Monday, March 8, 2021
It's Monday, March 8, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Big Worldview Issues in Spending Bill: U.S. Senate Passes President Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill Along Party Lines
On Saturday the United States Senate passed the stimulus package that had been put forward by President Joe Biden's administration in keeping with his promises, his campaign promises leading up to the election.
And we're talking about an absolutely huge, very consequential piece of legislation. By the estimation of the White House, it is the most significant liberal or progressive legislation since the administration of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. That's really saying something, considering Johnson and his liberal program of what became known as The Great Society.
We're talking about a massive expansion to the federal debt. We're talking about a massive expenditure of money, $1.9 trillion. Now, on The Briefing just a few days ago, I discussed the meaning of a trillion dollars and I discussed why even many economists in the president's own party fear that this is a wildly, overly expansive stimulus bill.
For one thing, we don't need anything near $1.9 trillion of stimulus. There is no economic justification for it whatsoever. The reality is that on just about every claim the president and his administration are making, the economy has been recovering. You're looking at the fact that the actual gross domestic product at the end of 2020 wasn't that far off from the potential gross domestic product, which is to say there was most definitely an economic impact from the coronavirus shutdown, but it wasn't the impact that many had predicted. As a matter of fact, many sectors of the economy ended 2020 stronger than expected rather than weaker. Furthermore, even in recent days, the jobs report coming out from Washington indicates that there was an increase in job growth, even in the last few weeks indicating the strength of the recovery that's taking place in the American economy. And let's be clear, we should be very thankful for that.
There are particular sectors in the economy that have been hurt worse than others in particular, for example, the service sector. And there can be no doubt that hourly wage earners have been hit harder than those who are in white collar salary positions, no question about that. There is no question that there is an expenditure on the part of governments just to take for example, Operation Warp Speed. And the fact that we now have three vaccines available to the American people. You're looking at a massive mobilization project that took place before the development of the vaccine, leading up to it, and now getting the vaccines into arms, as they say, turning vaccines into vaccinations. You're also looking however at the fact that this $1.9 trillion bill is a massive liberal accumulation of promises and hopes and very reckless projections that have been made and have now been passed by the Senate, following an even more radical version of the bill passed by the House.
Now, this is where from a worldview perspective we need to take a very interesting look at how politics works. Now, you're really talking about the fact that this is a democratic bill. Well, of course, it comes from a Democratic administration. No, it's Democratic in other ways as well. It shows up with the pent-up hopes and expectations and demands of many Democratic constituencies. And that includes, by the way, big states, big cities with big bills and big pension crises and big organizations with political clouds, such as Planned Parenthood. They were all in line, and basically this White House handed out promises to everyone, and those promises are now coming in the form of expenditures that will lead to the indebtedness of our children and grandchildren. But in a worldview perspective, we also have to understand how this bill was packaged. We have to understand that there is political opportunism in a crisis.
This is bi-partisan by the way, there was the statement that was made early in the Obama administration, "Don't waste a crisis." I think we can understand that. When you do have a crisis, it affords the opportunity politically, even to get away with things that might not have anything to do with the crisis whatsoever. That's exactly what we're looking at as we look at the so-called COVID-19 stimulus recovery package that has now been promoted by the White House and is going to be passed into law. Now, what we're looking at is the fact that this includes mass transit for California. It includes all kinds of things, including funds for a museum education. These things don't have anything to do with actual response to the pandemic. They certainly don't have anything to do for the most part with that kind of spending.
And nonetheless, we have to see a second issue that is related here, and the ancient Romans understood this. The ancient Romans understood that if you have an electoral form of government, if you're electing, for example, the Roman Senate, the population could, the citizens who had the opportunity to vote then could basically vote senators in order to vote themselves benefits. That's pretty much exactly what has happened here. And one of the signs about this is the fact that some of the political momentum was fueled in the fact that President Biden had promised and now the House and the Senate have come through with tax credits and in particular direct payments of about $1,400 to Americans, unless they're financially disqualified by earning too much.
Now, even the mainstream media, very friendly to Democrats, loving the expansion of government, gave attention to the fact that this means some criminals in prison will be receiving these $1,400 stimulus checks. All kinds of people who actually are doing quite well in the midst of the pandemic. Some who, as a matter of fact, have come out financially head in the pandemic. They're going to be given these stimulus checks. And of course they're given to individuals, they're given to couples, and they're given to qualified children and families. And we're also looking at the fact that there are indications that these funds will actually go to many people, regardless of citizenship status.
This is an amazing thing, but it just goes to show you that there is strong, popular support for giving the very people you've taxed the money from some money, or in other cases, giving people who weren't paying enough in taxes, even to meet the stimulus checks, a direct contribution. But again, someone is eventually going to have to pay for this money. And we'll be talking about that in just a moment. Something else, from a worldview perspective, we are looking at a partisan vote.
We're looking at what even some in the democratic establishment acknowledges the end of bipartisanship in Washington, or at least looking at the next four years. And this is because President Biden and his administration, and let's face it, the main pressure coming against President Biden and his administration wasn't coming from Republicans. It's coming from the evermore powerful left in his own party, which isn't satisfied with this bill and is coming back with all kinds of legislation behind it that will actually dwarf even the $1.9 trillion we're talking about here. The vote in the House was overwhelmingly partisan, the vote in the Senate, the same way the vote in the Senate was 50 to 49. Now that turns out to be interesting. There are 100 senators, not 99, so one Senator didn't vote. That one Senator was Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, and he didn't vote because he had a family crisis and had to return to Alaska.
In one sense, it would have been historically better. Had there been a 50/50 vote, which would have required vice-president Kamala Harris to break the tie, that would have made clear just how partisan this vote is. But nonetheless, it was 50/49, not a single Republican Senator voted for this package. And you need to think about that for a moment because there are at least two Republican senators who had given indication. They wanted to find a way to eventually vote for this bill. And there were 10 Republican senators who had actually gone to the white house saying they wanted to make a deal with the Biden administration. But the Biden administration doesn't have to make deals with the Republicans, or at least that can't be. Its number one concern, when it's having to make even more pressing and urgent deals with the left-wing of its own base, because that's the really strong demand coming on the party.
Pointing to the partisan nature of the vote, it just demonstrates again that the two parties are really so far separated on basic political and moral and cultural issues that bipartisanship appears to be virtually impossible. There may be some kinds of bills in which some kind of bipartisan cooperation would be possible, but just to state the obvious, the Biden administration wanted this victory far more than they wanted to make a deal with Republicans. And so they pushed it through and that's exactly what happened. Not one Republican voted for the bill.
That sets to the lie, by the way, the fact that President Biden had run for president saying that electing him would be a return to bipartisanship. There really is no return to bipartisanship, and whether or not he meant it, and that itself is doubtful. The fact is, his party would not allow him to be bipartisan. And furthermore, he has made explicit promises to make bipartisanship impossible. He knew it, and the press knew it, but he was presented as the great bipartisan dream after the political friction of the Trump administration. But the reality is, you're looking at the very same process, just flipped, but Joe Biden does it with a smile.
One other thing to note is that for example, there were headlines saying that the vast majority of Republicans actually backed the proposal. For example, Axios ran a story. “60% of Republicans backed Biden's $1.9 trillion relief package.” Well, if you have the majority of Republicans sometimes estimated 60, sometimes 70 or more, 70%. If you had a majority of Republicans who were supporting it, why did not one Republican Senator vote for it? Well, it is because these poll numbers are absolute rubbish. Now I know that will anger some people, particularly the pollsters, but let me state it more kindly, it's absolute trash.
You're looking at the fact that these numbers reflect the kinds of questions people are asked. "Would you be in favor of this bill giving you $1,400 cash? Would you be in favor of expanding vaccinations? Would you be in favor of this or that?" The fact is that you have voters who are of course going to say, "Yes, they're in favor of it." But the reality is that oftentimes these polls are simply. In fact, not just oftentimes, most of the time they are not setting alternatives before the American people in an honest way.
And furthermore, there's something else. And that is, this is the very reason why we have an electoral form of government. This is the very reason we have a representative form of government. Because the citizens in answering these polls never have to take responsibility for an actual policy, or an actual vote, or the actual effects of the decisions that are going to be made, the policies that will be put in place.
Instead, this is basically just an interesting question. The same way that you wouldn't judge a Valentine card to be the equivalent of a serious romantic essay. The reality is, these kinds of polls are not serious political statements. I do want to give credit to Steven Pearlstein, a columnist for The Washington Post. He wrote an honest assessment about this situation, and that might have something to do with the fact it was his last column as a columnist for The Washington Post. The headline, "In Democrats' progressive paradise, borrowing is free, spending pays for itself, and interest rates never rise." He writes about the background to the bill.
And then I just want to share with you this one paragraph. "So party on, progressive dudes. Worries about debt and inflation are just so 20th-century, the figments of a now-discredited neoliberal imagination. We have entered a magical world where borrowing is costless, spending pays for itself, stocks only rise and the dollar never falls. In this economic paradise, government mandarins can fine-tune the economy to prevent inflation and unemployment, while economic, racial, environmental and social justice can be achieved without any painful trade-offs. Okay, I exaggerate — but only slightly." Actually, I have to say, Mr. Pearlstein, I'm not sure that you have exaggerated at all.
Scandals and Cover-ups in the Empire State: Andrew Cuomo Faces Demands to Resign After Sexual Harassment Allegations and Mishandling of Pandemic
But next we shift to the scandal concerning New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. And we need to begin by saying that in a sinful world there are plenty of scoundrels in both parties. The reality is that being a scoundrel is not necessarily tied to partisan identity in any way. There are Republican scoundrels and Democratic scoundrels. The reality is, a scoundrel is a scoundrel. But when you're talking about the scandal concerning the New York governor, you're also talking about the fact that the mainstream media are often in complicity in at least covering up the scandal of the scoundrels that they prefer for some time.
But here's something else to note, when that habit comes to an end, it comes to an end in a big hurry. And that's exactly what's happening to the New York governor. Andrew Cuomo is actually 63 years old. He is the third term governor of the State of New York. He is of course a liberal Democrat. Even amongst the Democrats, at least in recent years, he would have been considered to be rather outstandingly liberal. But by the way, not anymore, not because he's less liberal, but because the party is and at least its leftward wing moved far beyond him. That's something of the story, but that doesn't have a great deal to do with the rise and fall as we are witnessing it now of Andrew Cuomo. He's 63 years old, born in 1957. He's the 56th governor of New York and he is the son of the 52nd governor of New York who also served for three terms.
Prior to his service as New York governor he served as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration. And he served as the 64th attorney general of New York from 2007 to 2010. He's been a colorful figure in American life ever since he was a very young man. And as a young man, he married Carrie Kennedy, the daughter of the late United States Senator and Democratic presidential candidate and brother of this laying president. We're talking about Senator Robert F. Kennedy, his daughter, Carrie married Andrew Cuomo. They were married from 1990 to 2005. By the way, after that, the governor was elected several times while identifying the person he lived with as his domestic partner. And she was his partner, at least it's identified from 2005 to 2019.
It tells you something about America that you could have the repeatedly elected governor of a major state who doesn't have a wife, but rather a domestic partner. That wouldn't have been imaginable in American politics, even just a few decades ago. Now, hey, it's New York. This is the 21st century. Evidently we're supposed to deal with it. But it may be that his domestic partner couldn't deal with it, because as of now and all of this coming publicly in recent weeks, five different women have made charges of some kind of sexual abuse or sexual harassment against the New York governor.
And it tells you something about our times that that might not be the biggest scandal or controversy surrounding the New York governor. That sounds astounding, but it's actually true. It's true because we're also talking about life and death. We're talking about the fact that the official policy of Andrew Cuomo was at one point through a directive from his office to send elderly people who've been infected with COVID-19 into nursing homes. The hospitals were very, very crowded. He gave the order that nursing homes had to receive these COVID-19 elderly patients.
And it can't be thus a surprise that that led to widespread death in new York's nursing homes. By the very fact that many of the people, the homes had to receive already infected with COVID-19 were actually the cause of leading to further infections and the infections leading to death. But as bad as that is, that's not the biggest scandal. The biggest scandal is the coverup within the Cuomo administration of that very fact. A major turn in this story came on Sunday when the major newspaper there in Albany, New York, the capital city came out with an editorial, simply entitled, Resign, Mr. Cuomo. And in this editorial, the editors of the Times Union went into detail about the policy and about the coverup after the policy. They begin by saying that in March of 2020 the governor made a mistake giving the advisory through his office, and the state health department, the nursing homes could not refuse an admission or readmission of a person who had been affected with the coronavirus, but was medically stable.
We now know that was a recipe for rampant spread of the virus in nursing homes. And that led to many deaths. The Times Union editorial board then trace the unfolding of the scandal that ensued. First, the administration of Andrew Cuomo said that it had no way to have accurate numbers on how many people may have died in nursing homes of COVID, much less as a result of this policy. But when the Attorney General of New York, by the way, also a Democrat, Letitia James released a report saying that the administration had greatly understated the number of nursing home deaths. Well, then the administration, as the newspaper turned out, came up with numbers to challenge the attorney general. Well, which was it? Can you get the numbers or not? Well, it turns out that the numbers they brought were certainly not trustworthy numbers.
As the editors of the Capital City Paper said, "It gets worse." In a conference call last month with democratic lawmakers, the governor's top aid, Melissa DeRosa supposedly came clean, claiming the administration withheld the nursing home data because it was worried that the U.S. Justice Department under President Donald Trump, was going to conduct a politically motivated probe of the matter. As the editor summarized, "Now it turns out that the excuse for the lie was a lie too."
In the next paragraph the editors say that it now seems that the Cuomo Health Department drafted a report, but the number was higher than the governor's aides wanted it to be and so the numbers were adjusted. The editors asked a very strange question at this point. They ask, "Why?" And then they say, "We can't be certain, but right about that time, Mr. Cuomo, basking in national admiration for his handling of the pandemic was working on a book deal. And no doubt, thinking about how this performance could be parlayed into a national run down the line." But the paper's editorial board begins by saying that there have to be some minimal standards to be the governor of New York and Andrew Cuomo no longer meets those standards. Again, the editorial boards headline says it all, "Resign, Mr. Cuomo."
Now that marks a departure, but it also marks something of what's going to be happening in coming days. You're going to see prominent Democrats all of a sudden fall all over themselves. And I've held talking about this story until today, because I was looking for just this kind of development. This is in his own way another pivot. This is the kind of political pivot where you're going to have Democrats now saying, "Andrew Cuomo, we never supported him. We have no idea who he is." Major news reports coming out citing Democrats include statements that, "On a good day, Andrew Cuomo is a bully." Other Democrats have made accusations such as, "Andrew Cuomo tends towards tyranny."
Now those are very interesting statements, but there can be no doubt that Andrew Cuomo has for decades been known for his bare knuckle politics. But this is what happens. Bare knuckle politics eventually turns back on the bare knuckles, But when it comes to the accusations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, the fact is that there is credibility to these, not only on the part of those women who are making the accusations, but the fact that there are Democrats who have been basically all along saying, "Oh, that sounds pretty much like Andrew Cuomo." The governor himself came out, giving a sort of apology when he said that, "Yes, he had behaved badly in those ways. He got those habits from his father who had been governor before him. And yet he knows that that behavior is out of place now."
Well, here's the issue. Saying that that kind of behavior is out of place or even mildly wrong is not acceptable. We're talking here about the kind of behavior that can, and indeed should disqualify anyone from this kind of public leadership. In another sense, the governor's behavior can only be described as predatory, especially when it came to young women, including young women who were in his employ, or at least under his authority and influence. Now, I mentioned that what you need to watch is the fact that the avalanche is going to come now, and even last night, New York's democratic Senator majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins came out and demanded that the governor must resign. There you have one of the top ranking Democrats in the state making the demand. And so I'll predict that today, tomorrow, and the next day, if this goes that long, you're going to have Democrat after Democrat come out and condemn the New York governor, their fellow Democrat and call for his resignation.
This takes us back to another more chilling precedent that took place on the 30th of June in 1934, it's called the Night of the Long Knives. And in Nazi Germany, it is when Adolf Hitler's set his group known as the SS to eliminate the previous group that it helped to bring into power known as the SA. The Night of the Long Knives was the night that the SA became politically expendable and thus they were eliminated. And ever since then, that has become a very dark parable. You hear the Night of the Long Knives for when your own party or your own group considers you more of a liability than an asset. Eventually you have to go.
It is interesting, of course, to note the Mario Cuomo, Governor Andrew Cuomo's father, who was indeed governor between 1983 and 1994, he ran for a fourth term, but was defeated by a Republican. That's not likely to happen now, but nonetheless, it is interesting that Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he intends to run for a fourth term. But the big question now is just, what exactly is the ticking of the clock running out on his third term?
Big Questions Deserve Answers: When Will President Biden Hold His First Major White House Press Conference?
Finally, it's also interesting just looking at national politics to understand that there is a very different mood in Washington. There's a different administration, there's a different political philosophy. There's a different party in power, particularly in the White House and in the United States Senate majority. But it's also important to understand that when Joe Biden was running for president, he made very clear that he wanted to return to a more accessible presidency. And Joe Biden has been known throughout his career in general terms for his accessibility and for his proneness even to say things that many politicians wouldn't say, and almost assuredly shouldn't say, often described as gaffes.
But the reality is that during the general election campaign, Joe Biden wasn't all that accessible. President Trump used to suggest that he was campaigning from his basement. But it's also interesting though, that as president, president Biden hasn't been that particularly accessible either. Here's just one indication. He hasn't given any kind of joint speech to Congress. By now most presidents do this early in their administration. Technically it's not at the State of the Union address because they've just come into office. But generally the courtesy is extended to a president, a new president, to give an address to a joint session of Congress. Now, the White House has given indications that that would not be timely because of the coronavirus. And there could be an argument for that. So we'll let that one pass.
There is also the practice that fairly early in an administration, a president plans an international trip, and that international state visit makes a very clear statement about the goals and purposes of a new administration. The reality of COVID may explain why that hasn't happened as well. But what COVID can't explain is the fact that President Joe Biden has not held a major press conference with the White House press corps since becoming president. All 15 of his predecessors had done within the first 33 days in office. Now, President Biden has headed towards 50 days in office, still no press conference. You would think that political pressure and media pressure would be such that eventually the president would have to give that kind of accessibility through a press conference. You would think, but it hasn't happened yet.
There's often a lot of media criticism of what the president does or doesn't say at such a press conference. But after all, the president's performance at a press conference can only be critiqued if it happens, which it hadn't yet. It will be very interesting to see just how long the national press plays along with President Biden's absence from a major press conference. And then it will be very interesting when the president actually has one. It will also be very, very interesting to see if any of the mainstream media in those press conferences, if they happen, actually present the president with some of the pressing questions that Christians in this country want to have asked and answered.
There are looming issues before this country, and the incoming president has added to those issues. It's important that eventually he speaks to them.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.