“We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask — not as a burden but as a patriotic duty to protect one another,” declared Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at last week’s Democratic National Convention. Biden’s plan to impose a federal gag order on all Americans symbolizes the Democratic Party’s embrace of failed pandemic policies that could inflict far more damage on Americans’ prosperity and freedom.
Nobody has asked Biden why the same mask rules should apply to New York City subway riders and to Iowa farmers. Imposing the same muzzle on all of America’s 3,000+ counties – most of which now have very few COVID cases – makes no sense. But Biden apparently believes that this “security theater” mandate would comfort Americans still waiting for a rescue from Washington.
In an ABC News interview last Friday, Biden was asked, “Are you going to force [everyone] to wear a mask?” Biden replied: “This isn’t about freedom, it’s about freedom for your, your neighbors … This is … the first time I’ve ever heard people say that doing something patriotic you can save other people’s lives, impacts on their freedom. Come on. Give me a break.”
For Biden, any presumed benefit from government edicts to curb COVID infections makes freedom irrelevant. This is why Biden endorsed a national “stay-at-home” dictate in March, declaring “Why would we not err on the side of making sure that we are not going to have a repeat?” The fact that placing most of the nation under house arrest inflicted vast collateral damage was irrelevant. Biden also called for suspending rent payments for three months: “Freeze it and forgive it so you’re able to stay in that place.” Biden neglected to cite which provision of the Constitution empowers the federal government to suspend rent in tens of millions of rental dwellings.
ABC News’ David Muir asked Biden last Friday how he would respond if scientists urged him to repeat the lockdowns that most states imposed earlier this year. Biden replied, “I would shut [America] down, I would listen to the scientists.” Biden justified that heavy-handed policy: “In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing and people employed, you have to fix the virus, you have to deal with the virus.” Biden did not reconcile prohibiting economic activity and getting “the economy growing and people employed.”
Biden learned nothing from the disastrous shutdowns earlier this year, when millions of Americans were effectively placed under house arrest. Those lockdowns were far more effective at destroying 14 million jobs than preventing the spread of COVID-19 to more than five million Americans. As a Wall Street Journal analysis published on Monday noted, “Many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression.” As a result of the lockdowns and other restrictions, “We’re on the cusp of an economic catastrophe,” warned Harvard University economist James Stock.
The “stay-at-home” decrees earlier this year were justified by mortality predictions on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization that were 50 times higher than the rate experienced in the United States. But most of the media still presumes that the lockdown dictates were legitimate because they were based on “science and data” – regardless that the epidemiological forecasts were even more inaccurate than the 2016 election predictions.
States with Democratic governors have been more aggressive in imposing and perpetuating COVID lockdowns. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who was rumored to be Biden’s personal pick for vice president, imposed some of the most severe restrictions, prohibiting anyone from leaving their home to visit family or friends. Whitmer prohibited “all public and private gatherings of any size” and also prohibited purchasing seeds for spring planting in stores after she decreed that a “nonessential” activity. (Purchasing state lottery tickets was still an “essential” activity.) COVID-19 infections were concentrated in the Detroit metropolitan area, but Whitmer shut down the entire state – including northern counties with near-zero infections and zero fatalities, boosting unemployment to 24% statewide.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, also a Democrat, banned her state’s four million residents from leaving their homes except for essential work, buying food, and other narrow exemptions, and also banned all recreational travel. At that point, six Oregon counties had only one confirmed COVID-19 case, and most of the state had minimal infections. But schools, businesses, and other activities were slammed shut by government command. Almost 400,000 Oregonians lost their jobs after Brown’s shutdown.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, yet another Democrat, justified shutting down his state’s economy and confining almost everyone to their homes based on a simple formula: “If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” At the time of Cuomo’s decree, five or fewer people had tested positive for coronavirus in most counties in New York State. The governor entitled himself to freeze the lives and movement of 20 million people, subverting their efforts to provide for themselves and their families purportedly to save “one life.”
And the self-proclaimed immaculate intentions of politicians absolved them for any harm they inflicted. Cuomo callously compelled nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients, a policy that contributed to more than 10,000 nursing home deaths in his state. Pennsylvania Health Czar Rachel Levine issued a similar order, contributing to thousands of nursing home deaths, and then removed her own 95-year-old mother from a nursing home to keep her safe. According to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Democratic governors in Michigan, California, and New Jersey imposed similar policies to compel nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients. Nationwide, nursing home residents account for almost half of COVID-19 fatalities.
School shutdowns are another COVID-19 policy that have inflicted far more damage than most Americans realize. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis headlined, “The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work,” noted, “In many places, lots of students simply didn’t show up online, and administrators had no good way to find out why not … Soon many districts weren’t requiring students to do any work at all, increasing the risk that millions of students would have big gaps in their learning.” Barely half of Los Angeles students “participated daily in online learning during the spring” school COVID-19 shutdown. An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that only “one in three school districts expected teachers to provide instruction, track student engagement, or monitor academic progress for all students.”
Democratic candidates are endlessly denouncing America’s “systemic racism” this year, but they ignore how school shutdowns are devastating minorities. The CDC warned that “the lack of in-person educational options disproportionately harms low-income and minority children.” An analysis by McKinsey and Company consultants “estimated that if schools were entirely online until January, on average white students would lose six months of learning, Hispanic students nine months, Black students 10 months and low-income students more than a year during the time school buildings have closed for the pandemic,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
Will a Biden administration “solve” that problem by making it a federal offense for a school system to flunk a minority student after the COVID-19 shutdowns end?
As with the shutdown of the economy, the school shutdowns were a disaster that never needed to happen. Britain has done the largest scientific study in the world and concluded that there is little risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools. But that does nothing to deter teacher union demands to keep schools closed while teachers continue pocketing full pay.
Biden insists that “we’re going to follow the science” for fighting COVID-19. But many states relied on wildly-inaccurate “scientific” forecasts that paved the way to economic disaster. Incompetent CDC scientists contaminated key samples for creating a test in February, and Food and Drug Administration scientist-bureaucrats continue to block innovative private testing. If scientists tell Biden that everyone needs the newly-approved COVID-19 vaccine, would he declare a national emergency and force every American to get injected?
In the name of fighting COVID-19, would Biden turn Americans’ lives into an endless TSA security checkpoint with unlimited commands and degradation and pointless groveling? If the COVID-19 infection rate does not fall to zero, would Biden claim that justified imposing the Australian-style crackdown – dictating an 8 p.m. curfew, banning all weddings, and prohibiting people from traveling more than three miles from their homes or from buying more than two packages of toilet paper?
America cannot afford a president who pretends to be a viral King Canute, whose edicts will instantly make a pandemic recede. The COVID-19 shutdowns will likely be viewed as one of the greatest political debacles in modern American history. But Joe Biden believes that all that is necessary to keep Americans safe is a bigger federal iron fist.
James Bovard is the author of “Attention Deficit Democracy,” “The Bush Betrayal,” “Terrorism and Tyranny,” and other books. Bovard is on the USA Today Board of Contributors. He is on Twitter at @jimbovard. His website is at www.jimbovard.com