Joe Biden’s “American Recovery Plan”

“Drink coffee and do stupid things even faster” — Sign in a coffee shop. 

Apropos the sign, an avalanche of stupidity is coming our way.  Just 5 days away from his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden has outlined the first part of his “American Recovery Plan”. It is virtually indistinguishable from the progressive wish list Nancy Pelosi has been going on about for the last 20 years or so. The only difference is that now progressives actually have a shot of getting what they have always wished for. 

Consider just some of the proposals being put forward in the spectacularly misnamed American Recovery plan. To begin with, the price tag for this monstrosity is $1.9 trillion. That comes right after the $900 billion relief package Congress passed just last month. Not to mention the $2.2 trillion CARES act Congress passed in March of 2020. And this is only phase 1 of the Biden proposal. He promises more, fully backed by Bernie Sanders as the upcoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee. 

If Congress approves the Biden phase 1 package it would amount to $5 trillion in additional spending thus far for Covid and Covid marketed relief efforts. That spending is over and above the normal appropriations for running the government, all passed in a 10 month period. And it’s all done with borrowed money.

So let’s look at some specific proposals. Among other things that have absolutely nothing to do with Covid, Biden plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If enacted, this is guaranteed to make things worse for the people who are the supposed beneficiaries. 

The unemployment rate is highest for people with low incomes and relatively little formal training. Plenty of these people work in the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants, which are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Recent survey data suggest that about 110,000 restaurants, about 17% of the total, have closed their doors permanently because of Covid. 

The Biden solution is to raise the cost of labor for an industry in free fall. Very clever. Not only that, the restaurants that survive will simply switch their compensation systems to a European style one in which customer costs associated with tipping are built into menu prices (service compris) and tips are eliminated. The effect will be lost jobs and reduced employee compensation for those who keep their jobs.  Oh, and the survivors’ tax bills will rise because, let’s face it, virtually nobody reports all their tips to the IRS. 

Other goodies in the package include checks for $1,400 to round it up to $2,000. Schumer and Pelosi  have indicated that they are enthusiastically on board.  What this is supposed to accomplish beyond the buying of votes is left unspecified. And of course, this is to be financed, by more borrowing, because we are assured “there is plenty of money available”.

Another $350 billion or so is slated for “emergency” relief for state and local government finances. Translated into English, this means that the states that manage their finances well will be required to bail out predominantly blue state public pension plans that are underfunded to the point where in some cases, like Illinois, they are approaching insolvency. And not to put too fine a point on it, the sorry state of pension finance has nothing whatsoever to do with Covid. Bailing them out will just put off the day of reckoning until it gets  worse. 

Another $170 billion will be forked out “so that schools can re-open”. But of course, the schools didn’t need to close and stay closed in the first place. This is just a gift to the politically powerful teachers unions who have argued for closing the schools and keeping them closed. 

Private schools have opened independent of the state. And not just the elite ones. The K- 12 Catholic schools in Massachusetts opened successfully and have had almost no Covid infections. In other places, relatively affluent parents (like here in Fairfax County) have hired private tutors to run learning pods for groups of children. 

Needless to say, the teachers unions have opposed these efforts while fighting to keep the schools shut down for in-person learning. This is in spite of the fact that already the data clearly show a catastrophic fall-off in the academic performance of disadvantaged children. Let’s face it, the public schools are run for the benefit of the staff, not the kids. That’s why the kids are being sacrificed.

As more details of the Biden plan seep out, it will become clear to all with eyes to see that the Biden trajectory is simply Obama redux on steroids (or perhaps coffee).  It will be all about centralization, command and control. The crushing hand of the state will weigh in on every decision. Fantasies aside; there is nothing moderate about it. 

JFB

Notes, Asides & Absurdities Jan 14, 2021.

“Try Him Now” Matthew Continetti writes referring to the second Trump impeachment. It is an article that should not be missed. 

David Horowitz has noted that “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, founding member of the Squad, has just illustrated the point nicely. In the wake of the Capitol riot she has called for a “truth and reconciliation or media literacy initiatives (sic)” to “rein in” the media. 

John Yoo writes that Donald Trump was rightfully impeached, but that he should not be convicted. Among other reasons why he writes that “Trump’s conduct does not rise to the level of criminal incitement”. But later he also goes on to say that the founders did not believe that impeachment (and presumably conviction) requires a criminal act. How’s that again? See Kevin Williamson on this. 

Guess who is about to become Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, which oversees budgeting and spending for the federal government? Why, that honor will go to none other than Bernie Sanders. Sanders has promised to “go big” in his spending plans.

Under Senate Rules the majority can use budget reconciliation to avoid the filibuster and pass bills without any Republican votes. Sanders has already promised to “go big” using this route for various spending proposals on pretty much the entire progressive wish list. 

The probable next chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Ron Wyden. Among other things, Wyden has proposed taxing unrealized capital gains. Wyden also proposes to “restore humanity” to HHS by disposing of conscience exemptions for religious organizations. Now he will be in a position to actual unleash his proposals.

Speaking of HHS, President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Xavier Becerra to run the organization as its new Cabinet Secretary. Mr. Becerra has absolutely no experience in the field, but he does have extensive experience, as California’s Attorney General, in suing the Little Sisters of the Poor for their refusal to finance employee purchases of contraceptives and abortafacients. He is also a fan of federal funding of abortion on demand. Presumably he is part of Mr. Biden’s moderate “healing agenda”. 

Welcome to progressive governance.

JFB


Impeachment Redux

Clowns to the left of me, 

Jokers to the right…

From “Stuck in the Middle With you” written by Gerry Rafferty. 

It seems reasonably clear that Donald J. Trump, who has by now passed Richard M Nixon in the proverbial race to the bottom, has undoubtedly committed an impeachable offense. It is also reasonably clear that the Democratic Party, in its ongoing love affair with incompetence, is regrettably about to go out of its way to make removing him from office nearly impossible.

The single article of impeachment they are poised to pass is going to accuse Trump of inciting an insurrection. The problem is that the wording is an invitation to partisan sniping and the making of legal arguments that conflate Trump’s political offense with the criminal law. Not only is this going to make a conviction impossible, it is entirely unnecessary. 

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy suggests language that avoids these traps and gets to the heart of the matter. He writes: 

“If what the Democrats truly want is bipartisan consensus in the service of national security, rather than political combat, the articles of impeachment they plan to file should charge the president with (a) subversion of the Constitution’s electoral process, particularly the Twelfth Amendment counting of the sovereign states’ electoral votes; (b) recklessly encouraging a raucous political demonstration that foreseeably devolved into a violent storming of the seat of our government; and (c) depraved indifference to the welfare of the vice president, Congress, security personnel, and other Americans who were in and around the Capitol on January 6.”

The charges contained in McCarthy’s language appear to be beyond dispute. Congress could (and should) pass such an article with dispatch and send it along to the Senate. If the Senate wants to pretend it can’t find a way to vote on the article before January 20, or at least vote to censure Trump, so be it. What had heretofore been known as The Party of Lincoln, will have shown itself to be largely populated by cowering fools, utterly unwilling to stand up to mob violence, and incapable of protecting liberty and our institutions. 

Add to that the cynical calculations of the Democrats, some of whom wish to delay an impeachment trial until after Trump has left office, a course of action Jim Clyburn has suggested. The stated reason for this is that Trump could then be barred from office in the future. 

That is nonsense, for two reasons. First, the impeachment power was designed for removal from office, not punishment. After removal, punishment can be meted out the usual way. Second, As Bruce Ackerman points out in the Washington Post, Congress can ban Trump from holding federal office in the future using Section 3 of the 14th amendment. They could do so by finding that he engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, such a finding would not require an impeachment conviction. It would require a simple majority in both houses of Congress. That should be doable. 

If Congress decides to wait months to hold an impeachment trial (at which time Chuck Schumer will be majority leader) it will be simply because they wish to use it as a partisan cudgel while they pass the Party’s progressive wish list, including trillions in new “stimulus” that doesn’t stimulate.  All the talk of getting rid of Trump “immediately” will have been shown to be just that. Talk. And it will be politics as usual. 

JFB

Joe Biden–Man of Science

Joe Biden, who during the campaign repeatedly insisted that he relied on “the science” in formulating policy proposals has just tossed science overboard. According to the Washington Post, a spokesman for the President-elect said that the incoming administration “…will release nearly every available dose of vaccine in the United States after Biden takes office Jan. 20 to get supplies quickly out to the states.”

The result of this policy change is to change the vaccination regimen so that the second shot—the booster shot—will be given 84 days after the first shot rather than the 21 to 28 days for which the vaccines were scientifically tested. 

When Britain first proposed a three-month wait for the booster shot, scientists in the U.S., Europe and the World Health Organization were, in the words of the Washington Post, “dubious”. Earlier this week the FDA said such a move would be premature and “not rooted solidly in the evidence”.  Moreover, the testing done so far suggests the efficacy of getting only 1 shot of the vaccine slips from 95% down to only 52%—a staggering fall. 

But it allows Joe Biden to look like he is doing something, which of course, is the point of the exercise. 

The proposed policy change is liable to do far more harm than good. The current policy is to put the most vulnerable and front line medical personnel first for the 2 shot regimen.  The new policy will leave the most vulnerable more exposed to a fatal infection than they would have been otherwise, without necessarily doing anything to reduce the spread f the disease. 

To the extent that more people have limited protection, but the most vulnerable have less, there is a greater likelihood that the most vulnerable will suffer more fatalities. But it doesn’t end there. Providing a broader range of the population with limited protection will in all likelihood protect people who don’t need it at the expense of people who do. Not only that, delaying the second shot, gives the virus more time to adapt. This increases the time that the virus has to adapt to the new (and weaker) vaccine and develop resistance to it. 

The likely end result will be to (1) increase the fatality of the disease with older, more vulnerable populations, while (2) having little to no effect on the rest of the population and (3) delaying the onset of herd immunity.

But it will show that Joe Biden is doing something. 

There actually is something that can be done about the slow rate of vaccine take-up. The first thing to do is to understand the problem, which is a logistics problem, not a supply problem. The most difficult part of any complex distribution network is the “last mile”. A bureaucratic command-and-control system implemented by government is the last way a complex distribution system should be engineered. 

The obvious way to handle the problem is to go to people who are experts at this. They live in the private sector at places like Amazon, Walmart, CVS and the like. Having financed the development of the vaccines, which was a good idea, government should contract with the private sector to handle distribution. That would solve the problem, or at least improve distribution efficiency. 

Unfortunately, it is also something that progressive control freaks are unlikely to do. 

JFB

Impeach and Convict Him. Now.

The facts of the case are clear. President Donald J. Trump incited a mob that subsequently attacked the Capitol building where Congress was in session. The attack was designed to intimidate Congress, prevent them performing their Constitutional duty to properly count the electoral votes of all the states, invalidate Biden’s victory, overturn the election and grant Trump a second term. Anyone who doubts this has merely to read the transcript of Trump’s hour long rant in which he urged the crowd to march down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Assuming Trump does not resign in the hours ahead, Speaker Pelosi should, by Tuesday at the latest, put a single article of impeachment on the floor for a vote. That article should accuse Trump of incitement to insurrection. It will pass. The Democratic House would impeach Trump for littering, given the chance. 

The argument that there is not enough time for the House to reconvene and vote on a single article of impeachment simply does not hold water. If House members cannot be stirred enough to come back to Washington for a matter of this magnitude, the voters should be made aware of it. Further, the issue does not require a lot of fact finding. We all know what Trump did. His speech inciting the crowd is on television. 

There is an argument that Trump’s speech to the crowd was reckless but not sufficiently reckless to give rise to criminal liability. That argument rests on the difficulty, if not impossibility of (1) proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt, and (2) the first amendment protection of speech.  These arguments are both correct and irrelevant. 

Impeachment requires the commission of High Crimes and Misdemeanors. But those High Crimes and Misdemeanors should not be understood to require a violation of a criminal statute. Referring to impeachment Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 65, “The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust, …”. What President Trump did was precisely that. 

If it so desired, the House could surely report out an article of impeachment by Thursday, January 14. That would give the Senate several days to debate and then vote on the proposition. That would provide two immense benefits. First, and most importantly, it would put each Senator on record. Second, if successful, it would prevent Trump from ever holding office again. 

The importance of holding Trump to account for his behavior cannot be overemphasized. By inciting the crowd to riot, he is not only at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of at least 5 people; he also provoked an attack on the foundations of the Republic and constitutional governance. This from a man who took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. 

Trump incited a mob to attack Congress when it was fulfilling its constitutional duties in order to overturn an election, an election Trump lost. In so doing he launched a full fledged attack on the lawful foundations of our constitutional republic.  If that is not sufficient to require removal from office, then nothing is. 

JFB