President Biden will limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level set by the Trump administration, reversing an earlier promise to welcome more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution into the country.
Here is more from the NYT. I have been stressing for several years now that the Democrats are not going to die on the hill of an ultimately unpopular immigration policy. Here is an earlier Angus, penned before the Afghanistan withdrawal news:
Kids? Still in cages.
Min wage? Still $7.25.
Student debt? Still unforgiven.
Stimmy? 2 trillion from DJT, 2 trillion from JB.
China? Still tariffed.
Gitmo? Still open
median voter theorem STRONG!!!
— Angus “5 million shots a day" Grier (@ez_angus) March 26, 2021
The marketing and associated cultural capital, however, are indeed very different, and you can expect that to continue and possibly intensify.
Update: Biden will budge.
Ho hum, nothing to see here:
Mexico’s drug cartels are notoriously well armed and equipped, with some possessing very heavy weaponry, including armored gun trucks sporting heavy machine guns. Now at least one of these groups appears to be increasingly making use of small quadcopter-type drones carrying small explosive devices to attack its enemies. This is just the latest example of a trend that has been growing worldwide in recent years, including among non-state actors, such as terrorists and criminals, which underscores the potential threats commercially-available unmanned systems pose on and off the battlefield.
Various police raids seem to have uncovered quadcopters armed with shrapnel. Just how speculative is this report? I do not know, but I have been expecting such developments for quite a few years now, and it would be sad if finally they were upon us. Here is the full story by Joseph Trevethick.
Zeke Emanuel, a professor of healthcare management at the University of Pennsylvania and a former coronavirus adviser to US president Joe Biden, said: “I understand they wanted to be transparent, but did they really have to announce a complete pause? “My concern is this will unnecessarily undermine confidence in the vaccine, and possibly all [Covid-19] vaccines. Are people going to know the difference?”
Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said: “The damage is done, this is going to be hard to resume. All [the CDC] can do is say how rare this is, show how safe and efficacious the J&J vaccine is. But this action is going to be hard to reverse.”
Here is the full FT piece. Since lives are at stake, how about this for a proposal? The FDA is allowed to suspend the use of any positive expected value vaccine only after running an RCT on their underlying theory of credibility and public risk communication in the relevant context. (NB: asking about attitude change is not nearly good enough!) And after they run the RCT, they have to wait three weeks to schedule the meeting on evaluating the data. After all, that is how long it takes, right?
Estamos de acuerdo?
By the way, one reader wrote to me: “I submit to you that the credibility of the FDA on the relative safety of various vaccines may be a minor issue in the pool of issues that prevent the level of vaccinations we would like to see.” Do we even know if that is true or false?
Health Minister Greg Hunt has refused to guarantee Australia’s borders will open even if the whole country has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Australia’s borders have been shut since March 2020 and will remain closed until at least the middle of June, leaving more than 36,000 Australians trapped overseas, unable to return due to caps on the number of quarantine spaces.
The closure also bans citizens from leaving the country unless they have an exemption or are travelling to New Zealand.
Mr Hunt suggested at a news conference in Canberra on Tuesday the international border closures could last much longer and stay in place even if the entire population had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“Vaccination alone is no guarantee that you can open up,” Mr Hunt said.
“If the whole country were vaccinated, you couldn’t just open the borders.”
“We still have to look at a series of different factors: transmission, longevity [of vaccine protection] and the global impact – and those are factors which the world is learning about,” he said.
Really people? Via Chris.
I will be testifying to the JEC of Congress today at 2:30 pm est.
Dr. Paul Romer
Nobel Prize Winning economist and NYU Professor
New York, NY
Dr. Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine & Infectious Diseases, NYU School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital
CEO of Just Human Productions
New York, NY
Dr. Alexander Tabarrok
Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center and Professor of Economics George Mason University
Dr. Belinda Archibong
Assistant Professor, Economics
Barnard College, Columbia University
New York, NY
The presence of a minuscule risk for some of the adenovirus platform Covid vaccines means that the FDA has put a hold on J&J and still won’t approve AstraZeneca.
In response to critics, the FDA says that their credibility is on the line. If they allow vaccine use to proceed, and a modest number of people die as a result (with a big increase in net lives saved), the FDA and its defenders claim that people will lose faith in the FDA. Yet that is exactly the wrong thing to say, it is self-serving, and it exacerbates the problem at hand.
When the FDA announces that they have to ban a vaccine because its credibility is on the line, that very announcement puts their credibility on the line. It is a simple two-line proof. Either they are lying about whether their credibility is on the line, in which case they have wrecked their credibility with the lie. Or they are telling the truth, in which case by definition their credibility is indeed on the line.
One lesson is that you should not try to extend your credibility too far, because you will end up unduly constrained.
For purposes of contrast, consider alcoholic beverages. At the federal level they are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (who are they again?), and also various state and local authorities.
As a result of this unusual, Prohibition-rooted distribution of authority, alcohol does not come with nutritional labeling.
Now, in that setting, if a bunch of kids die from binge drinking, the credibility of the Bureau is not much damaged. The Bureau does not have to ban alcohol on the grounds that if it does not, the credibility of the Bureau will be ruined. The Bureau simply never put its credibility on the line in this manner.
Now you might favor a tighter regulation of alcohol for some reason, but you could achieve such regulation without tying up the credibility of the ATTT Bureau in knots. Similarly, the Department of Transportation regulates road safety (again with state and local authorities as well), but it has not put its credibility on the line when 40,000 or so Americans die each year on the roads. Again, maybe they should enforce tougher safety standards, but they shouldn’t tie their credibility to getting road deaths down to one hundred, and indeed they do not. They end up with more degrees of regulatory freedom.
Let’s say I were to announce that my credibility as a public intellectual were to depend at how I would fare at darts on British pub night. That would be a big mistake, for multiple reasons. It is like with the FDA. If I am lying about that credibility tie, I hurt my credibility as a public intellectual. If somehow I am telling the truth, well let’s just hope everyone else stays home that evening because my credibility is going to take a beating.
What I call “free-floating credibility” is underrated.
And that is precisely what defenders of the FDA destroy when they…defend the FDA. They make the FDA worse.
NB: You are “out of your lane” commenting on this analysis unless you have studied game theory with Thomas Schelling.
Moderna and BioNTech shares jumped 10.5 per cent and 6.1 per cent, respectively, on Tuesday as the vaccine makers benefited from news of the J&J pause.
Norway’s health authorities estimated that their vaccination plans could be delayed by eight to 12 weeks if they could not use either the J&J or the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The biggest short-term loser here is Europe, not the United States. Nor will this help Australia reopen. But does the American median voter or median FDA senior bureaucrat care? What will the CVS liability lawyers advise from here on out? What will the French anti-vaxxers think?
Here is the full FT article.
We combine personnel records of the United States federal bureaucracy from 1997-2019 with administrative voter registration data to study how ideological alignment between politicians and bureaucrats affects the personnel policies and performance of public organizations. We present four results. (i) Consistent with the use of the spoils system to align ideology at the highest levels of government, we document significant partisan cycles and substantial turnover among political appointees. (ii) By contrast, we find virtually no political cycles in the civil service. The lower levels of the federal government resemble a “Weberian” bureaucracy that appears to be largely protected from political interference. (iii) Democrats make up the plurality of civil servants. Overrepresentation of Democrats increases with seniority, with the difference in career progression being largely explained by positive selection on observables. (iv) Political misalignment carries a sizeable performance penalty. Exploiting presidential transitions as a source of “within-bureaucrat” variation in the political alignment of procurement officers over time, we find that contracts overseen by a misaligned officer exhibit cost overruns that are, on average, 8% higher than the mean overrun. We provide evidence that is consistent with a general “morale effect,” whereby misaligned bureaucrats are less motivated.
They seem to be saying (among other things) that government is worse under Republican administrations because Democrats in the bureaucracy are not as loyal to their missions? That is a new NBER working paper by Jorg L. Spenkuch, Edoardo Teso, and Guo Xu.
Here is John Cochrane, Megan McArdle, Ryan Bourne and myself on the pandemic. Lots of good material. John Cochrane was excellent on testing in a pandemic and why it’s different than medical testing, starting around 22:00. My follow-up also had some good material, our antibodies, our selves.
Ryan Bourne’s book Economics in One Virus is very good.
Many people are coming around to First Doses First, i.e delaying the second dose to ~12 weeks. Atul Gawande, for example, tweeted:
As cases and hospitalizations rise again, we can’t count on behavior alone reversing this course. Therefore, it’s time for the Biden admin to delay 2nd vax doses to 12 weeks. Getting as many people as possible a vax dose is now urgent.
Now urgent??? Yes, I am a little frustrated because the trajectory on the new variants was very clear. On January 1, for example, I wrote about The New Strain and the Need for Speed (riffing off an excellent piece by Zeynep Tufekci). Still, very happy to have Gawande’s voice added to the cause. Also joining Gawande are the power trio of Govind Persad, William F. Parker and Ezekiel J. Emanuel who in an important op-ed write:
If we temporarily delay second doses …that is our best hope of quelling the fourth wave ignited by the B.1.1.7 variant. Because we did not start this strategy earlier, it is probably too late for Michigan, New York, New Jersey and the other Northeastern states. But it might be just in time for the South and California — the next places the more infectious strain will go if historical patterns repeat.
…Drug manufacturers selected the three- or four-week interval currently used between doses to rapidly prove efficacy in clinical trials. They did not choose such short intervals based on the optimal way of using the vaccines to quell a pandemic. While a three- or four-week follow-up is safe and effective, there is no evidence it optimizes either individual benefit or population protection.
…Some complain that postponing second doses is not “following the science.” But the scientific evidence goes far beyond what was shown in the original efficacy trials. Data from the United Kingdom, Israel and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that first doses both prevent infection and reduce transmission. In people with prior infection, experts are beginning to recognize that a second dose could provide even less benefit. Following the science means updating policies to recognize new evidence rather than stubbornly maintaining the status quo.
Emanuel is on Biden’s COVID-19 task force so consider this op-ed running the flag up the flagpole. I predict Topol will fall next.
I would be surprised, however, if the US changes course now–too many people would then ask why didn’t we do this sooner?–but dose stretching is going to be important for the rest of the world. Why aren’t we doing more to investigate fractional dosing? Even if we went to half-doses on the second dose–the full second dose appears to be strong–that would still be a significant increase in total supply.
Addendum: I have argued for sending extra doses to Michigan and other hot spots such as NJ. Flood the zone! The Biden administration says no. Why? Production is now running well ahead of distribution as more than 50 million doses have been delivered but not administered. It would be a particularly good idea to send more single-shot J&J to reach hard to reach communities–one and done.
Lawmakers in Texas and at least 19 other states that let bars and restaurants sell to-go cocktails during the pandemic are moving to make those allowances permanent. Many states that made it easier for healthcare providers to work across state lines are considering bills to indefinitely ease interstate licensing rules. Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for Medicare to extend its policy of reimbursing for certain telehealth visits. States also are trying to lock in pandemic rules that spawned new online services, from document notarization to marijuana sales.
Deregulation has long been a central tenet among Republican politicians, but many of the coronavirus-inspired changes have gained bipartisan support…
In February, California State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, co-authored legislation with a Republican lawmaker to make permanent the coronavirus-era suspension of liquor laws that prohibited drinking in sidewalk extensions known as parklets and other outdoor dining spaces used by multiple vendors. If approved by two-thirds of the legislature and signed by the Democratic governor, it would take effect in September.
State legislatures in Connecticut and Arkansas also are weighing bills to extend outdoor dining allowances made during the pandemic.
Mr. Wiener said he has spent years studying ways to modernize the state’s liquor laws, some of which are 100 years old.
Here is much more from Aaron Zitner and Julie Bykowicz at the WSJ. For the pointer I thank Greg Roemer.
Electric vehicle charging stations can in fact be provided by the private sector, just as gas stations are. But will state and local governments step out of the way?:
There are several regulatory barriers to the deployment of EV charging infrastructure including permitting of charging infrastructure, the lack of a technical standard for charging infrastructure, policy uncertainty regarding sale of electricity, regulation regarding EV-related investment by utilities, etc. Cities which face these regulatory barriers should address them as early as possible by building political consensus and then mandating the relevant government agency to address each issue whether it be modifying building codes, streamlining permitting, deciding a standard in consultation with OEMs, etc. As mentioned in Chapter 4, city governments hold a comparative advantage in zoning and building codes and permitting, and they should use those levers to good effect. Cities should use their regulatory influence smartly to remove / mitigate barriers to create a conducive environment for private investors. This report also shows that perse a direct subsidy to private infrastructure providers is not required because charging networks offer a viable business opportunity – the notable exemption being cities with large proportions of on-street residential parking where residents might be undersupplied with charging infrastructure as the economics under those conditions are less appealing.
Here is the full report, from Stephen Crolius and the Clinton Climate Change Initiative.
That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, and here is the opener:
The homogenization of America — through national TV and politics, cheap transportation and big online or nationwide businesses such as Walmart and Amazon — is a longstanding story. Regardless of how true it is, or ever was, a new truth is emerging from the pandemic: In the last year, the differences among the U.S.’s states and regions have become increasingly apparent — and they are more temperamental than political.
I recently spent two weeks in Miami Beach, and the mood was festive. On the street, many people wore masks, but once they entered the packed restaurants and clubs, the masks came off and the partying started. (Disclosure: I am vaccinated, and was an observer, not a participant.) The midnight curfew was by no means always respected.
That scene might make you recoil in horror, and many observers predicted catastrophe for Florida’s policies. But Florida’s death toll is close to the national average, and Governor Ron DeSantis is extremely popular. The state’s lockdowns were never very strict, its schools have been open since August, and Miami’s NBA team is welcoming fans, albeit with seating restrictions. The economy has been booming for some time, in part because people who wish to spend money or organize get-togethers have been drawn to Florida.
And my sense is that most Floridians feel vindicated. I spoke to several people who admitted they had had Covid earlier in the year and described the experience with a giggle or a smirk, as if it were nothing serious. Just last week DeSantis announced that Florida would have nothing to do with plans for vaccine passports…
San Francisco is one obvious point of contrast. The schools still have not reopened, with no clear date in sight, even though the teachers have been offered vaccines. (Meanwhile, the school board decided to rename many of its schools.) Large public gatherings are rare, and inside dining has been largely prohibited. Like Florida, the city can boast of very low death rates from Covid, and like Floridians, many San Franciscans seem proud of their course.
You might think this is all because Florida is a Republican-leaning state. But Donald Trump won only 51.2% of the vote there last year, and Joe Biden won Miami-Dade County by seven percentage points…
Overall the Southeast would seem to be a big winner, as the psychological effects of low rates of unemployment may prove more durable than the effects of high rates of casualties.
There is much more at the link, including a comparison of Virginia and Maryland.