Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Dec. 29

Daily vaccination updates is the right thing

The world’s scientists have completed their miraculous mission of developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, the focus shifts to actually giving people the shots.

This is a massive challenge that will take months at a minimum to accomplish. Fortunately, Minnesotans will be able to closely monitor progress here thanks to a sensible change made by the state Department of Health.

Health officials have started daily public updates on the number of COVID inoculations administered across the state. The data had been shared weekly since the first limited vaccine shipments arrived in mid-December.

More frequent updates serve the public and the agency. Nursing home residents and health care workers are at the head of the line. They and their families need to know how the rollout is going. Other high-priority groups will want to monitor progress to better gauge when it’s their turn to get the shot.

The transparency also will help address concerns about lagging vaccinations here. Key national tracking sites showing Minnesota trailing other states were relying on outdated numbers.

So far, the state appears to be keeping pace with others, though there’s room for improvement. Over 38,000 shots have been administered. That’s 22% of 174,750 doses allocated so far to registered Minnesota providers. The state expects to receive a total of 250,000 doses by the year’s end. Still, Minnesota has 5.6 million residents. Heavy lifting here and elsewhere lies ahead.

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Mankato Free Press, Mankato, Dec. 30

Let's think about deficit with stimulus payments

Like tax cuts, stimulus payments to taxpayers are hard to oppose.

So President Donald Trump’s proposal to pass another stimulus bill that would provide $2,000 to single taxpayers and $4,000 to couples within certain incomes sounds like a splendid idea during a global pandemic and decimated economy.

But experts note it would cost $500 billion, increasing further a U.S. budget deficit already at $3.3 trillion, three times its level of just a year ago. In the last year, that deficit has gone from 5 percent of GDP to 18 percent of GDP.

There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of concern about the growing deficit among policymakers, the president or the Federal Reserve for that matter, as interest rates remain near zero.

Only Senate Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seem concerned about the cost of an additional stimulus bill that would add to the $900 billion bill already passed and signed by the president that will bring taxpayers $600 each.

Trump’s last-minute, surprise proposal seemed more politically driven than policy serious, and we sympathize with congressional leaders who were counting on Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to represent the president’s position. With House Democrats and some Republicans approving the new $2,000 stimulus, Senate Republicans are put in a difficult position of opposing the president or throwing fiscal responsibility to the wind.

Trump has handed the Democrats a win-win with this strategy, and while one cannot easily judge the president’s motives, it seems at least possible this move was one of payback to McConnell for his admission that Joe Biden won the election. Trump threatened Republican Senators that they should vote for the $2,000 plan unless they have a “death wish.”

We’re the last ones to say hard-working Americans hammered by a pandemic not of their own making don’t deserve some relief in the context of corporations who’ve been at the trough for years with tax cuts and government subsidies, but a burgeoning of the deficit should give us all a little pause.

These are unprecedented times. Both public health and economic health are at risk. Let’s just not create the need for open heart surgery when a little fiscal medicine will do.