On the menu today: counting all of the erroneous assumptions that have guided the Biden administration’s decision-making; wondering why congressional Democrats keep getting cold feet about legislation banning Chinese imports made with slave labor; the FDA continues to move at the speed of bureaucracy; and wondering just how rough Ben Affleck could’ve had it.
A Presidency Built Upon Erroneous Assumptions
If Biden administration officials find themselves in a morose mood as 2021 comes to a close, the holiday season will hopefully give them ample time to stare out the window and contemplate how so much went so wrong and what to do about it. Hopefully, they will come to accept that their system of beliefs about how the world operates proved to be inaccurate in many essential ways.
This happens, to varying degrees, to just about every elected official. They step into office thinking that the country and their state, district, city, or town works a certain way, then eventually reality intrudes, demonstrating that the world and society operate in a much more complicated, interconnected system than they expected. F. A. Hayek summarized it succinctly when he said that, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
But this phenomenon extends far beyond economics.
For a long time, many elected officials believed that the best way to deal with crime was to find and arrest criminals and then “lock them up and throw away the key.” That worked for a while, until the prisons filled up, the cost of running the penal system skyrocketed, and localities and states realized that they had a ton of repeat offenders who were becoming career criminals. The “Department of Corrections” was not doing any actual correcting. Realizing that they weren’t getting the results they wanted, various elected officials — including quite a few conservative Republicans with reputations for being “tough on crime” — started developing the concepts of criminal-justice reform, rethinking whether drug addicts are better off sent to treatment programs, repealing mandatory-minimum sentences, and enacting anti-recidivism programs.
And then, after crime rates dropped, and pressure on the penal system was relieved . . . the pendulum swung too far in the other direction. Certain localities and figures demonized the police and the concept of law enforcement entirely. Localities started releasing violent offenders on bail, stopped prosecuting what they saw as minor crimes, and dismissed public concerns about rising crime rates as “hysteria.” Now the murder rate is climbing back up again.
An inaccurate sense of how the world works can afflict Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. But we’ve gotten a particularly vivid demonstration of the phenomenon in the past year.
Joe Biden came to Washington in 1973, when the federal government’s budget was $245 billion. After six terms in the Senate and eight years as vice president, he left Washington in 2017, a year in which the federal government’s budget was $3.98 trillion. In the entirety of Biden’s time in Washington, efforts to reduce spending were few and far between.
For the totality of his public career, Joe Biden has “known” that problems are solved by spending money. He has been quite explicit about this, repeatedly asserting that caring about an issue or problem is demonstrated by a willingness to spend money; those who do not want to spend more money on a particular issue or problem do not really care about it. He has often cited his father telling him, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
(By that standard, if you aren’t spending a lot on your spouse’s Christmas present, you don’t value your spouse.)
Upon taking office, President Biden believed the single most important thing he and his congressional allies could do was enact a “Covid-relief bill.” Never mind that the previous year, Congress and President Trump had enacted the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program, and an $8.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill — all on top of the already-considerable normal appropriations spending of the federal government. But Biden and his congressional allies believed that more spending was needed — and as Joe Biden believes, spending is caring.
Throwing nearly $2 trillion more into an economy that was already recovering — but one where the supply of goods was still limited by the effects of the pandemic around the world — had predictable effects. Larry Summers, Treasury secretary during the late Clinton years, “spent 2021 protesting that the $1.9 trillion spending package the Biden administration passed in March was too large for reasons both political and economic, while fretting that the Federal Reserve will be too slow to sop up the mess. The result, he has warned, could be an overheating economy and runaway inflation.”
And then the Fed looked at the numbers: “Inflation is likely getting a temporary boost from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Biden administration ushered in early this year, new Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research released on Monday suggested.”
Once prices started rising, Biden vehemently insisted that he couldn’t possibly have set off a new cycle of inflation.
Back on July 19, Biden declared that: “Some folks have raised worries that this could be a sign of persistent inflation. But that’s not our view. Our experts believe and the data shows that most of the price increases we’ve seen are — were expected and expected to be temporary. . . . There’s nobody suggesting there’s unchecked inflation on the way — no serious economist. That’s totally different.” We’ve now experienced six straight months in which inflation has surged more than 5 percent, year over year.
It’s as if Biden has never watched the episode of Duck Tales where Huey, Dewey, and Louie stumble onto an invention that easily duplicates money — which turns everyone in town into a millionaire. “If it keeps duplicating, it could ruin the economy!” Scrooge McDuck warns. “Don’t you see? If everyone has it, it loses value. Prices will go up, then everyone will have to have more and more money! It will be chaos!” Before long, a newspaper is $200 in Duckburg, a lollipop is $5,000, and bus fare is $10,000.
Unfortunately, Joe Biden stepped into office with a whole slew of erroneous assumptions.
- He assumed that he had much more persuasiveness and charm on Capitol Hill than he actually had: “The talks between [Biden] and Manchin have been going very poorly. They are far apart,” a source briefed on the conversations told Politico.
- He assumed that there was one, unified “science” for him to follow in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic — instead of realizing that bright and well-meaning doctors and public-health officials sometimes disagree with one another.
- He assumed that enforcing vaccine mandates would be easy and constitutional.
- He assumed that passing an infrastructure bill would make Americans feel better about the state of the economy.
- He assumed that talking up amnesty would not attract new waves of migrants to the southern border.
- He assumed that there was nothing significant about a sudden surge of more migrants in the late winter, after he took office. “It happens every single, solitary year: There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.”
- He assumed that the Afghan government was stronger and more stable than it was: “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.” “
- He assumed the Taliban was weaker than they were: “The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan.”
- Biden assumed the Iranians would be eager and serious to get back to the negotiating table about their country’s nuclear program.
Elected officials can recognize when they’ve based their policy decisions on erroneous assumptions. In fact, sometimes they do it on such a grand scale that it is inadvertently hilarious. Here’s San Francisco mayor London Breed discussing cutting the city’s police budget in Vogue in July 2020:
Breed has pledged to redirect an unspecified amount of funds from the police department’s budget to the Black community. “Reforms to any single system, such as the criminal justice system or the police department, must go hand in hand with closing the gaps and ending the disparities that we know exist,” Breed wrote in her announcement. “I talk about the plan to reduce the police budget and reallocate those resources to the African American community . . . when you look at police violence, close to 50 percent of the cases involve African Americans. With this issue, African Americans are disproportionately represented.”
Mayor London Breed launched an emergency police intervention in San Francisco’s crime-ridden Tenderloin neighborhood Tuesday, targeting a pipeline of illegal drugs that has been fueling a surge in gun violence and deadly fentanyl overdoses.
Breed’s anger and frustration over the crime surge in the city were on full display at her noon news conference.
“It’s time the reign of criminals who are destroying our city, it is time for it to come to an end,” she said. “And it comes to an end when we take the steps to more aggressive with law enforcement. More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerate of all the bulls*** that has destroyed our city.”
Boy, I hope London Breed tracks down and finds the lunatic who chose to cut the police budget and let a “reign of criminals” “destroy the city.”
Wimping Out on China, Again
Here’s a good reminder for the next time you’re told there’s a bipartisan consensus on standing up to China: Marco Rubio once again brought up the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act — seemingly bipartisan legislation to end the importation of forced-labor-produced goods — and, “for the third time in a month, a congressional Democrat blocked the measure.” It seems certain that congressional Democrats support that bill becoming law . . . someday in the future, but never today.
The FDA, Moving at the Top Speed of Federal Bureaucracy
Joel Zinberg lays out that more than two years after Covid-19 first appeared, “two new medications that are inexpensive, easy to administer, and safe for most people could significantly mitigate any additional illness and death. But that will only be possible if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration moves with more alacrity than it has demonstrated to date.”
ADDENDUM: There was a big reaction to this dashed-off Corner post yesterday. I think lots of men are secretly wondering . . . just how difficult and painful could a marriage to Jennifer Garner have been?