Elections

The Georgia Senate Races Will Help Shape Future Perceptions of Trump

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President Donald Trump gestures during a campaign rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Ga., October 16, 2020. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Axios reports that President Trump may formally announce his intention to run for another term in 2024, maybe even before he leaves office.

We have no idea what the world will look like in 2024. In October 2019, no one knew that the world would be changed by a massive global pandemic in 2020.

We don’t know if Joe Biden will be running for another term in 2024, or whether he will have passed the torch to Kamala Harris. We don’t know whether we will be at war or at peace. We don’t know what the state of the economy will be. We don’t know which party will control the House or Senate. We don’t know who will be on the Supreme Court. We don’t know what the national mood will be as the 2024 presidential race begins or ends.

While we don’t like to think about this much, we don’t know if any of our key political figures — or ourselves — will be alive.

Even Republicans who oppose Trump should recognize that, as of this moment, he would make a formidable candidate in the primary and perhaps general election in four years. He presided over three years of economic growth and low unemployment, record stock-market gains, three Supreme Court justices and hundreds of federal judges that conservatives adore, the destruction of ISIS, the First Step Act, Right to Try, 415 miles of new border fencing, the burgeoning relationship between Israel and certain Muslim states, and I’m sure you can think of other accomplishments and developments you appreciate. Even with the pandemic raging, unemployment still higher than before the pandemic began, and his own flaws as a candidate, Trump came within 65,900 votes in three states (Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona) and a congressional district (Nebraska) of reaching 270 electoral votes. This year he won more than 74 million votes, the second-highest vote total in American history.

Unfortunately for the president, the highest vote total in American history is Joe Biden’s, now approaching 81 million votes.

To say that Trump’s 2024 bid depends upon the outcome of the Georgia runoffs would be an overstatement. But if Trump’s increasingly incoherent claims of a vast conspiracy stealing the election — and contentions that Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger are either in on it or negligent in their duties — cost the Republicans one or both seats, it will leave a bad taste in a lot of Republicans’ mouths. Preserving Trump’s legislative legacy depends in part upon a GOP-controlled Senate that can oppose efforts to repeal Trump-era changes. A 50–50 Senate would have ties broken by Kamala Harris, and that would give Democrats a bit more leverage to undo the changes Trump made. And more than a few Republicans would see Trump as perpetually self-destructive – so focused on his anger over losing the election and farfetched theories that he really won in a landslide that he couldn’t focus on the Georgia Senate races.

Why would Republicans want to bet it all in 2024 on a guy who keeps finding ways to beat himself?

Economics

Walter Williams, R.I.P.

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The great economist and freedom fighter Walter Williams has died. This is an incredibly sad news. Walter was a great communicator of ideas and a prolific, provocative and uncompromising writer. He was the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University. His voice, his happy-warrior demeanor, his cosmopolitan views, his endless fight on behalf of those with no political voices, and his generosity to all of us at Mason will be missed.

David Henderson writes about the news here.

Economic Policy Journal has this tribute. It includes this tidbit:

He was the author of over 150 publications which have appeared in scholarly journals such as Economic Inquiry, American Economic Review, Georgia Law Review, Journal of Labor Economics, Social Science Quarterly, and Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy and popular publications such as Newsweek, Ideas on Liberty, National Review, Reader’s Digest, Cato Journal, and Policy Review. He authored ten books: America: A Minority ViewpointThe State Against Blacks, which was later made into the PBS documentary “Good Intentions,” All It Takes Is Guts, South Africa’s War Against Capitalism, which was later revised for South African publication, Do the Right Thing: The People’s Economist Speaks More Liberty Means Less Government, Liberty vs. the Tyranny of Socialism, Up From The Projects: An Autobiography, Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? and American Contempt for Liberty.

If possible, I will update this post with more tributes to Walter. Until then, here is one of Russ Roberts’ EconTalk podcasts with Walter Williams.

R.I.P., Walter.

Politics & Policy

Paul Krugman’s Predictable Amnesia

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Even by the standards of blind, partisan hackery, Paul Krugman stands out as worthy of a Nobel prize in the field. Dory from Finding Nemo would envy Krugman’s ability to forget what he wrote the day before yesterday. Consider the topic of legitimacy of elections.

Krugman on August 19, 2005:

There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn’t change the outcome. . . . In his recent book “Steal This Vote” — a very judicious work, despite its title — Andrew Gumbel . . . provides the best overview I’ve seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: “Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election.” . . . Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration’s legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation’s feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan’s supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever. Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty…He told me that he wasn’t brushing off the serious problems in Ohio . . .

The original version of that column claimed: “Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably [Katherine] Harris’s ‘felon purge,’ which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.” This was false, and had to be corrected. And even liberal election law professor Rick Hasen said of this column, “Krugman also makes claims about the vote being stolen in Ohio in 2004. From what I have seen so far (including the Conyers report), I am not convinced that intentional action by state officials cost John Kerry the vote in Ohio.” (And yes, Democrats in Congress such as John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler made extensive protests and demands for investigation of voting machines in Ohio after the 2004 election).

Krugman on November 7, 2016:

This was, in fact, a rigged election. The election was rigged by state governments that did all they could to prevent nonwhite Americans from voting. . . . The election was rigged by Russian intelligence, which was almost surely behind the hacking of Democratic emails. . . . The election was rigged by James Comey, the director of the F.B.I. . . . The election was also rigged by people within the F.B.I. . . . pro-Trump agents have clearly been talking nonstop to Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and right-wing media . . . . The election was rigged by partisan media, especially Fox News. . . . The election was rigged by mainstream news organizations, many of which simply refused to report on policy issues. . . . The election was rigged by the media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s emails…

Krugman on July 17, 2020:

At this point, it will be almost impossible for Trump to win reelection legitimately. It’s quite possible, however, that he will try to steal the election . . . attempted theft could happen in multiple ways; expect to see many or all in November. Men claiming to be federal agents, but without identification, are already making arrests. Coming to polling places in November? Broken voting machines in D-leaning precincts? Mysterious and selective rejection of millions of absentee ballots? The list goes on. Don’t say they wouldn’t; clearly they will if they can. If you aren’t scared, you’re oblivious.

Krugman on November 30, 2020:

How Will Biden Deal With Republican Sabotage? . . . When Joe Biden is inaugurated, he will immediately be confronted with an unprecedented challenge — and I don’t mean the pandemic, although Covid-19 will almost surely be killing thousands of Americans every day. I mean, instead, that he’ll be the first modern U.S. president trying to govern in the face of an opposition that refuses to accept his legitimacy. And no, Democrats by and large were not claiming Donald Trump was illegitimate, just that he was incompetent and dangerous.

Remember, people like Krugman care about legitimacy only when it’s their own party in power. And they bank on you not remembering what they said then.

Economy & Business

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

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In his interesting post on the “corporate-woke complex,” John Loftus writes of “our largest multinational corporations, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike.” I thought that was an interesting grouping of the largest, one that highlights the economic changes of the past couple of decades: By market capitalization, Apple is more than five times the size of Coca-Cola and Nike combined.

There is something more to companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet, along with Chinese rivals such as Tencent and Alibaba, that isn’t quite captured by the term “multinational corporation.” Maybe we don’t have a word yet for what precisely it is they are.

Education

Pushing Back Against Academic Groupthink

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Day by day, academia is coming to resemble the Catholic Church in the 16th century, when the suppression of heresy became an obsession. Our present-day heretics aren’t burned at the stake, but they are apt to suffer professional reprisals. This is the very antithesis of the way educational institutions ought to work.

One professor who has dared to blow the whistle on this is Adam Ellwanger, who teaches English at the University of Houston.  He has written a letter that attacks the censorious tendencies we find in our colleges and universities and in today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins interviews him.

Ellwanger states, “If we’re trying to find out what’s true, then it’s great to have different perspectives so we can have a dialogue and bring ourselves closer to the truth. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening on campus anymore. I don’t think as many people are interested in seeking truth as much as they are in imparting doctrine. And when it comes to imparting doctrine, viewpoints are a hindrance, it makes it harder to indoctrinate — for lack of a better term.”

He’s right — many academicians have been encouraged to think of themselves as change agents whose objective is to turn out legions of social justice warriors.

Ellwanger has obtained 170 signatures so far, but many people have told him, “I’d sign except that I think it might ruin my career.”

He concludes, “I’m not willing to watch the university as we know it slip away without attempting something. And so, at least there was an attempt to preserve what we had even if, ultimately, we are not yet even at the endpoint of the reinvention of the university.”

Good luck, Professor Ellwanger.

Books, Arts & Manners

Douglas Murray and His Continuing Fight against the ‘Madness of Crowds’

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A little over 18 months ago, we interviewed author and columnist Douglas Murray about his then-new book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity. That show was one of our most-watched interviews of 2019, so we thought it was time to sit down with Douglas again and get an update on where things stand with regard to, as Douglas describes in his book, “the interpretation of the world through the lens of ‘social justice,’ ‘identity group politics’ and ‘intersectionalism’ . . . the most audacious and comprehensive effort since the end of the Cold War at creating a new ideology.” We also discuss European politics, examine Boris Johnson’s tenure as U.K. prime minister, and take a sobering look at American politics from the perspective of a very sharp observer.

Recorded on November 23, 2020

Syria
Thirty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Syria, NYC Catholic Schools, Christmas Cards Are a Must & More

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1.

2.  Michael Deegan: Is NYC’s Department of Education trying to sabotage Catholic schools?

The mayor has been on the news lately, saying (rightly) that the key to reopening schools is testing and more testing. That’s great to hear. Why, then, are he and Carranza so dead-set against following state law, now backed by a court order, requiring public and nonpublic kids to receive the same testing resources?

3.

4. Woman who spent years scrubbing explicit video from internet urges tech firms to make it easier to remove

5.

6. Archbishop of Mosul warns of radical Islamists in Europe

“We lost everything in Iraq and the Middle East. And I don’t want France and Europe to lose everything in turn,” Archbishop Najeeb Michaeel (also known as Najib Mikhael Moussa) of Mosul, Iraq, said in an interview with the National Catholic Register’s Solène Tadié

He said that on recent trips to refugee camps in Turkey he has found “several thousand jihadists infiltrated into the hearts of families seeking to reach Europe.” Turkey is “keeping all these people knowing that it will open the doors when it wants to,” he charged. “The problem of migrants is not only humanitarian but also political. It is used for political purposes.”

7. European Parliament says Polish government influenced abortion ruling

The motion from members of European Parliament described the abortion ruling as “yet another example of the political takeover of the judiciary and the systemic collapse of the rule of law in Poland”.

“The aforementioned ruling was pronounced by judges elected by and totally dependent on politicians from the PiS (Law and Justice)-led coalition,” it added.

8. Bret Stephens: Thank You, Justice Gorsuch

The Supreme Court’s decision only temporarily prevents Cuomo from enforcing his executive order, pending a decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals. But it marks an important departure from similar cases earlier this year, when the court deferred to the judgment of governors for how best to handle the pandemic. It also rejects the view (argued by New York State) that Cuomo treats houses of worship in red zones more favorably than he does, say, movie theaters. The right to the free exercise of religion, even if subject to regulation, deserves greater deference than the right to attend your local cineplex.

9.

Continue reading “Thirty Things That Caught My Eye Today: Syria, NYC Catholic Schools, Christmas Cards Are a Must & More”

Law & the Courts

Missouri Bill to Ban ‘Rights of Nature’

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Good. A bill has been filed in Missouri to ban granting legal rights or court standing to any non-human aspect of nature. From HB 54, sponsored by Representative Adam Schnelting:

3. Nature or any ecosystem shall not have standing to participate in or bring a civil action in any court of this state.
4. (1) No person on behalf of or representing nature or an ecosystem shall bring a civil action in any court of this state.
(2) No person on behalf of or representing nature or an ecosystem shall intervene in any manner, such as by filing a counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party complaint, in any civil action brought in any court of this state.
(3) Any plaintiff bringing a civil action shall be human and shall not represent nonhuman entities.

Yes. Way to be proactive!

The rights of nature movement needs to be taken seriously. Four rivers and two glaciers have been granted rights in the world. So was Lake Erie before Ohio passed a preemption law. Ditto, water lands in Orange County, Fla. — which conflicts with a state law recently passed preempting such ordinances.

I can see no reason not to pass this bill but the notorious, “it can’t happen here” complacency. Go, Missouri!

Elections

‘A Cabinet of Caretakers’

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Today on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Michael discuss Biden’s cabinet picks, the Trump campaign’s PA lawsuit loss, and what a post-COVID vaccine world will look like. Listen below, or subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.

Economy & Business

Wages of Error at the New York Times

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The New York Times ran a long editorial over the weekend arguing that higher wages can cause economic growth instead of its always having to be the other way around. The basic argument is succinct if conclusory: “Consumption drives the American economy, and workers who are paid more can spend more.”

The contrary view that wage growth will in the long run follow productivity growth is, the Times claims, mistaken: Since 1970, wages have increased much less than productivity. In saying that, it links to another Times story that, oddly, says nothing about productivity and includes no references to wage trends prior to 2000. That story does, however, make the related claim that workers’ share of national income dropped in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. But these claims are misleading. Wages and productivity have not decoupled in recent decades, and the labor share of income has not been unusually low in recent years.

The editors of the Times further stack the deck for government-directed wage increases by misstating the argument against them. For decades, they say, the conventional wisdom has held that higher wage minima “would raise unemployment because there was only so much money in the wage pool, and if some people got more, others would get none.” This is not true. The reason a higher minimum wage is thought to cause higher unemployment is a straightforward matter of supply and demand: Raise the price of labor and its purchasers will buy less of it. It is certainly possible that this effect will be small, or that it will be considered worth it for the higher wages that some workers will receive; but the argument does not require there to be a fixed amount of money available for wages.

The Times itself used to editorialize against raising the minimum wage because it would cost some people their jobs — and when it did, it said nothing about there being “only so much money in the wage pool.” In 2019, the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase workers’ earnings by a net $44 billion while still causing 1.3 million people who otherwise would have been employed to go jobless. The increase in unemployment just isn’t based on an assumption of flat payrolls.

Economy & Business

About That Bipartisan Senate Group Stimulus Compromise

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(Jim Young/Reuters)

I have a running theory that government officials, and the policies they support, are often disconnected from reality. Politicians on both sides of the aisle tend to do what they always do, no matter the current state of the world. They use the same policy tools, whether appropriate or not. They use every opportunity and emergency to push the same old policies they always peddle. And even when they claim they are reforming a program or an agency, they continue to serve the same special-interest groups. This alleged $908 billion compromise deal that includes state, Amtrak, airlines bailouts, unemployment bonuses, childcare subsidies, and a renewal of the PPP is a good example of that.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the Democrats’ Heroes Act — its size, its design, and the programs it includes — is oblivious to the improved economic conditions. They have been pushing this package when the unemployment rate was 14 percent, when unemployment rate was 10 percent, and when, at the end of October, the unemployment rate had fallen to 6.8 percent. They will continue pushing the same package of large unemployment bonuses, individual checks, and state and airline bailouts even if unemployment falls to 5 percent or less. The White House at the time seemed willing to go along with a big chunk of that Democratic wishlist.

This new $908 billion compromise is “only” 40 percent of the size of the Heroes Act, but it is still disconnected from what is happening in the real world. It is renewing many problematic programs fueled by the belief, I am sure, that the economy can stay on ice for months as long as it is sustained by government spending. I am sure the restaurants that benefited from PPP but have closed permanently have a different perspective on this issue.

To their credit, with this latest act, politicians are not double dipping in the same way as was done with the CARES Act and the Heroes Act — each of which dispensed both individual checks and unemployment bonuses. Little good can come from having individual incomes rise above their usual levels while many people aren’t working and the economic activity is constrained by government lockdowns or consumers’ behaviors. Restricting supply and subsidizing demand may be what government often does but it isn’t a good idea, as Arnold Kling notes.

Sadly, though, of the two programs, they picked with this recent act the one that creates the most disincentives to work. What’s more, since 1975, the unemployment rate has averaged 6.3 percent — it is forecast to be 6.8 percent for November. I am sorry, but extending and expanding UI — at a scale that is out of whack with past expansions — when the unemployment rate is close to the historical average is simply wrong.

Our leaders on the Potomac want to bail out state governments to the tune of $160 billion. I have written here and here why I think such bailouts are a bad idea. Chris Edwards at Cato also points out that state revenues fell less than feared and are going up again. It is also a serious missed opportunity as my colleague Tracy Miller recently wrote:

 When revenue declines, this gives state and local governments, like businesses, an opportunity to become more efficient. There is no need to cut essential services like police, fire and sanitation, which account for just 7% of state and local government budgets. Most state and local governments have lower-value or nonessential programs, and can also consider tough emergency measures such as temporarily freezing salaries, furloughing workers and delaying highway spending and new initiatives.

State and local governments should also being using the pandemic to go after long-standing regulations that inhibit business formation and employment (e.g., occupational licensing).

But the cherry on top in this proposal is this: In addition to the fact that the economy is growing even as government spending is down and that business startups are soaring, the situation has entirely changed in the last three weeks. We now have three vaccines with what looks like high efficacy. Policymakers’ singular focus should be on getting them approved, manufactured, and distributed to health-care workers, the elderly, those with comorbidities, retail employees, teachers, Uber drivers, and others.

Yet, 1.7 percent of this bill — or $16 billion according to the COVID Framework document presented this morning — is specifically about manufacturing vaccines, distribution, and testing (and please spare me the argument that the airline bailout is about vaccine distribution because it is not).

I have seen reporting that $50 billion of the total bill is to manufacture and distribute vaccine. If that’s the case, the share of the bill going to answering the question, “How do we get the vaccine to people as fast as possible?” increases to 5.5 percent. By the way, funding for education, which includes money to schools that have been failing American children for months, is $82 billion.

If spending bills are a reflection of politicians’ priorities, Americans are getting a clear signal that these politicians have incredibly messed-up priorities with very little focus on what should matter the most right now. This compromise is about business as usual. It’s about spending money on the stuff politicians always want to spend money on. The fact that some Democrats are willing to spend less than they wanted and that Republicans are willing to spend more than they should is not noble. It’s politics.

Culture

New CDC Data Show Continued Decline in the U.S. Abortion Rate

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Signs at the Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data on the incidence of abortion in the U.S., indicating that although there was a slight uptick in the abortion rate between 2017 and 2018, the long-term decline in the abortion rate has continued. On the whole, the abortion rate in the U.S. has declined fairly steadily since 1980.

According to the new numbers, the abortion rate fell by approximately 2.6 percent between 2016 and 2018. That decline was fairly consistent across states, as 29 of the 46 states that reported abortion data in both 2016 and 2018 reported abortion-rate reductions. Overall, this is good news for pro-lifers.

Coverage of new abortion data often focuses on short-term trends. However, the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is far more impressive. In those states that consistently report data to the CDC, the abortion rate has fallen by more than 24 percent between 2009 and 2018. Furthermore, the CDC data indicate that the abortion rate has fallen by more than 50 percent since 1980. The abortion trends reported by the CDC are largely similar to those reported by the Guttmacher Institute, which released 2017 abortion data last fall (although Guttmacher estimates suggest that there are far more abortions annually in the U.S. than those that are reported by states to the CDC).

Additionally, there are some abortion trends in specific states that are of interest to pro-lifers. In 2018, Illinois began funding elective abortion through the state Medicaid program. Unsurprisingly, between 2016 and 2018, the abortion rate in Illinois increased by 10.6 percent. In fact, Illinois is one of seven states that saw its abortion rate increase by more than 10 percent.

Meanwhile, in 2018, Missouri became the sixth state to have only one abortion clinic. Between 2016 and 2018, the abortion rate in Missouri dropped by 35 percent. In 2018, Missouri’s abortion rate was the second lowest in the country.

This new CDC report also reveals ongoing weaknesses in abortion-reporting requirements in the United States. The report does not include abortion data from either California or New Hampshire; neither state has reported abortion data to the CDC since 1997. The report also fails to include data from Maryland, which has not reported data to the CDC since 2006. This year, the CDC report does not include data from Wyoming. State data from 2017 is not included in the report and can only be found in an online supplementary file. Lastly, several states choose not to report abortion data organized by race, marital status, and gestational age.

Even so, this CDC report — along with recent Guttmacher reports — provides solid evidence of a durable, long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate. Though many media reports credit increased contraception use with that decline, Guttmacher data shows that since 1980, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of unintended pregnancies carried to term. This statistic provides solid evidence that the educational, service, and legislative efforts of pro-lifers likely have been effective. Hopefully, these updated CDC data will provide pro-lifers with some encouragement as we continue our efforts to build a culture of life.

Economy & Business

The Corporate-Woke Complex

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The Apple Inc. logo at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue, N.Y., October 16, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that several multinational corporations including Apple and Nike are lobbying against legislation that would ban products from China’s Xinjiang province, many of which are made by forced Uyghur labor. Lobbyists are arguing that, although their clients oppose forced labor and the imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims, supply chains could be severely disrupted. It is a disgrace.

But the scandal might as well be a speed bump for the parties involved. Because our largest multinational corporations, such as Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike (to name a few) have devised the greatest, if not the most effective and cynical, public relations strategy to protect themselves from legitimate criticism: going — and staying — woke.

Will Americans remember the spurt of articles on the lobbying efforts to dilute the Uyghur bill? Or will they remember the nonstop jet of advertisements, marketing ploys, and studies that promote buzzword-laden concepts about every kind of ‘equity’ imaginable? If Nike fights racial injustice in the United States by turning Colin Kaepernick into a civil rights icon, then the box is checked, right? Don’t mind those Uyghur Muslims.

Woke advertising is not just an insurance policy for the times when shady practices are illuminated. It is also insurance against cancel-culture juntas, who will boycott a product if it does not sufficiently pander to minority identity groups.

This is par for the course in corporate world. McKinsey & Company will tout its virtue, while consulting for Perdue; make climate change everyone’s business, while advising state-owned businesses in the world’s largest polluter.

But, when going woke becomes the baseline messaging strategy in politics, which it has, things can only get uglier for Americans. Like multinational corporations, Democrats will be better positioned than their detractors, who can be smeared as racist, sexist, or a conspiracy theorist. They can frame every policy issue as a civil rights issue, every failure as indicative not of their own doing but of a “systemically racist system,” every conservative policy an existential threat to democracy. Their voters will feel righteous indignation. And they will be more amenable to radical changes, such as eliminating the filibuster, which Obama described as a “Jim Crow relic,” in pursuit of a bigger and bigger federal government.

Health Care

CDC: A Few Americans Caught COVID-19 in December and Early January

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

When the pandemic really shut down U.S. daily life in March, lots of Americans described getting either a bad cold or what they thought was the flu the previous winter and speculated that they may have caught COVID-19 — in some cases, before the first confirmed U.S. case in January.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that belief may not be so unlikely. “Scientists at the CDC found evidence of infection in 106 of 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross from residents in nine states across the U.S., according to the study published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.” These samples used in the study were collected between December 13, 2019 and January 17, 2020. While that’s only 1.4 percent of the Red Cross samples, it does indicate that some Americans had already caught SARS-CoV-2 before the first confirmed case, detected on January 19 in a returned traveler from China.

With that said . . . there’s still a really good chance that your bad cold or the flu last winter was just a bad cold or the flu.

A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association did an extensive study of antibody tests and found . . . so far, only a small fraction of Americans have caught the virus and have the antibodies:

In this repeated, cross-sectional study of 177,919 residual clinical specimens, the estimated percentage of persons in a jurisdiction with detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies ranged from fewer than 1 percent to 23 percent. Over 4 sampling periods in 42 of 49 jurisdictions with calculated estimates, fewer than 10 percent of people had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

The tests were conducted across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico  and selected from four periods: July 27 to August 13, August 10 to August 27, August 24 to September 10, and September 7 to September 24, 2020.

The highest prevalence of antibodies — 23.3 percent — came in New York State in the first period, but “in nearly all jurisdictions, fewer than 10 percent of people in the US had evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection using currently available commercial IgG assays.”

For much of this past year, we’ve seen arguments about whether the U.S. official statistics were giving an accurate picture of just how many Americans had caught the virus. Up until testing became widely available, it was mostly self-selecting — Americans either sought out a test, or ended up sick in a hospital and were tested. The theory was that there were significant numbers of Americans who were either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic who were not going to get tests — and that discussions of the positivity rate of coronavirus tests missed vast swaths of Americans who caught the virus, were asymptomatic, and probably never knew they caught it. Quite a few folks believed that this meant that either herd immunity had been reached or reaching herd immunity was imminent.

If we have about ten percent of the population testing positive for antibodies, as that JAMA study suggests, and we have had three weeks of 140,000 or more new infections per day, then no, we are not that close to herd immunity. At least, not yet.

Politics & Policy

The Biden Democrats’ Priorities

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Increasingly, they are those of upper-middle-class professionals. My new Bloomberg Opinion column.

As Joe Biden prepares to take office as president, the Democratic Party is pushing for an economic agenda that reflects the priorities of its new coalition: one that has more college degrees, and higher incomes, than past ones. . . .

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