By Phil Kerpen
After an early bureaucratic disaster – the feds banned private sector tests and failed to deliver a test that worked – the U.S. has ramped up testing to astronomical levels, dwarfing the rest of the world and any historical comparison. We average about 1.5 million tests per flu season, and we've now run over 57 million tests for SARS-CoV2. But have all those tests delivered what proponents of mass testing promised? Have they contained the spread and restored public confidence that infectious people are at home, not out and about? Absolutely not. In fact, by the time most test results are available, the people who were positive are no longer infectious. The tests serve no actual infection control purpose. And the tests that actually would make all the difference are still banned by the FDA.
The CDC reports that most infected people are no longer infectious six to ten days after symptom onset. People with very severe disease can be infectious longer, up to 20 days -- but people with severe disease aren't waiting for a test result to find out if they are sick and self-isolate. The CDC also reports, however, that even though they have never found live, infectious virus three weeks after symptom onset, the so-called gold standard PCR tests we have been using can show positive based on non-infectious viral debris for up to 12 weeks. So the mass, industrial-scale testing we're doing – with several days turnaround time – isn't letting infectious people know they are positive quickly enough to alter their behavior. And many of the positives are likely meaningless artifacts of months-old infections. It feeds a mass public panic but accomplishes little else.
The tests that we actually need are instant tests that people could take themselves and get results in the morning, confidently going about their daily activities – work, school, leisure – knowing they are not infectious. These tests, paper antigen tests, have been developed by a team at MIT that applied for FDA approval back in March. There are several companies ready to mass produce them with FDA approval and unlike the PCR tests that cost around $100 per test, the paper antigen tests could cost as little as $2, making daily self-testing cost effective for most Americans.
In an astonishing display of government stupidity, the FDA's objection to the paper antigen tests is based on precisely the characteristic that makes them vastly superior to the PCR tests – they are far less sensitive. FDA has used the extreme sensitivity of the PCR tests as a benchmark and refused to issue emergency use authorizations for less sensitive tests. But a test that is so sensitive that it picks up viral debris for months is not a useful tool to prevent infection. A less sensitive test that is calibrated to show positive when a person is actually infectious is far more useful. That makes the paper antigen tests not only cheaper and faster but better than the...
By Phil Kerpen and Jon Decker
Last week, the AARP sent a letter to the Department of Labor requesting a delay of a Department of Labor proposal to align its rules for investment advisers with the SEC's "best interest" standard, to give investors more choices while protecting their retirement savings.
It's no surprise that the AARP would seek to thwart one of President Trump's policy objectives. Instead of being a neutral advocate for seniors, the AARP routinely engages in far-left political advocacy. Recall that when seniors were contacting the AARP 14-to-1 urging the group to oppose Obamacare, they instead supported it. Since the law’s passage and implementation, the AARP has received well over $4 billion in “royalties” from its for-profit partner UnitedHealth, most of which comes from their exclusive sale of "AARP" branded UnitedHealth insurance plans.
There is some unique irony in AARP's latest foray into political activism. They are seeking to delay President Trump's retirement rules which are designed to replace an Obama administration regulation known as the fiduciary rule that was struck down in court.
Obama's so-called "fiduciary rule" was dubbed "Obamacare for your retirement" because, under his proposal, if you like your retirement plan or investment advisor, you may not be able to keep it. Estimates show that the rule would have disqualified up to 7 million IRA holders from receiving investment advice and cost consumers an eye-popping $31.5 billion.
Despite the fact that Obama's regulations amounted to an all-out war on seniors' retirement plans, the AARP – allegedly a seniors advocacy group – supported it due to their misguided belief that seniors aren't smart enough to plan for their own retirement. (We can't help but wonder if the Obama rule would have benefited AARP's corporate investment advisory partners.)
It is laughable that the AARP would call for the federal government to tell seniors how to manage their money – just look how the government manages its own!
But here's the real kicker. While the AARP wants to police retirement decisions by enforcing a "fiduciary rule" in an ill-fated attempt to protect seniors, the AARP recently got a lawsuit dismissed by claiming they themselves have no "fiduciary" responsibility to seniors whatsoever – even though they are a seniors organization!
The lawsuit Krukas v. AARP alleged:
“AARP and UnitedHealth, together and through their respective subsidiaries, have orchestrated an elaborate scheme where AARP, as the de facto agent of UnitedHealth, helps market, solicit, and sell or renew AARP Medigap policies and generally administers the AARP Medigap program for UnitedHealth… AARP received ‘a 4.95% commission from every policy sold or renewed,’ id., which ‘constitutes an illegal kickback,’… AARP collects an illegal commission, acts as an unlicensed insurance agent, and materially misrepresents information about the 4.95% charge, all of which constitute violations...
Photo Credit: Flickr 401(k)2012
by Jon Decker
The Wall Street Journal overlooked many consequences to low-income consumers in its June 21 article “The Credit-Card Fees Merchants Hate, Banks Love and Consumers Pay.” If capping credit card interchange fees (the transaction fees which merchants are charged) would result in a windfall for the poor — why did the exact opposite happen when we capped them for debit cards?
When debit card interchange fees were capped in Obama’s Dodd-Frank legislation, fees on deposit accounts increased from an average of 3% to 5%. These fees included additional monthly account maintenance charges (with higher minimum balance requirements), insufficient-funds fees, inactivity fees, and fewer rewards. Taken together, this amounted to a direct attack on low-income families.
The fee cap also completely backfired from its intended result on the merchant side. The Richmond Fed found that, after the fee cap was instituted, 77 percent of merchants did not change their prices, just over 1 percent actually reduced prices, and over 21 percent increased prices.
Low-income consumers are being sold a trojan horse on capping credit card interchange fees. Thousands of years of history tells us that government price controls never result in more prosperity.
Photo Credit: Investment Zen