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by Don Boudreaux on September 21, 2022

in Current Affairs, Economics, Media, Myths and Fallacies, Work

Arnold Kling looks back with wisdom on the reactions to covid. A slice:

I give President Trump a bad grade. He could have elevated Scott Atlas and sidelined Birx and Fauci, but he did the opposite.

The teachers’ unions were awful. I will grant that there were many parents who wanted their kids to learn at home or to have them masked in school, and those parents might have had their way in some districts. But the teachers should have been willing to come to work and not make kids wear masks.

Colleges also over-reacted. And they should not have charged full tuition for Zoom learning.

Paul Elias Alexander correctly describes as “ludicrous” the 11th renewal of the U.S. government’s emergency covid declaration. A slice:

Omicron as the current dominant variant and its subvariants (clades) is very mild for most people, even many high-risk people. They can adequately handle the infection and cope with it. The reality is that while Omicron can still present a challenge (as does seasonal influenza and common cold and a range of respiratory illnesses) to elderly persons and especially those with comorbidities (as well as obese persons, immune-compromised persons), it is revealing itself to be no more severe than seasonal flu, and generally less so.

Moreover, we have used repurposed therapeutics (as prophylactics and treatment) effectively and we have availability. We also know who is the at-risk group and how to effectively manage, and hospitals were given hundreds of billions of dollars in PPE, PPP, and COVID relief money to prepare. They are prepared.

Kat Rosenfield decries the eagerness with which mainstream media in America spread false stories about racism. A slice:

It was the kind of correction you love to see. The story that originally broke in the final days of August, about a young black athlete being racially heckled in front of a crowd of thousands at Utah’s Brigham Young University, was not just exaggerated but completely false. The n-word was not shouted, let alone repeatedly, at Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson when she went up to serve. A crowd of more than 5,000 people did not stand idly by during an act of malignant racism. The United States is not, apparently, a socially backwards hellscape where people openly scream slurs at packed sporting events without compunction or shame.

Unfortunately, it’s a correction that many people are probably never going to see — or if they do, they won’t believe it.

Like many stories of its oeuvre, this one began on Twitter, when Richardson’s godmother Lesa Pamplin claimed in a series of since-deleted posts that the young volleyball player had been subject to racist abuse throughout the game: “My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes [sic] volleyball team,” she wrote. “While playing yesterday, she was called a [n-word] every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

Pamplin hadn’t been at the game herself, but the claim was incendiary. The story was soon picked up by mainstream outlets, which treated the alleged harassment — and discovery of its perpetrator — as verified fact. From USA Today: “Brigham Young fan banned after directing racial slurs toward Duke volleyball player.” The Washington Post: “BYU bans fan, relocates volleyball match after racist slurs, threats.” The New York Times: “Racial Slur During College Volleyball Game Leads to Fan Suspension.”

Additionally, readers were warned that failing to believe this story, or even asking questions about it, was simply not an option. An op-ed from USA Today columnist Mike Freeman declared any doubts about Richardson’s veracity to be a “Right-wing conspiracy theory”, like QAnon or Pizzagate or 9/11 trutherism. Ditto the suggestion that she might have made a mistake: “The other conspiracy theory is that she misheard the word. That is a word you don’t mishear. You certainly don’t mishear it more than once.”

And yet, despite Freeman’s insistence to the contrary, not only is this a word that people do mishear, it has been only a year since the last high-profile incident in which someone misheard it in a similar context: in a raucous crowd at a sporting event, and, yes, more than once. In this case, the culprit was a man trying to get the attention of the Rockies mascot, whose name is “Dinger.”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Phil Gramm and John Early offer corrections to the data on child poverty in the U.S. A slice:

If the Census Bureau had included the missing $1.9 trillion in transfer payments, child poverty would have been only 3.2% in 2017, compared with the official rate of 17.5%. Government transfer payments that were distributed in 2017 had already cut child poverty by 82%.

The administration has made a lame effort to deflect attention from this structural flaw in the official poverty measure by referencing a so-called supplemental poverty measure. This is one of many experimental efforts to measure poverty using a different method from the official one. This experimental measure shows that poverty for children fell by 4.5 percentage points, from 9.7% in 2020 to 5.2% in 2021. This supplemental rate does count refundable tax credits and some other transfer payments not counted by the official measure, but it still fails to count about half of all transfer payments and significantly overstates the amount of child poverty in America. No matter what supplemental measure the Census Bureau uses to produce the results predicted by Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Biden, the official measure of poverty, which will be the focal point of debate in future years, won’t record any reduction in the child poverty level from the refundable child tax credit.

The official poverty estimate by the Census Bureau not only overstates the level of poverty, but it distorts the policy debate. Politicians use the overstated poverty numbers as a rationale for additional transfer payments. The new transfer payments aren’t counted as household income, so there is no improvement in the official poverty rate. This process is repeated over and over. In the past 50 years the real value of taxpayer funding for transfer payments to the poorest 20% of American households has risen from an average of $9,677 to $45,389.

Kimberly Josephson writes soberly about work. A slice:

More often than not, a job is a means for making a living or furthering a skillset, rather than finding one’s passion or fulfilling a dream. If more young people listened to Mike Rowe on this point, we’d likely have more students eager to learn a trade rather than pursue debt-accruing degrees for supposedly higher callings.

Alberto Mingardi remembers Basil Yamey, who died in 2020.

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