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Five Facts on Flattening the Curve of Coronavirus Spread

No Labels - April 3, 2020

Health experts say it’s crucial to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus transmissions to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with critically ill patients. Flattening the curve might prolong the pandemic, scientists say, but fewer people would die because they would receive better medical treatment.

No Labels

  1. “Flattening the curve” refers to slowing the speed of the pandemic’s spread.

America Doesn’t Need Pelosi’s Massive Spending Package

Jessica Anderson - April 2, 2020

When Congress finally passed its third coronavirus relief act on Friday, many Americans suffered sticker shock at the $2 trillion bill. But Nancy Pelosi and her followers are never content to let a crisis go to waste — they are now hoping to pass yet another sweeping bill — and the result won’t be pretty.

As the novel coronavirus endangered Americans and government actions spurred a deep economic dive, our government had to act fast. They passed the CARES Act last week to help keep workers and businesses afloat, albeit at a steep cost. The President activated FEMA, the National Guard, and other military units to deal with the virus while banning travel from the most infected countries. The Federal Reserve released trillions of dollars of liquidity into the financial markets. The government’s actions have adopted a whole-of-government approach to address both the urgent public health and economic impacts of the crisis.

Decision to Stay Out of Workforce Is About Avoiding COVID-19, Not Work

Brent Orrell - April 1, 2020

In the run-up to Senate passage of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, a number of senators expressed skepticism about the $600 per month unemployment supplement available to all workers filing through their state unemployment systems. The argument went that for workers in low-wage jobs, regular unemployment plus the supplement would be more attractive than work and would encourage people to stay home rather than take available jobs.

It turns out they may have been right about the unwillingness to return to work, but for the wrong reason. The Saturday New York Times ran a piece detailing how individuals are actually responding to the crisis and it appears that for some, the decision to stay out of the workforce isn’t about avoiding work but avoiding COVID-19:

Scott Yates, 42, who was indefinitely furloughed from his job as a head bartender in one of the busiest and largest hotels in Charleston, W.Va., said he and his wife had decided not to, even though it seemed that Walmart, Sam’s Club and Kroger were “hiring left and right.”

“It’s not worth a $13-an-hour job coming home and infecting my family — and then who else does that spiderweb to?” said Mr. Yates, who has two teenagers, and on Friday got his last paycheck, which was about half of what he normally makes with tips.


Five Facts about the Defense Production Act

No Labels - March 31, 2020

President Trump has ordered General Motors to make critical-care ventilators, after weeks of hearing calls to produce more medical equipment to combat the coronavirus. To do so, he invoked a 70-year-old law, the Defense Production Act.

No Labels

  1. The Defense Production Act (DPA) was passed during the Korean War, and has been invoked several times since.

Young People Are Lonely, Too.

Samuel J. Abrams - March 30, 2020

The media is, understandably, focused on the impact of Covid-19 on older Americans. In addition to the health risks from the virus, stories like “Elders Face the Pandemic Alone” have emphasized the negative effects of social isolation on the elderly. But it is a huge mistake to overlook the impact of social distancing on younger Americans, especially those under 30. Surprising as it may be, evidence suggests that this demographic is even more lonely and isolated than older Americans.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the social needs of our nation’s Millennials and Gen Zers are barely mentioned by the mainstream media. Instead the focus has been on the foolish behavior of a handful of Gen Zers ignoring “social distancing” advisories. Outrage on social media erupted when a number of students interviewed in Florida had refused to cancel their spring break plans. One student even proclaimed that, “If I get corona, I get corona … At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying. … We’ve been waiting for Miami spring break for a while.” It is absolutely true that this behavior is reckless and irresponsible (that foolish student later apologized), but that doesn’t mean the nation should ignore the social and communal needs of younger Americans, who are coming of age at a time when the world is in utter chaos.

Media is Woefully Irresponsible on Supposed Link Between Vaping & COVID-19

Elizabeth Sheld - March 30, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the media another opportunity to foment vaping-related panic. Little is known as to why some victims of this new virus are more afflicted than others. Such ambiguity presents an opportunity for the media to pick up where they left off only months ago when they were ginning up anti-vaping hysteria via a different culprit: illegal, counterfeit THC cartridges. Journalists frightened the public only to be proven wrong after thorough investigation by the CDC. Have they learned their lesson? Let’s have a look at what they are reporting about vaping and COVID-19.

A New York Post article entitled “Doctors say vaping could make coronavirus worse for young people” tells us that “US doctors are reportedly eyeing vaping as a possible factor in the alarming number of hospitalizations among young adults diagnosed with COVID-19.” Who are these doctors supposedly “eyeing” vaping in COVID-19 diagnoses? The Post offers only one “doctor,” Stanton Glantz, who isn’t a medical doctor but rather a Ph.D. And Glantz isn’t a disinterested scientist, he’s an anti-vape activist whose “scientific” paper  linking vaping with heart attacks was recently retracted by a prestigious medical journal. The Journal of the American Heart Association explained, "The editors are concerned that the study conclusion is unreliable." Why should an expert of Glantz’s dubious reliability be referenced in a news report?

America's Parliamentary Mindset

Dennis R. Bullock - March 27, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden is winning Democratic primaries to a great extent on a message of uniting a politically fractured country and restoring normality back to the governmental system. Those aspirations are, of course, fundamentally positive in this time of legislative inertia and public dissatisfaction. The greatest challenge to the achievability of these aims, however, is a now prevailing mindset about the nature of America’s system of government held by significant, entrenched elements within both the Republican and Democratic parties. It is a mindset that will be difficult to fully overcome, at least in the short-term, should the presidency change hands.

Put simply, a vast swath of the electorate, and a great many serving in the government itself, have come to misguidedly view America’s system through a parliamentary lens: they see political parties as more than the primary actors within the governmental structure; they see the parties as the government. Thus, too many people of all political stripes have come to perceive America’s constitutional structure as a set of mechanisms to control and utilize for one party’s political ends, rather than a set of institutions for the parties to operate within, and conflict with, each other.

The House Must Pass the Stimulus Bill Now and Worry About Perfection Later

After much flailing about, the Senate has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) bill. The House should act immediately and pass it.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell has articulated what virtually every economist is thinking: the economy is probably now in recession. What that means, in practical terms, is that weakness is feeding on weakness: one layoff causes a delayed payment, which reduces income, which reduces spending, which causes another layoff — happening over and over in every sector of the economy, from coast to coast.

Can Technology Help Bridge Social Distance?

Taylor Barkley - March 27, 2020

Technology is often portrayed in the popular press as a source of peril for society. It is fashionable to decry the “addictiveness” of social media, for instance, or the “distractedness” engendered by consumer devices such as the smart phone. Digital technology is said to be tearing down democracy, harming our mental health, destroying our personal relationships, and other similarly bold claims. Yet, we find during this global pandemic and its resulting social isolation, modern technology — and yes, even social media — are playing a critical role in helping us sustain human connections.

I know this from experience. For my wife and me, social media was a lifeline during the worst trial of our lives, providing a tangible example of the value of social capital. Our experience offers a hopeful example as we try to overcome social isolation and help one another during the coronavirus pandemic.

Making It Easier to See a Doctor in the Future

James C. Capretta - March 26, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has the medical community scrambling to address critical shortages in supplies and personnel. Among the problems is that some communities now battling the virus had too few physicians even before patients began suffering from a virulent and highly contagious pathogen.

While it is not possible to boost the physician workforce rapidly in a crisis (it typically takes eights years of post-secondary schooling to get a medical degree), it is possible to adjust the processes now in place for educating, training, and licensing practicing physicians so that supply can adjust more naturally (and with less government involvement) to the changing needs and wishes of the patient population.

Sanctuary Bill Would Endanger Maryland's Schoolchildren

Shakil Hamid - March 26, 2020

For most of the past year, Montgomery County, Maryland has prohibited local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Now, lawmakers in the Maryland Senate are trying to impose that "sanctuary" policy statewide.  

Their proposed bill, SB 901, has generated considerable opposition, mostly from people worried that sanctuary policies release dangerous criminals back into the community.

Can Democracy Survive Social Distancing?

Joshua Mitchell - March 25, 2020

Man cannot live by bread alone — or can he? Now that grocery stores alone remain open, and we are practicing “social distancing,” we have engaged in an extraordinary global experiment to see if we can, in fact, live by bread alone.

In the space of a few short weeks, our global-world-without-boundaries has collapsed in upon itself, because corona virus has brought the prospect of death to the forefront of our imagination. The dream of a borderless world has been supplanted by a nightmare that prompts many of us to mark our front doors as the outer limit of our habitation. Our minds sharpened by the prospect of death, life for many now consists in four activities: contact with those immediately around us at home; seeing, but not connecting with, others when we confer with them over the internet or pass them, at a distance, in the stores that provide our daily bread; listening to government authorities that inform us of what we must do next; and watching Netflix at home for entertainment and to dispel our boredom and anxiety.

Give Doctors the Information They Need to More Effectively Treat Coronavirus

Naomi Lopez - March 25, 2020

In the tumult of the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, there is an enormous amount of confusion about potential treatments. Last week, President Trump announced that chloroquine, a treatment used for malaria and arthritis, is now approved for the virus. That was then followed by denials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Here’s what we do know: In a time when information is imperative for doctors to more effectively treat this virus, outdated rules are keeping them from getting the information about possible treatments — information that might mitigate this outbreak and potentially save lives.

First, let’s begin by clarifying that there are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or treatments for the symptoms of COVID-19. There are potential vaccines and treatments now in FDA clinical trials, but these are being evaluated for clinical safety and efficacy. In addition, there are treatments already in clinical trials for other illnesses that have promise as also being effective against this virus, and manufacturers are scouring their treatment libraries for abandoned trials that might also be effective.

But an FDA-approved treatment for malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis — chloroquine — is now being used by some hospitals across the country to treat patients who have the virus. Chloroquine is one of several travel drugs discussed on the CDC’s travel medicine online information. More than a decade ago, my family, including my then-three-year-old, took chloroquine as a prophylaxis as prescribed by our travel medicine doctor before traveling to Costa Rica.

Now, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, many hospitals across the country are reporting the use of chloroquine or a combination of Zithromax, commonly known as a Z-pack, and chloroquine as a treatment for in-hospital patients. This treatment is based on early clinical findings regarding COVID-19 from around the world, as well as the initial experiences of physicians treating patients on the frontline here in the U.S. These treatments are just now being formally evaluated here in the U.S. as part of the clinic trial evaluation process.

Both drugs, while FDA-approved, are not approved separately or in combination for this virus as yet. But this treatment is legal. When a drug is prescribed is written for an indication other than an FDA-approved indication, then it is being prescribed off-label. These kinds of prescriptions are extremely common: Roughly 20 percent of all drugs are prescribed off-label. If your child has ever been prescribed amoxicillin for an ear infection, for example, they got an off-label prescription since this antibiotic it isn't approved for kids.

While it is legal for a physician to prescribe it off-label, FDA gag rules prevent the manufacturer from sharing truthful and scientific information about off-label uses of that drug or combination of drugs. Under current FDA policy, communicating about an approved treatment for a legal, off-label use can result in criminal prosecution and penalties. Now more than ever, physicians need to understand the treatment needs of patients, but many are being kept in the dark without access to full information about treatment options.

The FDA, often with congressional directives, has made important improvements in moving closer toward the goal of bringing the right treatment, to the right patient, and at the right time. But the current gag rules on manufacturers that keep truthful and scientific information about off-label uses may be hindering both scientific progress and the prioritization of potential treatments to the patients who need it most.

Finger-pointing and squabbling about the president’s likely misstatements about confusing and often-murky FDA policy will do nothing to change the fact that outdated rules are standing in the way of doctors accessing the full toolkit of potential treatment options. Truthful and scientific information is needed now more than ever — and government gag rules and red tape shouldn’t stand in the way of doctors learning about potential treatments.

Naomi Lopez is the Director of Healthcare Policy at the Goldwater Institute.


How Do We Measure What Congress Has Accomplished?

Jonathan Bydlak - March 25, 2020

With approval ratings somewhere below Nickelback and root canals, Congress is hardly America’s favorite institution. The American public certainly seems to view gridlock and shutdowns dimly, and there’s a popular notion that the best measure of whether Congress is doing its job is whether it’s passing a large number of laws. “More laws good; fewer laws bad,” according to this view.

That framing might not be accurate – more on that later – but the number of enacted and introduced laws has certainly trended downward over time.

Washington Should Resist Calls to Repeat the Mistakes of 2008

Timothy Lee - March 25, 2020

As Congress rushes to finish a must-pass rescue package to offset the economic effects of the corona virus, the danger increases that special-interest provisions are added to win the few remaining votes.  

After the financial crisis of 2008, retail merchants rode a wave of anti-bank sentiment to regulate the fees that banks, card companies and payment-card processors charged them for moving debit card payments electronically between consumer and merchant banks. Known as the “Durbin Amendment” to the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, the Federal Reserve was tasked with fixing the prices on interchange fees. 

Staunching the Bleeding and Starting the Recovery

Brent Orrell & Caleb Seibert - March 24, 2020

A New York Times article last week examining unofficial state-level reports from only 15 states suggests nearly 630,000 unemployment insurance claims have been filed over the past several days. This is almost 350,000 more claims than were filed in all states last week. Those numbers and the economic dislocation and uncertainty they represent are just the beginning of what is certain to be a lengthy and difficult process of supporting American families who will need assistance in returning to work or finding new jobs once the crisis passes.

Recent efforts by Congress to strengthen paid leave and bolster unemployment insurance administrative capacity are a good first step in providing immediate relief for suddenly dislocated workers. But providing money is only the initial challenge. Filing delays, overwhelmed call centers, crashing IT systems, and a rush of emergency staff hiring at unemployment offices are signs of a critical bureaucratic bottleneck in process. We need to be looking at how states are innovating around this challenge and encourage replication of practices that reduce wait times and speed the delivery of benefits.


Five Facts About Coronavirus Research

No Labels - March 24, 2020

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus is spurring numerous types of research at government labs, health care industries, universities and elsewhere. Some research points to potentially life-saving vaccines, while others suggest things will get much worse before they get better.

No Labels

  1. Experiments seeking a coronavirus vaccine are taking place, but any widely available vaccine is at least a year away.

We Have the Technology to Address Climate Change & Still Use Fossil Fuels

Merrill Matthews - March 23, 2020

Lawmakers want to fight climate change, but many of them are taking the wrong approach. Proposals to abandon fossil fuels entirely, like the Green New Deal, are both impractical and expensive.

Fortunately, we don’t need to ban fossil fuels to reduce carbon emissions. The better approach is to capture the carbon we emit and store it underground, safely away from the atmosphere.

Come Home, America. We're at War.

Richard M. Reinsch II - March 23, 2020

We are now embarked, again, on what William James called in a 1910 essay “the moral equivalent of war.” Nature has instigated it, but our government has issued the formal declaration. It’s become a familiar posture, although wars on poverty, racism, crime, drugs, terrorism, etc., are often fought by others and seem to require little from us. Not this one. Americans are summoned to a grand domestic project that will require military-like discipline and purpose, led by the federal government. We will fight this through pervasive isolation. The near-term devastation of our economy, particularly for many small businesses, will follow. We will live online. Even our churches and religions institutions are closed.

Should we fail, many will die, many others will get sick; the health-care system will be overwhelmed, harming others still. Even if we succeed — however we define victory — a large proportion of the population will get sick. And no one can state with precision how long this continues. It’s the full “moral equivalent of war” experience. A nation ravaged by deaths of despair, opioid abuse, declining rates of family formation, banal secularism, loneliness, gray divorce, high levels of private and public debt, irascible political disagreements, among other unpleasant trends, has been enlisted to fight it. You go to war with the army you have. And we don’t look so sturdy.

'Right to Repair' Is About Stealing Tech, Not Helping Farmers

Craig Johnson - March 20, 2020

Joe Biden may be the clear leader in the race to win the Democratic nomination, but Bernie Sanders isn’t out just yet. His continued legitimacy throughout the presidential primary race has sounded alarms not just for Republicans, but for mainstream, moderate Democrats. Why? One look at some of his policy positions and it’s pretty clear. From his praise of notorious communist dictator Fidel Castro, to his $60 trillion agenda, his policy proposals are viewed by many on his own side of the aisle as extreme and radical.

While Sanders’ stances on things like healthcare, taxes, and defense spending might be soaking up all the headlines, there are other issues he endorses that are equally as troubling, especially to farmers like me. Buried in his policy platform is support for a national “right to repair” policy. So far, so-called “right to repair” or “fair repair” bills have only been brought up at the state level and have failed to pass in every state, regardless of the political party in charge. That’s because this policy, despite how nice it sounds, is misleading and would actually do more harm than good for the agriculture community.

“Right to repair” bills aren’t actually about the right to repair equipment — it’s already legal for farmers to repair their equipment and it’s their right to maintain their tractors, combines, and other farming gear. But special interest groups are taking advantage of farmers in order to get access to code. They want to gain unfettered access to the equipment’s technology, which isn’t necessary for equipment owners to perform most maintenance and repair tasks. This policy would give bad actors a loophole by making their nefarious activities, like stealing and modifying embedded code, legal.

This would have all kinds of negative consequences for farmers and the agriculture community as a whole. These illegal modifications would undermine the equipment’s safety and emissions controls, and reduce durability, reliability and resale value. It will also shorten the equipment’s lifespan, putting at risk the hundreds of thousands of dollars that farmers and ranchers invest in their machinery.

It’s clear that “right to repair” advocates are exploiting a false narrative to further their agenda. Maybe that is why every state that has previously introduced “right to repair” bills failed to pass the legislation. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in leading agriculture states from Iowa to New York, and in my own state of North Dakota, were not fooled by the hidden intentions of overly broad "right to repair" bills, especially at the expense of hard-working farmers and ranchers.

Modern-era technology allows farmers to operate more efficiently by better utilizing their resources. Innovative technology, like precision agriculture, is intended to improve the livelihood of farmers and ranchers. The farming industry has changed dramatically for the better over the past few decades, thanks in part, to investments in new technologies.

Bernie Sanders clearly does not understand this, and has decided to embrace another fringe, unpopular policy that will hurt the people he’s trying to support. Allowing bad actors to tamper with and have access to equipment’s embedded code undermines the hard-work manufacturers put into providing the latest high-tech features to make farmers’ lives better.

The U.S. agriculture industry will only continue to thrive if smart policies are in place to foster new innovative ideas, which means our politicians — at the state and national level — should stay away from “right to repair” bills.