As our metaphorical pandemic clock strikes two it seems the oxygen breathing people of the country have caught a whiff of overkill in the air. Boat owners in Michigan are told sailboats are approved on the lake, while motor boats are not. Vermonters are told books and seeds are “non-essential” items and may not be purchased, even while sitting right there on the shelves. Walmart is told to close certain aisles within open stores. Fencing off an outdoor skateboard park in California is insufficient to compel compliance – bulldozers were hired to plow sand over the skateboard runs. Kids daring to skateboard are a menace to society’s health. And in Raleigh, NC, protestors to the lockdown were met by police advising them “protesting is a non-essential activity”, and arrested and fined for assembling at a safe distance.
Some of the most concerning totalitarian theatre came on Easter Sunday. Christians in Mississippi assembling in their cars for a service in the church parking lot were met with $500 fines for endangering the community – as they say, you can’t make it up. Give a collectivist governor some discretion and he’ll have you in cuffs for saying your prayers. And just so everything’s perfectly clear, churches and synagogues are “non-essential”, while liquor stores, lottery sellers and abortion clinics remain open. Yep, every closet tin-pot dictator who made governor has been in full stride the past couple weeks.
Half the country would buy most anything these little dictators are pedaling as long as it’s packaged in a “health and safety” wrapper. The other half of the country, the critical thinking types, aren’t surprised a bit. We know, respect and value our Constitutional form of a government of laws, not men. The diffusion of power is the greatest guarantor of liberty, and the entire nation is currently enduring a dangerous illustration of the timelessness and proof of that maxim. Let’s hope we don’t have to arm-wrestle our way back to our normal, and not some new normal we’re utterly sick of hearing about.
Connecticut finally joined at least a dozen other states, and got into gear on the protest front. I took my place in the caravan of some 100 plus horn-honking cars circling the Capital and Governor’s residence in Hartford. We gridlocked the area for over an hour, along with many lining the streets with creative signs – it seemed like a tea party redux! Naturally, the press reported the event as a couple dozen cars and was sure to put on the screen some admirable, bedraggled healthcare worker bearing witness to the fact the Wuhan Virus is real. We know it’s real and we know it’s serious. But the justification provided for the state lockdowns was to suppress the curve of the contagion and avoid overwhelming the nation’s healthcare system. It was not to lock us up until there was a cure or until no new people became infected or died.
The protests are occurring because both the federal and state governments deployed their inherent and predictable blunt instrument solutions, i.e. locking down some 40 states and idling most all small businesses in the process. It clearly was overdone, needlessly shutting businesses that could have stayed open with modifications to mitigate the impact of the Virus. That reality has become abundantly clear to the segment of society most impacted by the government’s draconian response. In no way did the economic carnage have to be this severe. People are going to continue to die from this pandemic, but that fact must be balanced with the need for people to maintain their livelihoods.
That balance was surely on the President’s mind in February when he was trying to evaluate the information presented by the CDC and NIH. After a month of being lied to by the Chinese, Fauci and Birx suddenly became alarmed as more accurate data began surfacing. Since the mishandled SARS outbreak in 2003 they had been highly concerned that the Chinese would lose control of a virus outbreak – it was their nightmare scenario. They believed it was being realized before their eyes, and presented Trump with some version of Hobson’s Choice between risking the lives of 330 million Americans or virtually shutting down the country. He was captured by the “data”, and sure to face withering political criticism if he dare adopt a middle road solution – he relented to the draconian measures.
The very quickly apparent and unsurprising result is that small businesses and the families that run them were being virtually incinerated before our eyes. Most Americans would be surprised to know that 99% of U.S. employers are small businesses. There are 30 million small businesses employing some 57 million Americans or more. Current polling indicates 54% of all small businesses are closing temporarily, 11% say they will close permanently within one month, and 24% say they will close permanently within two months. Now THAT is a bleak reality that should send a chill down the spine of anyone who actually contemplates those numbers, and the magnitude and ripple effects of it all, with open eyes.
The first $350 billion federal tranche of small business loans and grants was vacuumed up within days, and too much of it went to investment and legal firms who are aces at quickly completing forms and applications, while auto mechanics struggled with the apps in their repair shops. And of course, again it is the bankers who are the gatekeepers of the money…deja vu all over again. But there just isn’t enough relief money to save these millions of businesses if this overkill of a lockdown goes on much longer.
A national breakpoint is approaching fast. Nationally, the Administration has targeted April 30th as the decision point when it will advise whether to begin reopening the economy. The governors appear to have the discretion to initiate action. Let’s hope we get underway. Here in Connecticut, as well as NY and the adjoining states, that decision point is May 15th. Anyone in touch with social media can sense there’s a growing feeling among average people that we have been “played” buy our rulers with this draconian shutdown – our free republic seeks to be free again. If wiser heads do not prevail at month end, I wouldn’t be surprised if the American people decide themselves that it’s time to get on with life again as we know and cherish it, and proceed to reopen our country without further instruction.