MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
Families with children may get financial help in the next round of Covid relief. Whether that’s a good idea is a matter of debate.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Also: a unique energy market in Texas created conditions for energy failure last week.
Plus a Mississippi church finds a way to connect with a public school.
And commentator Cal Thomas on the so-called Covid relief bill that’s full of pork.
REICHARD: It’s Thursday, February 25th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
BASHAM: And I’m Megan Basham. Good morning!
REICHARD: Time now for the news. Here’s Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Biden signs order to review US supply chains » President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday to review U.S. supply chains. He said the order is meant to ensure the country doesn’t find itself in a preventable crisis over a shortage of critical items. One example…
BIDEN: Remember the shortages of PPE during the pandemic? We didn’t have gowns or gloves to protect our frontline healthcare workers, and they were rewashing and reusing their masks over and over again the OR.
The president also cited a shortage of semiconductors that power everything from cars to phones to military equipment.
The United States has become more and more reliant on imports of essential items. And the president said the country must become more self-reliant in certain areas.
Peter Harrell is Senior Director for International Economics on the president’s National Security Council. He told reporters Wednesday…
HARRELL: America should never face shortages of crucial products in times of crisis. Our supply chain should not be vulnerable to manipulation by competitor nations.
And without mentioning China by name, the president said the United States should reduce its reliance on countries that don’t share our values.
J&J vaccine behind schedule but likely nearly approval » The White House also announced Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson is running behind schedule in producing vaccine doses.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki…
PSAKI: It was kind of reported earlier to be about 10 million, and now it’s more like 3 to 4 million doses that they would be ready to ship by next week, if they move through the FDA process, which has not yet concluded.
If approved, the company says it intends to ship 20 million doses by the end of next month. And White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday.
ZIENTS: We are working with the company to accelerate the pace and timeframe by which they deliver the full 100 million doses.
Their contract requires 100 million doses by the end of June.
U.S. regulators announced Wednesday that an analysis shows the vaccine provides strong protection against severe COVID-19 illness. That moves it one step closer to approval.
The FDA’s advisory board is meeting this week to decide whether to recommend its approval for emergency use.
Judge indefinitely blocks enforcement of Biden deportation freeze » A federal judge has indefinitely blocked the Biden administration from enforcing the president’s 100-day freeze on almost all deportations. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton extended his injunction against the deportation freeze late Tuesday night just as the injunction was set to expire.
Tipton, a Trump appointee, halted Biden’s order last month in response to a lawsuit by the state of Texas. The state argued that the move violated federal law and would impose additional costs on the state.
The judge later extended his injunction for two weeks. This time, he has extended it indefinitely.
But the ruling does not require deportations to resume at their previous pace. Even without a complete deportation freeze, immigration agencies have a lot of latitude in deciding if and when to enforce removals.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Protesters denounce grand jury decision in Prude case » Demonstrators in Rochester, New York say justice has not been served in the case of Daniel Prude, a black man who died after a run-in with police.
They took to the streets Tuesday night and again on Wednesday after New York Attorney General Letita James made this announcement:
JAMES: We presented the strongest case possible, but today the grand jury decided not to indict any police officer on charges related to Daniel Prude’s death.
The 41-year-old Prude died last March, several days after his encounter with police in Rochester. Prude was said to be experiencing a mental health episode. Police detained him for running naked through the streets. The officers said they placed a hood over his head to prevent him from spitting at them as they pressed him down to the ground. Two minutes later, he fell unconscious. Doctors took him off life support a week later.
On Wednesday, protesters gathered near the spot whether Prude fell unconscious.
AUDIO: It’s just crazy how we just did all this work and just for them to not indict no one.
But an attorney for the police officers, Jim Nobles said no charges were filed for good reason.
NOBLES: This gentleman was high on PCP and was headed for a cardiac event, and it just so happened that that happened in the context of an interaction with the Rochester Police Dept.
Nobles said he maintains that the officers involved followed their training and departmental procedures.
Iran blocks UN nuclear inspectors » Iran is blocking UN inspectors from seeing its nuclear facilities.
ZARIF: [Speaking in Farsi]
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the country will no longer share surveillance video of its nuclear facilities with UN inspectors. He said a new law took effect on Tuesday blocking the inspections.
That after the United States did not meet Iran’s weekend deadline to lift economic sanctions. It’s part of an ongoing campaign by Tehran to pressure the Biden administration into dropping sanctions at the start of any new nuclear negotiations.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: the push to expand welfare.
Plus, Cal Thomas on pork in the latest COVID-relief bill.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 25th of February, 2021. Thank you for joining us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up: child tax credits.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package includes direct payments to families with children. Parents with kids 6 and younger would get $3,600. Those with older kids would get slightly less. And the payments would come in the form of a monthly check, rather than a lump sum refund at tax time.
REICHARD: The amount of money isn’t based on income and comes with no strings attached. That has many conservatives raising the alarm. WORLD’s Leigh Jones explains why.
LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: America’s current system of child tax credits dates back to the 1990s. That’s when then-candidate Bill Clinton made welfare reform a cornerstone of his campaign.
Three years after taking office, he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law.
CLINTON: What we are trying to do today is to overcome the flaws of the welfare system for the people who are trapped on it. From now on, our nation’s answer to this great social challenge will no longer be a never-ending cycle of welfare it will be the dignity, the power and the ethic of work.
For decades, people receiving government assistance didn’t have to do anything to collect their checks every month. Robert Rector is an expert on welfare with The Heritage Foundation.
RECTOR: And it was just a disastrous environment for everybody. And at the peak of it, we had about one in seven children in the United States on that program.
That changed almost immediately when benefits for having children became tax credits tied to income.
RECTOR: As soon as we put these work requirements in effect, the caseload almost immediately collapsed. It dropped 60 percent within a few years. There was an amazing spike in the employment of the least educated single mothers, who were the predominant group on this program. And child poverty, which had been frozen for a quarter of a century before that dropped at a historically unprecedented rate, hitting record lows one year after another, particularly among black children.
Rector says Biden’s proposed changes to the child tax credit wouldn’t just increase the amount families get. It would roll back 30 years of progress.
RECTOR: What Biden is proposing to do is not only make it much greater, but to remove all the work requirements from it. So it effectively becomes an unconditional cash handout system, and it will dramatically reduce work, it will dramatically reduce self support. And it will increase the number of children that are born outside marriage.
It would also dramatically increase the amount of money the federal government spends on anti-poverty measures.
RECTOR: The United States spends a half a trillion dollars a year providing cash, food, housing and medical care for a low income parents with children. Okay? That is seven times the amount of money needed to abolish all poverty in the United States. And what Biden is doing is saying, well, a half a trillion dollars a year is not enough, we need to add another $80 billion a year on top of it, the Biden plan, by adding $80 billion in cash grants on top of a half a trillion dollars, this addition of $80 billion is the second largest expansion of the welfare state in U.S. history.
Although the current welfare system is an improvement over the previous one, it’s not perfect. For one thing, single parents get more assistance than married couples, a disincentive known as the marriage penalty. Another big problem: something known as the benefit cliff. That’s when families see their benefits drop suddenly when parents start making too much money.
Republicans have long wanted to fix the marriage penalty. And Democrats are anxious to chip away at the benefit cliff.
Earlier this month, Senator Mitt Romney proposed a bill designed to fix both problems. Like President Biden’s plan, it would divide the child-related benefits into monthly checks.
RACHIDI: This idea of a child allowance, expanding it to a larger group of people, and making it larger, has been around for for quite a while and has gained traction in more conservative circles.
Angela Rachidi is a poverty expert with the American Enterprise Institute.
She says some conservatives like the child allowance idea because it could encourage families to have more children and reverse declining fertility rates. And on principle, that’s not a bad idea.
RACHIDI: The child tax credit that we have in place was originally developed as tax relief. And so to the extent that people are thinking a child allowance is like a child tax credit, that, to me is a perfectly appropriate policy. And it’s actually a conservative policy, because it’s just reducing taxes for working families. But that’s only the case when a family has federal income tax liability, which we know a lot of families don’t.
Like Biden’s plan, Romney’s Family Security Act would provide benefits regardless of whether parents are working. That makes it a non-starter for most conservatives, including Republican Senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, who had previously argued for expanding child tax credits.
But some say Romney’s plan could strengthen low-income families by allowing one parent to stay home, rather than sending kids to daycare. Lyman Stone is with the Institute for Family Studies.
STONE: I think it makes a lot of sense to still have some subsidy for work because we want to encourage people to be contributing taxpayers and things like that. But not everyone has to be a contributing taxpayer. Some people are going to be contributing citizen raisers. And I think that’s valuable and worth rewarding.
Stone doesn’t believe Romney’s plan has enough support to pass right now. But Democrats could squeeze Biden’s plan through Republican opposition by using the budget reconciliation process. The expanded benefits would be temporary, but Robert Rector warns they’re not likely to stay that way.
RECTOR: And the history of this is once you start spending on these programs, Republicans are pretty reluctant to roll them back, which, which is why, contrary to fake news that you hear, roughly $1 in $20, in the U.S. economy is going to aid to the poor.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Next up: lights out in the Lone Star State.
Millions of Texans suffered in the dark and cold last week after a winter storm crippled the power grid.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others in state government are demanding answers from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas—or ERCOT for short. That’s the body that operates the state’s power grid.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: But answers to the big questions like what went wrong, and how does the state prevent it from happening again may not be as simple as some would like.
But that won’t stop us from trying our best to simplify it. Here to help us do that is Christopher Knittel. He is a professor of Applied Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Professor, thanks for joining us!
KNITTEL: Thanks for having me.
REICHARD: Let’s start with the big question: What exactly happened here? This isn’t the first time Texas has seen below-freezing temperatures. So why wasn’t the power grid able to stand up to this winter storm?
KNITTEL: Yeah, so this was certainly a more serious storm than they usually see. Colder, even, than the big storm that they got hit with in 2011. But effectively the cold weather led to a number of cascading events that led to rolling blackouts for many.
REICHARD: The Texas power grid is different from those in other states. How so?
KNITTEL: Yeah, there’s a key difference. The Texas grid is actually an island. It’s not connected to the two other main grids in the United States. So what that means is that when Texas needs electricity, they can’t import electricity from other parts of the U.S. So they’re really forced to stand alone when something like this happens.
REICHARD: Why has Texas chosen to be an island, as you say, when it comes to its power grid?
KNITTEL: Yeah, well that’s sort of stereotypical Texas. So, because it’s an island and because that island lies inside of a single state, the electrons aren’t crossing state borders so that means the federal government can’t regulate the Texas electricity market like it would regulate another market, because of the Interstate Commerce Clause. So this was a conscious choice by Texas to allow them to effectively operate free of regulation from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the FERC.
REICHARD: We’ve seen some pictures online of frozen wind turbines. And some have blamed renewable energy for the power problems. Other people say it’s the market design of the state’s power grid. What do you say to that?
KNITTEL: Well, it’s certainly the case that some of the windmills did freeze and could not operate. But we know two things. One is we could weatherize those. So, windmills can actually run all the way down to negative 30 degrees. So that, too, was a choice by Texas not to weatherize those. And the second thing, which is more important for this tragedy is that there was actually more natural gas, coal, and nuclear generation down than wind. Almost 10 times more natural gas generation was down than wind generation. So, if we’re going to point fingers, I guess we should probably do it proportionally to how much supply was down across the different technologies.
REICHARD: I’m wondering what changes do you see the state making after what just happened?
KNITTEL: Yeah, so I mentioned earlier that this happened in 2011. Not to the same scale as it did here, and one of the recommendations from the Obama administration back then was to weatherize the equipment. So, the natural gas supply went down because natural gas plants froze, too. Or at least components of the natural gas plants. Also there was just not enough natural gas to go around because that natural gas was being used to heat homes. And also there was no electricity to pull the natural gas out of the ground as well. And one of the key recommendations back then was to winterize the system, whether that’s to put pipelines lower underground, insulate the actual generation facilities, and so on. So, I definitely see that happening after this event. Whether or not Texas stops being an island, I actually doubt that that will happen.
REICHARD: One final question, professor, we’ve heard reports of some people getting power bills for thousands of dollars after this storm. What’s going on there?
KNITTEL: Yeah, so most people in the United States when they buy electricity, they buy electricity on what’s called a flat rate tariff. That is you pay the same price for every kilowatt hour of electricity you consume, regardless of when you consume it or regardless of what is happening in the wholesale electricity market. Some consumers, though, in restructured markets like Texas, might have the ability to sign a contract with their retailer where the price moves with the wholesale price. So those customers did just that. They entered into what’s called a real time pricing contract with their retailer. And the retailer is passing through the high prices that we saw in the wholesale market. So that’s why they’re getting such a huge bill after this event.
REICHARD: Christopher Knittel is a professor of Applied Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Okay, professor, thanks for your time!
KNITTEL: My pleasure, thanks.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: If you’ve ever had to pack up and move, you know it can be expensive.
Listen to this, though: It cost Tim Brown of San Francisco $400,000 to relocate! And that was to a place down the road, just six blocks away.
See, Brown didn’t just move boxes and furniture. He moved the entire house.
His 139-year-old Victorian was hoisted onto a giant dolly and pulled along at a top speed of one mile per hour.
But not without a few mishaps. An onlooker explained to KGO-tv.
AUDIO: They hit a light pole right there at the corner of Golden Gate and Franklin. And also they hit a couple of trees.
Yeah, the house made it in one piece, but not so much the route along the way. The city had to rip up parking meters, trim trees, and relocate traffic signs.
But now the magnificent painted lady has a new home.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 25th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are!
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Helping out.
Confusion about the separation of church and state leaves many Christians feeling like their hands are tied when it comes to fruitful community service.
REICHARD: But one church determined to “seek the welfare of its city” bridged the distance to a public school across town. WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson has the story.
AUDIO: [CHANGING CLASSES]
KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: In this Hattiesburg, Mississippi, grade school students pass by a framed photograph everyday without thinking much about it. The portrait is of a smiling, gray-haired lady dressed for a different decade. Her name is Grace Christian.
BLASS: She looks like she weighs about 90 pounds. She’s the cutest little thing. I’m told she was a firecracker, and she must have been…
That’s Molly Blass. She’s a member of First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg. The same portrait of Grace Christian is also included in their church history. Blass was surprised to discover the connection.
BLASS: The school, Grace Christian Elementary, that’s for whom it was named. I grew up here. Most of us thought it was a little Christian school.
Blass discovered that Grace Christian was one of the church’s earliest members back in 1903. Her teaching extended beyond Sunday School.
BLASS: She not only taught our children, but she taught children in the public schools and had a great influence. I mean, if they named a school for her, she had to have been something…
Blass wanted to continue the tradition Miss Grace Christian started all those years ago. At 60, Blass is energetic and bright-eyed. She jokes about being in the ministry of availability, but she’s serious about church outreach.
BLASS: It’s all about, about pushing back darkness and knowing that this is not our home, but we want to shine the light of the gospel in the corners of Hattiesburg that we can.
Grace Christian School is a one-story red brick building. It’s old enough to have the kind of waxed floors that make kids’ sneakers squeak.
AUDIO: [OFFICE CHATTER]
Inside the front office, staff are used to Molly coming around. But she admits it took time to get to that point. She started in 2015.
BLASS: So I just started asking small things like, “Could we maybe come read with some of the students in their library time?”
As Molly and other volunteers from the church plugged away, the school wondered if they were in it for the long haul.
BLASS: Are we going to show up and bring coffee a time or two, and then we feel good about ourselves and move on?
The turning point came in the form of a 5K fundraiser.
BLASS: We raised about $3,500. And we just said, “What do you need that the district can’t supply?
The church bought bookshelves for the school library. They sponsored children at the book fair who couldn’t afford to make a purchase. They provided rugs and beanbags for a downtime room.
BLASS: And that’s when I think we both the administration and the church really made the connection. We trusted one another. We didn’t come in with an agenda.
Blass’s primary contact at the school is Angel Ruffin. Ruffin has served as counselor for 11 years.
RUFFIN: My job — I explain it to the kids that I am a helper. Okay. So that way they can remember if you need something, talk to Ms. Ruffin . . .
AUDIO: [KIDS COUNTING]
Grace Christian has 385 students. Ruffin sings their praises, but she says teachers still have their work cut out for them.
RUFFIN: They have so much stress to meet certain scores. You might have a child who is behind a grade level, and you have to make sure that they are reading on grade level.
For Molly Blass, time spent at Grace Christian School was eye-opening. She came to a realization: For maximum effect, they needed to focus on supporting teachers and administrators.
BLASS: They are the ones who are having lasting effects on the children.
The church helped sponsor a full time on-site tutor. They brought donuts to the teacher lounge. They stepped up when teachers needed judges for science fairs and speakers for career day.
BLASS: Our older saints really loved helping with that.
Some states give schools a letter grade based on student proficiency in reading and math. When Blass began coming to campus, Grace Christian rated a “D.”
BLASS: They are now at a “B,” which is huge. And so we just want to be their cheerleaders. We don’t want to act like we are just coming to save the day because we are not.
As school counselor, Angel Ruffin acknowledges this close relationship with a church could be problematic for some, but volunteers don’t push their beliefs.
RUFFIN: But they do act in love, I would say. You know, kindness. So that’s, that’s very valuable, and that’s what we need from our community.
In 2018, many administrators and teachers joined members of First Presbyterian for a time of prayer at the school.
BLASS: We stood in the halls and it was beautiful because I feel like that, more than anything, let them know that we really had a heart for them and for what they were doing. And it wasn’t just all about coffee and donuts.
Molly and her fellow church members, like Miss Grace Christian before them, take to heart the words of Jeremiah the prophet:
BLASS: Do all you can to seek the welfare of the city wherever God has placed you. And this is just a very small way that we can do that.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, a preview of Listening In. This week, host Warren Smith talks to Kristin du Mez. She is an author and professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University.
She makes the assertion that militaristic white American men have corrupted evangelicalism and undermined the gospel. In this excerpt of their conversation, Warren Smith presses her to define a controversial term.
WARREN SMITH: I want to ask you to define another word, which you use a lot, and that word is patriarchy. Would you define what you mean when you use the word patriarchy?
KRISTIN DU MEZ: Sure. Essentially, a system of masculine authority where authority is considered to be rightly held by a man, by virtue of the fact that he is a man. Now what authority is that? So I talk about patriarchal authority, I talk about white patriarchy, and times, it’s really masculine leadership. And then we can start to discuss in any given moment what that entails.
So is that simply spiritual authority? That’s kind of the world I grew up in. That was the primary debate. Is it also social authority? Is all authority rightly masculine? How does God structure society more broadly? Like all of these questions come into play within families, within churches, and within the broader community? But at its base, it’s really an understanding of power and that power rightly, is exercised by man.
SMITH: Well, it is at least in some venues and some contexts an exercise of power. But you know, you’re a wife, you’re a mother. Would you concede that there are differences between men and women?
DU MEZ: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think it’s often a kind of a fallacy for conservatives to think that feminists are denying that there is any difference between men and women. There are biological differences, hormonal, right, there’s all kinds of differences we can explore. But then the next step is, I’m a cultural historian. So what meaning is ascribed to those existing differences?
Are these differences that we ought to amplify, are these differences that we ought to just accept and live and as Christians, how should we respond to these differences? If God created men and women in distinct ways, God also created each and every one of us in fairly distinct ways, God also created each one of us in distinct ways and we don’t have this stark, stark gender divide that all men are like this, all women like that are like this.
If you look at traits, if you look at even biology, you’re gonna find more of a spectrum. So I think there’s a question of what meaning is ascribed to particular gender differences? And that’s probably where some of the interesting differences will emerge.
BASHAM: That’s Kristin du Mez talking to Warren Smith. To hear the complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 25th. Good morning! You’re listening to The World and Everything in It and we’re so happy to have you along today. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham.
Next up, Cal Thomas suggests a few cuts to the pandemic stimulus package making its way through Congress.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: To those who oppose the $1.9 trillion dollar so-called COVID relief bill, President Biden has issued a challenge: “What would they have me cut?” he asks.
Even The Washington Post editorial board thinks the spending is too much and misdirected: “…concerns about the bill’s costs are growing across the political spectrum,” the board writes.
COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and deaths are decreasing. Health officials promise vaccines will be widely available to the general public by July. That means possible herd immunity is coming soon. The best stimulus to the economy would be to open up businesses, allowing people to return to work while practicing health and safety measures.
Many who received money from the government in the last stimulus go-round banked the checks and spent little or none of it. The Post editorial also notes that money targeted to state and local governments don’t need it. It references a Moody’s Analytics examination of state finances that “shows that 31 states have enough money ‘to fully absorb the economic stress of COVID-19’ without substantial budget cuts or tax increases.”
That’s just for starters. Pork doesn’t even begin to describe the unrelated COVID-19 spending. Unbelievably, the bill includes money for the notorious lab in Wuhan, China, a suspected source of the COVID-19 virus.
There’s another $7.2 billion for paycheck protection, which again would be less expensive and possibly unnecessary if businesses could just reopen. When this money runs out and businesses are still mostly closed, will the president propose more spending, adding to the already unsustainable debt?
Public elementary and secondary schools are targeted to get $129 billion dollars. They don’t even have to reopen to get the money, despite the science, which Biden promised to rely on, that says young children are least likely to become infected. The Congressional Budget Office noted that Congress previously authorized $113 billion for schools, but most of that money has not been spent.
There’s plenty more, including billions to defray premiums for the Affordable Care Act, $39 billion for child care, $30 billion for public transit agencies, the $15/hour minimum wage, which may lead to more layoffs and fewer hires, $1.5 billion for AMTRAK, a bridge to Canada, and as the CBO notes, “$500 billion grants to fund activities related to the arts, humanities, libraries and museums and Native American language preservation.”
If not properly cooked, pork can get infected with trichinosis, a disease caused by a small parasitic worm. That seems a good analogy for the “parasitic” congressional worms infecting our economy with nonstop spending of money we don’t have and borrowing that can’t continue without causing serious economic harm.
Nations of the past have not been able to survive massive debt. What makes us think we can?
I’m Cal Thomas.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Tomorrow: Censorship. Amazon has removed a best-selling book critical of the transgender movement from all of its online platforms. We’ll talk to the author of that book, Ryan T. Anderson, on Culture Friday.
And, I’ll review a new Disney+ superhero movie.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Megan Basham.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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