My former Mercatus Center colleague Susan Dudley, writing with Kip Viscusi in the Wall Street Journal, warns of Biden & Co.’s politicization of benefit-cost analyses of government regulations. Two slices:
President Biden recently promised to “modernize” regulatory review, and that includes a major overhaul of how agencies measure the benefits and costs of their proposed rules. But some of the changes proposed by the White House Office of Management and Budget appear to embed political objectives in the analysis. That isn’t what benefit-cost analysis—required by presidents for more than 40 years and increasingly by courts—is supposed to do. Such modifications would reduce its value and threaten to upend the longstanding bipartisan reliance on best practices and evidence. This could lead to even wilder partisan swings in policy than the country now faces.
In a Monday letter to OMB, all the former presidents of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, along with editors of the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, reminded the White House that benefit-cost analysis informs policy decisions; it doesn’t determine them. The Obama OMB recognized that the purpose of regulatory analysis is “(1) to establish whether federal regulation is necessary and justified to achieve a social goal and (2) to clarify how to design regulations in the most efficient, least burdensome, and most cost-effective manner.”
Each of these changes would embed values other than economic efficiency in the benefit-cost analysis, rather than encourage career staff to present the best evidence and leave value judgments to politically accountable officials. OMB’s draft opens the door to putting scientific-sounding numbers on inherently qualitative values like social justice, environmental stewardship and human dignity. That would vitiate the transparency and integrity of regulatory-impact analysis, which for decades has served as a ballast across administrations with widely varying policy objectives.
If OMB’s final guidance is perceived as biasing assessments to support the current administration’s policy preferences, a future administration will simply rewrite them in its own image. Without durable principles to guide regulators, American citizens, families and businesses will find it increasingly difficult to plan for the future. It isn’t too late for OMB to modernize its guidance while preserving the integrity of its analysis.
When he mounted the rostrum in [Birmingham, Alabama’s] Capitol Park, Harding saw the clearly segregated audience. And while he used the occasion to congratulate Birmingham on its industrial growth and contributions to economic development, he pivoted and personalized his remarks to advocate for racial equality.
In words that still resonate today, Harding said, “I believe in absolute equality in the paths of knowledge and culture, equality of opportunity for those who strive, equal admiration for those who achieve. I want to see the time come when black men will regard themselves as full participants in the benefits and duties of American citizenship.”
Otherwise, he said, “Whether you like it or not, our democracy is a lie unless you stand for that equality.”
It’s clear that in their own particular twisted way, PH [public-health] officials are rabid monotheists. Let there be no false gods before the holy trinity of mask, model and fear of the Other.
Summer’s nearly over, and cold-and-flu season is on the way. Soon everyone will be sniffling and sneezing, hacking and coughing. You know what that means: Covid hysteria is poised for a comeback.
You can feel it in the hot, wet, politicized air. News reports say case counts are on the rise. A new coronavirus variant is circulating, and researchers are worried. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking a surge in Covid-related hospital visits. A few college campuses and business offices are demanding masks.
President Biden told reporters Friday he’s asking Congress “for funding for a new vaccine that is necessary, that works.” Why should we believe that after the long litany of noble lies and the coercion they were used to justify?
Every year since 2020, autumn has brought fears that the killer virus would emerge like the biblical fourth horseman. These fears have often been exploited for political gain, and with the presidential race kicking into a higher gear, the stakes will likely be higher this time around.
The old anxieties return. What if it’s worse this time? What if they call for lockdowns? How can we be sure people won’t fall into line again? Can my business survive another test? Can the country?
I’ll take my stand. Whatever happens, I won’t participate in meaningless gestures. That means no masks, under any circumstances. Never again.
I’ll also pledge no fist bumps, no grocery washing, no crossing the street to avoid my neighbors, no locking myself away from the world, no health attestations. I won’t present my papers. I won’t swab my nose morning, noon and night. And I won’t submit to mandates that fill my veins—or, more important, my children’s veins—with new drugs and vaccines that haven’t been tested the way drugs and vaccines normally are.
To my mild shame, I largely did as I was told during the pandemic. I wore the masks, got the shots, worked from home, worshiped online. I even stayed away from my father’s house as he lay dying from cancer. I should have been there. I’ll never get over that.
I complied because everyone seemed to be complying and I didn’t have the guts to say no. In hindsight I can’t help but feel I sold my God-given freedom too cheaply. I won’t get fooled again.
Unfazed by data, scientific research, or common sense, the maskaholics are back. In response to an uptick in Covid cases, they’ve begun reinstating mask mandates. So far, it’s just a few places—a college in Atlanta, a Hollywood studio, two hospitals in Syracuse—but the mainstream media and their favorite “experts” are working hard to scare the rest of us into masking up yet again.
Never mind that at least 97 percent of Americans have Covid antibodies in their blood as a result of infection, vaccination, or both. Never mind that actual experts—the ones who studied the scientific literature before 2020 and drew up plans for a pandemic—advised against masking the public. Never mind that their advice has been further bolstered during the pandemic by randomized clinical trials and rigorous observational studies failing to find an effect of masks and mask mandates. Scientific evidence cannot overcome the maskaholics’ faith.
It’s tempting to compare them with the villagers in Cambodia who erected scarecrows in front of their huts to ward off the coronavirus—but that’s not fair to the villagers. Their Ting Mong, as the magic scarecrows are called, at least didn’t hurt any of their neighbors. The mask mandates imposed harms on the public that were well known before Covid, which was why occupational-safety regulations limited workers’ mask usage. Dozens of studies had demonstrated “Mask-Induced Exhaustion Syndrome,”whose symptoms include an increase of carbon dioxide in the blood, difficulty breathing, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and diminished ability to concentrate and think. It was no surprise during the pandemic when adverse effects of masks were reported in a study of health-care workers in New York City. More than 70 percent of the workers said that prolonged mask-wearing gave them headaches, and nearly a quarter blamed it for “impaired cognition.”
Meanwhile, the CDC and its shills have continued to ignore or downplay the much stronger evidence against masks, most notably a review of randomized clinical trials published in January by Cochrane, the preeminent authority for evaluating medical evidence. The Cochrane review concluded that wearing a mask of any kind “probably makes little or no difference” in reducing the spread of Covid, flu, or respiratory illnesses. Maskaholics were reduced to arguing that the masks’ effects were too subtle to be detected in clinical trials. (Imagine a drug company trying to make that argument to the Food and Drug Administration.) But the masks’ futility was also evident in Covid trends around the world. Unmasked Swedes fared much better than other Europeans forced to wear masks. A 2021 study comparing states across the U.S. found no association between mask mandates and the spread of Covid. The mandates’ irrelevance was especially obvious in a graph tracking weekly changes in Covid rates and mask policies during the first two years of the pandemic: the weekly rates of Covid infection in states without mask mandates remained steadily the same as in states with mandates. There was also virtually no difference in the rates of cumulative mortality (the rate was slightly lower in the states without the mandates).
The CDC’s misinformation, unfortunately, continues to be spread by the media and by censors on social-media platforms. In 2021, when I described peer-reviewed research about the harms of masking children, Facebook labeled my article “Partly False.” City Journal appealed the ruling to Facebook’s monitors, an outside group called Science Feedback, which failed to identify any inaccuracies. Yet Science Feedback not only refused to remove the label but also flatly claimed, against the guidance of the WHO, that masks were safe for children as young as two. The group has since continued to put warning labels on articles challenging the efficacy of masks, and it still ignores or dismisses the strong evidence of masks’ futility, even the clinical trials reviewed by Cochrane. While conceding that “randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard,” Science Feedback rejects the Cochrane review in favor of weak short-term observational studies that other researchers have criticized severely for flawed methodology and unwarranted conclusions.
Is there any cure for maskaholism? The “fact-checkers” at Science Feedback seem immune to genuine science feedback, but there ought to be someone at Facebook with the sense not to keep employing them. The CDC’s current leaders and their media acolytes are probably beyond hope, too, if only because they’d have to admit how wrong they have been for so long. But there’s no reason for the rest of us to heed them. The next time someone urges you to put on a mask, tell them you’re already protected against Covid by your magic scarecrow.