Fiscal Insanity: D.C. Disappoints Again

In this newsletter, I share my thoughts on my life's journey, word for 2021, update on COVID situation, and economic and fiscal situations in U.S. and Texas. Happy New Year!

Hello Friend!

As 2020 nears an end, I’d like to start this newsletter a bit different to share some personal things about me that you might not know. We will then get into the many things that have happened since the newsletter last week.

Here are the highlights of my life’s journey so far:

  • born on Nov.12, 1981 at Clear Lake Hospital in Texas and raised in the South Houston area;

  • battled severe asthma and allergies with multiple hospital visits for asthma and three rounds of allergy shot treatments over time;

  • watched my dad have seizures and learned from his optimism and intellect throughout his battle with epilepsy;

  • grew up in a single-mother, relatively lower-income household for most of my life after my parents divorced twice before I was 10;

  • learned strength and love from my mom who struggled while raising my sister and me and gained wisdom from my grandparents;

  • completed K-2 grades at a private school, 3-6 grades at public schools, and 7-12 grades at home school (graduated at 17 yrs old);

  • experienced life as a "rockstar" in the band Sindrome, which was a top rock band in Houston, and was a tumultuous period as a young adult (17-20 yrs old);

  • flipped at least 6 times as a front passenger in a 2002 Acura RSX after wrecking into the back of an SUV while racing at around 120 mph and then life-flighted to a hospital in Houston with a potential head injury but was released that night (20 yrs old);

  • turned closer to God and prayed for His guidance which directed me toward my calling of helping others through His lessons and the tools of economics;

  • enjoyed my time at Texas Tech University and learned much in courses, gained many great friends, and led several organizations;

  • the unexpected loss of my father from SUDEP when I was 29 yrs old;

  • graduated in 2013 with a Ph.D. in economics from TTU after neither parent graduated college (31 yrs old);

  • worked as a lecturer at institutions of higher education, as a chief economist at the White House, and now chief economist at TPPF, which is a top think tank in the nation; and

  • now at 39 yrs old, I’m blessed to have God’s grace, be married to an inspiring woman, have two amazing boys, have had an experience in Virginia but glad to be back in Texas, and continue living my dreams.

  • There’s no way that I could have planned this. The ups and downs. The uncertainty, faith, fear, and love. These events and many more make me the man I am today.

  • As 2020 comes to a close, I thank God for these blessings and the courage to overcome many obstacles along the way, including many of them this year.

  • I started praying about and choosing a word to act as a guide each year since 2018. My word for 2018 was “prosper,” 2019 was “flourish”, and 2020 is “thrive,” which was perfect.

  • My word for 2021 is “serve” because I know that there will be many challenges that come along but as long as I’m serving God and others then the rest will work for my good. What’s your word? (Leave in comments or email me)

  • Thank you for your friendship. I hope my testimony can help some know that anyone can reach their goals with God’s favor and one’s endurance. Here’s to a spectacular 2021!

OPEN TEXAS AND AMERICA

Summary:

  • As of December 29, there are 12 Trauma Service Areas (TSA) on the Governor’s list for elevated restrictions that include 56% of Texans. The 7-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases looks to have plateaued and are 20% above their summer highs while fatalities are 40% below then.

  • Available total hospital capacity statewide is near the average of 26% since June.

  • Austin area has the lowest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations as a share of total hospital capacity or staffed inpatient beds while keeping a normal rate of available capacity of 26% since June.

  • These data put into question the increased restrictions across the state, mainly on what appears to be flawed forecasting models. Here’s an example.

Twitter avatar for @MayorAdlerMayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. @MayorAdler
#COVID19 update 12-28-20: We are still in the Stage 5 risk level
bit.ly/3aFQ2Qm No gatherings with people you don't live with Take only essential dining & shopping trips Avoid non-essential travel Businesses should operate through contactless options (1/6)Austin Public Health Increases COVID-19 Risk to Stage 5, the Highest Level | AustinTexas.govAustin, Texas – Today, Dec.bit.ly

Overview of COVID-19 in Texas

  • The 7-day average of new confirmed cases in Texas looks to have plateaued since Dec. 7 at about 12K on Dec. 29, with the highest new daily of 26,990 on Dec. 29—likely from more people congregating over Christmas. The 7-day average of new fatalities in Texas on Dec. 16 (latest data available) was 160—possibly already peaked although more recorded death certificates will be reported.

  • 7-day averages of cases remain well above the highs over the summer (12K v 10K) while fatalities remain well below their highs then (250 vs. 150), meaning the case-fatality rate has so far been substantially lower now than during the highs over the summer.

  • There remains a relatively high rate of available hospital capacity (I’ve updated this to total hospital capacity from my previous reports to match the Governor’s metric and increased capacity opportunities not represented by staffed inpatient beds) across most of the state’s TSAs with every TSA having at least 16% available—30% available statewide.

  • Testing remains on average around 100K per day and the positivity rate remains elevated (17% for new molecular tests and 11% for new antigen tests) but well below the high rates during the summer (25% for new molecular tests and 20% for new antigen tests) though with substantially fewer tests (about 40K during July).

  • While debatable, improvements could be from better therapeutics, younger and healthier population infected, better utilization of hospital resources, and Governor Abbott’s more targeted, timely, and temporary policy approach of examining hospitalizations per TSA and sending resources where needed most.

Texas Governor Abbott Metric Overview:

  • Per GA’s metric of COVID-19 hospitalizations as a share of total hospital capacity for seven consecutive days, TSAs below 15% can have most businesses expand to 75% capacity, keep state mask mandate, and bars (and others) open to 50% capacity with the approval of the county’s judge.

  • 12 of 22 TSAs are reported on the list of further restrictions: A (Amarillo), B (Lubbock), D (Abilene), E (Dallas/Ft. Worth), G (Longview/Tyler), H (Lufkin), I (El Paso), M (Waco), N (Bryan/College Station), P (San Antonio), R (Galveston), and TSA T (Laredo).

  • 56% of Texans are at 50% capacity + other restrictions while 44% of Texans are at 75% capacity + other restrictions.

  • This CV19-to-capacity metric has been rising recently statewide since mid-Oct. to 17.4%, which is near July’s 17.0% average.

Hospital Overview Statewide:

  • COVID-19 hospitalizations up 14.3% (to 11,775 hospitalizations) from 7 days ago and up 24.3% from 14 days ago, the level is above July’s 9,713 average

  • Available beds as a share of total hospital capacity up to 30.5%, well above the averages of 23.7% in July and of 26% since June

  • Hospital capacity up 2.4% (to 67,495 beds) from 7 days ago and up 4.8% from 14 days ago, the level is well above July’s 56,871 average

Vaccine Update: There is a surplus of the vaccine in Texas. Is this because of a coordination problem by governments or because of a lack of demand? Likely some combination of these.

TEXAS ECONOMIC AND FISCAL SITUATION

Texas’ Legislative Session Starts Jan. 12: More to come on this soon! I’m looking forward to TPPF’s Policy Orientation on Jan. 13-15 that will be live-streamed, so I’ll be sure to add info about it later.

Twitter avatar for @VanceGinnVance Ginn @VanceGinn
The fiscal and regulatory relief in @TPPF’s Responsible Recovery Agenda will help Texas deal with COVIDー19, budget shortfalls, unemployment, poverty, & much more. Read:
texaspolicy.com/press/tppf-rel… #txlege

Texas Public Policy Foundation @TPPF

Session is coming. @VanceGinn: The prosperity of many Texans is at stake. Now is the time to prepare for a Conservative Texas Budget for the coming biennium. TPPF's 2022-23 CTB sets a maximum threshold on appropriations at $246.8 billion. #txlege https://t.co/ejqpTyfeo2

U.S. ECONOMIC AND FISCAL SITUATION

President Trump Unfortunately Signs Poorly Constructed CARES 3.0: Here are some of my thoughts on why it should have been vetoed. I’m hopeful the President can get the rescissions he desires through, but that’s a very high hurdle to achieve.

Cash Act with Higher Checks to $2K Should Not Become Law: Here are a few of many reasons.

Productive Thread on the Federal Budget: There’s much work to do as indicated in this thread. Click on a tweet and see the full thread for the discussion.

In Other News:

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Have a Happy New Year! Many blessings to you and yours.

Vance Ginn, Ph.D. | www.vanceginn.com | #LetPeopleProsper