$10,269 in Covid Relief Per Person

$10,269 in Covid Relief Per Person

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Plus - 200 million more vaccine shots
Thursday, February 11, 2021

Biden Announces Deals to Buy 200 Million More Covid Vaccine Doses

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that his administration had purchased another 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use.

In a speech at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, Biden said that the U.S. has signed contracts with Pfizer and Moderna for 100 million doses of each company’s vaccine.

The additional doses bring the U.S. total to 600 million. They are expected to be delivered by the end of July, ensuring that the nation has enough of the two-shot vaccines to inoculate 300 million Americans. About 260 million people in the United States are currently considered eligible for the shots.

The administration had previously said it expected the additional doses would be available by the end of the summer.

Biden Talks Infrastructure

Biden also met with key lawmakers and administration officials Thursday to discuss his goals for infrastructure and green energy.

In comments ahead of the meeting, Biden said infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. “I've been around long enough ... that infrastructure wasn't a Republican or a Democratic issue," he said. “There are not many Republican or Democratic roads and bridges,” he added.

The White House said meeting participants — which included a bipartisan group of senators from the Environment and Public Works Committee as well as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris — agreed “that America needs to build new infrastructure across urban and rural areas and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process to support the country’s economic recovery in the months and years ahead.”

China in the lead: Biden said he had spoken to President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, and noted that China has invested heavily in rail, including trains that travel 225 miles per hour. “We don't get moving, they're going to eat our lunch," Biden said.

No price tag yet: Biden campaigned on a $2 trillion plan of infrastructure and green energy investment, but Thursday’s talks were preliminary and did not include specific dollar figures. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting was part of an “ongoing discussion” on an issue that was important to the president. “But I don’t have a number for you, we’re not at that stage in the process yet,” Psaki told reporters.

Familiar hurdles ahead: Infrastructure investment has long been a popular topic for lawmakers, but few discussions have gotten past the basic question of how to pay for it. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said after the meeting that funding would be an issue. “I raised the issue that would be good if we could do some of this during the Covid relief package to get us started, recognizing that it's going to be a challenge to make sure that we have adequate revenues to fund transportation moving forward,” he told Politico.

2021 Deficit Projected at $2.3 Trillion Even Before Biden Stimulus: CBO

The U.S. budget deficit will total $2.3 trillion this fiscal year, down substantially from last year but still on track to be the second largest in the nation’s history, the Congressional Budget Office projected on Thursday. The 2021 deficit is expected to be 10.3% of GDP, down from 14.9% last year.

As the result of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in December, the deficit for this year will be $448 billion larger than estimated last September. That’s 25% bigger. CBO now estimates that the federal government will spend $5.76 trillion this year, up $698 billion from its September forecast. Federal revenues are expected to total $3.51 trillion, up $250 from the previous estimate.

Those projections don’t factor in the $1.9 trillion in additional aid proposed by President Joe Biden and now being crafted into legislation by Congress.

Even without that additional spending, deficits are expected to average $1.2 trillion a year from 2022 to 2031, topping their 50-year average of 3.3% of GDP in every one of those years. As those deficits mount, public debt is set to climb from 100% of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2020 to 102% by the end of this year and 107% of GDP by 2031, the highest level in U.S. history.

Yet even as the deficit hovers far above levels seen before the pandemic, CBO said that cumulative deficits over the next decade will be smaller than it previously estimated thanks to projections of a stronger economy. Those cumulative deficits are expected to total $12.6 trillion, $345 billion, or 3%, less than September’s forecast.

Why it matters:
The CBO report illustrates the massive size of the fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic — and it could give Republicans who have rediscovered deficit concerns more fodder to criticize Biden’s proposed relief package, even as many economists say that the nation can afford additional borrowing. CBO projects that net interest costs as a share of GDP will average 1.2% through 2026.

Budget hawks say that the report also highlights the long-term, structural challenges that will need to be addressed. “While policymakers are rightly focused on the fiscal response to the current crisis, they must turn their attention to long-term debt and deficit reduction to get the country on solid fiscal ground once the crisis ends,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said in a blog post.

Chart of the Day: $10,269 in Covid Relief Per Person

The U.S. has enacted about $3.4 trillion in Covid relief and stimulus over the last year, and Democrats are currently working to pass President Biden’s proposal to provide another $1.9 trillion. The chart below breaks down the distribution of those funds on a per capita basis, including the Republican counteroffer to Biden’s plan that would provide about $600 billion. (See the New York Times analysis for more details.)

40% of US Covid Deaths Could Have Been Avoided: Report

The U.S. has the world’s highest tallies of both Covid-19 cases and deaths, which according to a new study can be blamed in large part on the chaotic response to the pandemic by the Trump administration.

That conclusion comes from a panel of more than two dozen experts convened by the independent medical journal The Lancet, which just published its analysis of public policy and health in the Trump era. The authors say that the U.S. would have avoided about 40% of its 470,000 deaths so far if it had simply achieved results similar to other wealthy, industrialized nations.

“Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic—compounded by his efforts to dismantle the USA’s already weakened public health infrastructure and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage expansions—has caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths,” the authors write.

The report cites Trump’s “disdain for science and cuts to global health programmes and public health agencies,” the “elimination of the National Security Council’s global health security team,” and “a 2017 hiring freeze that left almost 700 positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unfilled” as contributing factors to the poor U.S. response.

The bigger picture: While the Trump administration may have performed poorly, the U.S. has experienced worsening health conditions for decades, the authors say, with life expectancy falling starting in 2014. “The US has fared so badly with this pandemic, but the bungling can’t be attributed only to Mr Trump, it also has to do with these societal failures,” Dr. Mary Bassett of Harvard University, who served on the panel, told the Guardian. “That’s not going to be solved by a vaccine.”

The authors charge that 40 years of neoliberal policies have created a two-tier society that fails to deliver social goods to large swaths of the population, making it harder to respond to a global pandemic. “Despite a booming stock market and low unemployment, many people living in the USA were forced into precarious jobs that offered low pay and insufficient benefits. This widening income inequality has widened inequalities in health,” they say.

The authors argue that undoing the four-decade assault on the welfare state, which culminated in the election of Donald Trump, is the key to rebuilding the institutions and capabilities that could help the country respond effectively to a pandemic while improving public health more broadly.

“The overriding thing that we need to do in our country is to decrease the huge and widening inequalities that have emerged in our nation,” Dr. David Himmelstein of the City University of New York's Hunter College told USA Today.

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