Time to Grow Up

We seem to be suffering another pandemic worse than Covid. Much of the western world suffers from Peter Pan syndrome. Many refuse to grow up and act like adults. Swiming in a riptide or playing with fire are actions we attribute to children not learning to avoid. Acknowledging life’s realities and planning to navigate around known dangers is the mark of maturity. Even when warned, a child may petulantly race into the sea or light matches. The desire for instant gratification overwhelms caution. The adult realizes the high risk.

We have numerous examples of people disregarding proven policies and doing the opposite. A half a century ago, we created vast amounts of dollars at a time when supplies were constrained. This process resulted in double-digit inflation. Only severely tightening the creation of money and letting prices rise to encourage supply finally ended the “Great Inflation.” Of course, we suffered a severe recession with 10+% unemployment. Knowing the pain, why in the world would you do it again?

Energy is central to the 1970s and ’80s and our present inflation. We price oil in dollars, and with each dollar purchasing less, oil producers restricted supply, and the rising inflation went into high gear. As a major importer, the U.S. was at the mercy of the new OPEC cartel. Energy affects everything, so the prices continued up. The prices fell back to earth only when high prices brought forth a gusher of new oil.

The Biden administration threw everything away by attacking our oil and gas industry. Because it favors wind and solar, no pipelines built, leases on government areas stopped, and investment discouraged—millions of barrels of oil no longer produced. Before the pandemic, our fracking revolution made us energy independent. We had become the swing producer, keeping the lid on prices. Now we beg Russia and OPEC to increase supply. The world price of oil is heading towards $100 a barrel, raising the price of everything. Instead of understanding the realities, childlike, we wanted our Green utopia before it was possible.

Other benefits come from lower oil prices. Unfriendly nations like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela get most of their foreign exchange from oil sales. More money in their pockets supports their regimes and mischief. Presently, western Europe is paying for Russia’s Ukraine adventure.

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In Omicron’s Sights

One can’t realize how badly the administration had failed us in this pandemic until it hits you personally. According to Biden’s chief medical spokesman, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “just about everybody” will eventually be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus.” This fact is of little importance to some, but it can be a death sentence to others.

We have known almost from the beginning Covid hits age groups very differently. The New York Times shows us graphically the great danger to octogenarians versus the less than flu for children. Unless you have some co-morbidity, people under 50 have little likelihood of hospitalization, much less dying from covid. For a person in their 80s, the chance of dying from the disease multiplies. The daily covid death toll is dominated by those over 65. While vaccination cuts your risk from the disease, the elderly show evidence of waning protection. Common sense: those over 65 and at-risk need more help.

The solution to the problem exists. A person in a high-risk group evidencing covid symptoms takes a rapid home test. Upon confirmation by the second swab, a telemedicine call results in an antibody prescription. Whether pills or infusion, the person has reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by up to 90%. We don’t have to invent the tests or therapeutics; we’ve already done that. Combined with the fact we’re fully vaccinated, including a booster, happy days, we’ve minimalized the problem.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this program doesn’t exist under the Biden administration and won’t for quite a while. This week, our daughter woke up with some covid symptoms. She tried to find a place to buy a rapid home test, but none were available. She asked us if we had some. In a sane world, all the highly at risk would have them. We have hope Amazon will deliver our order before the end of the month.

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Loyalty or Fear?

The last two posts dealt with situations arising in the coming year, but not Asia-Pacific. Two thousand twenty-two rings in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP. Maybe, you didn’t notice. A 15 nation trade agreement that will govern trade between 2.3 billion people includes a who’s who in the Asia-Pacific area, including the Peoples Republic of China. The notable exception is the United States. What does this mean for influence in the region?

The RCEP is the successor to the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump withdrew the US from the Treaty, claiming it was unfair upon taking office. Everyone else found it fair and desirable, and they continued without us.

As I have written, this was a high point in the Obama administration handling the China problem. Initially negotiated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it promised to bring those threatened by China together to provide alternative supply chains and trading partnerships. The hope was China would feel the pain of exclusion and be encouraged to adhere to trade norms and move towards an open society.

The Trump campaign’s chief economic advisers, Larry Kudlow and Steve Moore, longtime free-traders, backed TPP but could not dissuade the protectionist Trump. It never became a campaign issue because Hillary Clinton strangely abandoned her work rather than defend it. Nor did President Obama mount a rebuttal to Trump. The truth is Democrats beholden to protectionist unions always needed massive Republican votes to pass trade treaties.

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Mirror, Mirror…

Rather than list the litany of woes we are experiencing, we might be better served by looking at some underlying causes.

It’s strange Russia is threatening Ukraine in the face of NATO opposition. After all, just the Western European NATO allies have vastly greater resources than Russia. Germany alone has a GDP of 2 1/2 times Russia’s. Theoretically, Russia would stand little chance waging an offensive war against those with much more means. All it would take is resolve by our European allies.

Therein lies the rub. Donald Trump recognized something was wrong. Western Europe is comfortable letting the U.S. defend them instead of taking their proper place in protecting shared principles of free societies. We spend 3.7% of our GDP on defense. Germany provides all of 1.4%. Trump demanded all the NATO allies meet the 2% they agreed on.

In light of this dereliction, it’s fair to ask what Germany is up to. Is that nation committed to free countries or just feathering its own nest? To date, Germany hasn’t come close to the 2%. Under former Chancellor Andrea Merkel, not only didn’t it keep its defense obligations, but it joined Russia in building the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline. Merkel was seen as putting German trade above all else. By pumping natural gas under the Baltic directly from Russia to Germany, it undermines the energy security of Eastern Europe.

President Trump, exasperated with Merkel, blocked completion of the pipeline. Unfathomably, upon taking office, Biden reversed the Trump stand, allowing completion. We have every right to know the stance on the issue of the new German Chancellor.

Olaf Scholz must be put on the spot and explain precisely where Germany stands. Given its central geographic and dominant economic position, it’s necessary to deliver unwavering support for NATO and our shared ideals. Otherwise, our 320,000 military personnel in Europe are at risk of a stab in the back.

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