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Opinion | Christmas miracles: declining unemployment, vaccines and more

“I’m talking about some truly surprising big deal things.”


It’s Christmas week so let’s talk about some Christmas miracles. No, I’m not talking about that monster hit John Metchie put on Florida’s Trey Dean in the SEC Championship game Saturday. We’ve come to expect plays like that from the Alabama football team this year.

I’m talking about some truly surprising big deal things.

First, look at the very good news on Alabama’s unemployment rate: At the end of November, it was 4.4 percent, down from 5.7 percent in October and from the COVID shutdown high of nearly 14 percent in April. We’re not fully recovered yet, but the quick turnaround we’ve already experienced is phenomenal. Chalk it up to the stimulus and PPP money Congress approved in the spring and summer, Gov. Kay Ivey’s prudent decision making in dealing with the pandemic and heroic acts by business owners large and small around the state to stay open.

Next, Congress finally, finally, passed another COVID bill: It spends approximately $900 billion, but only $325 billion is new money as we repurposed nearly $600 billion from earlier COVID bills. Each person (including children) will receive $600 in stimulus money so that a family of four would receive $2,400. The unemployment insurance subsidy is maintained through March 14 at $300 a week. Small business owners who availed themselves of the first round of forgivable PPP loans will be able to get a second-round and fully deduct all expenses. There’s funding for schools, public health departments, and for producing and distributing the vaccines.

We could have had this same bill months ago but Speaker Nancy Pelosi held it up so she could help her candidate win the presidential election. That’s not my opinion — that’s what she admitted to recently. She started out wanting over $3 trillion, then it was $2 trillion then it was $1.2 trillion. She insisted throughout that we use taxpayer money to bail out poorly managed Blue states and cities. The final bill, as I said, is $900 billion, which is half of what President Trump offered her in the fall and contains not a penny to bail out states or cities. This isn’t leadership on her part — this is incompetence compounded by raw self-seeking political power. You could have had your stimulus check for the holidays but for her. And she’s unapologetic about it. Even Scrooge faced up to and changed his erroneous way of doing business.

The third miracle is the distribution of the new vaccines: First the Pfizer and now the Moderna vaccines have been approved, and the vaccines are shipped with much more on the way. Over 500,000 people have already been vaccinated and 8 million doses will be shipped by the end of the week. By the end of March 200 million doses from these two producers will be shipped. These vaccines require two doses given a few weeks apart so the number of people fully vaccinated is half these numbers, but humans have never, ever, produced and distributed a vaccine so fast and never on this scale. We still have a ways to go, but we are clearly on the path to escape this disease. In the meantime, wear your mask, socially distance when you can, and use good hygiene.

Of course, the final miracle is the gift of the Christ child over 2000 years ago: On a dark winter night in a cave with no warmth or comfort, He came into the world for us, the ultimate gift of love.  So, this pandemic Christmas, let’s love and take care of one another and remember what St. John wrote so long ago: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

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Merry Christmas!

Bradley Byrne is the president and CEO of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce and a former Republican congressman who represented Alabama's 1st Congressional District.

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