Drs. Birx, Redfield, and Fauci also turned a blind eye to the enormous collateral damage caused by their policies: missed cancer screenings and treatment, worse cardiovascular disease care, fewer childhood vaccinations, and deteriorating mental health, to name a few examples. Instead of pointing out those failures in the report, the congressional Democrats disparage Dr. Atlas for his concern about them.
In their futile efforts to suppress the disease, these officials’ worst failure was the strategy of school closures. Missing school causes enormous harm to kids, particularly poor and middle-class children. Research predicts they will live shorter, poorer, and less healthy lives as a consequence of the closures. Unfortunately, only a few states, such as Arkansas, Florida, and Wyoming, resisted the Birx-Redfield-Fauci school closures.
In August 2020, along with Prof. Joseph Ladapo then of UCLA and Prof. Cody Meissner of Tufts University, we visited the White House to argue for better protection of older Americans and for opening schools and universities. While we met with the president and the vice president, we were surprised that neither Birx, Redfield, nor Fauci were available to meet with us. From the subcommittee report, we now know that Birx offered “to go out of town or whatever gives the [White House] cover” to avoid meeting with us.
The verdict is in, and it is now obvious that they failed. With more focus on protecting the old while keeping schools, health care, and small businesses open, Republican Florida and Nebraska and social-democratic Scandinavia have less collateral damage without higher excess mortality.
Birx and Redfield failed to protect older Americans from COVID-19. They failed to protect us all, especially our children, from collateral lockdown damage. They failed to listen and learn from other scientists. In 2020 they misled many Americans, both Republicans and Democrats.
Surprisingly, congressional Democrats are now the ones stepping in to defend these Trump appointees. They should instead embrace independent-minded scientists who favored focused protection instead of lockdowns.
Also weighing in on Sri Lanka is Tunku Varadarajan. Two slices:
The Green Revolution of Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist who did more to feed the world than any man before or since, set Sri Lanka on the path to agricultural abundance in 1970. It was built around chemical fertilizers and crops bred to be disease-resistant. Fifty-two years later, Sri Lanka has pulled off a revolution that is “antigreen” in the modern sense, toppling its president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In an uprising that has its roots in Mr. Rajapaksa’s imperious decision to impose organic farming on the entire country—which led to widespread hunger after the agricultural economy collapsed—Sri Lanka’s people have wrought the first contra-organic national uprising in history.
Perhaps because of the seven years he spent living in America during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mr. Rajapaksa was in thrall to green nostrums. He campaigned for president in 2019 on a platform that promised a form of technocratic utopia, including the commitment to turn Sri Lankan agriculture completely organic in a decade. He was particularly attentive to Vandana Shiva, a rabid Indian opponent of modern scientific agriculture. She considers Borlaug the enemy.
Covid hit Sri Lanka particularly hard, wiping out tourism, its economic mainstay. Heedless of this calamity, and of the wider impoverishment caused by lockdowns, Mr. Rajapaksa took a step that poleaxed Sri Lanka. On April 27, 2021—with no warning, and with no attempt to teach farmers how to cope with the change—he announced a ban on all synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Henceforth, he decreed, Sri Lankan agriculture would be 100% organic. Agronomists and other scientists warned loudly of the catastrophe that would ensue, but they were ignored. This Sri Lankan Nero listened to no one.
Many of those who opposed lockdowns for the pandemic, predicted that the policy — if normalised — could one day be taken advantage of by opportunistic political forces to deal with almost any crisis. It was, as Lord Sumption once suggested, a potential pathway to authoritarianism. “If we confer despotic powers on government to deal with perils, which are an ordinary feature of human existence, we will end up doing it most or all of the time,” he wrote in November 2021.
Well, we are now facing just such a crisis. And there is a not insignificant chance that lockdowns might be revived, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to cope with a prevailing health crisis, but also, troublingly, an economic one.
The monkeypox health scare may have failed to get traction, but as Covid cases begin to rise again, the slow beat of pro-lockdown messaging is beginning to circle again in the mainstream media.
For now, the public remains far from receptive. But this could change as soon as energy shortages and supply chain issues begin to bite this winter, which they surely will. The public has already been primed to believe that lockdowns were great for generating energy savings. We saw the evidence of that with our own eyes. Traffic jams disappeared. Oil prices went negative. Air pollution reversed.
In the face of late Soviet-style chaos on the streets, unconstrained inflation, not enough electricity to heat the homes of the vulnerable, the prospect of order emanating from the “temporary” suspension of a market economy might seem appealing.
Global tax cartels are as bad as they sound. They are explicitly designed to enable governments that refuse to cut their profligate spending and create friendlier tax environments to get more revenue. They are bad news for tax competition and fiscal sustainability, and they make governments less accountable to taxpayers, businesses and to workers who would like their productivity to be rewarded with higher wages rather than higher tax bills for their employers.
But as I said at the outset, it seems almost ludicrous to discuss the Fed’s inflation target when it misses its target by so much.
There are four major U.S. manufacturers that supply over 90% of the formula. The government has erected almost insurmountable barriers to entry; only one company, ByHeart, has entered the industry in the past 15 years. The government imposes both tariff and nontariff obstacles to discourage foreign competition.
The Agriculture Department purchases half the formula at a discount, (plus manufacturers’ rebates) from the four preferred suppliers. This formula is then distributed at no cost to the millions of qualified moms through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Studies have shown that U.S. non-WIC distributors have retailed their formula for up to 50% less.
These pricing inefficiencies—paid by non-WIC consumers—are created by government. Were it not for government intervention in the market, in effect creating and subsidizing a monopoly, the shortfall after the shutdown of the Abbott plant would have been covered by its competitors without terrifying moms and subjecting everyone to the politicians’ bloviating.