Lianeon Weekly Topics | Biden Meets Vaccine Targets as Vaccine Hesitancy Amps Up

Week of April 19th

The Essential Three

Biden Nears 100-Day Mark With Strong Approval, Positive Rating for Vaccine Rollout

Joe Biden approaches the 100-day mark of his presidency with a relatively strong job approval rating and the public continuing to express positive views of the coronavirus aid package passed by Congress last month. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) say the Biden administration has done an excellent or good job managing the manufacture and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans.

So far so good in this new administration, but we are still in what is known as the “honeymoon period” in political science.

Biden Says Goal Of 200 Million COVID-19 Vaccinations In 100 Days Has Been Met

President Biden announced Wednesday that Americans have received 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations since he took office, double his initial goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, and what he called "an incredible achievement for the nation."

Biden, who will officially cross the 100-day mark next week, also announced the availability of tax credits to employers who give their workers paid leave to get a shot.

"No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they are doing their patriotic duty to get vaccinated," Biden said.

All indicators are pointing downward, however. We have nearly exhausted the pool of willing vaccine participants. Total doses per day, while still admirably high, are noticeably falling.

Limited Opportunity: Changes in Employment and the American Middle Class

Moving into and staying in the American middle class has become more challenging over time—but there's no single culprit. In this Perspective, the authors discuss a number of subtle but important changes over a relatively long period that have blocked many middle-class pathways. Less-educated workers face a smaller set of middle-income jobs. The good jobs that remain have increased educational requirements. The American labor market has been hollowed out. Those who are employed hold jobs that are less stable, provide fewer benefits, and may not lead to longer-term careers within a company. There is a lack of internal infrastructure to invest in workers, particularly those in roles most susceptible to automation. Consequently, sustained effort toward building new pathways will take many years. The authors conclude by providing a series of potential starting points.

Great read from RAND. The problems are multifaceted and the solutions will also need to be.

Healthcare/Society

The U.S. is approaching the vaccine hesitancy "tipping point"

The U.S. will probably run out of adults who are enthusiastic about getting vaccinated within the next two to four weeks, according to a KFF analysis published yesterday.

Between the lines: Vaccine hesitancy is rapidly approaching as our main impediment to herd immunity.

"It appears we are quite close to the tipping point where demand for rather than supply of vaccines is our primary challenge," the authors write.

"Federal, state, and local officials, and the private sector, will face the challenge of having to figure out how to increase willingness to get vaccinated among those still on the fence, and ideally among the one-fifth of adults who have consistently said they would not get vaccinated or would do so only if required."

US Health Panel Urges Restarting J&J COVID-19 Vaccinations

A U.S. health panel says it’s time to resume use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, despite a very rare risk of blood clots. Out of nearly 8 million people vaccinated before the U.S. suspended J&J’s shot, health officials uncovered 15 cases of a highly unusual kind of blood clot, three of them fatal. All were women, most younger than 50. But advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday the vaccine’s benefits outweigh that serious but small risk — especially against a virus that’s still infecting tens of thousands of Americans every day. The government will rapidly weigh that recommendation in deciding next steps.

It is unclear to my why the J and J vaccine was not simply restricted only to males. Virtually all of the blood clotting was in women. Overall, the vaccine is very safe, but there is no need to take the added risk with women when the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are widely available.

Economy/Business

Biden feels heat on emissions goal as climate summit nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Joe Biden convenes a virtual climate summit on Thursday with 40 world leaders, he faces a vexing task: how to put forward a nonbinding but symbolic goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will have a tangible impact on climate change efforts not only in the U.S. but throughout the world.

The emissions target, eagerly awaited by all sides of the climate debate, will signal how aggressively Biden wants to move on climate change, a divisive and expensive issue that has riled Republicans to complain about job-killing government overreach even as some on the left worry Biden has not gone far enough to address a profound threat to the planet.

Biden has set the goal of cutting emissions by 50% over 9 years. While unlikely to be met, that is an incredibly ambitious target. That wasn’t enough for these protesters though:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9500175/Climate-activists-dump-wheelbarrow-cow-manure-outside-White-House-protest-climate-plan.html

Sorry for the Daily Mail link, they just have some nice photos. I wonder how much emissions were wasted in buying new matching pink wheelbarrows and paining them with decals for this stunt?

Note also, by some measures at least, greenhouse gas emissions have been falling anyway: https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/carbon-co2-emissions

The Permanent Truth About Temporary Inflation

Of all the silly things Washington types are saying about the economy, few are more dangerous than the myth of “transitory inflation.” This is the view that a rapid runup in a wide range of prices this spring doesn’t matter because the inflation is temporary or there’s a baseline effect related to last year’s pandemic shutdowns or we’re in an auspicious lunar cycle or something.

As with all the best myths, the notion of transitory inflation contains a kernel of truth. Consumer prices are rising, by some 2.6% in the 12 months leading to March, and producer-price inflation of 4.2% in the same span augurs more price rises for households to come. But it’s hard to interpret such numbers if you’re an economist. Inflation data compare prices today with prices this time last year, and this time last year the economy was in the depth of a deflationary pandemic shutdown.

An Overview of Using Public-Private Partnerships to Build or Modernize Highways

Long-term public-private partnerships are contracts between public and private entities for major infrastructure such as highways. Well-written public-private partnership agreements allocate risks between the partners, sparing taxpayers from some major risks, such as cost overruns.

Public-private partnerships (P3s) for complex multi-billion dollar highway projects have been used for half a century in Europe and for the last two decades in Australia, Latin America, and Canada. Over the past 20 years, nearly two-dozen long-term transportation P3s have been financed in the United States and P3 toll projects are under construction or already in operation in many states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Virginia.

Public/private partnerships are powerful tools. The vaccine program is also a public private partnership.

Policy/Politics

Ben Carson: Moving our focus from equality to equity won’t defeat racism. It’s another kind of racism.

As we continue to be bombarded by racially charged narratives, there has been a subtle shift in the conversation: Its focus has moved from equality to equity. That is, instead of pursuing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideal of judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, equity would reward and punish people because of the color of their skin. Rather than equality of opportunity, equity would mandate equality of outcome.

This goal is not only un-American — it is impossible to attain.

Thoughtful and controversial read from Bem Carson. It is worth a read.

How to vaccinate the anti-vaxxers

It's hard to believe that only three months ago Americans were furious about the slow and inefficient rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. In three months, we've gone from a mentality of scarcity, with strict eligibility criteria and appointments that are as hard to get as Springsteen tickets, to one of abundance, with vaccine appointments so readily available that unused vaccines are piling up. But it's not because everyone's vaccinated; on the contrary, case rates and death rates are still hovering at the same level as six months ago, and overall vaccination levels are still well-below the threshold for herd immunity that could lead to the end of the pandemic domestically.

Why is our vaccination effort apparently stalling out so close to the finish line? The answer generally given is vaccine refusal. Something like a quarter of those polled say they will not get the vaccine if offered, which would be a high enough rate to significantly slow progress toward herd immunity and the recovery of normal life for everyone.

This article makes some good points but actually doesn’t answer its own question. There is a difference between those who wont go out of their way for the vaccine and those who steadfastly refuse.

Swing vote 'trumped' turnout in 2016 election

Swing voters in battleground states delivered Donald Trump his unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election, suggests a new study coauthored by Yale political scientist Gregory A. Huber.

"Despite increasing political polarization, a lot of voters aren't committed partisans and will cast ballots for a Democrat in one election and a Republican in the next," said Huber, the Forst Family Professor of Political Science in Yale's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Turnout certainly matters—the parties benefit from mobilizing their bases—but our study suggests that swing voters were a bigger factor in 2016."

This fits with a prior analysis I read that more and more people are identifying as “independent” but nonetheless can have strong political leanings.

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