By Dr. Thomas Patterson |
Let’s face it. America botched its response to the COVID pandemic.
Traditionally, as in the Spanish flu and polio pandemics, authorities have recommended common sense public health measures and protected the vulnerable. This time, they ordered sweeping lockdowns of the economy and closed schools, churches, and businesses.
The results were economic devastation, educational stagnation, greater income inequality, and loss of civic life.
Sweden, even though it has a reputation for a more collectivist mindset than our “land of the free” got it right. Their health officials adopted a live-and-let-live strategy, mostly rejecting lockdowns and letting normal life go on.
Initially, health outcomes suffered some, partly because Swedes neglected to adequately protect their nursing homes. But today, probably because of herd immunity, Sweden’s death rate is just over 1614 per million, compared to 2335 in Britain and 2836 in the US.
Even better, Sweden avoided the multiple consequences Americans now face. GDP growth is projected to be 5% larger than pre-pandemic, and they don’t face a mountain of future debt. Since schools stayed open without face masks, there were no lost years of education and test scores are up.
Unfortunately, America’s response to the self-inflicted wounds caused by our COVID panic caused yet more harm. When confronted with the results of their mismanagement, America’s governing leftists reverted to their universal solution for all ills: spend more money.
So last March, President Biden triumphantly announced “help is here” as he signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. We were assured that the truly massive spending would help defeat the pandemic, reopen schools, and revitalize the economy, creating at least 4 million additional jobs.
We now know the bill was a colossal failure. We didn’t get more jobs, but we did get ominous inflation even though Biden had insisted that “no serious economist” predicted inflation as a result of the spending surge.
The inflation was totally predictable. At least 1.8 million people declined to reenter the workforce when the $300 per week unemployment benefit supplement was extended. That’s understandable since one study indicated that in 19 states, a family of four with two “unemployed” adults could receive $100,000 in total government benefits.
Meanwhile, trillions more were pumped into the economy. This excess demand, combined with fewer goods and services being produced, was the perfect recipe for inflation, which “serious economists” now acknowledge is probably here to stay.
Why did the plan have no effect on COVID? Answer: it didn’t really try. PolitiFact concluded only 10% of the bill addressed COVID health impacts and 1% went to advancing vaccines, the most effective way to impact serious disease.
Instead, the ever-vigilant spenders saw their chance to enact a wish list and took it. Their dreams that came true included $20 million for “preservation of Native American languages,” raising Obamacare subsidies, and a massive expansion of the child tax credit.
Since the feds are sitting on so much surplus funding (sarcasm alert), $350 billion went to state and local governments to help them weather the pandemic. But even when the bill was being considered, it was already clear that state-local tax revenues were growing, and their budget crisis never materialized. It was simply an excuse for feds to shovel out money, mostly to their friends in Democrat states.
Public schools were also showered with $120 billion to help them reopen safely. But the funds came with no requirements attached. By the end of FYI 2022, only $40 billion will have been spent, leaving education administrators with an $80 billion slush fund. Thanks, COVID.
So, another $1.9 trillion accumulates onto our debt load, and we have precious little to show for it. We have fewer jobs than were predicted in the “baseline” without the bill, and there was minimal or no effect on the course of the pandemic.
Lesson learned? Nah. Biden preposterously proposes spending yet more on Build Back Better, an even larger collection of handouts, as an inflation cure. Yet our debt is not only higher than ever ($30 trillion) but rising interest rates now will make our debt service more expensive and hasten the Day of Reckoning.
When will they ever learn?