Blame Insane Government Spending for Inflation

“Over the course of the pandemic, the Treasury Department issued roughly $6 trillion, $2.7 trillion of which was monetized by the Federal Reserve. Americans were sent $5.1 trillion through various programs, including individual checks and unemployment bonuses. Overall federal debt has since risen by about $6 trillion.

This response assumes the 2020 recession was sparked by a demand shock leading to a fall in aggregate demand, rather than the strangling of aggregate supply caused by the pandemic and lockdowns. Under these circumstances, sending people and companies money was never likely to impact output. Instead, it greatly inflated demand for the durable goods still being produced.

Even by the Keynesian economic standards that prompt this sort of fiscal response, COVID-19 relief was larger than any “output gap”—the difference between what the economy is producing and the most it could produce. In March 2020, the gap was $2.3 trillion, and that year alone, the government spent $3 trillion through several relief bills.

In March 2021, Democrats passed the over-the-top $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. At the time, the projected output gap was $700 billion through 2023—the period when most of the spending would take place. As such, the bill was two or three times too big, especially considering the economy was mostly reopened and growing, with unemployment dropping fast from 14.8 percent the year before to 6 percent.”

“Today, several new studies confirm that this bout of inflation is rooted in demand, not supply. That’s not to say supply-chain chokepoints, originally resulting from the global shutdown imposed by governments and a sudden shift away from services toward goods, played no role.

However, we wouldn’t have such large-scale supply-chain problems without the shutdowns followed by the aforementioned government-fueled increase in demand for durable goods. According to Robert Koopman at the World Trade Organization, artificially inflated demand accounted for as much as two-thirds of supply shortages.

Second, global supply chains are, obviously, global. If inflation were truly the product of supply-chain issues, we would witness roughly the same rates of inflation throughout the industrialized world. But we don’t. Most industrialized countries have lower levels of inflation than the United States. These other countries also implemented significantly lower amounts of COVID-19 spending.”

“Today, all prices are rising, including wages (though for now at a lower rate), and the inflation is persistent. This is because of overblown fiscal and monetary policies. Tackling the problem requires strong Fed actions and significant fiscal restraint by Congress. Short of both, inflation will persist for much longer, inflicting disproportionate harm on the most economically vulnerable.

This also means that the recent calls to offset inflation with subsidies for gas, housing, child care, and more will require borrowed money. Since fiscal largesse is the source of the problem, and since these efforts make the affected markets more inefficient, the approach raises the risk of a great stagnation spiral.”

The real scandal behind billionaire Eric Schmidt paying for Biden’s science office

“Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has faced a backlash since Politico reported earlier this week that he indirectly funds and wields unusually heavy influence over an important White House office tasked with advising President Joe Biden’s administration on technical and scientific issues.
The ethical concerns surrounding this news are glaring: A tech billionaire with an obvious personal interest in shaping government tech policy is giving money to an independent government agency devoted to tech and science, albeit through his private philanthropic foundation.

The real scandal, however, is that a government office needed philanthropic aid to fund its work in the first place, creating an ethical quandary over potential conflicts of interest.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is responsible for advising the president on a vital and wide breadth of public policy — whether it’s “a people’s Bill of Rights for automated technologies” or the gargantuan effort of preparing for future pandemics. It also has a meager $5 million annual budget — which means it has to get creative to do its work.

“The use of staff from other federal agencies and the armed services, universities, and philanthropically funded nonprofits dates back five presidential administrations — but President Biden was the first to elevate the office to Cabinet level,” an OSTP spokesperson said in a statement to Recode.

According to the office, among the 127 people who currently work there, only 25 are OSTP employees. The remaining are a mix of temporary appointees from other federal agencies, as well as people from universities, science organizations, or fellowships that may be funded by philanthropy.”

“Both OSTP and Schmidt Futures maintain that their connection has been misconstrued as nefarious; they say this sort of partnership is par for the course.

In a statement, Schmidt Futures highlighted how the OSTP has been “chronically underfunded,” and said that it was proud to be among the “leading organizations” providing funding to OSTP. In other words, Schmidt Futures makes clear that it isn’t the only private organization to charitably provide much-needed monetary support to government agencies.”

““Outsiders are not subject to government ethics rules or the government’s transparency requirements,” Shaub continued. “They may put their own interests before the American people, and we have no way of knowing how that changes outcomes.”

It’s one thing for the public and private sectors to coordinate on and contribute to a project — it’s another when a government office accepts money from philanthropy that creates potential ethical conflicts. That signals a systematic underfunding of the public sector that all but guarantees some dependence on private interests, and accepting such money creates a problematic trade-off.

Speculating on the true motive behind Schmidt’s involvement in OSTP is almost beside the point. It seems inevitable that the money quietly flowing from him and his foundation to the office would apply pressure that favors Schmidt’s personal and business interests.”

“Government is expected to be fairly transparent and accountable to the public, while the philanthropy world is often opaque and subject to the whims of private, ultra-wealthy individuals”

They warned about pandemics before Covid-19. Now they have a $100 billion plan to stop the next one.

“Among other priorities, the plan includes funding for: creating vaccine candidates for each of the 26 families of viruses known to infect humans; developing antiviral medications that can work against a broad spectrum of viruses; building out manufacturing capacity for vaccines, antivirals, tests, and other countermeasures; deploying genomic sequencing as a way to track outbreaks; developing broadly useful diagnostic technologies and better regulatory processes for approving and disseminating plentiful rapid tests; and improving security in laboratories dealing with dangerous viruses.

The White House, to its credit, has already proposed funding around this level. Most recently, in its 2023 budget proposal, the Biden administration asked for $88.2 billion in funding over five years on pandemic preparedness. That includes $40 billion for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health and Human Services to “invest in advanced development and manufacturing of countermeasures for high priority threats and viral families, including vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and personal protective equipment (PPE),” as well as $12.1 billion in research funding for the National Institutes of Health for vaccine, therapeutics, and diagnostics development.

Bumb notes that the Biden proposal actually drew on the original Apollo plan put out by the bipartisan commission. That’s part of why the new commission report is so notable: This is a group that’s capable of driving policymaking at high levels.

That said, Congress has yet to appropriate money at the commission’s desired level to prevent the next pandemic. It’s barely interested in further funding response to the current, ongoing pandemic, which is still killing hundreds of Americans a day. A group of senators recently cut a deal for $10 billion to fund Covid-19 response, after slashing funding the White House wanted to help fight the pandemic abroad — only to have Republicans block the deal on the Senate floor over separate immigration concerns. Even if the funding eventually passes, it’ll have to wait until after the Easter recess ends on April 22.”

Time for an Operation Warp Speed to Develop Pan-Coronavirus Vaccines

“Way back in May 2020, three researchers at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) published an op-ed in Nature arguing that with respect to developing universal coronavirus vaccines “the time to start is now.” As it turns out, the time to start for the NIAID was 15 months later when the agency got around to awarding three academic institutions a little over $36 million to research pan-coronavirus vaccines in September 2021.

The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed could serve as a much better model for incentivizing pharmaceutical companies to greatly speed up the development and deployment of the candidate pan-coronavirus vaccines on which some are currently working. In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, two immunologists point out that the global cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is an estimated $16 trillion, compared to the cost of developing a typical vaccine at $1 billion. They note that even a $10 billion vaccine is minuscule compared with the pandemic’s toll.

Among the promising pan-coronavirus candidate vaccines are the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s spike ferritin nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccine; Osivax’s nucleocapsid vaccine targeting a protein widely prevalent among coronaviruses that is unlikely to mutate; and Inovio’s DNA vaccine encoding variant sequences of the spike proteins the virus uses to invade cells.”

Covid deal hampered by GOP opposition to Biden immigration policy

“Conflict over President Joe Biden’s immigration policy is complicating passage of a $10 billion coronavirus bill before a two-week congressional recess.

Just a day after Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a deal on billions for therapeutics, vaccines and testing, GOP senators threw in a wrench that could mean Congress will break with nothing. Senate Republicans say they want a vote on an amendment that would keep in place the Title 42 border restrictions, which allows limits on immigration due to the pandemic. Without one, they say the bill can’t proceed.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that “there’s going to have to be an amendment on Title 42 in order to move the bill.” Without agreement among all 100 senators, the Senate will be unable to take up and quickly move the bill this week.”

“The impasse could stall for weeks what Biden called much-needed coronavirus aid, unless senators can reach a deal before they plan to leave on Thursday or Friday. Without a breakthrough, the aid won’t be approved until late April or perhaps May. Republicans blocked a vote advance the bill on Tuesday, though Schumer can quickly bring it back up if there’s a deal on amendments.”

“Democrats already think they’ve conceded plenty to the Republicans after Monday’s bipartisan agreement left out global vaccine funding. So there’s not a ton of enthusiasm for giving Republicans their immigration vote.”

How Congress’s dependence on short-term funding keeps us stuck in the past

“the latest CR means that government agencies are still operating on a budget from December 2020. Not only is that budget insufficient to meet the funding needs of major portions of the government, such as the Defense and Transportation departments, but the use of the CR prevents the implementation of new programs from legislation Congress has already passed, like the infrastructure bill. Without individual appropriations bills or an omnibus bill that accounts for all of the programs and funding needed for different agencies, the government can’t get started on a number of major projects despite the clear need for infrastructure upgrades and bipartisan support for the legislation.”

Prisons, Water Infrastructure And Broadband: Where States Are Spending Their Pandemic Relief Funding

“combined with previous coronavirus response bills and spending packages, the federal government has now spent almost $5 trillion addressing the pandemic”

“It’s not clear yet where all this money will go — states have an enormous amount of leeway as to how they’ll spend it and until 2026 to do so. (In total, $155 billion went out to states in 2021, with the rest due to be distributed later this year.) Most states have used the windfall of cash to address the budget problems caused by the economic downturn following the pandemic and to address the inequities thrown into sharp relief during the past two years. But while there are broad commonalities in how states have spent the money, it’s also true that how relief from the pandemic is defined varies widely — not necessarily across partisan lines but in ways that are still shaped by local conditions and ideology.”

“Almost every state that has allocated money so far has spent some on broadband, water and sewer infrastructure”

“Infrastructure has also been a big priority for states like Florida, which is spending money on highways and other transportation projects that had been long-planned but unfinished. Lazere said some of the need for infrastructure goes all the way back to the Great Recession, which began in 2007, and the long, slow recovery that followed. “These were areas of need that had not been addressed, [for which] there hadn’t been a dedicated state or federal funding source, so the rescue plan gave them the opportunity to tackle these problems that had been around for a long time,” he said.
Additionally, because the funds are a large, one-time payment, with no expectation that they’ll continue into the future, it encourages spending on infrastructure.

“It really starts with states doing that analysis, to be able to know what’s affordable over the long-term and what’s not,” said Josh Goodman, who is part of The Pew Charitable Trusts’s state fiscal health project.”

“In Alabama, $400 million will be used for building two new prisons.”

“the state has been under a court order to improve mental health care in its prisons since 2017, and advocates of the new law say using the recovery funds to build a new prison will address those problems, as well as overcrowding and inadequate staffing. They also say the new facilities will improve the overall health care and mental health care available to incarcerated individuals.”

“In more liberal states and localities, lawmakers are pursuing new financial assistance programs for local families. One idea that has picked up steam is funding guaranteed income pilot programs, with eligible residents receiving between $500 and $1,000 in cash assistance monthly. Support for these programs has been growing across the ideological spectrum, especially in the last few years.”

N.Y. Can’t Teach Kids To Read on $30,000

“In New York, where I live, real per-pupil revenue has increased by a mind-boggling 68 percent between 2002 and 2019. Public schools in the Empire State are now shelling out more than $30,000 per kid. That’s more than double the national average, and it doesn’t even include the $16 billion extra that New York’s system got in combined federal and state COVID-19 relief funding.

Yet New York’s public schools are still as terrible as the Mets, the Jets, and the Giants, with only a third or fewer of students up to grade level in eighth grade reading and math, according to their scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), widely considered the gold standard for judging school outcomes. Those scores aren’t much different than they were 20 years ago.

In fact, $30,000 a year puts the lie to the argument pushed by unions and progressives that more money will fix schools. More money hasn’t helped the rest of the country boost their scores either. According to NAEP, whatever minor improvements in reading and math that were made for students ages 9 and 13 since the early 1970s have flattened since the early 2000s. We’re paying more for the same results.

None of this is a mystery. The connection between bigger spending and good outcomes is weak at best, whether we’re talking about comparisons among U.S. states or international ones.”

U.S. inflation might have hit a new 40-year high in January

“With American consumers spending freely and many supply chains still snarled, year-over-year inflation may have notched yet another four-decade high in January.
The factors that have accelerated prices since last spring remain largely in place: Wages are rising at the fastest pace in at least 20 years. Ports and warehouses are overwhelmed, with hundreds of workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest, out sick last month. Many products and parts remain in short supply as a result.

And reports indicate that the expiration of stimulus checks and other government aid has yet to slow Americans’ appetite for shopping.”

Inflation Means Interest Rates Could Rise. Higher Interest Rates Will Make the National Debt More Expensive.

“consider the public debt—especially the federal debt, which ballooned as a result of large budget deficits in recent years. (In 2020, the federal government raised $3.4 trillion in revenue and spent $6.6 trillion.) The interest cost of the national debt was $253 billion in 2008, equivalent to $325 billion in 2021 dollars; it remained around that level through 2015. Even though the debt doubled in those years, sharply falling interest rates and low inflation helped contain costs.

But that was yesterday. With today’s higher inflation and rising interest rates (perhaps with more to come), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the interest cost of public debt is $413 billion in 2021, stated in current dollars. Obviously, any dollar spent on interest cannot be spent on government benefits or services.

Looking ahead, the CBO expects more of the same. For 2026, it projects that the interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds, currently 1.5 percent, will be 2.6 percent, and that the interest cost of the federal debt will rise to $524 billion. For 2030, the projections are 2.8 percent and $829 billion, respectively, all stated in current dollars for the noted years.

Now we are talking about real money. To put $829 billion into perspective, in 2020 the United States spent $714 billion on the military, $769 billion on Medicare, and $914 billion on all nondefense discretionary spending, all stated in 2020 dollars. Back-of-the-envelope calculations strongly suggest that some spending categories will have to give.”