White House prepares to ration Covid vaccines: report
Welcome to the weekend. We hope you are having a relatively normal Friday the 13th.
As Congress blocks Covid funding, White House prepares to ration vaccines: report
With billions of dollars in extra pandemic funding tied up in Congress — and with Republicans apparently raise questions on the Biden administration’s vaccine strategy and the wisdom of spending more federal money on currently available vaccines – Politico’s Adam Cancryn reports that administration officials are looking for ways to fight Covid on a shoestring budget:
“Among the sacrifices being weighed is limiting access to its next generation of vaccines to only those Americans most at risk — rationing that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, when the White House touted the development and widespread availability of vaccines as the clearest way out of the pandemic.
“But as the government’s cash reserves dwindle, officials are increasingly concluding that these kinds of tough choices will soon have to be made.” And they are quietly preparing to shift responsibility for other key elements of the pandemic response to the private sector as early as 2023.”
A bipartisan group of senators agreed early last month to a deal to provide an additional $10 billion in emergency pandemic funding, less than half of the $22.5 billion the administration originally researched. But that dal has been derailed by GOP demands for an independent vote on President Joe Biden’s decision to end a Trump-era policy known as Title 42, which allows for the deportation of migrants at the frontier.
Yet even if lawmakers were to approve the $10 billion in pandemic funding, the new funds wouldn’t go very far, Cancryn reports:
“Almost half of that amount would immediately pay the administration’s debt to pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has yet to be fully compensated for providing 20 million doses of its antiviral treatment earlier this year.
“The remaining roughly $5 billion would likely be split between investments to bolster the supply of tests, treatments, and vaccines. At best, the administration could run those stockpiles through the end of the year. Even then, the White House’s ability to react to a dangerous new variant would be severely limited, and funding to aid in the global response would be non-existent.”
The bottom line: Congress’ failure to act is already having consequences and forcing tough decisions about the nation’s pandemic strategy. The administration would delay investing in new antiviral treatments, conserving resources while prioritizing needs. The delay in new funding could prove even more costly if or when the country sees another wave of the virus.
Read the full story on Politico.
Biden urges local leaders to spend Covid relief funds on police, crime-fighting efforts
On Friday, President Joe Biden urged state and local authorities to use unspent Covid-19 relief funds to hire more police and fund crime-fighting efforts.
The White House said $10 billion of the $1.9 trillion U.S. bailout package, which the president signed into law last year, was committed to public safety spending at the state and local levels, and Biden encouraged officials to use the money immediately.
“My message is clear,” Biden said during a Rose Garden meeting with local officials, including mayors and police chiefs. “Use these funds we have made available to you to put public safety first. Do it quickly before this summer when crime rates typically rise. Acting today will save lives tomorrow. So use the money , hire the police, build your emergency response systems, invest in proven solutions,” Biden said.
In a fact sheet, the White House highlighted how the ARP’s $10 billion in public safety funds were committed, including $1 billion for bonuses for frontline public safety officers; over $2 billion for crime prevention; nearly a billion dollars to prevent domestic violence; and $450 million for new equipment such as cars, radio systems and body cameras.
An eye on November: The effort to bolster policing and crime prevention comes as Democrats contemplate what could be a very difficult midterm election cycle, in which crime joins the economy as a major issue that could determine the outcome .
Fear of crime has increased slightly according to a Gallup poll released in April, 53% of Americans saying they are very worried about crime and violence, the highest level since 2016. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of U.S. homicides due to gun violence had increased 35% in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. It was the highest level since 1994.
While a handful of progressives to Biden’s left have called for significant police reforms in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer, under the banner of “defunding the police,” Biden has clearly indicated that he has no sympathy for this approach. In his State of the Union address in March, Biden said “the answer isn’t to defund the police. It’s to defund the police. Defund them. Defund them.”
IRS under fire after destroying 30 million tax documents
The Internal Revenue Service, struggling to manage a massive backlog of paper documents, decided to “destroy approximately 30 million paper return documents in March 2021,” the agency’s watchdog said. reported Last week.
The IRS said in a statement Thursday that taxpayers “have not been and will not be subject to any penalties as a result of this action.” He said he processed 3.2 billion information returns in 2020 and the documents destroyed are not tax returns but documents submitted to the IRS by third-party payers. He added that 99% of the information returns had already been processed and that the remaining 1% of these documents “had been destroyed due to a limitation in the software and to make room for new documents relevant for the season of deposit 2021 in progress”.
The agency also said “this situation reflects significant issues with outdated IRS technology.”
The destruction of documents triggered a backlash tax preparers, with some concerned the ruling could hamper the agency’s ability to verify returns and trigger additional error notices. “IRS management’s decision to destroy feedback documents due to the backlog has raised many questions about the IRS’ decision-making and risk assessment process” said Edward Karl, vice president of tax at the American Institute of CPAs, in a statement. “The recent statement from the IRS provided some of the answers, but American taxpayers deserve to know why this decision was made and how it might affect them.”
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, on Friday called on President Biden to replace IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, describing the destruction of documents as the latest black eye for the agency.
“The IRS is vital to public confidence in our nation and its Trump-appointed leader has failed,” Pascrell said in a statement. “The manner in which we learn of the destruction of the unprocessed documents is just the latest example of Mr. Rettig’s nonchalant attitude. This latest revelation adds to plummeting public confidence in our unfair two-tier tax system. That trust can’t recover if all Americans see in the tax department is incompetence and disaster.”
quote of the day
“We’re sitting in Washington saying, ‘We’ve got this US bailout money, we’ve got this bipartisan infrastructure money and it’s for nothing unless it gets to the people who need it most.’ And we’ve been focused on that those resources are being made available, and they’re not just going to the same old people, to the same old places.”
– White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice quoted by Politics in a story about the challenges facing the Biden administration to ensure the federal bureaucracy delivers billions in new funding to poor rural areas.
Views and Analysis
- The age of inflation in the United States will last much longer than the pandemic peak –Rich Miller, Bloomberg
- Inflation is down, but maybe not low enough – Greg IP, Wall Street Journal
- The White House is locked in inflation – Alex Gangitano and Sylvan Lane, The Hill
- An inflationary conspiracy theory infects the Democratic Party –Catherine Rampell, Washington Post
- Three Simple Ways Congress Can Protect Retirees Against Rising Inflation – Laurence Kotlikoff, The Hill
- Why the budget deficit is shrinking – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
- Republicans can extend their medium-term inflation advantage – Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg
- It’s time to end tax deductions for union busting – David Madland, The Hill
- How 1 million COVID deaths compare to other tragedies in US history – Sergio Peçanha and Yan Wu, Washington Post
- Biden’s tax on unrealized gains will hit many more taxpayers than he claims – Isabelle Morales, The Hill
- Military aid is no substitute for a coherent foreign policy – Ethan Brown, The Hill