After allocating $6 trillion for relief efforts, the administration and Democrats in Congress are demanding more money and are threatening to cut off testing, vaccines, and treatments. This as states and local governments have wasted valuable dollars on pet projects, assuming they’ve even spent it yet. In other words, they will make you and your family pay rather than claw back hundreds of billions in unspent money.
Last week, ABC News reported on concerns within the Biden Administration that funding to address the coronavirus pandemic is about to run out. “Americans will feel the impact of funding cuts to U.S. COVID response next week, senior administration officials said on Tuesday, as efforts to get more money from Congress sit stalled.” The “impacts” Americans can expect include no more free testing for the uninsured starting as soon as this week, and no more free vaccines as soon as next week. Insured Americans can expect decreased access to the effective monoclonal antibody treatments because shipments to states are dropping some 30% and a planned order for new supplies is being canceled. We are expected to run out of these treatments entirely in May. In the meantime, the administration is crying poverty and demanding more money. “These are immediate, near-term consequences, some of which we’re having to act on this week, next week, and the first week of April. So time is not on our side. We need the funding immediately,” a senior administration official told reporters. As ABC News put it, “Biden and his administration have warned for weeks that there was not enough money left to support critical COVID-19 response efforts, including testing at the current pace, purchasing more COVID-19 treatments and acquiring more booster shots. But pleas for Congress to allot billions more in its latest funding bill fell short last week, leaving government relief efforts strained.”
Congressional Democrats agree. For example, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “We need all the money we can get to have the resources that we need to fight Covid…you want to stop transmission.” Of course, the only problem is: We’ve spent about $6 trillion to date in various attempts to shore up the economy, provide necessary testing, vaccination, and treatment services, and “stop transmission.” Once upon a time, $6 trillion over barely two years was a lot of money. In 2008, the entire federal budget was less than $3 trillion, but apparently a scant 14 years later piling on the equivalent over the course of two years cannot pay for testing, treatments, or vaccines. Just a year ago the Biden Administration was riding high after passing $1.9 trillion of coronavirus relief as part of the American Rescue Plan. “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance,” Biden crowed from the Oval Office before signing the legislation into law. “That’s what the essence of it is.” The media was so impressed they claimed the bill would cut child poverty in half in addition to stopping the pandemic in its tracks. Vox.com called the passage “the second war on poverty.” The President himself was so thrilled with his achievement, he used it as a springboard for a speech an administration official described as leveling “with the American people about what is still required to defeat the virus and provide a hopeful vision of what is possible if we all come together.”
Now, however, they are crying poverty and threatening to cut off vital benefits delivered directly to people in need. Perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if the government took active steps to mitigate fraud. Last month, The Washington Post of all places reported on the “immense fraud” plaguing our relief efforts. Earlier, ABC News highlighted “A new report from the federal watchdog overseeing the trillions in approved coronavirus relief funds says several relief programs potentially disbursed nearly $100 billion in fraudulent relief money.” “This is an unprecedented amount of money,” the report from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee warned. “And most of the funds were disbursed quickly. These factors put the money at a higher risk of fraud.” They found up to $87 billion in unemployment fraud, $3.6 billion in bad loans from the Paycheck Protection Program across some 57,500 applications, and almost $1 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans that went to ineligible businesses. Nor is fraud the only problem plaguing our efforts. There are estimates that some $500 billion allocated by Congress has yet to be spent at all. Instead, it’s sitting there on a government ledger somewhere, waiting for what we don’t know.
These challenges don’t begin to address the much larger issues with the overall design of the program. Once you dig beneath the surface, the American Rescue Plan wasn’t actually about coronavirus relief at all. Under the law, state and local governments received some $350 billion in funding for almost anything at all, creating an effective slush fund for whatever pet projects struck their fancy so long as they appropriated the money by 2024 and spent it by 2026. Late last year, the Associated Press reported that over half the states and two thirds of the 90 largest cities in America had yet to spend a single penny. Overall, states spent a paltry 2.5% and cities 8.5%, meaning there are billions of dollars out there waiting for some politician to waste. Maryland, for example, spent your taxpayer dollars on youth mentoring, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, planting trees, an aquatic habitat, and storm water management. Virginia spent their money on clean drinking water, sewage treatment, reduced flooding, a botanical garden known as “Nature’s Wonderland,” new parks, climate change, and recreational maintenance. Schools received another $130 billion directly and the story is much the same. Pet projects for them, no relief for you.
Moreover, what does it tell you that Democrats in the White House and Congress aren’t even considering clawing back some of this money or using the unspent funds before begging for another bite at the taxpayer apple, or perhaps a pig in trough would be a better metaphor? Instead, their plan is to make you and your family feel the pain, holding potentially your life and your livelihood hostage to demand more spending. Putting this another way, what kind of sick, twisted morality believes we should spend money on wildfowl art before coronavirus treatments, and then have the temerity to pretend this isn’t precisely what they did? While coronavirus has been out of the news lately as a war rages in Europe, there are indications another wave is coming. The United Kingdom has seen its 7 day average of cases increase from 37,214 on February 25 to 124,478 on March 21. There is no reason to believe the same will not happen here, especially as the UK has frequently been a leading indicator of future waves.
The good Doctor Anthony Fauci has returned to making the rounds on television, talking up the potential. Last week, he told PBS’ Judy Woodruff, “we generally follow the European Union, but particularly the U.K., by a few weeks, usually three or so weeks. And if you look at what’s going on, for example, in the U.K., when you combine the increased transmissibility of the BA.2, which is a sublineage variant of the original Omicron, together with the relaxation of some of the restrictions like mask-wearing and indoor concern about making sure people are vaccinated, and then you talk about the waning of immunity, they’re starting to see an increase in case and, to some extent, an increase in hospitalization, even though they are not seeing an increase in — necessarily in severity of disease.” He continued to warn that masking may well be back in fashion, “we need to be ready, if necessary, to pivot back and maybe pull in a little bit more of the masking, if, in fact, we start getting a surge.” Of course, the good doctor took the time to push endless boosters, even noting that yet another booster for the over 65 crowd might be coming, “I think that’s certainly conceivable, much more so among the elderly than I think the general population. The most important thing that we need to do, that we always do is look at the data. And in order for that to be authorized on an emergency basis for anyone, the FDA would have to carefully examine the data and take a look at, is the risk-benefit in favor of the benefit of doing that? But, Judy, I would not be surprised that, at least among some set of people, particularly the elderly, that, within a reasonable period of time — can’t tell exactly when — we will need to boost those people.”
In other words, boosters today, boosters tomorrow, boosters forever, along with spending today, spending tomorrow, spending forever, just don’t pay any attention to what we’re spending this money on. The only thing you need to know: They need more, and a lot of it.