As the investigation into COVID-19’s origins continues, attention has fallen on the role of EcoHealth Alliance. This nonprofit organization has received federal grant dollars from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it in turn funded research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Republican leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee, including myself, have requested more information from EcoHealth Alliance that may shed light on COVID-19’s origins. Unfortunately, its director, Dr. Peter Daszak, has not been cooperative. He has instead been vocal in trying to shift attention away from the Wuhan lab and the possibility that a leak from the facility may have caused the pandemic.
The NIH is not the only financial supporter of EcoHealth Alliance. Google.org, the charitable organization of the famed tech giant, has also apparently funded work by Dr. Daszak’s team, according to the National Pulse.
Among the products aided in part by Google.org funding are a 2010 study on bat flaviviruses, a 2014 study on spillover of henipaviruses found in pteropid fruit bats and microbats to humans, and a 2018 paper titled “Serologic and Behavioral Risk Survey of Workers with Wildlife Contact in China.”
During a recent hearing of the Subcommittee on Health, I took the opportunity to ask one of the witnesses, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer at Google, about the links between Google and EcoHealth Alliance and any communications between them during the past three years. She said she would work with my office to get the information we requested.
I hope Google follows through on this commitment. EcoHealth Alliance’s unresponsiveness adds to the difficulty of investigating the coronavirus’ origins, but understanding as much as we can is vital if we are to prevent a similar pandemic in the future.
Inflation: The Alarm Bells Are Ringing
President Biden was the Vice President in the Obama Administration, and he has filled his own Administration with former Obama officials, but his time in office may be characterized by one problem that afflicted an earlier Democrat Administration.
During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, Americans had to cope with rampant inflation combined with stagnant economic growth. The “stagflation” of the 1970s meant rising costs of living amid limited prospects for jobs and higher wages. It was a period of hardship for American families. The tool used to eventually tame inflation, higher interest rates, imposed its own costs, underscoring the need to avoid higher inflation in the first place.
A return to high inflation would exact a hidden tax on American consumers, requiring them to pay more for the same amount of essential goods and services. Avoiding this outcome should be a top economic goal, but alarm bells are ringing. While none of the signs indicate a return to the hyperinflation of the Carter era, key economic measurements do show higher inflation than our country has seen for some time.
Core personal consumption expenditures, a price measurement that excludes food and energy, rose 3.4 percent in May from a year previous, the biggest increase since 1992.
The consumer price index, a measurement of a basket of goods and services including food and energy, rose in May by 5 percent from a year before, the largest increase since August 2008.
Gasoline prices in particular have seen a spike, up by 56.2 percent compared to a year ago. This increase may be in part attributed to policies from the Biden Administration, such as the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, that have spooked the energy market.
One of the principal culprits behind the current rise in inflation may be the spending spree of President Biden and Democrats in Congress. You don’t have to take my word for it; Lawrence Summers, a Democrat who held high-profile economic roles under Presidents Clinton and Obama, warned about the possibility of inflation in the Washington Post and cited “excessive stimulus driven by political considerations.”
Inflation decreases the value of a worker’s paycheck, stresses the budgets of families, and creates uncertainty for small businesses. Just because we have not seen significant inflation for a while does not mean we cannot see it again. President Biden cannot discount the risk of inflation his policies create, especially as the economy recovers from the disruptions of COVID-19. The consequences are simply too great.