A prolonged shutdown will not just hurt our economy – it will cost us lives as well.
April 22, 2020
ITEM #1: “This is not a matter of weighing lives against our economy. We’re weighing lives against lives.”
That’s a point that’s been often ignored in the ongoing commentary on the coronavirus crisis, but it’s a crucial one, and it’s one that Morning in Nevada PAC President and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt makes in a recent op-ed for Nevada Business.
Discussion of the outbreak that considers both its public-health threat as well as its economic impact has generally framed the issue as an either/or scenario. It assumes we must choose between saving people’s lives on the one hand, and protecting our economy on the other — when the reality is that a prolonged economic crisis will cost us lives as well.
In his op-ed, Laxalt warns of the economic calamity, and other resulting tragedies, that are likely to befall the Silver State if the shutdown continues, and argues that “It is time for Nevada to begin the process of re-opening our economy.” He writes:
“During times of chronic unemployment, people suffer in ways beyond, though largely driven by, their financial difficulties. We see increases in crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, even suicide. And we must be mindful of this truth: It is the low-income individuals among us, already struggling financially and least able to sustain further hardship, who suffer disproportionately. CEOs and high-level executives aren’t the ones on the phone all day, on hold, waiting for somebody from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to take their call and hear their claim. It’s the workers who are the backbone of our economy. The human toll resulting from our self-imposed financial collapse is not theoretical; it can and will be every bit as tragic as that caused by a public-health threat.
“Those who are setting public policy in the face of this crisis must reject the false, binary choice that many opinion-shapers are trying to present. This is not a matter of weighing lives against our economy. We’re weighing lives against lives. Acting otherwise, and taking an unbalanced, all-or-nothing approach may be the politically expedient road, but it’s not what this situation demands. A purely maximalist approach is not statesmanship — and it will not only cost Nevada financially, it will cost us more lives.”
The full op-ed is available here.
No doubt many Nevadans hold a similar view, but have kept their opinions silently to themselves to this point. Hopefully, the coming days and weeks will see more and more citizens willing to speak up.
ITEM #2: The tide may indeed be beginning to turn, among everyday Nevadans, in favor of letting our businesses open back up.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on some news from over the weekend:
“Hundreds of people waved American flags and cheered slogans such as ‘Who wants to protect small business?’ and ‘Churches are essential’ on Saturday afternoon in protest of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order closing nonessential businesses.
“In Las Vegas, members of what’s billed as the Reopen Nevada Group met at 1 p.m. at the Sawyer Building downtown after a nearly two-hour car caravan from spots along Las Vegas Boulevard North. Las Vegas police estimated that at least 500 people attended.
“In Carson City, hundreds lined the main drag outside government buildings while dozens of cars and trucks sporting American flags and ‘Trump 2020’ stickers drove back and forth honking for more than an hour.”
The story quotes Southern Nevada resident Desiree Ryan as saying, “It’s not right to force people to be closed. We should go back to work.” Another, Brad Rau, added: “When the cure is worse than disease, it’s time to put an end to it. Just wash your hands and don’t touch your face.”
The momentum behind opening Nevada’s economy is real, and only likely to grow stronger in the coming days.
ITEM #3: It’s become fashionable among smug leftists to use the coronavirus threat as an excuse to bash capitalism — to basically lay blame for our current situation at the feet of a system that fosters free markets and a free flow of goods and services between free individuals.
The truth, of course, is the opposite. It was the totalitarian Chinese regime that unleashed this menace on the world. And it is the wonders of capitalism that will save us.
The principles at play here are timeless and time-tested. And so we thought it worth it, during the present situation, to revisit “The Wealth of Nations,” the classic from 18th Century Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith. One passage, regarding the process that goes into producing a “woollen coat,” is particularly relevant today.
"The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day-labourer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join their different arts in order to complete even this homely production.
"How many merchants and carriers, besides, must have been employed in transporting the materials from some of those workmen to others who often live in a very distant part of the country? How much commerce and navigation in particular, how many ship-builders, sailors, sail-makers, rope-makers, must have been employed in order to bring together the different drugs made use of by the dyer, which often come from the remotest corners of the world?"
Smith continues through a long (but still not exhaustive) list of others whose skills play a role in this creative process, before concluding, "if we examine, I say, all these things, and consider what a variety of labour is employed about each of them, we shall be sensible that, without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided, even according to, what we very falsely imagine, the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated."
That’s the miracle of a free-market system, if we allow it to work: innumerable people — the vast majority of whom will never even meet one another — making and taking a series of seemingly unrelated decisions and actions, but in actuality working together to get people what they need, when they need it. This happens without any centralized, coercive force pulling the strings. Indeed, the role of government is not to step in and manage this process — as history has proven repeatedly, this only leads to disaster — but to maintain and protect an environment in which it is allowed to freely work its magic.
Which also raises one of the under-appreciated risks inherent to the steps governments have taken to severely limit economic activity in response to the virus outbreak. Most people in government have little experience in business, and don’t understand or fully appreciate the process Smith describes. So they’re often clueless when it comes to the effects that government intervention can have, not only on the immediate target of the intervention, but throughout the economy as a whole. Just as the creation and delivery of goods and services requires the efforts of many, many individuals at various points in the process, so too can a disruption anywhere in that process cause havoc that quickly becomes widespread. Policymakers should bear in mind that there are unintended consequences of what they’re doing, which can have a severe impact on people’s lives.
And we should all be skeptical about putting too much faith in our politicians to be able to pull us out of this. In fact, the evidence tells us that it’s not government, but our free-market system, that will ultimately be up to that task.
As we see literally countless actors within the worldwide economy acting to combat this current threat to public health — researching and testing options for treatment, transporting medical supplies, building respirators and other equipment, and so much more — we should all feel an enormous sense of optimism.
We don’t know exactly when we’ll get this problem under control, or what the solution will look like. But we know that the greatest asset we have in this fight is human freedom.
ITEM #4: One of the constants throughout the coronavirus story has been the news media’s annoying attempts to always spin developments in a way that’s most unflattering and damaging to the Trump administration.
National Review’s Rich Lowry details one of their more obnoxious efforts, involving the much-discussed challenge of ensuring we have sufficient numbers of ventilators for those who need them.
Lowry notes how the press and other left-wingers savagely attacked White House advisor Jared Kushner over his remark that, “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” The left went bonkers, with one Democrat elected official tweeting: ““Dear Jared Kushner of the @realDonaldTrump: We are the UNITED STATES of America. The federal stockpile is reserved for all Americans living in our states not just federal employees. Get it?”
But as Lowry notes, it was Democrats and their media friends who didn’t “get it.” He explains:
“All of [the criticism of Kushner] was completely ridiculous and wrong. With even a little context, it was obvious what Kushner was saying: States shouldn’t be drawing on the federal stockpile just to hold ventilators in their own reserves while hard-pressed cities were running low.
“This was obvious from the very next sentence from Kushner: ‘So we’re encouraging the states to make sure that they’re assessing the needs, they’re getting the data from their local — local situations and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we’ve given them.’”
Further, Lowry goes on to demonstrate that the administration’s handling of the ventilator situation was not only justified — it has also been fully vindicated. By pursuing a strategy that was “based on not sending states what they requested on their say-so” — the usual response when local governments request help in addressing a crisis — but by scrutinizing the states’ requests, we were able to avoid an approach that “would have exhausted the federal resources immediately.”
But don’t hold your breath waiting for the press to trumpet this good news, or to give credit where it’s due.
ITEM #5: While we’re on the subject of media bias, hats off to Dan Crenshaw for calling them out on their blatant, shameless dishonesty.
The Texas Congressman put out a terrific video that serves as a thorough takedown of the news media’s false narrative — echoing their Democrat Party allies — that the Trump administration somehow failed to act quickly enough to address the coronavirus threat.
As Crenshaw demonstrates, the administration took action extremely early — so early, in fact, that they were moving on this even as the national press was downplaying the threat in their own publications and on the airwaves. That would be the same press and the same Democrats who are now slamming the President for allegedly dragging his feet.
And we know they were well aware that the President did indeed act — because, as Crenshaw reminds us, they’re on the record criticizing him for doing so, and even attempting to stop him from doing so, at the time.
You simply must watch Crenshaw’s video, tweeted by President Trump himself and available here.
ITEM #6: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has deservedly become the face of over-bearing, power-hungry government during the coronavirus epidemic. And she’s at it again.
Debra Saunders shares the latest in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
"When historians look back at America's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, they likely will cite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the best example of how not to contain a pandemic in your state.
"The Democratic governor has turned her state into the heart of COVID-19 resistance. On Wednesday, protesters shut down the roads in Lansing, the state's capital, in a protest dubbed 'Operation Gridlock.'
"Whitmer responded to the outrage of her constituents thusly: 'I know that people are angry and that's OK, and if you want to take it out and send it my way, if it makes you feel better, that's fine. I support your right to free speech, and I respect your opinions. I just urge you, don't put yourself at risk and don't put others at risk either. I was really disappointed to see people congregating, not wearing masks. I saw someone handing out candy to little kids bare-handed.'"
Saunders opines that Whitmer "did everything but brand her critics 'barbarians at the gate' — unwashed hordes who stand against the good people who stay home and don't make waves when her provocative attitude and policies” — which the Governor has called “Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” — “truly were a problem."
The piece details how Whitmer’s heavy-handed approach has included prohibiting “private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household,” stopping large retailers from selling plants or paint, forbidding those residents who own a second home from going to those homes, and banning the use of motorboats.
Saunders concludes by lamenting that President Trump “has been able to unite the country behind social-distancing guidelines. By going too far, Whitmer has discredited that very effort.”
ITEM #7: Let’s conclude with one more cheer for capitalism.
In case you weren’t aware, today, April 22, is Earth Day. It’s the annual occasion for environmentalists to decry the supposedly squalid state of our planet and to blame greedy human beings for the irreparable damage we’ve caused.
And of course, to the extent we’ve made any strides toward keeping the Earth clean and safe, environmentalists credit themselves and their big-government, anti-freedom policies for delivering that progress.
But as author Steve Milloy explains, while we have indeed been successful in creating and maintaining cleaner air, water, etc., it’s not the greens who should be taking a bow:
“As our society became wealthier, we could afford the luxury of paying more attention to our environment. That same wealth has made it possible to afford expensive laws and regulations and to afford scientific knowledge and technology development. The key, though, was and remains wealth — a reality backed up by closer examination of the environments of poorer nations around the world.”
And without the system of capitalism that environmentalists loathe so much, that wealth wouldn’t exist to begin with.
“Raising taxes on rich people is popular. But raising taxes on the rich often kills the wealth and jobs some rich people create. And it won’t solve our debt problem. Even if we took all the billionaires’ wealth, it would cover only an eighth of our debt.” – John Stossel