Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the Covid-19 Ratchet Effect?

Nearly 13 months after the first confirmed Covid-19 infection in the US, President Biden held a memorial as the country surpassed 500,000 deaths attributed to the pandemic. Mourning a great tragedy, President Biden noted these casualties surpass the lives lost during WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War combined.

While alarmingly high fatalities signify a time of immense suffering, recent developments suggest the worst of the pandemic may be behind us. Covid-19 fatalities, cases, and hospitalizations are decreasing. Many universities plan to offer more in-person instruction during this fall. Texas ended its lockdown and mask mandate. 

The Debt—Who Cares?

Regardless of where you stand in regard to the American Rescue Plan, it is mind-boggling to see how little anyone in positions of political responsibility seems to care about the debt, perhaps the single most important issue facing the U.S. economy in the next few years. The same can be said of most advanced economies.

In 2009, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the debt of the world’s advanced economies shot up the equivalent of a bit more than 10 percent of their GDP; in 2020/21, as a result of efforts to stimulate the economy in the wake of the pandemic, the debt of those same countries increased by the equivalent of almost 19 percent of their GDP. The average national debt for the entire group is now well above the size of their economies.

Congress Institutionalizes Dangerous Distortions of Language

The rules package for the 117th Congress requires pronouns to “to be gender neutral or removes references to gender, as appropriate, to ensure we are inclusive of all Members, Delegates, Resident Commissioners and their families—including those who are nonbinary.” The rules banish words like father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, or aunt. In strict compliance, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat and an ordained United Methodist minister, concluded his prayer with “Amen and a-woman.”

Rushing Toward the Fiscal Cliff

Last week President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which among other things will provide direct payments of $1,400 to many Americans, and extend a financial supplement to unemployment payments. It’s difficult to comprehend numbers as big as $1.9 trillion, but here are some ways to think about it.

The US population is about 330 million, so if $1.9 trillion was just divided up evenly and given to every American, each person could receive $5,758. A family of four would get $23,030. Given a choice, would most Americans prefer that everyone receive that much cash, or have the bill as it passed, where some get $1,400?

Socialism Kills Your Sex Life

A few years ago the New York Times published an article claiming that women who lived under communism in East Germany reported more sexual satisfaction than their capitalist counterparts in West Germany. The study, which found that women behind the Iron Curtain reported more orgasms, was used to suggest that communism benefits women in terms of their sex life.

I wrote a response to that piece, pointing out how sex under former communist regimes was far from wonderful. Under Nicolae Ceausescu, for example, unmarried Romanians over age 25 were fined. Without access to birth control, the number of illegal abortions spiked. I also posited that maybe people had more sex in East Germany because they lacked other alternative activities as a means of bonding with their partners or for recreation. (Even if the sex is bad, the law of large numbers would work in their favor.)

Investigation of NIH Wuhan Funding Overdue but Welcome

As Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner reports, House Republicans are calling for an investigation of National Institutes of Health funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The GOP members said in statement: “We are gravely concerned about the NIH’s relationship with both EcoHealth and WIV, and the Agency’s handling of allegations that the COVID-19 pandemic was potentially caused by an NIH-funded laboratory at WIV. We also are alarmed that WIV is eligible to receive additional funding from the NIH through 2024.”

The $1.9 Trillion “Rescue” Plan May Cause Small Uptick in the Short Term, but Will Only Add to Future Economic Growth Woes

The Congressional Budget Office has issued its 2021 Long-Term Budget Outlook months ahead of its usual schedule. The CBO forecasts that the publicly held portion of the national debt will grow to more than double the size of the U.S. economy during the next 30 years.

S. Fred Singer, Friend and Courageous Man of Science

The world-renowned astrophysicist Siegfried Fred Singer (1924–2020) passed away on April 6, 2020, at the age of 95. Fred was Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, and since 1993 we were proud to have him as a dear friend and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

Social Media Platform Bias: It’s Their Right, But...

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have de-platformed some (most notably, Donald Trump) and have been censoring the posts of others. Google has adjusted their “search algorithms” so that left-leaning results dominate sources from the political right. I’ve seen a lot of people who lean toward limited government support government intervention to limit the bias those platforms seem to show (most recently, here), but doing so would be a mistake. It would shift to government the power that these dominant social media platforms now have.

Google, Facebook, and the others are private companies and people voluntarily choose to use their services. Freedom-loving people should not advocate interfering with those voluntary relationships. If people dislike using those platforms because of their biases, they have the right to start their own. People of a certain age will remember when Myspace was the dominant social media platform, only to be displaced by Facebook.

Is the FBI a Private Investigator? Questions Arise in Unsolved “Death” of DHS Whistleblower

As its name implies, the FBI is all about investigation, but a recent case raises questions about the bureau’s performance in that role.

February 21 marked one year since Department of Homeland Security whistleblower Philip Haney, author of See Something Say Nothing, was “found deceased” in Amador County, California. Initial reports of suicide were false, and the sheriff found a firearm at the scene, along with Haney’s computer, a thumb drive, and a trove of documents. The sheriff gave the devices and documents to the FBI.

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