How to bankrupt the nation in 4 trillion steps

A few right-thinking writers watched Wednesday night’s speech by Comrade Biden so you and I didn’t have to.

Jim Geraghty:

All of us in the political world are supposed to act as if last night’s joint address of Congress from President Biden was a big deal, but . . . it’s April 29. A week from now, on May 6, will anyone remember anything from Biden’s speech?

This is the sort of idea that sounds good when you hear it, but seems far less revolutionary and bold when you look at what NIH is already doing:

The NIH invests about $41.7 billion annually in medical research for the American people.

More than 80 percent of NIH’s funding is awarded for extramural research, largely through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state.

About 10 percent of the NIH’s budget supports projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in its own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

I’m open to the argument that an ARPA for health at NIH would generate breakthroughs that couldn’t be reached at universities, medical schools, and other research institutions or the existing NIH campus, but I’d like to see proof that this isn’t just moving money around in hopes of generating new results.

Biden also echoed his predecessors by arguing that the national challenges of today are different from the challenges of the past: “Many of you, so many of the folks I grew up with, feel left behind, forgotten, in an economy that’s so rapidly changing — it’s frightening. . . . We’ll see more technological change — and some of you know more about this than I do — we’ll see more technological change in the next ten years than we saw in the last 50. That’s how rapidly artificial intelligence, and so much more, is changing. And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.”

And yet Biden’s response to these new changes is the same old agenda and proposals: Raise taxes. Spend more. Raise the minimum wage. Strengthen unions that have had declining membership for a generation, and who just happen to be Democratic Party allies. Other than the pandemic, there was little in last night’s address that couldn’t have been said by his Democratic predecessors in 2009 and 1993 and who knows, maybe even 1977.

Biden’s message in a nutshell is that China is making breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which is why we need more unionized employees and a higher minimum wage. He’s the man from yesterday, trying to assure us that he and his team know how to prepare us for tomorrow.

If you found the Trump years sufficiently chaotic and erratic, maybe it’s better for the country that Biden is boring, lifeless, and predictable, and that listening to his speeches feels like eating reheated plain oatmeal that you suspect is significantly past the expiration date. But being boring is not necessarily better for Biden.

One of the things that jumps out if you follow politics enough is how much Biden is offering the same old stuff as previous Democratic presidents.

Biden called for “connecting every American with high-speed Internet” to “help our kids and businesses succeed in a 21st-century economy.” I can remember when Bill Clinton called for connecting every school to the Internet and “build a bridge into the 21st century.”

Obama passed his stimulus bill, Biden’s got his three American [Fill-In-the-Blank] Acts.

Biden lamented how high the health-insurance deductibles were for working families and how expensive prescription drugs were, but I seem to remember him talking about a “big blanking deal” eleven years ago that was supposed to fix that — a big blanking deal that was never fully repealed. And in the familiar pattern of our presidents, Phil Klein points out that Biden is promising way more than he could reasonably expect to deliver: “There is no basis on which to claim that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating drug prices.

Biden just didn’t mention the situation at the border and hoped no one would notice.

Biden mentioned DARPA — arguably, dollar for dollar, the most effective and innovative section of the federal government, or at minimum the one that provides the most bang for the buck — and declared, “National Institutes of Health, the N.I.H, I believe, should create a similar advanced-research-projects agency for health.”

This is the sort of idea that sounds good when you hear it, but seems far less revolutionary and bold when you look at what NIH is already doing:

The NIH invests about $41.7 billion annually in medical research for the American people.

More than 80 percent of NIH’s funding is awarded for extramural research, largely through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state.

About 10 percent of the NIH’s budget supports projects conducted by nearly 6,000 scientists in its own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

I’m open to the argument that an ARPA for health at NIH would generate breakthroughs that couldn’t be reached at universities, medical schools, and other research institutions or the existing NIH campus, but I’d like to see proof that this isn’t just moving money around in hopes of generating new results.

Biden also echoed his predecessors by arguing that the national challenges of today are different from the challenges of the past: “Many of you, so many of the folks I grew up with, feel left behind, forgotten, in an economy that’s so rapidly changing — it’s frightening. . . . We’ll see more technological change — and some of you know more about this than I do — we’ll see more technological change in the next ten years than we saw in the last 50. That’s how rapidly artificial intelligence, and so much more, is changing. And we’re falling behind the competition with the rest of the world.”

And yet Biden’s response to these new changes is the same old agenda and proposals: Raise taxes. Spend more. Raise the minimum wage. Strengthen unions that have had declining membership for a generation, and who just happen to be Democratic Party allies. Other than the pandemic, there was little in last night’s address that couldn’t have been said by his Democratic predecessors in 2009 and 1993 and who knows, maybe even 1977.

Biden’s message in a nutshell is that China is making breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, which is why we need more unionized employees and a higher minimum wage. He’s the man from yesterday, trying to assure us that he and his team know how to prepare us for tomorrow.

James Freeman:

The propagandists who now dominate the establishment media have little interest in “fact-checking” Joe Biden as they did Donald Trump. But the Biden administration seems to be doing the job all by itself. The economic fairy tale told by the president on Wednesday night was debunked by his government’s data release on Thursday morning.

The Biden fairy tale is that the U.S. was in an economic crisis when he took office. He began telling this tall tale even before taking the job. Joining with former presidential campaign rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s most famous Marxist, Mr. Biden last year formed a legion of gloom to justify the historic government expansions to come.

But then as now, government data keeps exposing the Biden distortion. Today the Commerce Department reports that during the first quarter when the Biden administration began, the U.S. economy was soaring. “Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021,” according to the advance estimate released by Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. This follows growth of more than 4% in the fourth quarter of last year and a rip-roaring 33.4% in the third.

The President continues telling his tale in an attempt to justify his LBJ-style lunge for bigger government. On Wednesday night the president claimed, according to the official White House transcript:

I stand here tonight, one day shy of the 100th day of my administration — 100 days since I took the oath of office and lifted my hand off our family Bible and inherited a nation — we all did — that was in crisis.
The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

A variant of this falsehood was road-tested by Mr. Sanders in December when he claimed, “The working class of this country today faces more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Unemployment in the 1930s soared to roughly 25%. Since October of 2020 it’s been below 7%. By the time Mr. Biden was taking office in January it had fallen to 6.3%. The U.S. unemployment rate has been higher at some point in every decade since the 1930s, including for the entire first five years of the Obama-Biden administration.

Yet last night Mr. Biden kept on spinning:

Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again… America is rising anew… After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff…
One hundred days ago, America’s house was on fire. We had to act.

A hundred days ago the raging fire was the aggressive effort by businesses to find workers for all the open positions available for people willing to work. Thanks to data releases by the Biden administration, we now know that the job market was just as robust as it seemed when he was taking office. In March the Labor Department reported:

The number of job openings changed little at 6.9 million on the last business day of January, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

That’s a historically strong number, and thanks to an April release from the Biden administration, we know that the job market got even stronger during Mr. Biden’s first full month in office—before he had enacted anything of consequence. The Labor Department reported earlier this month that “the number of job openings edged up to 7.4 million on the last business day of February”.

The main threats to an economy that’s been rebounding since last summer—and is now just slightly smaller than it was before Covid—are Biden interventions which may discourage people from accepting those jobs on offer.

This column is gratified that Biden employees in the federal government have taken over the job of puncturing the president’s false economic claims from media folk who are no longer willing to do the work. In a similar way, employees at the federal Centers for Disease Control have published a range of data showing that Covid cases, hospital admissions and daily deaths were already decreasing when he took office, notwithstanding his Wednesday claims of leadership in distributing the vaccines developed and approved under the previous management.

But obviously it’s dangerous to rely on bureaucrats to do the job normally expected of a free press. Fortunately federal economic releases are not our only readings on economic vitality. This is quarterly earnings season for public companies, and they are also providing a stunning rebuttal of Mr. Biden’s portrait of the U.S. economy.

The Journal’s Karen Langley reports that “corporations have been trouncing analysts’ expectations. With about 40% of companies in the S&P 500 having reported results, profits are projected to have grown 42% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to FactSet.”

A vibrant recovery was well underway on Inauguration Day. The question is whether the legion of gloom’s massive interventions will disrupt it. As on the day he took office, the only person who can stop the “Biden boom” is Joe Biden.

Roger Kimball:

John Maynard Keynes is alleged to have said ‘When the facts change, I change my mind — what do you do, sir?’ I am no fan of Keynes generally, but there is something to be said for that pithy ‘second-thoughts’ comment. It pains me to admit it, but the President’s address to the joint session of Congress put me in mind of Keynes’s observation. After all, was it not a rousing address? Even long-time critics acknowledged it. One described it as ‘a perfect blend of strength and empathy’. I have to agree. That same commentator wrote that ‘Tonight, I was moved and inspired. Tonight, I have hope and faith in America again.’

I think a lot of people felt that way. Many people agreed with him. Yes, it’s early days yet. But let’s face it. The President has already racked up significant victories. Think about his energy policy, his attack on illegal immigration, his efforts to dismantle or at least pare back the leviathan that is the administrative state, his proposals to reduce the tax burden for both businesses and individuals while also strengthening America’s military: in these and other initiatives has he not taken bold steps to fulfill his campaign promises to return power from Washington to the People and ‘make America great again’.

Oops: I was talking about the wrong speech! That was about Donald Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address, in which he called upon Americans to put aside the partisan passions that divide us in order to go forward as one people united in the goal of making a better America. It was his next State of the Union address, in 2020, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, sitting directly behind President Trump, capped the evening picking up a copy of the speech and tearing it in two.

She didn’t do that tonight. The speech was in the same chamber. But somehow it was not the same chamber. Watching Joe Biden tonight was like visiting a theater after hours. Lots of ghosts.

One ghost was St Anthony Fauci, who was responsible for Joe Biden’s doddering entrance to the depopulated room. No handshakes, just fist or elbow bumps to the bemasked denizens of that melodrama.

What Biden called ‘the worst pandemic in a century’ was at center stage. On taking office, he said, he promised 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days. To date, he said, 220 million shots have been delivered.

Who or what accomplished that? If you look at the Biden press pool — also known as CNN — the Biden administration is responsible for America’s robust response to this latest respiratory virus. But in fact, it was Donald Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ that produced several effective vaccines in record time — and it was Trump’s plan that provided the entire plan for distributing it.

Joe then went on to describe what he called, without cracking a smile, the ‘American Rescue Plan’. In essence, it is the same plan that was outlined, but in more modest terms, by a certain Italian politician in the 1920s. ‘All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.’

The word ‘jobs’ occurred nearly 50 times in tonight’s address. But here’s an embarrassing fact. Donald Trump’s economic policies led to the lowest general unemployment in decades. They led to the lowest minority unemployment in our history. They also led to a robust rise in wages at the lower end of the scale.

Joe did not mention any of that. Instead it was all Bernie Sanders-esque class warfare: raise taxes, eat the rich, take control of — well, everything.

But along the way there were some strange echoes. Biden said his mantra was ‘Buy American’. ‘American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America that create American jobs.’ Where have we heard that before?

MAGA? Nope. Biden is here to bring us MAPA: ‘Make America Poor Again.’

Here’s how we do it. First, spend more money than anyone thought possible. Promise free stuff for everyone (except Republicans). Second, destroy the engines of prosperity. Start with the energy industry. Tax it, regulate, mount a huge ‘green- new-deal PR campaign against cheap, abundant energy. It’s working! Hundreds of thousands are out of work and gas prices are up some nine percent in just 100 days! Good going, Joe!

I think my favorite part of this dog’s breakfast was the part where he asked, how are we going to pay for all this. ‘I’ve made clear that we can do it without increasing deficits.’

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Who knew that Joe Biden, like Hamlet, had an antic disposition.

The deficit is already skyrocketing. But Joe is going after the ‘millionaires and billionaires who cheat on their taxes’. Did you know that the top one percent of earners already pay more than 40 percent of all income taxes? Think about that. The top 10 percent pay more than 71 percent, while the top 25 percent pay nearly 90 percent of all income taxes. So what is Joe talking about?

Of course, it would not have been a Democratic talk if there were not some invocation of the melée at the Capitol on January 6.

‘As we gather here tonight, the images of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol — desecrating our democracy — remain vivid in our minds.

‘Lives were put at risk. Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned.

‘The insurrection was an existential crisis — a test of whether our democracy could survive.’

But it wasn’t an insurrection It wasn’t an ‘existential crisis’. And it wasn’t a test of ‘our democracy’ (i.e., not your democracy).

I thought it was a horrible speech — cliché-ridden, yes, but also deeply mendacious. The latest import from China is not ‘one of the worst pandemics ever’. We were not ‘staring into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy’ on January 6. There were a small number of bad hats and many who were exercising their constitutional right to dissent. This, of course, was in sharp contrast to the hundreds of thugs who rampaged through dozens of cities setting fires and destroying property over the summer — and even now. But forget all that. Here was the geriatric specimen blinking into the cameras:

‘We came together.

‘United.

‘With light and hope, we summoned new strength and new resolve.

‘To position us to win the competition for the 21st century.

‘On our way forward to a Union more perfect. More prosperous. More just.

‘As one people. One nation. One America.’

I thought at first that the few dozen people in the Capitol were wearing face masks. I didn’t consider the possibility that they were air-sickness bags.

One speaker did make sense: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R–South Carolina), as reported by the Daily Wire:

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) slammed President Joe Biden on Wednesday night as he delivered the Republican Party’s rebuttal speech to the speech that Biden gave just moments prior that was panned by critics as divisive and extreme.

“We just heard President Biden’s first address to Congress. Our president seems like a good man,” Scott began. “His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. He promised to unite a nation. To lower the temperature. To govern for all Americans, no matter how we voted. That was the pitch. You just heard it again. But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that bring us closer together.”

Scott highlighted how during the first three months of Biden’s presidency, he and the Democrats “are pulling us further apart.”

Scott then proceeded to talk about the challenging background that he came from and how faith and conservative principles played a big role in getting his life on track, and how those things are under attack now.

“This past year, I’ve watched COVID attack every rung of the ladder that helped me up,” Scott said. “So many families have lost parents and grandparents too early. So many small businesses have gone under. Becoming a Christian transformed my life — but for months, too many churches were shut down. Most of all, I am saddened that millions of kids have lost a year of learning when they could not afford to lose a single day.”

“Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future,” Scott continued. “Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries’ did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often, powerful grown-ups set science aside. And kids like me were left behind. The clearest case for school choice in our lifetimes …”

Scott highlighted how there was more bipartisan COVID-19 work that happened under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, a Republican, than under Biden, a Democrat.

Scott hammered Biden for dividing instead of uniting, and on numerous policy issues, including infrastructure, Biden’s “Family Plan,” and other extreme proposals.

Who voted for trillion-dollar tax increases?

 

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