loss becomes personal.” When now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh faced sexual-assault allegations, Cuomo “effectively called Kavanaugh a rapist, without any due process.” Still, now that the governor is facing his own allegations, “Cuomo deserves due process,” even after “loudly denying it for others.” Yes, it would be easy to leave the guv “to the mob and call it poetic justice,” but real justice demands that he “receive all of the due process he denied others — not because he deserves it, but because he embodies the costs of ignoring it.”

— Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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Opinion

‘Fiscally conservative’ war hawks are trying to defraud GOP voters — again

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‘Fiscally conservative’ war hawks are trying to defraud GOP voters — again

With the Republican loss in the 2020 election, there is a great deal of debate on where the party and the wider conservative movement are headed. According to betting markets, the 2024 field is wide open. The odds-on favorite is former President Donald Trump, but even he only has around a 20 percent chance as of this writing. In second place is Nikki Haley.

The former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador is an object of Beltway fascination, as can be seen in a recent feature profile in Politico. But what would a candidate or President Haley stand for? Would her views jibe with those of the working-class voters who propelled her ex-boss’ unlikely journey to the Oval Office?

If her new organization, Stand for America, is any indication, the answer is no. Instead, it looks Haley will offer the old and tired combination that GOP primary voters decisively rejected in 2016: fiscal conservatism married with a hawkish foreign policy. Whether or not this fusion has a chance politically, basic arithmetic shows that what are likely to be the two pillars of the Haley 2024 campaign are in contradiction.

Not long ago, Haley complained about Democrats wanting to bring back earmarks, highlighting a $50 million project for an indoor rainforest in Iowa. But Americans who believe that Washington should live within its means must see through what is a transparent fraud: Haley frets about a $50 million indoor rainforest — while supporting a foreign policy that costs trillions.

Fact is, pork-barrel projects are a drop in the feds’ sea of red ink. In 2019, the US government spent $4.4 trillion. While tens of millions of dollars may seem like a lot of money, projects in that range shouldn’t be the focus of true budget hawks.

Where does most of the budget go? About half to entitlements, which are politically untouchable. The next category, however, is the military, which amounted to 3.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2019. At the height of the War on Terror, the numbers were higher; in 2010, the armed forces consumed 4.5 percent of GDP, and we could easily return to such numbers under the budgets preferred by many Republicans.

To see how meaningless pork-barrel projects are in the grand scheme of things, we should return to the indoor rainforest that so upset Haley. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, as of 2019, the post-9/11 wars had a long-term cost to the United States of around $6.4 trillion. About $2 trillion of that was wasted on Afghanistan alone, with the Taliban now controlling more land than it did in the years immediately after the 2001 invasion.

If the price of an indoor rainforest is $50 million, then the Afghan War has cost taxpayers 40,000 times as much. No, that isn’t a typo: For the price of being in Afghanistan, the federal government could have built an indoor rainforest every 80 square miles across the entire continental United States, or, if it preferred, 13 in each US county.

Perhaps that wouldn’t be the best use of government money. But the point is this: It’s undeniable that foreign wars have been a massive drain on the nation’s resources. Trumpian Populists and progressives would like to see the government invest money at home. But even those who think budgetary restraint is important shouldn’t be manipulated by mathematically ignorant arguments made by those who seek power.

War hawks can’t honestly claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism while only attacking relatively minuscule pork-barrel projects. If American dollars are better spent in places like Afghanistan and the South China Sea than at home, fine. But politicians should make that case directly to the American voter, not try to burnish their fiscal reputations by attacking puny projects while leaving untouched far heftier expenditures.

Republican strategists and activists beware: The combination of opposition to indoor rainforests and support for more pointless war isn’t the path to either electoral success or fiscal responsibility.

Richard Hanania is president of the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology and a research fellow at Defense Priorities.

Twitter: @RichardHanania

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