At the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the public was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the appropriate medical, public health, and government authorities. The public trusted these pandemic policymakers would use solid scientific evidence as the basis to implement the reasonable measures needed to “flatten the curve” and protect the public health.
Now, the American people’s good faith is fraying.
In many states, policymakers consulted and combined to impose upon the citizenry “shelter-in-place” orders with varying degrees of compromised freedom—and of dubious constitutionality.
At first, the public complied—evincing the can-do spirit of self-sacrifice that has always allowed our country to surmount her greatest challenges.
Yet after the first month or so, as the loss of lives and livelihoods continued and government restrictions mounted, an ominous realization dawned upon the public: the pandemic policymakers were less rational and reasonable than they thought—and less deserving of the benefit of the doubt when it came to imposing public health measures.
As we’ve seen, the pandemic policymakers have an incentive to over react. For example, in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has tightened restrictions upon citizens—such as prohibitions against travel between residences, including vacation homes; and buying gardening and home improvement materials, such as seeds, paint, and furniture.
Exacerbating the public’s ire, Whitmer bolstered her restrictions after most experts believed the pandemic had already peaked in the Great Lakes State. The governor defends her decision based upon the models she employs to instruct her decisions.
Michiganders are unpersuaded. In Lansing, citizens led a drive-by protest against Whitmer’s new restrictions; and hundreds of thousands of signatures have been affixed to a symbolic online petition demanding her recall.
Ironically, Whitmer’s defense of herself is raising another reason the public’s good faith in pandemic policymakers is fraying: there is no agreement on a uniform basis for COVID-19 modeling—or, for that matter, how to determine who has died from the virus.
The models on display at governmental press conferences have been wildly inaccurate; and, thankfully, the dire predictions of millions dead, overwhelmed hospitals, ventilator shortages, and the like have not borne out.
While some argue the shelter-in-place orders explain why these models now appear to be wrong, the truth is these models took into account the implementation of and obedience to such strong public health measures. Consequently, the public is increasingly aware and agitated that the pandemic policymakers’ cries of a “coronapocalypse” were—and, in many cases, remain—wildly off the mark.
A Depression Coming?
Now the public trust is damaged. Badly. Echoing the screenwriter who was asked what makes a Hollywood hit, the public is realizing “nobody knows nothing”; and the “science” the public is supposed to accept without reservation, if not largely guess work, at least has many guesses in it.
Further exacerbating the situation is that many things that should have been elementary considerations of the pandemic policymakers have been rationalized away, downplayed or dismissed in the immediacy of the moment.
Every treatment for an illness can have side effects. In battling COVID-19, the primary treatment is a public lockdown. One large side effect is a pending depression. Already, we are in a recession; and a depression remains a distinct possibility, depending upon how long the lockdown continues and how restrictive it remains.
As the pandemic policymakers’ prescribed treatment continues, so will its side effect of economic disaster continue exacting its tragic toll on this generation of Americans: homicides, domestic abuse, substance abuse, suicides, anxiety, depression, and other manner of societal afflictions.
At the moment, at least 22 million Americans have lost their jobs—one-in-seven workers. Yet, believing chump change and lip service is an appropriate placebo, the pandemic policymakers exhibit little understanding or even concern for the effects of their government-mandated economic devastation. No wonder the American people’s good faith is fraying.
The government lockdown has shown a people born to liberty what it’s like to live with tyranny: fines or arrests for exercising constitutional rights, including the free exercise of religion; the citizenry turned into the Stasi by governmental calls to “snitch” on neighbors for violating the lockdown; the parroting of the government’s lockdown propaganda by the national and local media, and suffering the sneers of a privileged elite deemed “essential” and still being paid, who are more than happy to publicly shame those unwilling to go bankrupt.
The list of constitutional infringements grows daily as does the American people’s frustration with their public servants.
Regrettably, some Americans don’t seem to mind the indefinite suspension of liberty for security. Eschewing herd immunity for a herd mentality and in accordance with what turns out to be their collectivist ideology (whether they profess to be liberal or conservative), these people appear content with a lengthy lockdown—provided, as in Michigan, they still can obtain essential commodities like booze, marijuana, and lottery tickets.
Freedom isn’t free. But for $1,200 a month, some folks will loan their liberty to the pandemic policymakers.
The Lengths We’ll Go in the Name of “Science”
Of course, nothing prevents these citizens from sheltering-in-place until they feel the pandemic has passed and it is safe to begin returning to their normal routines. Nevertheless, they demand the government compel everyone to do the same. Belying their professed belief in “science,” those crying for an indefinite national house arrest (excepting, of course, some newly released prisoners) are as emotional as they are impractical, given the geographic and demographic disparities in how the virus has afflicted America; and, indeed, how little pandemic policy makers presently really know about COVID-19.
Such demands grate upon citizens who, in a spirit of national selflessness, allowed the suspension of their God-given rights and the loss of their livelihoods in order to implement the pandemic policy makers’ initially professed “15 days” of lockdown measures to “flatten the curve.”
A growing number of Americans believe a better treatment at this time is to allow people a choice: let those who want to work do so; let those who want to shelter-in-place do so.
Unfortunately, publicly airing this view results in condemnations and accusations from their shelter-in-place-indefinitely neighbors, the media, and pandemic policymakers—who still haven’t agreed upon which model’s curve to flatten, or even about what constitutes a safe degree of flattening to resume normal life.
This is not lost upon the American people who, when hearing calls to continue the lockdown for several months or longer, feel like their good faith has been exploited by budding despots proffering guesswork as science to advance their own agendas. All the while this erodes the citizenry’s communal comity and the pandemic’s policymakers’ credibility at a time when our nation needs both.
God willing, soon this plague will pass; but the pandemic policymakers’ treatment and its side effects on America’s locked-down patients will take longer to heal.