After nearly nine weeks of self-imposed quarantine, the reopening of America is finally underway. The evidence, such as it is now, suggests the shutdown may have done little to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Maybe. Maybe not. It will likely be months, if not years, before we know for sure. It has become evident that the early forecasts of a new kind of “Black Death” were overstated and based on models that should have been subjected to more rigorous scrutiny than they received.
If things went as predicted, then what happened in Georgia and Florida, where the lockdown ended earlier and was far less stringent than in other states, and South Dakota, where it didn’t happen at all, should have been far worse than what New York and New Jersey experienced. Instead, it’s the opposite, suggesting that those who hit quickly on the need for “herd immunity” may have been more right than the constant chatter has acknowledged.
The most controversial part of it all—and the list of controversial acts taken by state governments is long—was the decision to ban in-person worship in churches, synagogues and mosques. The action was taken without any apparent regard for the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of worship, which the Fourteenth Amendment applied to the states, as well.
The argument, as it was made, went something like this. People who come to worship are packed tightly together in enclosed spaces and are, therefore, likely to allow the virus to spread quickly to many people if even one is infected. Therefore, churches and synagogues and mosques needed to close.
No effort was made to find reasonable accommodations. Most of the houses of worship moved services and prayer meetings and scriptural study online—which, many have argued, left few people worse for wear.
That may be true, but it’s hardly the point. Religious freedom is a core American value, which is why the Founders put into the Bill of Rights that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The ban on corporate worship, by executive order yet, is a clear violation of both the spirit and letter of the law.
If that were not bad enough, some governors used the police powers available to them to enforce this decision even when, as in Kentucky, parishioners went to churches for service that would have been carried out while they remained in their cars. License plate numbers were taken down, citation threats were made and, were it not for the actions of a federal judge who knows the law means what it says and who stayed the governor’s order, it is likely those who chose continually to disobey the governor’s order would have been arrested for the alleged crime of worshipping in public.
That is now ending. On Friday, President Donald J. Trump said that getting the nation’s houses of worship open was an “essential” national priority. Shortly thereafter, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to allow them to do that—and which are available here.
Among the suggestions:
All these are sensible and reasonable—and, if followed, should allow faith organizations to reopen and operate pretty much as they did before the pandemic started.
That, however, does not bring the discussion of how the rights of the faithful were violated. It has not been lost on anyone that these institutions were often left off the list of those considered “essential”—something that would have come as a surprise to Alexis de Tocqueville and others who have, over the years, taken the trouble to explain why America is indeed an exceptional place—while supermarkets, cell phone stores and abortion clinics often made the list.
It is probably the case, had the nation’s governors who ordered the closure of faith institutions merely requested worship leaders to comply with what was desired rather than ordering it, that most of them would have voluntarily complied. And it would not have been a tough call, especially given the New Testament instruction to render unto Caesar the things that are his. Instead, it was made into an order—and one that violated the right to freedom of worship the Constitution guarantees us all.
A day of reckoning is coming. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause has been treated by the federal courts as being rather elastic since the 1960s. The time may be coming when the voters who consider themselves people of faith will demand similar flexibility in favor of their interests, as far as “free exercise” is concerned. And given the way Trump has reshaped the federal bench with his appointments over the last three years, they’d likely prevail.
Exactly how the COVID-19 virus found its way to humans isn’t entirely clear. But it is clear is that once the virus was out and people were dying, the communist Chinese regime did little to stop the world from getting sick. While they quietly locked down travel within China to limit spread of the virus, they did nothing to stop Chinese global travel that spread it and they employed the World Health Organization to support their claims that there was nothing to worry about. And when America locked down travel from China, they howled racism.
The communist regime also began hoarding medical supplies and equipment, while telling the world the virus wasn’t transmitted via human contact. Once more was known, China began to blame others — including Italy and the U.S. for the virus.
Everything they appear to do is motivated by gaining power and control over their own people and the world’s population. They see everything — not merely missiles, bombers and submarines, but also food, medicine, shipping, trade, etc. — as a weapon to be used to strengthen their stranglehold on power.
We must remember that this communist regime murders its own citizens in death camps and harvests their organs. It brutally oppresses the people of Hong Kong. It spies on its own people and tracks their movement so that it can punish them for worshiping or visiting the “wrong” friends.
These unpleasant truths have caused America to wake up and ask if it should be so dependent upon China for critically important things like medicine, medical equipment and other goods and services required in the high-tech world. The answer is now an obvious no.
We should also examine how China has been making America more and more dependent in other areas. We now understand this is not merely an economic issue, it goes to the very health, strength and sustainability of our nation’s long-term survival.
International trade is a huge driver of every nation’s economic health, and 90% of all global trade is transported by ship. It should not surprise you to learn that China has quietly made itself the dominant player in international shipping. They’ve purchased strategic ports around the globe and are by far the world’s largest subsidizer of shipbuilding. This is all part of the regime’s strategic plan to dominate world trade and make itself the world’s sole economic and military super-power. You can be 100% sure this power will not be used to promote freedom, opportunity or security. Look at Hong Kong and you know how that power will be abused.
The U.S. used to be a major player in international shipping and shipbuilding. But for a variety of reasons, the U.S. is now a minor player. Currently, China is building 1,291 ocean-going ships. The U.S. has only 8 under construction. Bangladesh meanwhile is building 56. Let that sink in. The U.S. now operates less than 1/2 of 1 percent of ocean-going maritime ships.
In the last several years, foreign powers and some domestic voices have been pushing for the U.S. to allow foreign shippers to take over domestic shipping routes within the territorial waters of the U.S. To do that, would require the repeal or substantial revision of the Jones Act, a move China would love. They could run their ships up and down the Mississippi with high tech electronics in our heartland gathering intelligence and at the same time make America entirely dependent upon them for our shipping and commerce.
This is why the Jones Act is needed now more than ever. It allows for any nation to ship goods to or from America, but within America and between its internal ports, shipping must be handled by American ships and American crews. These American ships and American crews work in our heartland and when the U.S. military needs their sealift capability, they stand at the ready. Do we really want to ask China to fill that role?
The purposes of the Jones Act are something that even free market champion Adam Smith endorsed in his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations. Moreover, the very first Congress, populated by signers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence passed the first version of the Jones Act.
The idea that we should let China expand its power within the territory of the United States is simply insane. Standing by and letting China tighten its grip on international commerce will eventually be our downfall if we don’t wake up. If this wasn’t clear before this pandemic, it is now painfully obvious.
Recovery in parisan crosshairs; New conspiracy evidence; China fighting back!
As if quarantine and recovery were not enough to worry about, Americans have other headlines competing for our attention. Most tiresome is the conflict between those who want to resume economic activity as much as possible and those who don’t. At issue is the frustration experienced by everybody at the lifestyle we have been forced to adopt because of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic – everybody staying home while their jobs and earnings dwindle away.
Recovery in partisan crosshairs
A vocal minority has rebelled openly against the closed-door policies of many jurisdictions which have been slow to authorize the back-to-work recommendations of the President. Some are claiming that these restrictive mandates violate the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Others are desperate for an income, still others are just tired of the inactivity. None of this is too surprising given the circumstances.
The surprising part comes when many leading Democrats began advocating the stay-at-home crowd, claiming that the plague is still too widespread to admit the proximity of daily life encounters in businesses and churches. They blame President Trump for sloppy management of the national response, apparently because he has instituted a “go-local” approach economic recovery.
They claim that there should be a “one size fits all” federal policy for the recovery, even though there is a vast disparity between the various local circumstances. This is not really a credible solution to the problem of managing the national opening of doors. But it gets serious when the House of Representatives passes a bill aimed at financially supporting the closed economy in the name of public safety from the virus. How do you deal with ridiculous proposals which are advanced by one of the highest authorities in the land?
New conspiracy evidence
Then, just when we are beginning to deal with that idiocy, we find out that President Obama may have been intimately involved in the attempted overthrow of his successor. The Dems are losing their minds over this one. The current administration has released some very incriminating documentation of testimony kept hidden for as long as two years by Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, and Nancy Pelosi. These documents in effect begin to substantiate the assumptions of the President’s supporters that the attempted coup d’état which led to the impeachment trial of Donald Trump was in fact a treasonous conspiracy to overthrow the legitimately elected President of the United States.
China fights back
This is very serious stuff, but it is hard to concentrate on it when you are facing financial ruin because of a lost job or business. But if you are able to devote sufficient attention to these two political issues, there’s still another one brewing which is equally important but just about, as they say, “a bridge too far”. This is the mounting tension between the USA and China. The war of words is getting more and more aggressive. More importantly, the Chinese are increasing their military threats to American shipping and air surveillance. Unless cooler heads prevail on both sides, this is the kind of rhetoric that can lead to war.
America is already taking on many of the policies which characterized our Cold War with Russia for two generations. But China is a different opponent. It is better positioned to engage in an economic and diplomatic rivalry not only because of the leverage of its huge market, but also because it is much more familiar with the intricacies of the American corporate and technological infrastructure, having worked closely with American firms and government departments and personnel (including Joseph Biden and family) for the past forty years (since the collapse of the Soviet Union).
Those relationships are wide and deep, including not only corporate partnerships but also generations of Chinese students educated in American universities, as well as the capture of America’s technological base, and the purchase of US public debt.
We do not want this cold war to turn into a hot war not only because of the tragic cost to all concerned, but also because it is not at all clear that we would ultimately win such a war. China’s space and long range weapons technologies are arguably superior to our own, especially since, unlike China, we have not been preparing for war over the past two decades and in fact let our military capacity deteriorate to an alarming extent during the Obama years. The Steve Bannon hawks need to think through again their anti-China positions before someone starts shooting. Yesterday’s fall of Hong Kong may be just the provocation to precipitate Western action. Things are getting very tense.
What can you do?
So, that is the menu of top issues facing America. The question is, how do we deal with all these problems? Do we just decide to let the powers that be resolve everything? Do we pick a cause and go all out to support it with demonstrations, social media campaigns, and all the modern communications technologies?
There is an ancient prayer which includes the words,” Lord, give me the strength to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Good advice in these troubled times.
Look past the words at the actions
As the saying around Washington goes, “President Donald J. Trump frequently steps on his own message”. Nowhere is that observation more accurate than in the matter of his leadership during the current crisis. His verbal descriptions of the steps he has taken and the reasons for each step sound a lot like bragging – even, at times, a plea for credit. But in few cases do they clearly and accurately convey either the obstacles or the strategy that led to these decisions – both of which have been significant.
Let’s do a brief recap. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the country into the worst crisis since Pearl Harbor. The President started our national response virtually alone. As the crisis began to take shape, he enlisted the aid of the public health experts, the national laboratories, the privately-owned laboratories, then the hospitals, the manufacturing industry, and so on, as new requirements arose, one after the other. When called upon, these Americans put aside their personal feelings and opinions about politics and proceeded to perform nearly miraculous feats –as when the Army Corps of Engineers created a hospital in Central Park in three days!
What inspired this sensational cooperation? Trump’s mixture of salesmanship and pressure. The appeals of the President to the patriotism of the participants would not have been sufficient to effect the desired outcomes had the President not presented each group with specific, well-thought-out tasks which fit the capabilities of each party. This is called detailed planning.
The result was that each party was asked to do something they knew how to do and were capable of doing. And, in problem after problem – from medical supplies to hospital beds to pharmaceuticals to supply chains to manufacturing — the results were astonishing.
Then the President organized the governors of the 50 states and the territories into the most important role they have ever played as a group – perhaps in American history! Even the bitterest critics of the President joined the coalition and developed a working relationship with the federal administration and the President and Vice President (a former governor). We witnessed the greatest example of federalism in the history of the Republic – James Madison would have been proud the see it in action.
And there were also side effects of this strategy. First of all, it was the most practical solution to the extremely complex problems of a national recovery which featured thousands of varying local circumstances and conditions. Clearly, the Democrats’ call for a “national” one-fits-all policy would not work.
But that observation reveals another side effect. By sticking to the Constitution, the President’s approach also made those criticisms of the opposition so obviously misguided that even the friendly Press disregarded them.
In all, we saw the most impressive example of presidential leadership perhaps since Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.
The Press, of course, missed this amazing spectacle which was unfolding before their very eyes. For the most part, those eyes were blinded by the same unthinking bias which had caused them to join the Dems’ insane attempt to overthrow that presidency earlier this year.
I have commented in the past that other speakers, such as Vice President Pence, frequently describe the President’s actions more clearly and convincingly than does the President himself. However, the forum does make a difference.
The President is very effective during his famous rallies in describing the mountains he has climbed as president and the results he has achieved. In fact, his ability to attract and entertain thousands of people in his rallies is unparalleled in modern politics. In this realm only entertainers can compete. This ability is so unique that any discussion of Donald J. Trump’s communication skills must begin with his rallies.
Next would be his set speeches which have improved with practice and since he learned to use the teleprompter. Finally, would be his impromptu press briefings on his way to the airport. But his formal press conferences not so much.
In the end, of course, as the Bible says, “By his works you shall know him.”
Why nothing sticks to Donald Trump or Joe Biden
It was congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Democrat from Colorado, who labeled Ronald Reagan the “Teflon” president in a fit of exasperation in August 1983. What frustrated Schroeder was that nothing “stuck” to Reagan—not the recession, not his misadventures in Lebanon, not his seeming detachment from his own administration. Reagan’s job approval had plunged to a low of 35 percent at the beginning of that year, but his numbers were rising and his personal favorability remained high. “He is just the master of ceremonies at someone else’s dinner,” she said.
Ironically, the one thing that did stick to Reagan was Schroeder’s nickname. The phrase was so catchy that writers applied it to mobsters (“Teflon Don” John Gotti) and to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Teflon presidents, gangsters, candidates—we have had them all. What we have not experienced until now is a Teflon campaign.
Between March 11, when the coronavirus prompted the NBA to suspend its season, and May 14, some 84,000 Americans died of coronavirus, more than 36 million lost their jobs, and Congress appropriated $3.6 trillion in new spending. It is not foolish to suppose that these world-shaking events would affect the presidential election. On the contrary: One would expect a dramatic swing toward either the incumbent or the challenger. But look at the polls. Not only has there been no big shift. There has been no shift.
On March 11, Joe Biden led Donald Trump by 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average. On May 14, he led Trump by 5 points. “Biden’s advantage,” says Harry Enten of CNN, “is the steadiest in a race with an incumbent running since at least 1944.” He has never been behind. His share of the vote has been impervious to external events.
Neither good nor bad news has an effect. Bernie Sanders ended his campaign on April 8 and endorsed Biden on April 13. Biden received no bump from this display of party unity. Tara Reade accused Biden of sexual assault on March 25, and Biden did not respond directly to the allegation until May 1. His margin over Trump did not shrink. It remained the same.
Why? The incidents of this election cycle are not the reason. Epidemics, depressions, and sex scandals have happened before. What is distinct are the candidates. One in particular.
If this race has been the steadiest in memory, it is because public opinion of the incumbent has been the most consistent in memory. “Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post-World War II president,” notes Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight. Whatever is in the headlines matters less than one’s view of the president. And he is a subject on which most people’s views are ironclad.
When the crisis began, Trump’s approval rating was 44 percent in the RealClearPoliticsaverage. On May 14, it is 46 percent. A social and economic calamity befell the country, and Trump’s approval ticked up. Not enough for him to win, necessarily. But enough to keep him in contention.
Americans feel more strongly about Trump, either for or against, than about any other candidate since polling began. His supporters give his approval ratings a floor, and his detractors give his ratings a ceiling. There is not a lot of room in between.
For years, Trump voters have said that they are willing to overlook his faults because they believe the stakes in his victory and success are so high. Heard from less often have been Trump’s opponents, who are so desperate to see him gone that they dismiss the failings and vulnerabilities of whoever happens to be challenging him at the moment.
Recently the feminist author Linda Hirshman wrote in the New York Times that she believes Tara Reade’s story but will vote for Joe Biden anyway. “Better to just own up to what you are doing,” she wrote. “Sacrificing Ms. Reade for the good of the many.” Hirshman is the mirror-image of the Trump supporter who, as the president once said, would not be bothered if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Intensifying tribalism makes this election a nonstick surface.
What gives Biden the upper hand is that there are more people who feel negatively than positively about Donald Trump. What gives Trump a chance is the uneven distribution of these people across the country. That was the case before coronavirus. It is still the case today.
Watching the numbers hardly budge over these past months, I have sometimes wondered what could move them. War? Spiritual revival? Space aliens?
Don’t think so. Throw anything at it. Nothing adheres to this Teflon campaign.
By Red State•
The COVID-19 virus, which was effectively shipped to the U.S. and around the world from China, and the political response to the virus seem to be the lead story every day.
In this veritable flash flood of virus news coverage, one thing many media outlets have missed is the U.S. Postal Service’s release of its second quarter financials. Perhaps, Postal Service financial information sounds boring, but we must pay attention because they’ve been requesting $85 billion in what is essentially bailout funds as part of the numerous stimulus packages.
If the Postal Service gets its way, you and your children may be on the hook once again for the Postal Service’s failed business model and its refusal to get its finances in order. After all, the USPS has lost more than a billion dollars for 13 consecutive years. And it has promised time and again to revise its business model and reform itself but has not made good on that promise. As a result, they are coming back to the taxpayer asking for billions in bailouts.
Maybe the public doesn’t really care if the USPS is losing money or uses a failed business model. After all, if some local business operates inefficiently and loses money, the problem will solve itself as it will go out of business and others who perform the service or provide the product more efficiently will take its place. But that’s not how government related things work.
When a government related organization loses money and begins to fail, the taxpayer is asked to pump billions into it to keep it afloat. It refuses to change its business model or to right its financial ship because it doesn’t have to. It can go to Congress and ask for more cash. Why restructure? Why innovate? Why focus on core profitable business products? Just ask Congress to give you billions to maintain the inefficient and wasteful status quo. That’s the Postal Service’s business model.
One of the curious things revealed in the financial report is that the Post Office claims that its package delivery business is highly profitable and it experienced an almost exponential increase in its package delivery business. That should be good news. Anytime a normal business is able to sell more of its profitable goods or services, that means higher profits. But not so with the Postal Service which still claims to be losing billions. How do you dramatically increase the sale of your most profitable products and still lose money?
Separately, in regard to letter mail, the Postal Service has a government granted and enforced monopoly on First Class Mail. It is illegal for any competitor to provide a competing First Class Mail service. So naturally, the Postal Service makes a lot of money on First Class Mail. Quite frankly, if you can’t make money as a legally sanctioned monopolist, you’re horrible at what you do.
The Postal Service takes the profits from that monopoly business and uses it to compete with other private companies in the package delivery business. And despite the Postal Service’s claims, it is clearly losing a lot of money on its package delivery business. Their financial records and cost attribution practices are so poor and substandard that they can lose billions and still claim that almost all of their products, including packages, are profitable. But the bottom line can’t lie and the bottom line reveals that the Postal Service is losing its shirt in package delivery.
That may explain why a group of USPS customers have come out to support the Postal Service’s request for a taxpayer provided bailout. If you could get taxpayer subsidized shipping and thereby lower your costs, you’d be for it too. It’s just a matter of self interest.
So these companies using the Postal Service’s package delivery services are effectively asking every American to subsidize their multi-billion dollar business and help them keep their shipping costs below market rates so that they can increase their profits. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could reach into the taxpayer’s pocket to increase our salaries?
All of this is troubling. But the fact that a government sanctioned monopoly is using its monopoly profits to subsidize competition with other legitimate businesses is even more troubling. Imagine if the government set up a monopoly with guaranteed profits and then unleashed that monopoly to compete with you and used its monopoly subsidies to undercut your line of work. They could afford to lose a ton of money, but still harm your business, reduce your salary and profits, and get the taxpayer to cover their massive losses. Does that sound fair? Is that a good use of government power and taxpayer funds?
While the Postal Service claims that its package delivery service is profitable, that simply cannot be true. If it were true, as their package business grew, they would stop hemorrhaging so much money. But they haven’t stopped losing money. Every quarter, when they release their financial reports, it’s just more bad news. If you drill down in their financial information, it is clear that the Postal Service is delivering packages at a loss. But the USPS uses its profits from First Class Mail to subsidize those losses. And when their losses overwhelm their monopoly profits, they call upon the taxpayer to bail out their failed business model.
It is time for real reform at the Postal Service. It is time to stop the perpetual taxpayer bailouts. If nothing is done, next year even after COVID-19 has passed, the Postal Service will concoct another excuse to get more taxpayer bailouts. The Administration should impose meaningful reform because it is in the taxpayer’s interests for the Postal Service to get its business model and financial house in order. COVID-19 shouldn’t be used as a phony excuse to bailout failed monopolists.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives may have been stuck in their districts because of the coronavirus but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working hard on their behalf. On Tuesday she introduced the next in what’s getting to be a long line of COVID relief bills that, true to form, is loaded with tax and spending increases.
According to a quick but probably not definitive analysis of what she’s calling The Heroes Act by the good folks at Americans for Tax Reform, the Pelosi bill:
The new Pelosi bill also bails out her political allies, whether they be the cashed strapped, heavily indebted blue states like California, New York, and Illinois or cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia or her wealthy coterie of San Francisco sophisticates who probably also have freezers full of designer ice cream.
First off, she’s calling for $500 billion in funding to assist state governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus, followed by $375 billion in funding to assist local governments. Then she wants $20 billion to assist Tribal governments, $20 billion for the governments of the Territories, and an additional $755 million for the District of Columbia.
But the biggest kick of all is the two-year suspension — for 2020 and 2021 — of the elimination of the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes on federal tax returns. That deduction, called SALT by the tax policy experts, helps ease the burden of living in high cost, high tax states like California while increasing the total burden of the federal budget sitting on the shoulders of low tax and no tax states like South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. To put it another way, it’s a way to get the red states to pay for the upgraded standard of living enjoyed by blue voters in blue states.
Congress and President Donald Trump capped the deductibility of SALT in the Tax Cut and Job Acts, making everything fairer to all. Pelosi wants to undo that permanently, which is probably why her proposed suspension lasts two years — which she figures is enough time for a Biden administration to get repeal through a Democratic Congress. What’s especially galling is how no one is going to call her out on how she and her husband will personally benefit if the cap is lifted. The Pelosis stand to save a lot of money if the SALT cap comes off while many of the rest of us end up paying more. Didn’t she recently call a scheme like that where an elected official stood to profit personally from political action they’d proposed or undertaken an impeachable offense?
The United States of America is being tested acutely in the crucible of the COVID-19 emergency. This novel coronavirus outbreak has followed closely at the heels of perhaps the most grievous constitutional crisis in American history. Alternately dubbed “the Russia Collusion” or “the Russia Hoax,” this extremely well organized campaign to delegitimize the 2016 presidential election and its winner Donald J. Trump has been designed to upset the peaceful transfer of executive powers from one administration to the next.
Having started out with a huge bang and having been kept illegally alive for more than three years through the totally baseless Mueller investigation as well as the absurd impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives, which ended with an embarrassing whimper in the Senate, the attempted coup d’etat by the Democrats against the duly elected President has demonstrated the fragility of the constitutional republic vis-a-vis the nefarious quest of a determined minority for absolute power over the majority.
The only true meaning of the constitutional republic and of its accompanying system of government called democracy is that through the eligible members of the whole society, the majority elects its representatives among those candidates who would govern according to their views, traditions, and morality. Therefore, the objective of democratic elections is to determine the present and future course of a nation, according to the mentality and the ideas of the majority and not to allow a minority to “fundamentally” change, experiment with, or overthrow the practical and spiritual realms of the nation.
On November 8, 2016, the Republican Donald J. Trump beat the Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton by the electoral margin of 304 to 227. Put it simply, the majority of voters in the majority of states rejected the attempted overthrow of the constitution, its principles, and the Bible-based spiritual order of American society, with the vague notions of duplicitous social justice, fake human rights theories with their multiculturalism and non-existent “white supremacy” lies, economically destructive and baseless global warming hysteria, anti-religious revolution, and the already debunked utopian ideal of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Prior to the 2016 presidential election, in the United States of America, the loser(s) accepted the verdict of the citizenry and organized itself to remain in opposition until the next election in four years. Meanwhile, this opposition labored hard on developing ideas and policies that would meet with the approval of the majority of the electorate. Clearly, constructive opposition has confidence that those ideas and policies are sound enough to win the next presidential election. However, when the opposition does not believe that its ideas and policies are winnable, the only way to gain the coveted political power is to delegitimize, or even to attempt overthrowing the legitimately elected president and his administration. The preferred methods are pseudo-legal, outrightly illegal manipulations with the help of corrupt civil servants, and defamation of character.
The Democrat Party and its representatives have been guilty of all of the above. Moreover, to achieve their illegitimate goals, they have enlisted the unelected and corrupt heads of several intelligence agencies, the equally unelected and corrupt heads of the premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as the overwhelming majority of the written and electronic media.
In the absence of a constructive opposition, America is devoid of a political middle. What the country has is an extremely radicalized Democrat Party on the proverbial Left, with its presumptive, washed out presidential nominee. On the other side, there is a sitting President fighting for his political future amidst increasingly strong headwinds.
Meanwhile, the victim of this abysmal situation is the United States of America and its citizenry. Judging by the wave of unconstitutional measures under the guise of saving lives at all cost, the Democrat governors and their colleagues in Congress again have been pursuing criminally destructive policies, in order to damage as much as possible President Trump in particular and the Republicans in general. From arbitrary prohibitions to idiotic actions they have been pushing ultrarevolutionary socialist and communist agendas to the detriment of democracy and the rule of law. The most glaring examples have been the violations of the First, Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. While selling alcohol and drugs of all kinds as “essential” goods, churches and gun shops have been closed – supposedly for the sake of protecting the health of all Americans. Moreover, the House of Representatives, with its clueless Speaker, has been blackmailing the President and the Senate with her unrealistic economic and financial fantasies, and pursuing vehemently the release of President Trump’s tax returns. To add insult to injury, Representatives Schiff and Nadler have been searching feverishly for new phantoms, which might be grounds to impeach the President again. Finally, former President Barack Obama has shown a new small-minded and vindictive self. Attempting to destroy an American hero just because he hated him, and masterminding a coup d’etat against his successor, are vivid remainders of his true character.
Nobody is perfect. However, President Trump has been fighting against all odds to restore the constitution and the Judeo-Christian ethos of America. On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats have been waging a war against the nation, religion, and family. Their ideas and policies are bad, because they lead to faulty compromises. And bad compromises always end in bottomless vacuums, or hopeless cul-de-sacs. Yet, one could traffic in antithetical ideas but cannot play with contradictory emotions.
Tradition, religious spirituality, respect for the rule of law are the cornerstones of peace and stability in every society. Without those values, no great nation can endure long.
Harvard researchers publicly walked back Monday a key finding in a highly touted but hotly contested paper linking air pollution exposure to deaths from the novel coronavirus, slashing the estimated mortality rate in half.
The preliminary study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health made a splash when the results were announced April 7 in The New York Times, prompting alarm on the left as Democrats sought to connect COVID-19 deaths to the Trump administration’s regulatory pushback.
A few weeks later, however, its researchers quietly backtracked from their finding that people who live for decades in areas with slightly more particulate matter in the air are 15% more likely to die from the coronavirus, lowering the figure to 8%. The press release was revised Monday.
“This article was updated on May 4, 2020, based on an updated analysis from the researchers using data through April 22,” reads a footnote on the Harvard press release.
The revision came after weeks of criticism over the study’s modeling and analysis. Tony Cox, a University of Colorado Denver mathematics professor and chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, said the model used to derive the 8% figure had “no basis in reality.”
“The model has not been validated and its assumptions are unrealistic,” said Mr. Cox, who heads the advanced analytics consulting firm Cox Associates. “In layman’s terms, it assumes an unrealistic effect of fine particulate matter on deaths, and then with that assumption built into the model, it uses data to estimate how big that unrealistic effect is. They’re making an assumption that has no basis in reality.”
JunkScience’s Steve Milloy said the Harvard paper is “not just junk science, it’s scientific fraud.”
The judge’s temporary restraining order sets the stage in Illinois and perhaps nationally for a legal battle over public health experts’ far-reaching demands for public confinement.
In one of the nation’s first successful legal challenges to mandatory quarantine directives, an Illinois state judge has thrown a wrench into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extension of his stay-at-home order until at least May 30.
The judge’s temporary restraining order sets the stage in Illinois and perhaps nationally for a legal battle over public health experts’ far-reaching demands for public confinement against the rising fear about the drastic consequences of a nationwide economic shutdown.
In the case, Downstate Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney on Monday temporarily restrained Pritzker from enforcing the lockdown order against state Rep. Darren Bailey, a Downstate Republican from tiny rural Xenia. Bailey sued Pritzker for violating a provision of the state Emergency Management Act that allows such drastic closure actions for only 30 days. Because Pritzker originally issued his order on March 8, Pritzker’s authority expired on April 8, Bailey argued.
Bailey said he is “irreparably harmed each day he is subjected to” Pritzker’s executive order. In a statement, he said, “Enough is enough! I filed this lawsuit on behalf of myself and my constituents who are ready to go back to work and resume a normal life.” The judge cited in his order Bailey’s right, in “his liberty interest to be free from Pritzker’s executive order of quarantine in his own home’
The suit follows an argument made earlier made by Northbrook, Illinois attorney Michael Ciesla, who first pointed out on his law firm blog how Pritzker’s extension violated the 30-day provision and that even the governor is required to follow the law. Ciesla’s argumentation was widely ignored while Pritzker, Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Chicago media scorned or dismissed the suit as a cheap political stunt.
So when McHaney saw enough merit in the lawsuit to issue an injunction against the extension, Pritzker and Lightfoot claimed the action threatens everyone’s health. But they utterly failed to address the heart of the lawsuit—the plain language of the act that clearly lays out the 30-day restriction.
Technically the decision applies only to Bailey, but legal experts agree that the precedent gives weight to any Illinoisan who chooses to challenge the order. Just how seriously Pritzker and Lightfoot take the decision can be measured by the depth of their denunciations.
Pritzker warned that if his order were immediately lifted “people would die” and deaths would “shoot into the thousands by the end of May…. Our hospitals would be full, and very sick people would have nowhere to go.” Lightfoot called the decision “troubling and wrong” and despite it would continue her lockdown policies “to stay the course.”
The “course” is some of the country’s most stringent controls, such as Lightfoot’s closing of parks and other outdoor activities. Pritzker’s new order, effective May 1, would among other things require everyone in Illinois to wear a face mask outdoors, while including some modifications such as opening state parks.
Bailey says he was hoping to push Pritzker into creating a “more realistic plan” reflecting the fact that Illinois is such a diverse region, requiring different approaches for the mostly rural Downstate and metropolitan Chicago. Bailey’s hometown of Xenia has a population of 364. It’s located about 100 miles east of St. Louis in Clay County, which has recorded just two confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths.
Chicago’s Cook County has 31,953 confirmed cases and 1,347 deaths, but the most feared outcome hasn’t materialized. The city’s sprawling exhibition hall, McCormick Place, had been fitted with 3,000 emergency beds to handle the expected overflow from jammed hospitals, but because of low usage, 2,000 beds are now being removed.
Tensions between the state’s two regions are an historic constant. Most recently those differences show up in a growing movement by Downstaters to separate Chicago from the rest of the state. In this, Illinois is but a microcosm of how heavily infected, urbanized New York and vast swathes of Middle America are vastly different and require tailored approaches in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It also reflects the argument—opposed by many liberals—that the fight is best carried on the local level.
Illinois’ regional differences will play out in an expected high-speed appeal of McHaney’s stay. The Downstate appeals court that would hear the case is dominated by Republicans, who, being elected, would not be expected to overturn McHaney’s decision. The Illinois Supreme Court, which could hear the appeal directly, is controlled by Democrats, and considered likely to ultimately back Pritzker.
Still, with growing sentiment that the various shutdown orders have gone too far, with increasing public protests against the restrictions, crushing unemployment, and the unease that epidemiologists and their models are running the country, what’s happening in Illinois could presage even more objections to unprecedented assaults on liberty.
Fear is a powerful driver of public policy.
Ordinarily, that is not greatly troubling. We have speed limits, food sanitation laws, and many other regulations based on rational fear of harm.
Sometimes in extreme circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, fear is so pronounced that it leads government officials to declare an emergency, which under various enacted laws expands their powers to meet the crisis.
We have probably all been surprised, even before the pandemic, at the number of emergency powers Congress has extended over the years to the president. Likewise, governors and even mayors have exercised sweeping emergency powers in the face of the public health crisis.
But are those powers still bound by the Constitution, or do government’s constitutional powers expand in times of emergency? This question has been fiercely debated in presidencies spanning from Lincoln’s to Trump’s.
Few questions of constitutional law have categorical answers, but this one does: In our constitutional republic, emergencies do not expand the boundaries of constitutional authority.
The U.S. Constitution bestows enumerated powers upon Congress and the president. By its text, only one power expands in emergency: the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended in time of rebellion or invasion. The remaining powers and limits are firmly set.
Likewise, the individual rights enumerated in the Constitution do not contain emergency exceptions.
For states, the matter is somewhat different. As the organic units of American government, the states alone inherently possess the “police power” to regulate for public health and safety. By virtue of the Tenth Amendment, those powers not expressly delegated to the national government remain with the states or the people. Local governments, in turn, derive their powers from the state.
But state powers are not without limits: not only does the U.S. Constitution protect individual rights against abuses by state and local governments, but state constitutions provide greater protections of individual rights and stricter constraints on government power than do their national counterpart.
Two U.S. Supreme Court cases from the last century illustrate the debate over the expansion of government power in emergencies and its ultimate resolution. The first is one of the most reviled and discredited cases in the history of American jurisprudence: Korematsu v. United States.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, acting on his powers as commander in chief of the armed forces and later authorized by Congress, issued an order allowing exclusion of people from certain domestic military zones. In turn this led to military orders requiring internment of Japanese-Americans. Twenty-three-year-old Fred Korematsu refused to leave his home and was forcibly removed.
By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the internment as a “military imperative” based on reasonable fear: “There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short.”
The “compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes,” the majority recognized, ordinarily “is inconsistent with our basic governmental institutions.” But the perceived emergency expanded the government’s constitutional powers: When “our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger.”
In a dissenting opinion that Justice Antonin Scalia would later say was his favorite ever written, Justice Robert H. Jackson acknowledged the exigencies of war, but rejected the notion that constitutional rights shrink in their shadow. Jackson believed that the order, based on national origin, violated the due process rights of those forced to leave their homes. But he took the longer view: “a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order,” he urged, “is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the order itself.”
Jackson reasoned that the military order, noxious though it was, would expire with the perceived emergency. “But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution,” Jackson warned, “the principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a claim of an urgent need.”
The appeal of a strong response to crisis can be so alluring that both Justice Hugo Black, a fervent constitutionalist, and Justice William O. Douglas, a renowned civil libertarian, joined the Korematsu majority. But both justices may have experienced buyers’ remorse, because only eight years later they joined another 6-3 majority, this time expressly repudiating the notion of boundless executive power in time of crisis.
In the midst of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman feared that a threatened national strike would shut down the vital steel industry. Rather than use authority provided by Congress to avert the strike, Truman issued an order seizing the steel companies and requiring company managers to operate them to supply the war effort.
Truman defended his orders as commander in chief and under the president’s inherent powers. In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the Court rejected those arguments. “In the framework of our Constitution,” the Court declared, “the President’s power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker.”
This time Justice Jackson was in the majority. He noted that when the president acts pursuant to congressional authority, his power is at its apex—but even then it is bound by the Constitution. As commander in chief, he controls its military forces, Jackson wrote, but is not thereby “also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants,” and must exercise his powers “consistent with a constitutional republic.”
As to inherent presidential authority, Jackson observed, this was “something the forefathers omitted” from the Constitution. They “knew what an emergency was, knew the pressures they engender, knew, too, how they afford a ready pretext for usurpation,” Jackson argued. “We may also suspect that they suspected that emergency powers would tend to kindle emergencies.”
The president’s order, Jackson concluded, “represents an exercise of authority without law.” Truman promptly returned control of the steel companies to their owners.
The Youngstown steel case and others like it illustrate the principle that emergency powers, though broad and often justified by law, are always limited by the Constitution. Whether a constitution for a free people will endure is measured by its vitality in times of crisis; and so far, thankfully, ours has withstood many challenges. Still, the debate over whether constitutional powers expand in emergency persists.
But those seeking to invoke the expansive presidential power articulated in Korematsu are out of luck. In 2018, when the Supreme Court divided bitterly over presidential authority in a case called Trump v. Hawaii, all nine justices agreed on one thing: after nearly 75 years, Korematsu should be relegated to the jurisprudential dustbin. As Chief Justice John Roberts aptly put it, “Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided.” And so was its notion of unbounded executive power.
Here comes the 'dumb reopening'
Very soon, you and I will have to figure out how to navigate a semi-open America where coronavirus is a terrible fact of life. The lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that state and city governments announced in March are breaking down. This is not red-versus-blue. This is reality. Two weeks ago, Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp faced widespread criticism for his easing of restrictions on business and outdoor activities, even as Colorado’s Democratic governor Jared Polis did the same thing. Now most states are joining in.
In the past few days, California’s Gavin Newsom has said he will begin relaxing parts of his statewide directives, and so has Virginia’s Ralph Northam. Maryland’s Larry Hogan has announced that residents of his state will be able to undergo non-emergency medical procedures and play a round of golf. Newsom, Northam, and Hogan are not the sort of politicians likely to be swayed by a “Lockdown Rebellion” protest. The governors have been led to these decisions by the realization that blanket limitations on individual behavior have done about the best they could do.
States imposed these rules to “bend the curve” of infection so that the medical system did not become overwhelmed. The policy worked, up to a point. New York City, where Ground Zero has taken on another, equally horrible meaning, avoided the nightmare Italian scenario in which doctors had to deny care to some in order to save others. Nationwide, the curve was not so much bent as flattened. The seven-day average of cases and deaths peaked in April. It has since leveled off, and tapered somewhat. Some 1,700 deaths per day for the near future is an awful statistic to contemplate. Especially because other democracies—Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand—were able to bring the disease under control.
America is not like them. Three are islands, and the fourth, Korea, is surrounded on three sides by water and on one side by the DMZ. America is also much bigger. We have six times the population of South Korea, and many more times the people of Australia, Taiwan, and New Zealand. We are a more diverse and less cohesive society. Our system of government is designed for inefficiency, to better protect individual liberty. Our bureaucracies show it.
America was unprepared. Unlike the smaller Asian democracies, America did not experience and thus did not learn from the SARS outbreak of 2003. George W. Bush’s 2005 warning was ignored. The sense of invulnerability that comes with living between two oceans, and with allies to the north and south, was once again exposed as an illusion. Leaders at every level of government—federal, state, local—downplayed the threat until it was too late. The desperate circumstances forced us to use the bluntest tool available: shutdown.
The lockdowns were necessary. They were also unsustainable. Americans, so accustomed to freedom, were bound to chafe at being told what to do. Justified fear of coronavirus devastated the food and beverage, travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors. The economic toll could persist just for so long before it became unbearable. Nor are public health, personal freedom, and economics the only competing values in this emergency. Spiritual life has been harmed. For people living alone, the social and psychological costs of prolonged isolation can be traumatic. For children, extended separation from friends and socializing experiences will have unknown consequences.
The lockdowns are precarious. Therapeutics are in the trial-and-error phase. A vaccine, if one can be found, is many months away. What’s needed is a means of bridging the gap between pandemic and immunity.
The epidemiologists’ preferred strategy is test, trace, and isolate. That is how our fellow democracies suppressed the outbreak. It will be harder for us. The scale of testing required for the plan to work is massive. At the current rate of increase, it will take us months to achieve. There are also supply problems to consider and logistical obstacles to surmount. It’s not a matter of snapping one’s fingers. Frontline medical personnel, for example, continue to identify shortages of personal protective equipment months into the crisis.
Amassing the significant labor force necessary for “contact tracing” might not be too difficult in a time of mass unemployment. What will be harder to overcome are the legitimate worries Americans will have over violations of privacy. Not to mention how they might respond to the techniques of “isolation.” Checking oneself into a government-approved corona-hotel requires a deference to authority and devaluing of autonomy that runs against the American grain. We have enough trouble getting folks to wear masks.
John Cochrane of Stanford’s Hoover Institution calls the expert recommendations a “smart reopening.” He also says it is unlikely to happen. Instead, we are in for a “dumb reopening,” where people tentatively resume patterns of life resembling normality until they hear of rising infections in their area and reduce social contact voluntarily, causing a decline in new cases. “There are hundreds of little behaviors each of us take that push the reproduction rate around.” Think of a turtle retreating to his shell.
It is astonishing (and frightening) to consider that, despite our technology and wealth, America seems fated to respond to the coronavirus much in the same way it responded to the Spanish influenza a century ago: stop and go, in fits and starts, a 3,007-county patchwork of closings and re-openings and more closings, where individual responsibility and self-discipline matter as much as, if not more than, bureaucratic fiat. A “dumb reopening” would not suppress the disease, but it might provide a chance to address some of the economic, social, religious, cultural, and psychological damage that the coronavirus has wrought. And, given the recent decisions by officials both Republican and Democratic, a “dumb reopening” lies ahead. Whether we like it or not.
Important to get our priorities straight
There appear to be two major stories contending for coverage by the press and the attention of Congress at the moment, both related to the COVID-19 pandemic: the economic recovery and the culpability of China in the escalation of the coronavirus from a potentially local tragedy to an international pandemic.
On the one hand, the USA faces an almost insurmountable challenge to restore our recently booming economy from the depths of a Depression-like crash. On the other hand is the primal need to find a culprit for all the pain, sorrow, and deprivation we — and the rest of the world — have suffered in fighting this evil scourge and to punish that source accordingly. The issue at hand is how to accommodate both needs at the same time.
This issue arises because the two factors are on a collision course. The facts are increasingly obvious. While the federal government appropriately pursues an intensive investigation of the precise sequence of events in the discovery and dissemination of this strain of coronavirus, evidence from outside sources is rapidly emerging that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) consciously, deliberately, and with malice of forethought concealed from the rest of the world its early experiences with the outbreak of the plague and then schemed to spread the virus to all parts of the world. The motivation for this policy is not clear, although the working hypothesis is that the leadership was not about to suffer a severe economic catastrophe while the rest of the world looked on from the safety of having escaped the same fate.
The result of this news has been a surge of rage on the part of Americans, fueled principally by press accounts of these discoveries and speculation, some informed and some not so much. Responding to this national outrage, some Senators (the Republican Senate is in session and functioning while the Democrat House is still in its lengthy recess) have started proposing punitive measures against China. The attraction of this issue is obvious: it is emotional, not overly complicated and, most of all, potentially non-partisan. “Potentially” because there are close ties between leading Democrats, especially presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joseph Biden, and China. In general, the Dems have been less aggressive on this issue than have the Republicans.
Compared to the progress in re-opening the American economy, the “blame China” issue is pretty straightforward. Economic recovery is proving complicated, spotty, and dangerous. The best summary comes from Governor Michael DeWine (R-Ohio), considered one of the most competent governors in the country.
“There is a risk in either direction”, says Governor DeWine. “The risk of re-opening the economy is the re-emergence of the pandemic. The risk of maintaining the strict mitigation is a prolonged Depression. So, my solution is to re-open CAREFULLY AND SAFELY.” (Fox News, 5/10/20).
There are now emerging a number of second guesses as to what the Public Health experts recommended (as this column predicted on March 22 (see “Trump’s Huge Gamble”). Prominent among medical critics has been the idea that the “shelter in place” requirement should have been applied only to the most vulnerable, namely to those over 65, and all who suffer from “underlying conditions”. Of course, these demographic details were not known when the shutdown was first announced. Little details like this do not stop the critics, however. Nor does the fact that immunity for young people does not appear as universal today as it once did.
The most common critique is that adopted by some Democrats, namely, that the strict mitigation policies should be continued much longer. But there are many areas in America, mostly the less densely populated regions, which are in fact relatively untouched (so far) by the pandemic.
Thus, the recovery is spotty, uncertain, and carries its share of danger. But so does every alternative. Like Governor DeWine, most of America is slowly, carefully venturing out of our self-imposed quarantine. Except the elderly and victims of “underlying conditions”. It seems apparent that the overwhelming need and desire of Americans is to get back to work – in spite of the risks. The final judgement, of course, will come from the American people who will vote with their feet
These risks are serious enough without adding to them the risk of alienating China. There are reasons to put aside our worse fears and anger at the recent behavior of the CCP until this current economic disaster has been put in the rearview mirror. Some of the reasons are:
1) We are still in a major trade agreement with China to provide billions in exports, most notably from American farmers. In addition, many of the intellectual property issues — our most important reason for negotiating with China – are yet to be resolved. It is vital to our national interests to disengage our technologies and our supply chains from Chinese control.
2) China still holds a significant portion of America’s national debt ($1.05 Trillion as of February 15, 2020). Although this holding represents a small percentage of America’s sovereign debt (5%), the Federal Reserve is going to market right now with an additional issue of several trillions of US dollars to cover the cost of the pandemic. This is not a good time to antagonize China into selling its US bonds at a discount just to make us suffer more.
3) China is a powerful, unpredictable rival for world domination. The Chinese also are very jealous of their international influence – and their massive financial stake in so many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and South America.
Even aside from humanitarian considerations, this is not a good time for us to provoke China. It is a time to return to the rapport we had before coronavirus and conclude our trade talks, disengage our technology and our supply chains from dependence on China – and save our anger for another day.
Not a moment too soon, the reopening of America has begun.
When the coronavirus crisis began, and the nation’s governors began to order the closure of factories, restaurants, parks, beaches and other public accommodations, very few of us thought we’d have to endure an eight-week long period of self-quarantine. Somehow, the impetus to “flatten the curve” to prevent the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed, as the direst forecasts said possible, mutated into a push for continued isolation while the virus was active.
No one signed up for that. Americans are instinctively a free people who, more than less, would rather the government leave them alone. The crackdown on commingling reached levels in Michigan, California, Illinois and other states that made many uncomfortable with the exercises of police powers on display and the threats from elected officials. Hopefully, those who exceeded their authority will face a day of electoral reckoning sometime in the future while the rest of us get busy rebuilding our lives and our savings. We’re not out of the woods, by any means, but some things are getting better.
What’s not getting better is the financial outlook for the U.S. government. Washington has shoveled so much money out the door since the coronavirus pandemic started that it’s hard to imagine it will ever be repaid. It will be, for the most part, just like the outlays from the savings and loan industry bailout of the 1980s and the 2008 TARP bailout were eventually recouped. What matters now is that Congress put the brakes on spending, a message House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to be getting.
Rather than stop and evaluate the effect of what’s already been done, she’s at work putting together a bill with an estimated $2.5 trillion price tag that, among other things, reportedly contains provisions allowing people who are not working to receive a generous stipend from the U.S. government. And that’s on top of a provision in an earlier relief bill that ended up allowing people to draw more in unemployment than they had been making on the job.
As Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal and other publications have reported, that’s making it awfully hard to get people to come back to work. And if people are coming back to work with one out of every five Americans out of a job according to the latest figures, the recovery we hoped would take off like a rocket is going to stay on the launchpad for far too long.
Pelosi’s plan to give people even more money is a bad idea. There may be some who need it, perhaps even badly, but their interests do not and cannot be allowed to outweigh the interests of those who kept working during the crisis or who want to get back to work. The government shouldn’t hold people’s hands like mommy walking a child to school on the first day. It should just get out of the way.
The South Dakota governor rejected the mandatory government-forced shutdown. Now, the media claim her decisions were made out of emotion and naked ambition, not courage.
As the Coronavirus spread from Wuhan, China, to the United States, most governors quickly acquiesced to the media’s demand that they force a governmental shutdown of their states in order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. The media continue to be heavily invested in the shutdown model, even as the country realizes that hospitals are nowhere close to being overwhelmed and, in fact, many hospital systems are furloughing doctors and nurses due to the mandatory cessation on handling most non-COVID-19 cases.
With the predicted hospital demands being dramatically off, the media’s goalposts have shifted violently from demanding a shutdown to “flatten the curve” of exponential growth that would overwhelm hospitals to demanding a continued shutdown to lower the number of COVID-19 deaths, no matter the consequences, including long-term economic damage, serious harm to the food supply, or death from other causes. While the media generally praise “government shutdown” politicians such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who kept unsanitary subways running, forced people into deadly nursing homes, and demanded tens of thousands of ventilators he never used — they condemn politicians such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has strongly encouraged social distancing measures but not used government force to accomplish public health goals. The media predicted that Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ more measured approach would result in horrific disaster. It hasn’t. Unlike Cuomo, DeSantis focused on nursing homes more than the low likelihood of transmission on big, sunny beaches.
The media sense that they will face less scrutiny for their preferred policy position if they can remove sane alternative policy approaches from the table. To that end, Noem and others who reject the mandatory, long-term, government-forced shutdown model as the preferred option for their states must be condemned. The media aren’t uniform in condemning alternate policy approaches, it should be noted. Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is one of the media’s enemies for encouraging phased reopening of his state while Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, who is following the same approach, has not received similar media hatred.
Whether it relates to sexual harassment claims, or Coronavirus policies, the media play by two different sets of rules. To get good coverage as a Republican, in this and all other storylines, one must typically condemn conservatives or President Donald Trump. Just ask Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, or Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for more details on how to secure friendlier media coverage.
MSNBC’s histrionic Rachel Maddow devoted nearly a week of programming to condemning Noem in mid-April, around the time the Washington Post ran a piece of panic pornography headlined, “South Dakota’s governor resisted ordering people to stay home. Now it has one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hot spots.”
The article, which was tweeted out by the New York Times’ Ken Vogel, CNN’s Jake Tapper, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and many others, was written at the time that South Dakota had 6 deaths. As of May 3, the number had risen to 21. The outbreak was at a Smithfield pork processing facility that even the most stringent of state lockdowns would have deemed an essential business to allow to keep open in preservation of the country’s food supply.
Modelers predicted South Dakota would need 10,000 beds if no government order were put in place and nothing were done to stop the spread of Coronavirus. While no government stay-at-home order has been put in place and Noem has simply encouraged citizens of the state to make good decisions, the latest prediction is that the state will need a peak total of 127 beds on June 20. Noem argues that this shows her state’s population is properly practicing social distancing. The state was one of the first to launch a contact tracing application as well.
The latest media attack on Noem comes from out-of-state reporter Thomas Beaumont, filing from Iowa, and his colleague Stephen Groves, both of the Associated Press. It’s a bizarre piece. The article begins with an unflattering photograph of Noem, a difficult feat given how attractive the governor is. (Noem was rated the most beautiful member of Congress when she served in the House.)
The two men who wrote the article purport to get into the governor’s mind and ascertain that her policy goals are driven not by her leadership or rational decision making but by emotion and naked ambition. It is unclear why they believe they’re qualified to perform this type of analysis, much less how these men developed their theories about this woman’s political path. Courageous leadership is certainly a way to stand out, but comes with extremely high risk in our media environment, as articles such as this attest. It would seem that a more ambitious politician would attempt to find safety in the herd. They admit that the media politically oppose the governor but suggest that they’re not alone, “It’s not just the media who have questioned her approach,” they write.
The two men cite the mayor of Sioux Falls as a prominent Noem critic. They repeatedly cite the talking point that Mayor Paul TenHaken called for “sweeping stay-at-home orders,” which was true a few weeks ago. They do not note that he has since declined to institute a stay-at-home order for his own city, even after saying he was going to do soin mid-April.
During a historically tough year for Republicans, Noem’s winning of the state most politically famous for having previously produced Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle is redefined as “She won the governor’s office with just 51 percent of the vote in 2018.” Her opponent, the reporters forget to mention, was an extremely popular state senate leader.
Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that a Tax Foundation analysis shows that South Dakota has the lowest percentage in the country of a state’s workforce filing unemployment claims. Nowhere in the article is last week’s parade in honor of the governor mentioned. The parade featured hundreds of cars, and one horse.
The article has a few other factual problems. Without evidence, and in the face of contrary evidence, it suggests Noem is following Trump’s lead on mandatory shutdowns. His comments have been inconsistent but his administration has strongly supported government shutdowns and he himself has condemned Kemp for attempting to restart his state’s economy. The article falsely claims that there is no evidence that the veteran malaria drug is effective for Coronavirus treatment. While the effectiveness is hotly debated by doctors and researchers, multiple perspectives have evidence in support of their claims.
For her part, Noem seems unlikely to be bullied by media. In a Coronavirus update at the end of April, she told citizens, “As governor, I did not dictate to the people of South Dakota, tell people which activities are officially approved or not, or begin arresting, ticketing, or fining people for exercising their rights. Nor am I doing that today. I will, however, continue to lead and help South Dakota navigate a path forward in this uniquely difficult and challenging time.”
Noem praised the prudent decision making of the people of South Dakota in the face of a global pandemic, saying it was them that make the state great, not the government. “The people of South Dakota are the source of the power and legitimacy of our government – not the media, not politicians and not political parties. That’s a healthy perspective for any elected official to keep in mind.”