URLs du Jour

2021-05-20

[Amazon Link]

  • Spoiler: We Are, Unsurprisingly, Number One. I'm a sucker for state-vs-state comparisons from Wallethub, even more so when the winner is correct. So here's their States with the Best & Worst Taxpayer ROI.

    Tax Day can be a painful reminder of how much we have to invest in federal, state and local governments, though many of us are unaware of exactly what they give us in return. As a result, this creates a disconnect in the minds of taxpayers between the amount of money we should fork over on Tax Day (May 17 this year) – and how much we deserve in return.

    Americans have looked at taxes with especially high scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 74% think the government hasn’t handled their tax dollars wisely during this crisis, according to WalletHub’s Taxpayer Survey. We do know, however, that taxpayer return on investment, or ROI, varies based where one lives. Federal income-tax rates are uniform across the nation, yet some states receive far more federal funding than others. Different states have also received vastly different amounts of COVID-19 aid.

    Federal taxes and support are only part of the story, though. Different states have dramatically different tax burdens. This begs the question of whether people in high-tax states receive superior government services. Likewise, are low-tax states more efficient or do they receive low-quality services? In short, where do taxpayers get the most and least bang for their buck?

    Ok, so the Wallethub folks don't know how to use "begs the question" correctly.

    I could (further) gripe on the methodology. A number of their "ROI" metrics are only weakly tied to the efficiency of state and local government. For example, one of their "double weight" measures is "Median Annual Household Income"; there's no reason to give the state government credit for the income of its citizenry.


  • "Life of Julia" Cut Short. Peter Suderman notes that some government agencies have a negative ROI: The Pandemic Could Have Been Over Much Sooner—If Not for the FDA.

    We will be debating the effectiveness and legality of coronavirus policies for a decade or more (one possibility is that none of those policies made much difference in any direction). But the clearest lesson from this last year or so is that the COVID-19 vaccines work, and the faster you can roll them out to the public, the sooner your pandemic will be over.

    So I think it's worth imagining an alternate timeline in which the FDA had not slowed the drug rollout at critical junctures, costing lives and allowing deep social disruptions to persist for longer than necessary.

    The decline in death in the United States tracks almost perfectly with vaccination. You can see similar correlations in other countries that have widespread vaccination, such as the U.K. and Israel, which has vaccinated even more of its population than the United States. Everywhere there is broad vaccination, deaths and hospitalizations have dropped dramatically. The way to end a pandemic is with an effective vaccine that is widely available.

    Essentially, the FDA's foot-dragging killed (conservatively) thousands of Americans.

    Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted for a commission to investigate the January 6 "insurrection". During Which (generously) four people died of various causes.

    Where's the commission to investigate the FDA?


  • But It's Not Just The FDA… Jacob Sullum notes the CDC’s overcautious experts have themselves to blame for losing public trust.

    “My promise is that CDC will continue to follow the science as our guide,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senators last week. While Walensky thinks the CDC already is doing that, the agency’s history of arbitrary, dubious and ever-changing advice about COVID-19 belies her boast.

    Early in the pandemic, the CDC, together with the Food and Drug Administration, disastrously bungled the rollout of virus tests, making it impossible to curtail the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing. Its obstruction of independently produced tests was coupled with irrationally narrow guidelines that initially recommended screening only for symptomatic travelers from China and people who had been in close contact with them.

    The CDC, which at first dismissed the idea that Americans should wear face masks in public places to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, later decided such coverings were “the most important, powerful public-health tool we have.” It even insisted that people who had been vaccinated should continue wearing face masks in many indoor and outdoor settings, both public and private.

    Which reminds me: the University Near Here is Commencing this weekend. It looks to be tons of fun:

    UNH will host a series of small commencement ceremonies over three days to recognize its 2020 and 2021 graduates. Tickets are required. Every attendee must show a valid, original vaccination card showing that the bearer is at least two weeks post their final COVID-19 vaccination or a printed copy of negative COVID test results from a test taken within 72 hours of the ceremony. Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN’s The Situation Room, will deliver the commencement address for both classes via prerecorded video.

    Prerecorded video? Man, I remember Wolf reporting from Kuwait during a shooting war. And now he can't even show up in front of a bunch of masked students?

    Oh, yes, they'll be masked, even if vaccinated. Despite the CDC's belated realization that vaccinated people don't need masks, it's required.


  • On The Other Hand "Big Pharma" Saved Lives. So… Kevin D. Williammson has a suggestion: Don’t Strip Intellectual-Property Rights from Vaccine-Makers.

    President Joe Biden proposes to relieve U.S. pharmaceutical companies of their intellectual-property rights relating to COVID-19 vaccines. This would be a destructive policy even if it were necessary, but it is not necessary — it is not even likely to prove beneficial for the purpose at hand, which is helping to speed the pace of global vaccinations.

    The COVID-19 epidemic has provided an unexpected acid test for any number of U.S. and global institutions. Some of those institutions, notably our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and a host of European Union agencies, have been found wanting. Others have stepped up, from Amazon and the nation’s logistics workforce to the nimble manufacturers that redirected their resources into producing personal-protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and other emergency supplies in the early days of the epidemic. But if any institutions have come out of this horrifying episode with their prestige enhanced, it is surely the pharmaceutical companies — those hated, greedy, transnational behemoths that managed, as though miraculously, to develop three reliable and effective vaccines in a remarkably short period of time and then to bring hundreds of millions of doses to market.

    Two of those vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, employed messenger-RNA technology that had never been deployed in a vaccine in general use. It wasn’t a dramatic “let’s see if this works!” moon shot — it was a quiet, confident “We got this,” which is exactly what was needed. To the extent that life in the United States is getting back to normal, we have the pharmaceutical companies to thank. But, happily, they don’t have to settle for our thanks: They are getting paid.

    Naturally, they must be punished.

    Naturally.

    That article's in the current issue of NR, so I assume it's paywalled. You should subscribe and read the whole thing.


  • But It's Not Just Covid… There are bad policies in play all over. Veronique de Rugy skewers one of 'em: Biden's Family Leave Plan Is a Permanent Burden for a Temporary Problem.

    If you're a politician peddling big new government programs for which there is little need but hefty price tags, you need a clever marketing strategy. At the least, your sales pitch could use a decent soundbite. Such marketing is what the Biden administration with its friends in Congress and the media are doing when insisting that the drop in women's labor force participation during the pandemic requires implementing a policy of federal paid family leave.

    Don't buy it.

    First, temporary problems should never be addressed with permanent government expansions. Women have dramatically fallen out of the labor force, and unemployment rates have skyrocketed because of a once-in-a-century pandemic followed by state and local governments locking down the economy. The reality, fortunately, is that this virus will soon be in the rearview mirror, and the economy is now quickly reopening. Once labor unions agree to let K-12 public schools reopen five days a week in the fall, all should be back to normal. As such, there's no reason to use a temporary hardship to saddle taxpayers with a permanently bad deal.

    There are better and less expensive options. (Vero mentions: "Two such changes would be to eliminate occupational licensing for childcare workers and to let employees be paid in the form of additional leave time for their overtime work.")


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT