Life in Centrifugal USA

I may be more distraught than usual as I’m dealing with the illness of a beloved pet, but I think even if I were not I’d have to acknowledge that in the absence of any rational leadership things quickly are spinning apart here. 

Even in the best, most efficient emergency room in the capital wait times to be seen -- something that rarely took more than half an hour -- now stretch to five hours. The stress of long hours and the vaccine mandate have caused many experienced nurses and technicians to quit and newer replacements take time to train, especially in the absence of more senior staff to do this.  Veterinary hospitals as well are overwhelmed and understaffed. It’s not just here. I’m getting reports of medical care bottlenecks around the country -- at least in big cities or nearby adjoining areas, and the reports blame staffing shortages -- shortages largely due to vaccine mandates and job stress.

Grocery shelves are often empty in many parts of the country. We’re back to limits at some shops on essentials like water and paper goods, and building supply deliveries are unpredictable and delayed. Container ships line up at our ports with no means to unload and transport the goods where they are wanted. (I keep having daydreams of General Patton unclogging a similar wartime bottleneck by standing in the middle of the road and personally directing movement.) There are various explanations for the shipping snafus, and I don’t feel qualified to decide which of these is responsible. I have heard that the operators of the equipment are highly skilled and highly paid workers and are not easily replaced by, for example, military or National Guard troops. An engineer familiar with such things, says that is not true. The Wall Street Journal tweeted that “A pilot program offering 24-hour container operations at the Port of Long Beach hasn’t attracted any truckers more than two weeks since the extended hours began.”  But a trucker there reported to a friend that the drivers aren’t coming because they do not get paid for loiter time and because the ports are not operating efficiently. Drivers may have to wait 12 hours to pick up a load. To make it even more complicated, many of the containers are reportedly “intermodal” which means the transfers need to be coordinated not only with the pickup but as well with the delivery at the other end. With truck drivers limited by federal standards to 11-hour workdays and a shortage of drivers, the problem -- which impacts almost everything -- seems to be getting worse. What matters to me is that there appears to be no federal office or officer with the capacity or will to help straighten out this logistical mess, a mess that to me does not seem utterly unsolvable with competent leadership.

Are port authorities angling for a match to the $11 billion bailout the Gulf ports got for their hurricanes? 

Overall container volumes at the Port of Los Angeles have grown 30% so far this year over 2020, but Mr. Seroka said trucking capacity has increased by only 8%. The warehouse development is equally challenging, he said, as there is an estimated minimum 25% less storage space than needed.

“It’s impossible to effectively move such volumes if we don’t move to 24/7 operations across the supply chain,” said Mario Cordero, executive director at the Port of Long Beach. “They do it in other parts of the world.”

A variety of things besides food, Nikes, clothing, electronics, construction materials, and Christmas toys depend on the movement of goods from ports. A poster in the packaging business reports that label makers can’t get adhesives, and I am certain if I set out to do it, I would find hundreds of industries affected by the supply-side bottlenecks. It’s simply unconscionable that the administration dithers about idiotic nonsense while ignoring this.

And while they are ignoring this, the open border is creating new waves of illegal crossers which we apparently have no intention of deporting even though most of them have no basis on which to claim asylum, having earlier been residents of other countries than their homeland. Even criminals with mental illness will be met with open arms.

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, has announced that he is no longer going to “deport people solely because they are undocumented” and is advising ICE to consider shielding mentally ill criminals from deportation in the name of “achieving justice."

Tens of thousands more are due to arrive at the southern border within days.

More than 97% of Haitians migrating irregularly do not come directly from Haiti, but rather were residents of countries in South America, such as Chile and Brazil, according to the Panamanian government. Panama expects to receive at least 150,000 migrants crossing the country on the way to the US by end of this year. As of early September, more than 70,000 migrants arrived in Panama in 2021, more than 30,000 of whom are from Haiti. 

Police, firefighters, nurses, and teachers in many places are being tested and mandated to take vaccine shots, causing many to leave when we most need them, but these illegal aliens are not tested, not vaccinated, and are being shipped around the country. How damn crazy is this?

Maybe because we usually are in agreement but I find Matthew Continetti usually has valuable things to say and he argues, there are things we can do to address the supply chain snafu and rising inflation.

He touts supply-side thinking, and among his suggestions are these:

  • Hire more longshoremen and truck drivers
  • Deploy the National Guard to unload cargo
  • “Defend and expand oil and gas exploration to put downward pressure on energy prices.”
  • Make work a requirement for federal benefits to increase the labor supply.

Is there no good news? I always look for some and, yes, there is some this week, even in the face of feckless, incompetent leaders. Merck says it has developed a pill that prevents mild and moderate cases of COVID from turning into serious health problems. The pill can be taken at home, which should relieve the pressure on hospitals and medical staff. It is presently awaiting regulatory approval and should be available before year’s end. 

 In any event, COVID cases are markedly down nationwide, so the disease is less of an economic drag. 

In other good news, not every Democrat is stark raving mad, and this week Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have put fingers in the dike to preclude the far left wing of the Democratic party from bankrupting us on frivolous spending at an outrageous $3.5 trillion dollar cost. The President claimed that this tsunami of dollars (parceled out to favored supporters and interests) would not cost taxpayers one dollar. It wouldn’t if you are dumb enough to consider the stupidest wastes of money “investments.” 

Things like these can serve as examples:

1. $10 Billion to Create a ‘Civilian Climate Corp

2. $20 Billion to ‘Advance Racial Equity and Environmental Justice

The proposal sets aside a whopping $20 billion -- more than the latest COVID package spent on vaccines -- for “a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.” 

3. $175 Billion in Subsidies for Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles: A technological novelty so good it won’t catch on without hundreds of billions in subsidies. At least, that’s apparently what the Biden administration thinks, as its infrastructure proposal earmarks a “$174 billion investment to win the electric vehicle market.”

The spending will take the form of manufacturing subsidies and consumer tax credits, which historically have benefitted wealthy families most. For comparison, the proposal carves out more for green energy goodies than it does on the total $115 billion to “modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in most critical need of repair.”

4. $213 Billion to Build/Retrofit 2 Million Houses & Buildings

When most people hear “infrastructure,” they think of roads, bridges, tunnels, and so on. But the Biden administration’s definition of the term is Olympian-gymnastics-level flexible. Apparently, the president considers it “infrastructure spending” to allocate $213 billion to build or retrofit 2 million “sustainable” houses and buildings. They also slip in $40 billion for public housing, stating this will “disproportionately benefit women, people of color, and people with disabilities.”

5. $100 Billion for New Public Schools and Making School Lunches ‘Greener’

You might remember that the last “COVID” legislation had $128.5 billion in taxpayer dole-outs for public schools; much of the money will be spent years after the pandemic and there was no requirement that schools actually open. Yet this was, evidently, just the beginning. The Biden “infrastructure” plan includes another “$100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools.”

Obviously, his party knows better that Biden does, as they never submitted to the Congressional Budget Office the plan to analyze the bill’s impact on the debt and deficit. 

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