The Weekend Jolt

Politics & Policy

Our Decadent, Reckless Government

President Joe Biden walks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the U.S. Capitol, where Biden attended a lunch with the Senate Democratic Caucus in Washington, D.C., July 14, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

We’ve grown accustomed to these words, inured to the sense of alarm they’re supposed to convey: words like “unsustainable” and, paired, “fiscal crisis.” So when they were mentioned throughout a government report in March about the urgent need to get our fiscal house in order as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is handled, it was treated as just another D.C. document, delivered, posted, and archived online.

We should recall just a few of the Government Accountability Office’s warnings at this juncture, however:

  • Under our projections, the debt will reach its highest point in history [as a percentage of GDP] in 2028 and continue to grow faster than gross domestic product. . . .
  • Key trust funds are projected to be depleted within 15 years or less. . . .
  • According to CBO, high and rising federal debt increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis and could lead to a large drop in the value of the dollar . . .

The report urged Congress and the administration to “quickly pivot” to fix this, once the pandemic recedes and the economy recovers. Well, we have a vaccine, and the economy is running hot, in part from the $6 trillion in COVID relief approved already. So what does D.C. do?

Takes a flamethrower to the preachers of parsimony and continues pumping America full of cash-money endorphins, that’s what. This is “modern-monetary” Washington, after all, where, as Drew Carey might explain, “everything’s made up and the outlays don’t matter.”

The never-ending crisis mentality is breeding a never-ending crisis-spending binge. This is how we get to Congress’s advancing, on a broad bipartisan basis, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this past week (with $550 billion in new spending) — an Obama-stimulus-sized enterprise, which is a pittance compared with the $3.5 trillion partisan package Democrats insist should accompany it. The first part might be “paid for,” at least on paper. But it’s more of a down payment toward the larger bill that the majority party wants. We should not presume they’ll be satisfied with one-eighth a loaf. AOC already is playing the race card against Senator Kyrsten Sinema for daring to challenge the full price tag. It’s increasingly evident that Republicans are being played, and little consolation that they might know it too.

From the editorial:

The decision of Republicans to collaborate with Democrats is both bad policy and makes little sense politically. As we have been saying for months, despite what the media (and evidently, some Republicans) will tell you, America’s infrastructure is not crumbling and is not deeply in need of repair. There is not an economic justification to spend money to stimulate an economy that will recover on its own as the nation emerges from the pandemic (growth accelerated at an annual rate of 6.5 percent in the second quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on Thursday). Also, it is not as if the government is in the black. The Biden administration’s own estimates foresee debt as a share of the economy surpassing the World War II record this year. And Fed chairman Jerome Powell, who had been insisting that inflation is going to be transitory, has conceded that it will take longer to abate than he previously expected.

The myth that the group of Republican negotiators has been helping to perpetuate is that there are two completely separate pieces of legislation under consideration: One, a $550 billion bipartisan plan that focuses on traditional infrastructure; and two, a $3.5 trillion social-welfare bill that includes a host of liberal priorities — subsidized college and child care, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, elements of the Green New Deal, and perhaps even immigration amnesty.

In reality, the two bills are clearly linked.

All the imperatives are pointing in the other direction right now — flashing bright red the need to mend our ways before printing-press spending habits cripple the country long-term and worsen inflation short-term.

Will the binge ever end? Can we be saved? Can we . . . save? Charlie doesn’t think so:

One might have expected that, assessing the scene in January of 2021, the Democratic Party would have said, “Well, I guess all the money is gone.” But it didn’t.

And why would it, given that we are now so far down the hole that the public has come to see astronomical numbers as mere abstractions? Even ten years ago, a trillion dollars was regarded as an enormous amount of money — enough, perhaps, to disqualify any spending proposal at the first hurdle. Now? Nobody seems to care. $2 trillion? $4 trillion? $10 trillion? None of it is deemed real anyway, so what does it matter?

It might not even be just $4 trillion that we’re talking about here. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (those fiscal prudes), Congress is playing games and poised to set early expiration dates for some policies. Translation: The true cost over a decade, should those policies be extended years from now, could rise above $5 trillion, and up to $6 trillion including infrastructure. Phil explains.

Granted, the Delta variant is scrambling any effort to plan past the pandemic, whether to head off a fiscal crisis or to give consistent mask guidance. But as Jim notes here, the goalposts have moved considerably:

Very quickly and subtly, the goal of our COVID-19 response has shifted from preventing hospitalizations and deaths to preventing infections — even though COVID-19 infections are likely to continue for many years, even if vaccinations grow more and more widespread.

COVID-19 is here to stay. At some point, we’re going to have to declare the “emergency” phase over and take up watchdogs like the GAO and CRFB on their advice. Already, inflation is taking a bite out of wages. What’s to come? You’d think after the year and a half we just had, warnings of a once-unthinkable crisis might merit a closer look.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

The full editorial on the infrastructure bill, again, is here: The Pathetic Republican Surrender

Downplaying the benefits of getting vaccinated is not the message the CDC should be sending right now: CDC’s Mask Guidance Will Backfire

The Senate is moving closer to requiring women to register for the draft, an imprudent move that should be blocked: Drafting Women Is Reckless

ARTICLES

Andrew McCarthy: COVID-19 Exposes a Crisis of Representative Government

David Harsanyi: Fact-Checkers Rewrite the History of Democrats’ Vaccine Skepticism

Rich Lowry: The Incredible Lightness of Ibram X. Kendi’s ‘Anti-Racism’

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The Expanding Frontier of Tyranny

Alexandra DeSanctis: It Isn’t Just Conservative Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory in Schools

Alexandra DeSanctis: In Defense of Simone Biles

Jimmy Quinn: The Faces of Corporate America’s Capitulation to China

Charles C. W. Cooke: America’s Irrational Ban on British Visitors

Dan McLaughlin: The Perils of Preaching Despair

Dan McLaughlin: The ‘Keep Nine’ Amendment Can Save the Supreme Court

Sean-Michael Pigeon: Homeschooling Can’t Be for Everyone

Jack Crowe: Pompeo Urges Military Leaders to Stay Out’ of Political Fights, Put Mission above Social Justice

Kevin Williamson: Whatever Happened to Cows?

John McCormack: House Democrats Vote for Unlimited Taxpayer Funding of Abortion for Medicaid Recipients

Ryan Mills: Two Moms Fought against Left-Wing Indoctrination. Their Kids Paid the Price

Tom Cotton: The BLM Effect

Wesley J. Smith: It’s Not Just COVID: China’s Dubious Scientific Ethics

CAPITAL MATTERS

Joel Zinberg highlights a recent court ruling against the FDA: A Defeat for Dr. Leviathan

Paul Jossey warns that the so-called ESG movement is coming for cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin Gets ESG’d

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith is stunned that The Rock was even put in this situation: Dwayne Johnson Unwisely Attempts to Act

With more dispatches from California, Brian Allen has the scoop on the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art building: The New LACMA: Learn to Love It Because It’s Happening

Armond White bemoans all the American self-loathing in the Tom McCarthy/Matt Damon film Stillwater: Hollywood Takes Another Apology Tour in Europe

FROM THE NEW AUGUST 16, 2021, ISSUE OF NR

John Podhoretz: Bill de Blasio and the Decline of New York City

Kyle Smith: Undoing the Enlightenment

Madeleine Kearns: Feminism’s Misremembered Mother

John Bolton: Defense Threats in Cyberspace

WE ALWAYS SERVE OUR EXCERPTS STIRRED, NEVER SHAKEN

Jack Crowe snagged some interview time with Mike Pompeo this past week in California. Here’s the former secretary of state on the trend of military leaders’ entering political fights, particularly in the social-justice space:

Speaking with National Review after his Monday night speech at the Reagan Library, the former secretary of state and Army cavalry officer urged the Pentagon’s top brass to restore the American military’s apolitical tradition.

“Our military leaders have to stay out of these political fights,” he said. “It’s possible to do. You can be both a really great general and not opine on the political turmoil of the day. This is the mistake that I see too many senior military leaders make: They feel compelled to respond to the political noise.” . . .

The West Point graduate said he has no problem with military officers and enlisted men being widely read on the subject of race, and sympathized with the plight of officers confronted by a generation of enlisted men steeped in racial essentialism. But, he argued, when immutable characteristics are given outsized priority in determining who is promoted, and considerable time and resources are spent adjudicating sociopolitical issues, readiness will inevitably suffer.

“Our military was designed to do two things: break stuff and kill people, and be ready to do so when peace can’t be achieved,” he said. “When they start engaging in these conversations about diversity and BLM, no, your job is to find the best tank platoon leader you can find, the best long-range sniper you can.”

Wesley Smith’s history of China’s alarming scientific practices is well worth reading in full; what follows is a particularly disturbing passage on animal experimentation:

Two Shanghai-based researchers recently announced proudly in a pre-peer reviewed published paper, “For the first time, a mammalian animal model of male pregnancy was constructed by us.”

This macabre experiment involved rats. The males were castrated, and uteruses were transplanted into their bodies. Surgery then symbiotically attached the rodents to female rats to ensure that the females’ blood nurtured the organs now in the male bodies. After that, rat embryos made via IVF were implanted into the uteruses now in the males’ bodies. The pups were gestated in the transplanted uteruses, then delivered via Caesarian section. Several of them reportedly survived.

Was the need to determine whether a male mammal could be manipulated so that he gave birth of such scientific importance to justify experimenting on the animals in this way? China is obsessed with learning about developmental biology. But does potentially gaining such knowledge justify what was done? No! The research, funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China, was unvarnished animal abuse. As such, it should be decried by all people who understand the human obligation to treat animals in our care humanely.

Moreover, and relevant to the animal-abuse issue, what great human need was furthered by the experiment? None that I can perceive.

Is PolitiFact covering for President Biden’s and VP Harris’s own vaccine skepticism? David thinks so, after the outfit rated as “false” the claim that they distrusted COVID-19 vaccines:

PolitiFact contends that such accusations are completely false, as Biden and Harris were merely “raising concerns about the rollout by then-president Donald Trump, not the vaccines themselves.” This is an absurd distinction, tantamount to arguing that Donald Trump is “only raising concerns about those who conducted the 2020 election, not the election itself.”

Of course, if the former president released a statement promising never to take any vaccine that was produced during the Biden presidency, it would rightly be seen as perpetuating skepticism. Conspiracy theories about vaccines revolve around the producers and disseminators of the medicine. Vaccines do not organically appear from the ether. They are made. And both Biden and Harris worked to discredit those charged with creating them.

Harris claimed, for example, that even public-health experts who vouched for the vaccine shouldn’t be believed, because they “will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined, because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days, and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue, when he has not.” Or, in other words, any vaccine produced during the Trump presidency should be seen as unreliable.

Michael calls out Eastman Kodak for a truly grotesque display of servility toward China:

Recently, Kodak’s Instagram account featured work from a forthcoming collection, Dust, by Patrick Wack, a Parisian photographer who has been working in western China and now resides in Berlin. Wack has been photographing the changing life of western China for the better half of a decade. . . .

The artist himself is admirably frank that he had documented Xinjiang’s “abrupt descent into an Orwellian dystopia.”

After deleting Wack’s photographs from their account, Kodak was frank as well, but not admirable. Kodak blamed “management loopholes.” . . .

We have to be clear-eyed about how communist parties can forge political and moral corruption out of the profit motive. American companies such as the Marriott hotels are the kind of lickspittles for power who fire their employees to appease China’s absurd rage over a liked tweet.

Kodak can argue to itself that it’s not really bending the knee for the Chinese Communist Party, it’s just protecting shareholders. But what we actually see in its groveling are the frontiers of Chinese political power, extended into America through not only the commercial vehicles of Chinese state-owned enterprises such as Huawei but also our own storied American companies.

*For more on this subject, see Jimmy Quinn’s highlights from a hearing that put names and faces to the corporate courtship of the CCP.

And Xan offers up a defense of Simone Biles, whose withdrawal from key Olympics events this past week shocked the world:

By standing aside, Biles chose not to risk her team’s performance just so she could save face and avoid personal embarrassment or to avoid the hate and blame she must’ve known were coming. It was a courageous and humble thing to do, as much as we might wish she could’ve performed at her usual 100 percent, wowed the world, and brought home another gold. The fact that she admitted her weakness was deeply humanizing, a powerful reminder that even the most glorious athletes aren’t invincible.

Shout-Outs

Tevi Troy, at the Washington Examiner: Reagan’s lesson for Biden

George Packer, at The Atlantic: How America Fractured into Four Parts

Kery Murakami, at the Washington TimesDems crusade to rename places, mountains, rivers

Ben Zeisloft, at Campus Reform: ASU welcomes new prof who focuses on applying ‘critical race theory’ to music

CODA

A former colleague is responsible for introducing this writer to Johnny Cash’s haunting cover of “The Mercy Seat.” (Thanks, Greg.) From the frantic lyrics to the religious allusions to the piano that sounds like it’s shouting the convict’s case from a high register, the story about a prisoner on his way to the electric chair stops you dead.

It’s Johnny’s rendition of a song by Nick Cave, who considered its inclusion on the album, American III: Solitary Man, an honor and was positively chuffed when producer Rick Rubin called to notify him.

“The version is so good. He just claims that song as he does with so many,” he once said. “He can sing a line and give that line both heaven and hell.”

Amen.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.

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