Our Mess

Our Mess


Leonard Zwelling

         This article was sent to me by a blog reader and it is a must-read itself.

         It was written by Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute. She has a BA, an MA and a Stanford law degree. She is a prolific author and one of the straightest thinkers that I have ever encountered. Let me try to summarize her treatise that is excerpted from a lecture she delivered for Hillsdale College.

         Point one, the past four months has been the greatest period of government malfeasance in American history. She believes that the federal and local governments all overreacted to the coronavirus with economic lockdowns that were worse than the disease. Other blog readers have made this point to me already, but Donald is truly eloquent.

         The lockdowns have so damaged many small businesses, that some may never recover. How good an idea was that?

         She believes this was predicated on epidemiologic models that were orders of magnitude off in their predictions of death from the virus, most notably the model from Imperial College in London that predicted 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. alone. China’s death toll had already leveled off by the time of this prediction.

         Then governments swung into action using “unprecedented powers” to close commerce which led to vast unemployment and subsequent necessary huge government bailouts. All of this was based upon the recommendations of public health experts, but remember the only concern of these experts is public health vis a vis the virus, not vis a vis a devastated economy. It is elected executives who must balance the risks and make the calls. Most did it badly.

         Many of the decisions of who had to close were arbitrary. Wine and pot stores were deemed essential. Medical offices had to close.

         Next Donald notes that the majority of the deaths were in the elderly. Covid-19 was a relatively mild threat to most younger people without pre-existing conditions. It was the actions of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to send nursing home patients who were ill back to their nursing homes that caused a great deal of death.

         Next Donald takes on disinformation. The media really revved this up and if I didn’t know better (am I sure? No) the networks were aiming their ire at Trump and his re-election all along. There is no doubt that the media hyped up the threat without being honest about who was getting sick, who was dying, and why. In short, every one in America was not equally at risk. The old and the sick were the primary victims of Covid-19. That was true in Italy as well. But because of the way this was presented, everyone was petrified.

         Next, Donald notes that people were cooped up in their houses, the worst places to be. Outside was safest. Furthermore, this pandemic is not as bad as the ones in 1918, 1968 or 1956. This is bad, but it was manageable without having to topple the economy. There are a lot of people out of work and many businesses have shut. Some have shut forever. It is an American tragedy. It was the death knell of the shopping mall and the triumph of Amazon.

         Donald also notes that every person who made a decision that cost someone else his or her job had a secure job of his own. There was a lot of hypocrisy here. These decision makers created risk aversion as a “badge of honor” that cost the economy dearly.

         The arbitrary six-foot rule has complicated taking an elevator, seeing a play, or watching a baseball game. Was the science really there on this six-foot rule?

         Then came George Floyd. His death was a horrible tragedy that must be handled by the courts and the police officers accused of his death must get due process of law. The response on the part of the protesters was irrational during the pandemic and, at times, lawless. It was not okay to put two people in a elevator but it was okay to have thousands march in the street, many without masks? Well, at least they were outside. Mr. Trump is right. Many mayors of blue cities could not maintain order. Sending in his federal troops was a bad idea, but just as bad was the fact that some mayors acquiesced to the disorder in their cities (Seattle and Portland). The calls to defund the police are ignorant. The police are all that there is between many of us and chaos. Donald points out that at first businesses shut due to government decision about the virus. Next they were shut but rioters because government could not control the crowds. If a crowd is a bad idea because of the virus, it’s a bad idea for a protest. You can’t have it both ways liberals.

         Donald makes the case that government has failed. It didn’t protect us from the virus nor from the economic catastrophe nor from city riots. What a mess!

         Our life, liberty and property have been threatened and the government failed at every level to protect us. What’s even worse is that neither political party has put forward a solution to the underlying problems which are how deadly is this virus and what are the risks and rewards of shutting down commerce?

         Surely we could have shut down large gatherings, especially those indoors, worn masks, washed our hands, protected the elderly and sick and not shut down the economy. Surely. But we didn’t.

         There’s more than enough blame to go around and there will decades of PhD theses written about what could have been done, but wasn’t. This is Trump’s Katrina moment, but he shares it with every governor and mayor in the country. No one got this right.

         What a mess!

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