“Build Back Better” is far more consequential than the earlier COVID relief packages. That’s why Democrats are so angry at those who blocked its passage and so determined to push it forward.
Why is BBB more important than the COVID legislation? Because pandemic relief was essentially a massive stimulus program, with the usual smorgasbord of treats for favored groups, but little more than that. Although BBB is also a massive stimulus, its real importance lies in the permanent entitlement programs it would launch, everything from universal pre-K and Medicare expansion to mandated paid leave from private employers.
Those are major building blocks in the Democrats’ long-term plan to construct a full-fledged social-welfare state along European lines. Achieving that ambitious, transformational goal — while making irreversible changes in how America governs itself — is why the party is fighting so hard and why the left is so furious about the Senate stalemate, personified by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, a Democrat who refuses to go along, either to pass the bill or eliminate the filibuster to pass President Biden’s non-budget initiatives.
Enacting these massive, new entitlements is one reason the House bill is rightly called “progressive.” The second, equally important reason is that nearly all Democrats, except Manchin and his Arizona colleague Kyrsten Sinema, are willing to break the Senate’s longstanding rules and procedures to achieve their desired outcome. This determination to override traditional governing procedures and the institutions that embody them has been a hallmark of capital-P Progressivism since Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette came roaring into the Senate in 1906.
By 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was running for president as the Progressive Party nominee. Woodrow Wilson, the man who gained the Oval Office by TR’s third-party candidacy, had embraced progressivism while a professor (and later college president) at Princeton. Wilson and progressive public intellectuals such as Herbert Croly explained their rationale far more candidly than their political descendants do. The Constitution, they rightly noted, encumbered our national government with its enumerated powers, decentralized federalism, multiple veto points for any new policies, and strong protections for private property, contracts, and minority-party rights. Progressives argued that those restraints may have been fine for the 18th and 19th centuries but not for the 20th, which needed a far more active state.
Although 21st century progressives are uncomfortably standing in Woodrow Wilson’s shadow on account of his racial policies, their basic contention is the same: The “old” Constitution is outmoded. Its restrictions stand in the way of a more powerful, activist, centralized government.
Creating that government is what progressive legal scholars mean when they advocate for a “living Constitution,” which achieves desired outcomes by ignoring restraints in the “old Constitution.” They have largely succeeded. Progressives have gradually remodeled America’s government, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. During FDR’s first term in the White House, the Supreme Court ruled that most of those programs violated the Constitution. Roosevelt found that intolerable and on the heels of his 1936 landslide reelection, threatened to expand the court and pack it with pro-New Deal justices. The blowback caused FDR to retreat, but the mere threat helped achieved his desired results. Sitting justices began approving his programs or retiring, replaced by FDR’s nominees. It proved to be an inflection point for the high court and for American government. Since then, the Supreme Court has successively loosened the old Constitutional restrictions and approved major accretions to centralized power, much of it located in Washington bureaucracies. Whether the current court, with its conservative majority, will continue to do so is one reason nominations are now so hotly contested. The fight is over fundamental issues.
Washington’s centralized power, substantially engorged by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, is how America is governed today, less by statutes and more by executive diktat and bureaucratic rules, which are enforced and adjudicated mainly by the very agencies that promulgate them. Congress now sees its role mainly as overseeing those agencies. It’s not very good at it.
This centralized administrative state with its expansive powers is why Washington bureaucracies presume they have the authority to require private businesses with over 100 employees to fire workers who refuse COVID vaccinations. It is why the Department of Education can demand private universities comply with a vast range of federal rules and regulations if any of their students or faculty receive federal loans or grants (as all universities do, except Hillsdale). It is why Washington bureaucrats can tell K-12 schools what kind of lunches to serve, a task once handled solely by local school boards and seized from them without any congressional debate.
Washington money means Washington rules. Those regulations go well beyond statutory laws or constitutional protections against discrimination. They have suppressed the Constitution’s basic federal structure and gradually erased the line between “public” and “private” enterprises. This web of centralized control and bureaucratic rules has “progressively” usurped control over most aspects of American public and private life, making civil society subordinate to the administrative state.
Expanding this centralized state and endowing it with still more cradle-to-grave programs is the main aim of Build Back Better. Achieving that won’t be easy because the Democrats didn’t run on that platform and didn’t win enough votes to enact it. Joe Biden won mainly because he wasn’t Donald Trump, because he promised to return the country to normality after four turbulent years and outlined a vague center-left agenda to do it.
Those promises went out the window after Biden took office. The window opened wider when Democrats captured Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections. Those victories in early January cost the Republicans control of the upper chamber. Since Democrats already controlled the House, just barely, they now held both branches of Congress, as well as the White House. Only the Supreme Court was beyond their grasp, and they are threatening to take it, too, by going where even Franklin Roosevelt dared not tread. Nonetheless, the Georgia victories gave the incoming Biden team an opportunity, and they seized it. They opted, in their words, to “fundamentally transform America.” What they failed to acknowledge was that Biden was in a far weaker position to do that than Roosevelt in 1936 or Johnson in 1964. Those presidents carried overwhelming majorities into the White House and Congress. Biden did not. His position was weak at the beginning and has gone downhill ever since.
It’s not surprising, then, that the White House has such trouble passing Build Back Better. What’s seems odd is that Biden has refused to change course. He is still hellbent on passing an ambitious, left-wing agenda. The budgetary elements can pass the Senate with a simple majority under budget reconciliation rules. But that requires the support of all 50 Democrats since Republicans are united in opposition. Vice President Kamala Harris could then break the 50-50 tie and pass the gargantuan bill.
But Joe Manchin has proved an immovable object, objecting to the legislation’s accounting tricks, the massive deficit it creates, and the fuel it pours onto an overheated economy. Since Biden won less than 30% of the West Virginia vote while losing every single county in the state, he has no leverage over the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.
Budget reconciliation rules don’t cover all of Biden’s proposals. These additional proposals could be blocked by filibuster, unless the filibuster itself were eliminated. That could be done by a simple majority vote, but it would fundamentally change the Senate by ending its traditional protections for the minority party. That’s why then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused President Trump’s demand to do it. That’s why Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema refuse to change the rules now, despite pressure from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The debate over the filibuster rule has received a lot of attention, and properly so. So has the flip-flop by Democrats who stoutly defended the rule when they were in the minority. But the real issue here is not Schumer’s blatant hypocrisy. The deeper issue — one that has largely been missed — is how the effort to overturn Senate rules and pass BBB fits so neatly into the larger sweep of progressive politics. That’s not just because Democrats want to permanently expand the social-welfare state and “fundamentally transform America.” It’s also because they are willing to smash venerable institutions and procedural safeguards to do it. The same logic applies to their effort to nationalize election laws. That, too, is probably doomed because of the filibuster. If it did pass, it’s also likely that the Supreme Court would strike it down because the Constitution specifically delegates election lawmaking to state legislatures, with national courts stepping in only to protect individual rights.
The latest initiatives by Biden, Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi may fail, but they won’t be the progressives’ last hurrah. They’ve been winning for over eight decades and came within two Senate votes of winning this time. They’ll keep trying until voters send them a clear message that the administrative state is already too big, too intrusive, too far removed from control by citizens’ elected representatives. Its continued growth and unchecked power threatens our oldest institutions, our freedoms, and our liberty under law. The voters’ message must be unambiguous: Stop trying to fundamentally transform America. We never asked for it, we don’t want it, and we never gave you permission.
A dog has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, highlighting risk of the virus infecting pets and wild animals
The monkeypox virus can easily spread between humans and animals. A veterinary virologist explains how the virus could go from people to wild animals in…
A dog in Paris has caught monkeypox from one of its owners, both of whom were infected with the virus, according to a scientific paper published on Aug. 10, 2022. This is the first case of a dog contracting the monkeypox virus through direct contact with skin lesions on a human.
I am a veterinary pathologist and virologist who has been working with poxviruses for over 20 years. I study how these viruses evade the immune system and am working on modifying poxviruses to prevent infection as well as treat other diseases, including cancer.
With monkeypox spreading in humans throughout the world, my colleagues and I have begun to worry about the increased risk of monkeypox spreading from humans to animals. If monkeypox spreads to wildlife species in the U.S. and Europe, the virus could become endemic in these places – where it has historically been absent – resulting in more frequent outbreaks. The report of the infected dog shows that there is a decent chance these fears could become a reality.
A species-jumping virus
Monkeypox is a poxvirus in the same family as variola – the virus that causes smallpox – and cowpox viruses and likely evolved in animals before jumping to humans. Monkeypox causes painful lesions in both humans and animals and, in rare cases, can be deadly. Researchers have found the monkeypox virus in several species of wild rodents, squirrels and primates in Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox does not need to mutate or evolve at all to be able to infect many different species. It can easily spread from animals to people and back again.
Though there is a fair bit of research on monkeypox, a lot more work has been done on cowpox, a similar zoonotic poxvirus that is endemic in Europe. Over the years, there have been several reports of cowpox infection spreading from animals to humans in Europe.
From people to animals
Until recently, most monkeypox infections occurred in specific areas of Africa where some wildlife species act as reservoirs for the virus. These outbreaks are usually contained quickly through isolation of infected individuals and vaccinating people around the infected individual. The current situation is very different though.
With nearly 40,000 cases globally as of Aug. 17, 2022 – and more than 12,500 cases in the U.S. alone – monkeypox is now widespread within the human population. The risk of any one person transmitting the virus to an animal – particularly a wild one – is small, but the more people are infected, the greater the chances. It’s a numbers game.
There are a number of ways viruses can transfer from animals to people – called spillover – and from people back to animals – called spillback. Since monkeypox is most easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, it is a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.
The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how cuddling or being close to a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in fecal matter. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, likely rodents, catching it from human waste.
The monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. While more research needs to be done, it is potentially possible that an infected person could discard food that would then be eaten by a rodent.
The chances of any one of these events happening is extremely low. But I and other virologists worry that with more people becoming infected, there is a greater risk that rodents or other animals will come into contact with urine, feces or saliva that is contaminated with the virus.
Finally, there is the risk of people giving monkeypox to a pet, which then passes it on to other animals. One case study in Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic and four other cats were subsequently infected. It is feasible that an infected household pet could spread the virus to wild animals somehow.
How to help
One of the key reasons that the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects people, so there were no animal reservoirs that could re-introduce the virus to human populations.
Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, though these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wild animal populations in the U.S., Europe or other locations, there will be always be potential for animals to spread it back to humans. With this in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce the risks with regard to animals.
As a veterinarian, I strongly encourage anyone with monkeypox to protect your pets. The case in Paris shows that dogs can get infected from contact with their owners, and it is likely that many other species, including cats, are susceptible, too. If you have monkeypox, try to have other people take care of your animals for as long as lesions are present. And if you think your pet has a monkeypox infection, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can test the lesion and provide care when needed.
Even though monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, it is unlikely to directly affect most people. Taking precautionary steps can protect you and your pets and will hopefully prevent monkeypox from getting into wildlife in the U.S., too.
Amy Macneill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.spread covid-19 africa europe germany world health organization
A-levels: A grades are up compared to pre-pandemic results
The pandemic has has a serious impact on school pupils – but a record number have applied to university.
The 2022 A-level results are in, and the number of students receiving A or A* grades has fallen – down by 8.4% on 2021.
For the first time since 2019, A-level results are being decided by formal exams. Students were warned that grades were likely to be lower than in 2020 and 2021, when cancelled exams and teacher assessments in A-levels led to record high results. Nevertheless, the proportion of students receiving A grades is up from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
A busy end to the admissions round is under way for universities and students, and the next steps for students still living with the impact of the pandemic are becoming clearer.
In 2021, some universities were over subscribed and had to offer significant incentives for students to defer their places. While the number of students in 2022 accepted on a UK university course – 425,830 – is higher than in 2019 and the second highest on record, it is 2% lower than in 2021. Just a few days before the results were out, thousands of students did not yet hold an offer of an university place.
Over the past two years, students studying qualifications, whether BTEC, T-level or A-level, have had to cope with the consequences of the pandemic for a significant proportion of their course. This has included school closures and remote lessons, social isolation, illness and increased levels of mental stress.
Highest number of applications
Nevertheless, 2022 has seen the highest ever numbers of applications to higher education, with 44% of 18 year olds applying. This number includes record numbers of students from areas of the country with historically low participation in higher education. It demonstrates that many young people believe higher education can make a difference to their future opportunities.
For the lucky ones who get the grades to gain a place at their first choice of university, planning for their degree course starts right away. A record number of Scottish students have already been accepted to their first choice of university.
The best advice for those students who don’t receive confirmation that they have been accepted by their first choice university is to ring the university, who will have staff on hand to explore their options.
For students who haven’t got a university place, it is still possible to explore options though clearing – which allows students without offers to find places on university courses that haven’t been fully subscribed. Students in this position should try to keep calm, write down their options and avoid quick decisions.
For those young people who do go to university, there will be challenges. With the cost of living for all rising rapidly, people on a lower income – as many students are – will feel the pinch of higher bills for food or rent.
Support from universities
The pandemic saw a serious and concerning rise in mental health issues affecting young people. Universities need to be ready to give holistic support to students as they transition into university and settle into undergraduate life. This means support for academic transition needs to be delivered in the context of good available support for mental health and wellbeing.
However, Universities UK, an advocacy groups for universities, has recently pointed out the wide range of benefits for those who study for a degree, including the £9,500 more per year on average graduates in England earn compared with non-graduates. It also draws attention to the value of degrees to improve the life chances of young people, to build skills and to contribute to society.
For many young people, getting a degree gives them access to a vocation such as teaching or working as a health professional. For others it is a path to travel and adventure. For many, the university journey is a place where young people find their tribe and begin to understand their identity.
For the class of 22, making it to university might mean life-changing opportunities. Given the challenges and restrictions of the last few years, this has never been more important.
Helena Gillespie receives funding from the European Union.european uk pandemic
Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) To Acquire Global Blood Therapeutics For $5 Billion
According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical…
According to sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) was in advanced discussions to acquire pharmaceutical company Global Blood Therapeutics (NASDAQ: GBT) for $5 billion.
Pfizer, too, acquired Global Blood Therapeutics
Pfizer wants to close a deal soon, but there are still other interested parties, according to the article.
Global Blood Therapeutics, which manufactures Oxbryta, the blood disorder medication, saw its shares jump 44% on Friday afternoon to a two-year high. As of Thursday’s closing, the company’s market cap was $3.12 billion.
A spokesman for Global Blood stated the company does not “comment on market rumors or speculation,” while Pfizer declined to respond on the matter.
With plenty of cash left over after selling its COVID-19 vaccine, New York-based Pfizer is searching for deals that may generate billions of dollars annual sales by 2030.
Its $11.6 billion acquisition of migraine medication manufacturer Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding (NASDAQ: BHVN) in May was the most recent in a series of purchases that also included Trillium Therapeutics and Arena Pharmaceuticals in recent years.
Oxbryta received approval last year for sickle cell disease management
In 2019, the US government approved Global Blood’s Oxbryta to manage sickle cell disease in individuals aged 12 and over. The oral medication was approved in December 2021 to treat the illness in younger children. The drug’s sales increased by almost 50% to $194.7 million in 2021.
After a gloomy start to the calendar year, when a lack of significant purchases and clinical-stage treatment failures lowered investor morale and restricted funding, the biotech dealmaking pace has recently picked up again.
Also, Amgen Inc (NASDAQ: AMGN) also decided to purchase ChemoCentryx Inc on Thursday for $3.7 billion to obtain access to a possible breakthrough medication for inflammatory illnesses. AstraZeneca’s $39 billion acquisition of Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 2020 has put the realm of immune diseases in the limelight. The deal, which was announced before trading opened, will also give the corporation control of at least two investigational immune disorders medicines.
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