I guarantee you no one in the Evers (mis)administration has read this, from Heather Mac Donald:
Less than 24 hours after California governor Gavin Newsom closed ‘non-essential’ businesses and ordered Californians to stay inside to avoid spreading the coronavirus, New York governor Andrew Cuomo followed suit. ‘This is about saving lives,’ Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday. ‘If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.’
Cuomo’s assertion that saving ‘just one life’ justifies an economic shutdown raises questions that have not been acknowledged, much less answered, as public officials across the country compete to impose ever more draconian anti-virus measures:
- Is there any limit to the damage we are willing inflict on the world economy to mitigate the infection?
- What are the benefits of each new commerce-killing measure and how do they compare to the costs?
- What are the criteria for declaring success in the coronavirus fight and who decides whether they have been met?
To ask about the costs and benefits of the spreading economic shutdowns guarantees an accusation of heartlessness. But the issue is not human compassion versus alleged greed. The issue is balancing one target of compassion against another. The millions of people whose lives depend on a functioning economy also deserve compassion. Many of the businesses that are now being shuttered by decree will never come back. They do not have the reserves to survive weeks or months without customers. In New York City, many streets were already blighted by rows of empty storefronts. The virus shutdown could knock out the remaining enterprises, as customers acclimate themselves further to ordering on-line. Layoffs are piling up in restaurants, hotels, and malls; on Tuesday, unemployment claims in California were 40 times above the daily average, an increase greater than any coronavirus surge.
It is low-wage employees who are most being hurt. The knowledge class can shelter in place and work from their home computers. Their employers are not shutting down. Not so people who physically provide goods and services. The employees who have been let off now may not be able to find work again if the economy continues to collapse. While governors and mayors declare some businesses essential and some not, to their employees, they are all essential.
A prolonged depression will stunt lives as surely as any viral epidemic, and its toll will not be confined to the elderly. The shuttering of auto manufacturing plants led to an 85 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in the surrounding counties over seven years, according to a recent study. Radical social upheaval is possible.
The arts world is being decimated. For the last two years the New York Times and other left-wing newspapers have been bashing the boards of major cultural institutions for being too white and too male. Those institutions had better hope that their ‘non-diverse’ trustees feel flush enough after the $5 trillion loss in the stock market to bail them out.
While the coming explosion of deficit spending — possibly $2 trillion worth — may be necessary to keep people afloat, government cannot possibly replicate the wealth-creating effects of voluntary commerce. The enormously complex web of trade, once killed, cannot be brought back to life by government stimulus. And who is going to pay for all that deficit spending as businesses close and tax revenues disappear?