It is hard to imagine a worse piece of legislation than the so-called Covid response bill that has passed the House and now is being debated in the Senate.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, demanded that the 628-page bill be read in its entirety on the Senate floor yesterday and last night, but few of his colleagues stayed to listen. Here’s a little of what they would have learned:
Only a fraction of the $1.9 trillion in new deficit spending goes to Covid response. A massive amount of spending goes to states and localities that don’t need it—and the funds disproportionately go to Blue states which imposed the most severe lockdowns. Checks will go to households that haven’t been negatively affected by Covid. Pension plans will be bailed out. Brian Blase has detailed the bill’s atrociously misguided health insurance subsidies in a paper here and a New York Post piece here, as has Doug Badger in op-eds here and here.
Brian Blase tweeted yesterday: “Under Dems #ACA expansion proposal, rich households will qualify for large health insurance subsidies, particularly in areas of the country where ACA resulted in very high premiums.”
His example: In Prescott, Arizona, a family of five with a 60-year-old household head and a $150,000 income could qualify for an Obamacare health insurance subsidy of $37,874 a year! A similar family could earn more than double that and still receive a subsidy of more than $20,000. The subsidies wouldn’t end until earnings topped well over half a million dollars.
And there is so much more wrong with the bill.
For starters, despite massive funding, there is little or no assurance that schools will be opened quickly. Many studies have shown that there is very little risk to children or teachers or spread of infection in schools that have reopened. But millions of children are still locked out, with devastating results.
Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins University professor, reported in an interview on the psychological toll that Covid has taken on school-age children. Shockingly, he says a child is 10 times more likely to die of suicide than of Covid. Data from the “nonprofit National Fair Health study [found]… a 300% increase in kids coming to us as doctors because they tried to hurt themselves, a 63% increase in overdoses. 23% of all emergency room visits at one point last year were from mental illness complaints,” Dr. Makary said.
The grab-bag of a bill is getting larger as it moves to the Senate, with the federal COBRA subsidies boosted from 85% of the premium cost to 100%.
In an effort to use the pandemic to expand the welfare state, the bill also would take a giant leap toward a federally provided “universal basic income” (UBI). AEI President Robert Doar wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week that “Universal basic income is about to arrive in America.
“Congressional Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus bill provides for no-strings attached checks, limited only to parents of children under 18. This UBI for parents is billed as pandemic relief, but its real purpose is to put a stake in the heart of work-based welfare reform.” Doar writes, “a nonworking single parent with two preschool-age children and one in grade school …could receive $18,360 in combined annual income. That’s the equivalent, without accounting for taxes, of working 28 hours a week at $12.50 an hour. On top of that, the family would receive health insurance from Medicaid, and it may also receive housing and child-care assistance.” People would become wards of the state, and a generation of children would not see the value and dignity of work by their parents’ example.
The late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned at the dawn of the welfare state in the 1960s of the damage government welfare payments can do in dissolving families and discouraging work. After three decades of destruction, former President Bill Clinton signed the welfare to work bill passed by a Republican Congress in the 1990s. Now, 25 years later, a new generation of Democrats is intent on making the original mistake again, under the guise of Covid relief.
The House version of the bill passed without any Republican votes. The Senate version will likely too, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie, sending it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. This is a toxic and partisan way to start a new administration.
I recommend an article in The Atlantic by contributor Zeynep Tufekci who offers offering a keen analysis of the misguided and deadly public health response to Covid. In “5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating,” she writes, “One might have expected the initial approval of the coronavirus vaccines to spark…jubilation,” as the polio vaccine did in the 1950s, but “neither the reporting nor the public-health messaging has reflected the truly amazing reality of these vaccines.” Instead, the media have continued to focus on “worst-case scenarios and claims of impending catastrophe.”
She writes that the “fallacies and pitfalls” of “public-health messaging, as well as media coverage, have played an outsize role in derailing an effective pandemic response.” People who are vaccinated are told they still can’t get on with their lives, for example, partly because of the “mistrust and paternalism that some public health agencies and experts have exhibited toward the public,” sapping energy and individual initiative.
The article is long but very much worth reading to understand what public health advisories make sense (wearing masks at parks and beaches does not) and what needs to be done to shore up our public health, civic, and political institutions to better prepare for the inevitable next pandemic.
“Offering clear guidance on how this will end can help strengthen people’s resolve to endure whatever is necessary for the moment—even if they are still unvaccinated—by building warranted and realistic anticipation of the pandemic’s end,” Tufekci writes.