In the years when the United States fought Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, life became radically different for everyone. Food was rationed. Supply chains were interrupted. Manufacturing plants, that previously made things Americans wanted, were turned into armaments producers. Millions of young men were drafted and sent off to fight. Hundreds of thousands would never return, and many more would be changed forever by the physical and mental toll. Many women who might have previously stayed home went to work to replace the men on the battlefield. Society was altered and life was different in countless ways from the way things were before December 7, 1941, and yet most Americans were on the same page, reading and acting from the same playbook, united in one common goal.
Today, America faces an altogether different kind of enemy, and our leaders hope to garner the same national spirit we had back then. The way they have chosen to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has certainly altered society in similar but arguably even broader ways than Americans experienced during the Second World War. Yet, today there are strands of unrest, of pushback that only promises to increase the longer things continue. Despite what the media claims, these protests against draconian stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and closures aren’t simply based on the desire to get out of the house, get a haircut, and eat at one’s favorite restaurant. At the root, they’re based on perceived governmental overreach that doesn’t seem justified as data rolls in telling us the “enemy” isn’t all it has been cracked up to be.
Surely, even those who have lost their livelihoods and their freedoms in one fell swoop could understand and abide by measures, even draconian ones, that made sense in light of the best data available. But for those of us who study this issue and keep track of more than just the hysteria and fearmongering, little about the ongoing coronavirus response makes sense, and that unsettling reality only continues to grow as each day of our continued imprisonment passes. In fact, there are so many inconsistencies on so many levels that attempting to explore several of the most blatant will take two columns instead of one.
Here are the first three:
Let’s fight this ant infestation … by burning down the house
If the literal black plague were sweeping through America wiping out wide swaths of the population, everyone would understand that draconian preventative measures would need to be taken. When people were falling over in Wuhan, Italy’s weak hospital system was getting overwhelmed, and people thought the kill rate for this thing was up to five percent of those infected and that millions could die, few argued with the initial shutdown response, even if some quibbled on the specifics.
However, now that those death rates have been revised down to between .01 and .05 percent of those infected, or slightly higher than the flu, we’re CONTINUING to act like it’s the literal black plague. As the great Walter Williams writes in this brilliant column, there are cost/benefits to every action. We don’t have a five mph speed limit even though it would save tens of thousands of lives because too many other key cogs would be negatively affected. We don’t shut down the country for the flu for the same reason. Yet, somehow, this virus merits an entirely different reaction, one based on our initial apocalyptic beliefs.
The best way to ‘fight’ this enemy, we’re constantly told, is by maintaining strict social distancing measures and shutting down every possible aspect of our economy, then printing and distributing trillions in handouts to ensure compliance. Do this for an indefinite (and seemingly ever-expanding) period of time, we’re told, and we can beat back the coronavirus and “save lives.” But what about the increasing evidence that such lockdown measures do not actually save lives? And what about the countless lives that a second Great Depression would ruin, and the inevitable deaths that occur in a poverty-stricken nation? Apparently, those are simply collateral damage.
Let’s get hospitals ready to fight COVID-19 … by bankrupting them
I’m no Richard Burr, but when all this started I do remember thinking how awesome it would be to have a few extra thousand to put into healthcare stocks. Surely, even if everything else tanked, the one industry that would be hopping everywhere would be anything healthcare-related, or so the line of thinking went. As things turned out, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t have that extra cash. While hospitals in New York City and other large hard-hit metro areas were strained to the brink of capacity, the rest dropped everything to prepare for an onslaught that never came. “Essential services,” including pain-relieving and life-altering joint replacements, were banned, resulting in budget shortfalls and massive staff layoffs that will have devastating long-term effects on the rest of the nation’s health. Indeed, as Rick Jackson opined for Newsweek, many could end up closing for good. Apparently, Obama was wrong. Catching the ‘rona is the only way any of us get to keep our healthcare.
Let’s take care of unemployed people … by making sure they don’t want to go back to work
Sure, the people affected by these government-enforced shutdowns should be made whole, but when legislators added an additional $600 per week to almost everyone’s unemployment benefits, several senators (and at least one plucky Townhall columnist) warned that this could have dire consequences to getting things moving again. “Let’s pay people more than they would be making at work to stay at home,” our overlords told us. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Already, one small business owner has spoken out about her own employees’ resentment after she took out a PPP loan to keep them on the payroll. By daring to try and keep her business afloat, she’s costing them money. How hard will recruiting be for everything from restaurants to manufacturing facilities when hundreds of thousands are on the couch ‘till the end of July ‘making’ more than they ever would have actually working? As things begin to reopen, we’re about to find out.
There are plenty more where these came from. I’ll get to those next time!
Follow Scott on Twitter @SKMorefield