Mid-Day Digest

Apr. 24, 2020


“Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings — give us that precious jewel, and you may take every things else! Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.” —Patrick Henry (1788)

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Opening Day in Georgia — Will Anyone Show Up?

Nate Jackson

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that the Peach State would begin to reopen today. The Republican governor’s move followed last week’s issuance of White House guidelines for doing so. President Donald Trump gave Kemp a green light on reopening, praising him on Tuesday as a “very capable man” who “knows what he’s doing,” only to turn around on Wednesday and insist he “totally disagrees” with Kemp’s decision, which he claimed is “in violation of the Phase One guidelines.” The president further ripped the governor on Thursday, saying, “I am not happy about Brian Kemp.”

Gov. Kemp, meet the bus’s tire treads. So what happened?

First of all, this is Kemp’s decision, not Trump’s, and the president repeatedly acknowledged as much. We operate in a federalist system in which states, not the federal government, have the authority in these cases.

Kemp’s decision was made with the approval of Georgia’s health experts, as the Leftmedia insists it should be, and it’s also not nearly so free-for-all as reports imply. “The entities that I am reopening are not reopening for ‘business as usual,’” he noted Monday. “Today’s announcement is a small step forward and should be treated as such.” He has not deviated from that all week, issuing fairly strict guidelines that businesses must follow if they are to reopen. Hair salons and tattoo parlors might generate a lot of unfavorable and hysterical headlines, but when it comes right down to it, Kemp’s guidelines provide serious benchmarks that will be tough to meet.

Second, for Trump, his disagreement was perhaps a wink-and-nod political move. Kemp doesn’t have the “baggage” of Trump’s approval, while the president avoids responsibility if things go south in Georgia (or Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and other states that are moving in the same direction). He’s essentially saying, “The best we can offer is the federal guidelines, and it’s up to states to follow them.” Trump just has, well, his own way of saying things. In fact, he says all the things, apparently hoping to be able to later point back to having said one of the right things. It certainly keeps his opponents guessing, but it’s beyond obnoxious because it keeps his allies guessing too, and it leaves conservatives scrambling to justify whatever dumb thing Trump just said when the Leftmedia inevitably overreacts to it. We’d like to get off that ride now.

Third, reopening will increase the number of cases and deaths, which the Leftmedia will trumpet every hour of every day — especially when hanging those deaths around the necks of Republicans.

Kemp accounted for that. “When we have more people moving around, we’re probably going to see our cases continue to go up,” he conceded. “But we’re a lot better prepared for that now than we were over a month ago.” (That was, after all, the original goal of shutting down everything.) Moreover, he added, “I believe we’ll be able to stay on top of it. But … if we have an instance where a community starts becoming a hotspot, I will take further action.”

Every state will have to reopen eventually, and we need to be prepared as a society for the inevitable tradeoffs and consequences. At the same time, no one wants to be the first guinea pig, so both businesses and individuals will be slow to return to normal. Businesses may not open, and people may not leave their homes. Kemp’s guidances, for all the haranguing he’s endured, don’t throw anyone out of their homes or into barber shops against their will. Millions of Georgians are not going bowling tonight.

The governor has done well to emphasize the fact that the state aims to protect both people’s health and their liberty. His actions and announcements have conveyed hope and offered the opportunity to begin revitalizing our economy. We should all be cheering for the Peach State to succeed.

As a parting observation, Colorado Democrat Gov. Jared Polis is likewise working toward reopening his state, though somehow without the Leftmedia harassment. And he mentioned two words that are pretty key to this whole thing: “personal responsibility.”

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CARES Act Hurts Small Businesses

Thomas Gallatin

One of the most common occurrences when Congress rushes to fix a problem is that there are unintended or unforeseen consequences created by the “solution.” In fact, the bigger the “fix,” the greater the probability for it creating more problems than it solves. Congress’s recent $2.2 trillion CARES Act provides yet another classic case reinforcing this principle.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a part of the CARES Act that provides forgivable loans to “small” businesses to help them stay afloat and retain their employees throughout the China Virus-induced economic shutdown, has been undercut by other provisions within the overall legislation.

For example, “The Cares Act created a perverse incentive not to work,” write Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Emily Williams Knight, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “Because the Cares Act pays an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits, many restaurants will find it difficult to get employees back on the job. And if they don’t, restaurants can’t receive loan forgiveness.” Furthermore, Roy and Knight note, “The PPP requirement that 75% of the forgivable loan be spent on payroll puts restaurants with expensive rent in an untenable position. That requirement doesn’t account for differences in business structures.”

The PPP was ostensibly aimed at helping small businesses, but in many ways it’s making it harder for many small businesses to get back to business because they’re competing with government to retain their employees. In many instances, the CARES Act’s overly generous unemployment compensation disincentivizes employees from going back to work. They’re getting more money for staying on unemployment than working.

As The Resurgent’s David Thornton observes, “For workers who have been locked into low-paying jobs for long periods, however, the choice might not be so easy. This is especially true when the unemployment benefits continue for an extended period, such as the 26 weeks granted in Washington. The difference in take-home pay would be YUGE for a low-income worker who earns an extra several hundred dollars per week on COVID unemployment for six months. It isn’t a matter of being lazy, it’s a sound financial choice, at least in the short-term.”

The problem is that by not going back to work, these workers prolong a recession, which will then only make it harder for them to find a job when their time on unemployment benefits runs out. Furthermore, a prolonged stay on unemployment suspends any opportunity for upward mobility and salary increases, as well as stunts retirement benefits.

The trouble moving forward is that Democrats will demand that these unemployment benefits be extended beyond the initial six months, pointing to the economic recession as justification. Then, any action extending unemployment benefits will slow the economic recovery in a vicious cycle. It’s a classic example of Democrats working to get and keep as many people as possible on the government dole.

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Federal Debt Goes Viral

Brian Mark Weber

The coronavirus outbreak has small businesses facing a dark future and millions of Americans struggling to pay their bills. Fiscal discipline, for one and all, is more critical now than ever.

Clearly, our elected officials never got the message.

State governments flipped a switch and shuttered their economies this spring, knowing Uncle Sam would bail them out. Indeed, based on recent actions, the federal government seems fine with printing trillions in Monopoly money to keep the states solvent. But at some point, one wonders if anyone in DC is paying attention. If so, it isn’t likely to be President Donald Trump, whose administration ran up nearly $4 trillion in debt before COVID-19.

Surprisingly, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who floated the idea this week that states should have the option to file for bankruptcy.

Seems reasonable. It’s one thing to ask the federal government to cover virus-related financial burdens, but many states were already deep in the red due to generous public pensions or other reckless spending.

Of course, some states are averse to the idea of responsible budgeting. New York Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, called McConnell’s suggestion “politically repugnant.”

That’s rich. How dare the Senate majority leader ask states to keep an eye on their spending. Then again, this is the same Cuomo who said people worried about losing their jobs during the shutdown should consider becoming essential workers.

But while McConnell rightly calls out states for their mismanagement, he and other political leaders on Capitol Hill ought to look in the mirror. The federal debt has long been out of control, and spending another $10 trillion on coronavirus cleanup isn’t going to help.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports (emphasis in the original) that “under current law, budget deficits will total more than $3.8 trillion (18.7 percent of GDP) this year and $2.1 trillion (9.7 percent of GDP) in 2021. We project debt held by the public will exceed the size of the economy by the end of Fiscal Year 2020 and eclipse the prior record set after World War II by 2023.” (Debt held by the public is a subset of the total federal debt.)

The committee says that’s assuming no further spending legislation is forthcoming to deal with the crisis. Moreover, “The projections also assume the economy experiences a strong recovery in 2021 and fully returns to its pre-crisis trajectory by 2025. Assuming a slower and weaker recovery (but no changes in law), we estimate debt would grow to 117 percent of GDP by 2025.”

In other words, the U.S. will be a superpower with a $20 trillion economy that can’t pay its bills.

Sure, we can just pay the interest. But the Congressional Budget Office predicts interest on the debt will consume more than 10% of federal spending by 2030. The entitlements of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid consume most of what’s left. Throw in spending for the nation’s defense, and these unplanned coronavirus outlays make our financial shell game much more serious.

All this sounds ominous, yet Congress and the president seem content to kick the can down the road. The Left has effectively stifled any talk of reforming our ruinous entitlements as “pushing grandma off the cliff.” And let’s be honest: Most Americans seem utterly unconcerned about the national debt.

But as our own Arnold Ahlert wrote a few years back, at some point the U.S. dollar will be supplanted by another currency. That’s when the real trouble begins.

Perhaps this coronavirus crisis will shake up the political establishment. Then again, maybe the current crisis isn’t enough. We may need to hit our financial rock bottom first, but that may happen sooner than anyone realizes.

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Is Infrastructure the Answer?

Michael Swartz

With unemployment skyrocketing, interest rates near all-time lows, and a growing backlog of needs, President Donald Trump recently called for a massive $2 trillion federal infrastructure program. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” he tweeted. That met with a mixed reaction from congressional leaders, who were understandably gun-shy about making such a commitment for another phase of coronavirus relief.

On the gung-ho side was Sen. John Barasso (R-WY), who claimed a bipartisan $287 billion highway bill was “ready to go,” adding, “fixing America’s roads and bridges is a great way to create jobs and support businesses.” Democrats, however, prefer a different direction, placing their focus more on healthcare, hospitals, and the digital economy. The latter point was also the subject of an op-ed in The Hill, where coauthors Bradley Blakeman and Christos Makridis asked, “Why not invest in infrastructure that brings greater connectivity between rural and urban communities?”

All this reminds us of the last time Congress floated an infrastructure “stimulus.” Remember all those “shovel ready” jobs that became an excuse for the Obama administration to shovel money to various Democrat constituencies, special interests, and dubious “green” donors like Solyndra?

Brian Riedl at National Review hasn’t forgotten. He also adds important perspective, writing, “Advocates assert that massive infrastructure spending will stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Economists across the political spectrum have debunked this myth for the obvious reason that infrastructure projects require several years of planning and regulatory reviews before they begin — at which point the economy has already recovered.”

Even as President Trump has worked tirelessly to reduce red tape, regulatory roadblocks would await him. Consider the endurance contest of getting the much-needed Keystone oil pipeline built and operational.

There’s also the question of just how much more debt our nation can take on. Already this year, we’ve spent nearly $3 trillion that we didn’t have. With more than 26 million jobs lost in recent weeks, state budgets from California to Delaware are feeling the crunch. Any infrastructure spending undertaken by the states will likely need a hefty federal match, leaving every taxpayer with the bill.

There are better ways to create jobs than trying to prime a federal spending pump that’s already running dry. Instead of letting government pick winners while politicians attend ribbon-cuttings and ground-breaking ceremonies, how about allowing the private sector to decide what’s most important?

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More Great Analysis

Mark Alexander explains the truth behind Another WaPo Clickbait Fake News Fail.

Thomas Gallatin similarly goes after the Leftmedia for the phony story about the fired HHS doc.

Speaking of BIG Lies, Roger Helle gives us something to think about regarding several of them.


Jordan Candler

Above the Fold

  • In a 388-5-1 vote, the House yesterday sent to President Trump’s desk another relief package totaling $484 billion. According to The Hill, “The massive package is the fourth coronavirus bill to move through Congress over the last seven weeks, and brings the federal response to the global pandemic up to a whopping $2.8 trillion.” And guess what? “Pelosi and House Democrats have already been working feverishly on that next package, dubbed CARES 2.”

  • “The Treasury Department said Thursday that it was asking approximately 150 publicly traded firms to repay nearly $600 million in loans they received from the federal program designed to help small businesses,” National Review reports. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated: “The intent of this money was not for big, public companies that have access to capital.”

The Latest on Coronavirus

  • According to Bill Bryan, the head of the DHS science and technology directorate, “Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus both [on] surfaces and in the air. We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well where increasing the temperature or humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.” Bring on summer!

  • Analysis from the New York State Health Department reveals that 13% of New Yorkers may contain COVID-19 antibodies. In other words, the true infection rate is inexorably higher than data currently implies.

  • Meanwhile, a new study finds 94% of virus patients in the New York City hospital system had underlying conditions (The Daily Wire)

  • Worse-case scenario avoided: The 500-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort is leaving New York City after treating just 179 patients in three weeks (Business Insider)

Government & Politics

  • Barack Obama this week wrote that “we continue to wait for a coherent national plan to navigate this pandemic.” The negligent former president, Matt Margolis reminds us, “is the last person in the world who should be criticizing the federal response to a pandemic” given the reality that “he botched not one, but two pandemics.”

  • A Democrat super PAC ad alleges that Trump “shipped China 17 tons of American masks and medical supplies.” But even The Washington Post says “the specific instance highlighted in the ad is framed in a misleading way,” adding that said medical supplies were donated by non-government entities for distribution by the international healthcare organization Project HOPE.

  • The Washington Examiner says that “U.S. Attorney John Durham has expanded his team as his review of the Trump-Russia investigators ramps up during the coronavirus pandemic.” The Examiner also recently reported that Durham was tasked by Attorney General William Barr “to focus just as much on the FBI’s actions after Trump’s election in November 2016 as those before it.”

  • Adding even more credence to Durham’s probe, “Christopher Steele told a British court last month that he no longer has documents and other information from his meetings with the main source for his Trump dossier, suggesting that the former British spy has no way of backing up his side in a dispute with the Justice Department’s inspector general (IG), according to a deposition transcript obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.”

  • Good luck finding that in the U.S. Constitution… Divided Sixth Circuit Panel discovers a constitutional right to a “basic minimum education” (The Volokh Conspiracy)

Culture & Heartland

  • Exhibit A in how the welfare state grows: Small-business owner gets relief loan to keep employees on payroll, but now her employees are angry over having to forgo their $600-a-week incentive in weekly unemployment (The Daily Wire)

  • The burgeoning Nanny State was further exemplified in low-populated (read: lower risk) Idaho this week. A 40-year-old mother “was noncompliant and refused to leave [a playground structure] after being given many opportunities, so she was arrested on one count of misdemeanor trespassing,” according to the Meridian Police Department.

Other Notables

  • At least 840 sailors on the USS Roosevelt test positive for coronavirus (New York Post)

  • White House planning major health deregulation push as coronavirus needs smash “obsolete rules” (Washington Examiner)

  • Isn’t it a little late to “oversee the response”? House votes to create coronavirus investigative panel GOP calls political (Washington Examiner)

  • Michigan Gov. Whitmer faces protest outside her home as lawmakers mull curbing her powers (Fox News)

  • The Left must be thrilled: Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive. (The Washington Post)

Closing Arguments

  • Policy: Central banks and the next crisis: From deflation to stagflation (Mises Institute)

  • Policy: Creative entrepreneurialism and Special Economic Zones: Two things that can rescue the world when the COVID-19 pandemic is over (Foundation for Economic Education)

  • Satire: Nancy Pelosi assures Democrat reps they don’t need to try being productive during stressful pandemic (The Onion)

For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.

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Video: The Most Expensive Experiment in U.S. History Is a Failure — Tucker Carlson substantiates the non-impact of state lockdowns and ridicules those with godlike power.

Video: Ben Shapiro Debunks the Idea That CV19 Is Nature’s Revenge — Nature is always trying to murder us; our job it to avoid it.

Video: Black Democrat Forced Out of Party for Endorsing Trump — Vernon Jones didn’t toe the line, resulting in his being excommunicated from the “Party of Inclusion.”


For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.


Insight: “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.” —Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Upright: “Predictions in economics are woefully inaccurate, especially in oil. In the summer of 2018 alone, serious analysts were predicting oil at $200 per barrel, or even $400 per barrel ‘in 12 to 18 months’ — right about now. It’s not that the people making those predictions are not smart — they are. But, even smart people can be horribly wrong when it comes to the myriad interactions among billions of humans on the planet. Have that in mind the next time someone says that this or that is ‘inevitable.’” —Zilvinas Silenas

The BIG Lie, Part I: “No, I would not shut down [the fracking] industry. I know our Republican friends are trying to say I said that. I said I would not do any new leases on federal lands. Ninety percent of the leases are not on federal land, to begin with. I would make sure … the water is not being contaminated. But I would not shut it down, no.” —Joe Biden, who in July 2019 remarked, “We would make sure it’s eliminated, and no more subsidies for [coal and fracking], period.” He reaffirmed his stance multiple times this year, most recently in March.

The BIG Lie, Part II: “Mitch McConnell likes to say that we delayed the bill. No, he delayed the bill. Two weeks ago, he came to the floor and said this is all we’re doing. Just the $250 [billion]. And Democrats were united, House and Senate, the Senate Democrats went to the floor and said no to that, we have a better idea about hospitals and testing and more funds for all of the businesses. So, he was the one wasting time.” —Nancy “Antionette” Pelosi

Non compos mentis: “While we continue to wait for a coherent national plan to navigate this pandemic, states like Massachusetts are beginning to adopt their own public health plans to combat this virus — before it’s too late.” —Barack Obama, who botched two pandemics

Demo-gogues: “New York puts in more money to the federal pot than it takes out. [Mitch McConnell’s] state takes out more than it puts in. Sen. McConnell, who’s getting bailed out here? It’s your state that is living on the money that we generate. Your state is getting bailed out, not my state.” —Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Grand delusions: “We just have to reject any calls for a return to normal because that normal was what was slowly killing people.” —Rep. Ayanna Pressley

And last… “I think it’s time to consider the possibility … that this lockdown — as opposed to the more moderate mitigation efforts — is a colossal public policy calamity.” —Brit Hume

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For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.



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