Optimism Through Grace

In this newsletter, I discuss many improving COVID factors in TX, TX Legislature's budgets, TX jobs report, Janet Yellen's fiscal philosophy, President Biden's first few destructive days, & more.

Hello Friend!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time this weekend with my family this weekend, as our boys continue to keep us on our toes, and with prayer for our country.

I hope that you had a fantastic week since we last connected. Before I begin, thank you for reading this post each week, as I’m trying to keep improving it, so send me feedback at vanceginn@gmail.com. Also, thank you to those who subscribed and shared the newsletter this week. Please continue to share it as you deem appropriate.

It was a busy week with the Texas Legislature releasing recommended versions of the state budget by the House and Senate, and then there was the inauguration of President Joe Biden. I discuss these more below, but what really has given me a sense of optimism this week is that new COVID cases and available hospital beds have improved dramatically. Let’s hope and pray this continues so we can quickly return to normal as the government gets out of the way so people can be treated as adults to be responsible for their actions and return to their lives and livelihoods.

As the Texas Legislature started the 87th session a couple of weeks ago, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has released our booklet called “Forging Texas” on the key legislative issues and our recommendations for how to solve them:

Without further delay, let us jump into the fun stuff!

OPEN TEXAS (AND AMERICA)

Summary of COVID-19 Situation in Texas

  • As of Jan. 24, 18 of 22 Trauma Service Areas (TSA) are on the Governor’s list for elevated restrictions as business operating capacity is reduced from 75% to 50%, which 95% of Texans live in these TSAs so the economy is running at 1/2 speed.

  • As of Jan. 23, 7-day mvg average of new COVID-19 cases is down substantially but remains about 50% above July highs

  • As of Jan. 10, latest data for 7-day mvg avg of reported fatalities show it’s near the July highs while new cases were 90% above its highs (much lower CFR)

  • 25.2% of hospital beds are available statewide, which is up some recently and is near the 26% average since May and well above the low of 19% in July

  • Based on these data and others below, there remain valid concerns about the Governor’s metric of COVID-19 patients/total hospital beds instead of available beds/total hospital beds as beds have increased over time by targeting resources where needed most, and about the continued mistake of blanket restrictions across Texas, which increase costs to Texans’ lives and livelihoods

Overview of COVID-19 in Texas

  • 7-day avg of new confirmed cases in Texas is substantially down recently to 13.7K on Jan. 23, with the recent highs of 26,990 on Dec. 29 and of 26,543 on Jan. 5

  • 7-day avg of new reported fatalities in Texas on Jan. 10 (latest data available) was about 250—more recorded death certificates to come which have increased the 7-day avg to near 250 since late Jan. 6

  • 7-day avgs of cases remain well above the highs in July (13.7K v 10K) while reported fatalities are just recently near their highs then (250 vs. 250), meaning the case-fatality rate has so far been substantially lower now than the July highs

  • There remains a relatively high rate of hospital beds available across most of Texas—25.2% available statewide—with every TSA having at least 15.7% available

  • 7-day avg of testing is up to 125K per day and the positivity rate remains elevated at 15% but down after recently peaking at 21% on 1/3 which was near July high

  • While debatable, improvements in the case-fatality rate could be from better therapeutics, younger and healthier population infected, better utilization of hospital resources, and Governor Abbott’s more targeted policy approach

Texas Governor Abbott’s Metric Overview

  • Per Gov Abbott’s metric of COVID-19 hospitalizations as a share of total hospital capacity for seven consecutive days, TSAs below 15% can have most business restrictions lifted to 75% operating capacity (up from 50%), keep state mask mandate (been in effect since July 2), and bars (and others) open to 50% capacity with county judge’s approval

  • 18 of 22 TSAs are reported on the list of further restrictions: A (Amarillo), B (Lubbock), D (Abilene), E (Dallas/Ft. Worth), F (Paris), G (Longview/Tyler), H (Lufkin), I (El Paso), L (Belton/Killeen), M (Waco), N (Bryan/College Station), O (Austin), P (San Antonio), Q (Houston), R (Galveston), S (Victoria), T (Laredo), and V (Rio Grande Valley)

  • 95% of Texans are at 50% capacity + other restrictions while 5% of Texans are at 75% capacity + other restrictions, so Texas economy is running at 50% capacity

  • This CV19-to-capacity metric statewide has been declining recently statewide to 19.2%, which is above July’s 17.0% average

Hospital Overview Statewide

  • COVID-19 hospitalizations down 6% (to 12,899 hospitalizations—lowest since 1/2) from 7 days ago & down 5.3% from 14 days ago, level is above July’s 9,700 avg

  • Hospital beds available statewide is up to 25.2%, above the avg of 23.7% in July and just below the avg of 26% since May

  • Hospital capacity up slightly (to 67,238 beds) from 7 days ago and up 10.8% from 14 days ago, level is well above July’s 57,000 average

Bars and Restaurants Data

Questions remain why many bars are shut down across the state without supporting evidence. Here are some data that one might consider, which there appears to not be much of, if any, a relationship between conversions and new cases in the data. How would one prove the infection was from one of these establishments? We need answers when so many lives and livelihoods are at stake, so if you have the capability or interest in these data, contact me.

  • COVID cases started an upward trend in early October

  • Nearly 8,000 bars were closed due to the Governor’s EO on 6/26 according to the Texas Tribune

  • According to data I recently received with a PIR from TABC:

    • 34 bars converted to restaurants between 4/29-6/25

    • 3,094 bars, or 39% of total closed, converted to restaurants between 6/26-12/30, select counties that represent 63% of total bars converted statewide:

      • 313 in Bexar County (143 or 46% converted since 10/1)

      • 289 in Dallas County (75 or 26% since 10/1)

      • 155 in El Paso County (31 or 20% since 10/1)

      • 647 in Harris County (243 since 10/1)

      • 263 in Tarrant County (88 since 10/1)

      • 277 in Travis County (87 since 10/1)

More on how COVID data, especially testing data, have many problems:

TEXAS ECONOMIC AND FISCAL SITUATION

Texas jobs report this week notes job creation continues for the 8th straight month.

Twitter avatar for @VanceGinnVance Ginn @VanceGinn
Here’s my statement on today’s relatively good #Texas #jobsreport in terms of jobs created & drop in the unemployment rate in Dec. when the US lost 140K jobs, so without TX the rest lost more than 200K.
texaspolicy.com/press/texas-jo… @TPPF #txlege @ktrhnews @TexasTribune @statesman https://t.co/oTNE2KlVSP

Texas Public Policy Foundation @TPPF

Texas unemployment rate: 7.2% Today's jobs report for Texas shows some good news for workers and employers in December as employment increased for the eighth straight month. @TXWorkforce

The Texas House & Senate released their versions of the 2022-23 state budget which both are thankfully below the Conservative Texas Budget after excluding property tax relief. More in this thread below with my statement and other analyses. Overall, this is a good start but there’s more to do to restrain spending and provide tax relief.

Here’s my interview talking about the 87th Texas Legislature and TPPF’s priorities:

U.S. ECONOMIC AND FISCAL SITUATION

Watch my interview on NTD on Janet Yellen’s (nominated by President Biden to be Treasury Secretary) fiscal philosophy and how it compares with Steve Mnuchin’s.

President Biden’s pen has already cost Americans at least 70,000 jobs and billions in wages and economic output, and he hasn’t been on the job for a week:

Alternatively, the Trump administration started very differently with good results:

Shocking! I agree with Paul Krugman, who says these COVID relief bills by Congress shouldn’t be called “stimulus,” but I go even further:

A government-mandated minimum wage hurts people. More here:

Closing Thoughts

I hope you had a nice MLK day last week. This quote by MLK gives me optimism even during the trials that we’re currently facing. May we continue to dream!

Let me leave you with a quote from one of my favorite economists:

Thanks again for reading! If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter yet, please subscribe here at no charge and share with others. Many blessings to you and yours.

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