Spending

Biden says ‘pandemic is over’ – but no end to spending

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If the pandemic is over, spending should stop.

During a “60 Minutes” interview on September 18, President Joe Biden said the “pandemic is over.” Yet in mid-July it extended the COVID-19 public health emergency, along with its spending, until mid-October, when the Department of Health and Human Services expects that it be extended again.

Every time the president extends the public health emergency, he also extends the period for emergency spending, as well as justifying restrictions and measures that ultimately cost taxpayers money while benefiting private businesses.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the US government has approved at least $4.8 trillion in new borrowing. For example, the government has passed legislation that makes vaccines mandatory and has provided billions of dollars in funding to companies producing the vaccines. The government has authorized the vaccines for emergency use. And ultimately, the government decides which companies can or cannot make vaccines, protecting favored vaccine makers from competition.

Vaccination mandates are still in place for the military, government contractors and healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments. Most public and private sector employees in New York still need to show proof of vaccination. Medical workers and state employees must be vaccinated in California, while in Connecticut they must also have a booster. Delaware requires full vaccination for state and health care workers, as well as school employees. In addition, they must submit to weekly tests. In Washington, DC, healthcare workers, school employees, government employees, contractors and interns are all required to be vaccinated. Similar rules exist in Democratic-run states across the country.

A protester holds a sign and flag as he takes part in a rally against COVID-19 vaccination mandates, in Santa Monica, California on August 29, 2021. (Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

Vaccine mandates create a ready market for vaccines. These two facts – that people are forced to take them and that they are paid by the government (albeit out of future tax revenues) – remove the normal price mechanism that regulates the logic of supply and demand for a free market. There is no incentive for the handful of government-protected pharmaceutical companies to improve their efficiency, increase the quality of their drugs or lower their prices.

Masks work the same way. In January 2021, Biden signed legislation requiring federal workers to wear masks. Soon after, a mask requirement was put in place for domestic and international air travel. Government money has been distributed to mask makers including 3M, Hollingsworth & Vose, Corning and Lydall.

COVID testing has been a new opportunity for the government to enrich private companies. Between January and August this year, the White House distributed 600 million free test kits through its website, in addition to those distributed by other methods and test kits purchased by government agencies. Frequent testing was required for most jobs and participation in public life. Meanwhile, government funds have been allocated to testing companies and manufacturers of over-the-counter tests, such as Abbott Rapid Dx North America and iHealth Labs.

Vaccines, masks, test kits and other pandemic supplies made by private companies have also been purchased by the federal government and donated to developing countries. For example, on June 10, 2021, Biden announced that the United States would buy and donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union. In this case, not only was the government using public money to enrich private corporations, but the American taxpayers who will ultimately have to repay that debt did not benefit. Moreover, many of these taxpayers were not even allowed to work on June 10, 2021, when the government distributed their future earnings.

Epoch Times Photo
A medical professional prepares a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 9, 2021. (Sumaya Hisham/Reuters)

On May 8, 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate had reached its highest level since the Great Depression: 14.7%. In December 2020, CNBC reported that up to 60% of small businesses were closed.

In the spring of 2021, the number of business bankruptcies in the United States was 200,000 higher than in 2020. Some industries were hit harder than others. As of August 2021, 22% of gyms across the country had been forced to close permanently. In some parts of the United States, up to a third of local small businesses have been driven out. Meanwhile, other workers and businesses were protected and funded by the government.

The shutdowns were another government-imposed measure that hurt ordinary people while enriching the wealthy. Lockdown rules forced small entrepreneurs to close but allowed larger stores and Amazon to capture 100% of demand.

In 2021, Amazon’s profits increased by 220%. Amazon then lobbied for Biden’s $15 minimum wage. Advocating for a higher minimum wage has served Amazon in two ways. First, it curried Amazon favor with the ruling party. Second, it ensured competitors couldn’t afford to re-enter the market, even after Amazon’s COVID protections expired.

The closures have protected big box stores, while vaccine companies, mask companies and COVID testing companies have been funded by the government, allowing them to make guaranteed profits. And those who refused to use these products, or those who tried to work or trade in violation of the rules, were punished by the authorities. By definition, it is state capitalism or fascism. In his 1936 book, “Under the Ax of Fascism,” author Gaetano Salvemini calls fascism a corporate state that controls all economic activity, allowing big business owners to enrich themselves at the expense of small entrepreneurs and workers.

Until the pandemic is officially declared over, the coercion and spending will not stop. Even now, drugmakers are asking the US Food and Drug Administration to approve new booster and COVID-flu-booster combos. It seems pharmaceutical companies don’t expect the pandemic to officially end any time soon.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graffo

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Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent over 20 years in Asia. He graduated from Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Graceffo works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” and “A Short Course on the Chinese Economy”.