Great America

Petit Tyranny

The drastic measures needed for this “chemotherapy” against a serious disease have unshrouded the suppressive nature of a hearty minority. Watch “Karen” and learn what she’s capable of doing.

It’s perhaps surprising to learn just how many of one’s fellow citizens would thrive in modern-day Belarus or latter-day East Germany.

The Great British lockdown this week has given succor to those inclined to the petit tyrannies common to countries of our curious pity.

Facebook groups have sprung up, leaping with the caps-locked indignations of women named Karen. “My neighbor has been outside TWICE today.” Such statements spin with exclamation marks, and interrobangs—“Should be locked up, if you ask me.”

One gentleman called the police on his neighbor, demanding his arrest for a suspected second jog of the day.

We are allowed out for an hour once per day. It’s like a Danish prison. Our neighbors, some at least, have adapted this lockdown into a Stanley Milgram experiment in which they swing the truncheons.

No, I won’t call it a police state. I’m not a libertarian. This shutdown, if kept short, is chemotherapy for what is a serious disease. Yet, such drastic measures have unshrouded the suppressive nature of a hearty minority.

Why one would be bothered enough to “report” another going for a second run is beyond me. That runner, by the very nature of running, is unlikely to break the six-foot social-distance rule, unless, of course, someone chases him.

Though, I’m sure some would give chase, if only to force-feed their righteous indignation.

Police officers have taken government guidelines and added a dose of North Korea. Derbyshire Police, armed with drone footage, lockdown-shamed a couple walking their dog on the Peak District.

“Nonessential!” shrills the charge. And it’s one too readily chanted by those peacocking their righteousness, and denouncing their neighbors on Facebook groups birthed for purpose.

Humberside Police have taken note. They set up an online portal so Karen can denounce lockdown traitors in a manner more officious to her thickened tastes.

Some police officers are giddy, drunk on what must pose the ultimate dose of their authoritarian inclinations. (Many police officers possess but conceal this trait, much as nightclub bouncers conceal a Freudian daddy issue.)

One lawmaker broke the articles of social pariahdom. Stephen Kinnock visited his father Neil, ex-Labour leader, for a socially distanced birthday celebration.

The police, red-meating the hounds of Twitter, deemed such travel “nonessential.”

Yet British people have listened. Traffic is down two-thirds, three-quarters are complying with guidelines, green shoots are sprouting. There is no need for this Stasi-era tribute act.

A neighbor might have forgotten something he deems essential. Someone buying an Easter basket alongside their essentials is not dicing with lives.

Neither should anyone care if another goes for a drive. Drivers are essentially cocooned in a moving lump of steel and glass.

To break the social-distance rule would be possible only if they, in a mad fit of Corona-jihad, rumbled along the sidewalk, windows and rooftop down. The problem? There’s nobody on the sidewalk.

Everything has changed. And nothing has changed. To charge that lockdown has impulsed authoritarians is to clamp an ether rag around the mouth of cancel culture. It hasn’t gone away. It’s mutated into a novel strain of petit tyranny.

Not long ago, police officers dragged a YouTuber to court for teaching his pug a fascist salute. The same police interrogate for “hate crimes” including “liking” a “transphobic” poem.

Now those same police seethe the streets they hitherto didn’t “have the resources” to patrol, stopping cars, rustling through shopping bags, shaming lone walkers.

They’re bolstered by their gleeful little helpers. Those who in idle times report others for suggesting men can’t morph into women.

We’ve endured for some time with this Salem culture. And it has much greater sway than you’d think.

This is the culture that forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to change tact from arms-length to lockdown.

His original “herd immunity” strategy dissolved after Imperial College, London, released a doomsday report charging the current course with 510,000 British deaths, and 2.2 million dead Americans.

Boris bottled it. The cries of The Guardian and their ilk slamming shut businesses and effectively placing more than 60 million people under house arrest.

The great irony is those who’ve spent years calling democracy a “coup,” impelled the man they deem a “fascist” to shackle controls on where citizens can go, for how long, and with whom they can congress.

The Imperial College study has suffered its own curious mutations.

The death count first plummeted from 510,000 to 20,000. Then it suggested 5,700 deaths. Now, as it stands, that figure is “wrong.”

Intensive care units, it is hoped, will now not repeat the fate of Italy. This mild dystopia could compare to an average flu season.

Two-thirds of those, Professor Neil Ferguson said, will “likely have died this year anyway.” A remarkable turnaround, or a hasty retreat.

Ferguson’s revision takes account, he says, of our lockdown strategy.

Perhaps his revision also took account of a rival Oxford University study suggesting the Wuhan virus hit these shores as early as December, spreading invisibly for months before the first case recorded itself in late February.

Professor Sunetra Gupta’s model suggests half of us may have had coronavirus, that 1-in-1,000 will need hospital treatment, that most have mild symptoms or none at all.

This would mean significant herd immunity has already taken place, that lockdown was an option for December, not April, and that millions are out of work and locked at home with a hidden immunity to what keeps them there.

Now, I am not a scientist. But, the violent conflicts between these two studies suggest someone has got this drastically wrong.

Which is a charge leveled at the Swedes. They have changed little about their lives. Bars and restaurants remain open, children still stream into school, those with symptoms must stay home for two days before returning to work. As the virus shifts its course, so do the guidelines.

The Swedes haven’t frozen an entire economy or placed an entire nation under house arrest.

Yet, they’ve limboed the ire of Guardian-types for the strategy they pilloried Boris into abandoning.

Of course, nobody knows who is right. A brief shutdown, to me, seems a sensible dose in lieu of a Swedish gamble.

President Trump’s face said it all as he steeled Americans to 200,000 possible deaths. This is no joke.

But we need better options than those presented.

Is it really a choice between the second Great Depression (one in which 10 million Americans in two weeks have signed up for unemployment insurance) or the second Spanish Flu?

Wouldn’t a sensible, moderate course be to ramp up testing, cocoon the vulnerable, and allow the immune back into a cautious and distant normality? Albeit one in which petit tyranny is never cured.

Great America

Doctors, Doctored Numbers, and Democracy

Many of our so-called health experts are acting less like good doctors and more like bad politicians.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported: “The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.”

These numbers, many millions of infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths, were ones that “health officials” had been spreading through a sensation-hungry media for some time. Together with a poll question that framed the choice just so, they had already helped produce another set of numbers: “Voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.”

This, the Times crowed victoriously, had stampeded President Trump to abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter.

Trouble is, though, these numbers come from just some doctors—they reflect neither reality nor broad medical opinion. They are synthetic products that hide the (often ignorant) assumptions that they reflect, substitute for reason, foster panic, and ruin the country.

The following shows how “soft” and hence divorced from reality these numbers are, what it would take to produce “hard” numbers—i.e. ones reflective of reality—and the manner consistent with self-government in which such matters should be debated and decided.

All admit that the numbers that are scaring the sense out of the country are mathematical projections. All projections are based on assumptions about the ever-changing numbers of “confirmed cases” of COVID-19, as well as of deaths resulting therefrom. But few—and here it seems we must include many “health officials”—consider that the latter numbers are themselves “soft” and tell us next to nothing about how much, how little, or what kind of dangers the virus poses to us.

Certainly, they give no guidance about what restrictions any of us should apply to ourselves, never mind what the government should do to the country.

How’s that? Because the number of “confirmed cases”—meaning cases that have come to the attention of the medical profession—tells us nothing about the number of people infected. Nor does that number tell us what happens to the gamut of those infected. Nor is the number of deaths “hard,” because it does not distinguish between those who die of the virus and those who die merely with it (that is, they might have died even without it).

To make intelligent decisions about countermeasures, we would need have hard data about all these matters. Yet, for two months, doctors such as Anthony Fauci have messed up millions of lives and commandeered trillions of dollars while scaring the hell out of people and watching curves based on projections based on meaningless numbers. Watching the several curves resulting from the testing that is now ongoing and that is projected to continue as the country suffers will provide only more guesses, that will feed more models and more disputes.

The most important fact about COVID-19, its true mortality rate, is the number who die of the virus divided by the number infected by it. No algorithms. Simple arithmetic.

In short, Fauci, et al., are showing themselves to be typical of our bureaucracy: over-credentialed, entrusted with too much power, and dangerously incompetent.

Learning the true figures about precisely what danger the virus poses to whom must begin by taking into account one thing we know for sure about COVID-19: that many, if not most, of those infected by this unusually contagious virus show few or no symptoms. This suggests eventual near-universal contagion.

But we don’t know how many of these asymptomatic people there are. Hence, meaningful epidemiological testing must include a random representative sample of the population, regardless of whether they are presumed to be infected or not. The numbers resulting from monitoring what happens to the health of individuals in this sample over a few weeks would tell exactly what percentage of people in each category and subcategory suffer what consequences from whatever contact with the virus they happen to have.

As it happens, a sizable chunk of such data is about to come into existence. The virus is rampant among the 5,000 or so personnel aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Everyone aboard is being tested. By the time that is done, as the ship sits off Guam, and it returns to the United States, we will have a good idea about the rate of infection and some factual notion of what happens to those infected—at least among the sailors’ demographic group.

The question of lethality is not resolved by mere counting of individuals who test positive and die. We have some data showing that COVID-19-positive people who suffer from certain diseases are likelier to succumb than others who suffer from other diseases or who are otherwise healthy.

Sorting out causes of death is properly a medical judgment. The doctors who are scaring the hell out of the country in general might better spend their time using their medical skills to sort out the virus’s specific consequences—and recommending what currently available drugs may keep the sick from dying.

President Trump, as well as the governors of some states, have been stampeded out of their common sense into shutting down the country until further notice. The bureaucratic-media complex has done this on the supposed basis of medical authority. But the doctors have not been speaking as doctors on the basis of knowledge of the human body while offering cures or even palliatives. No. Their judgments are based on speculation about the meaning of mathematical models.

They are not acting like good doctors but rather like bad politicians.

Fauci showed how thoroughly he and his cohorts have subordinated common sense to bureaucratic authority. Having strenuously campaigned to deny the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine, having been confronted by the fact that physicians on the front lines of the battle against the virus are using it themselves, and having been asked whether he—were he to come down with illness from the virus—would use it, he weakly conceded that he would but only as part of an approved study. He cared less about describing what the drug can do and can not do than about affirming his agency’s and the FDA’s prerogatives.

Backed by the media, Fauci and company have contended that actions by anybody, ordinary citizens, elected officials, or physicians that do not follow proper bureaucratic procedures are illegitimate. Who the hell do they think they are? We belong to ourselves. Not to them.

Decisions affecting each and all of us rightly belong to ourselves directly and indirectly through elected representatives. Congress and the legislatures should be making decisions on the basis of open debate and recorded roll call votes.

Surely, President Trump’s low point came when he supported bypassing roll call votes in the passage of a $2.2 trillion bill as part of his and other executive officials’ decisions to shut down the country. Making decisions on the basis of meaningless curves and bureaucratic authority rather than through open debate about hard facts followed by roll call votes is not just undemocratic. It’s stupid.

Great America

A Letter to an Ailing Friend

A few words of gratitude and thanks as a childhood mentor lies sick with COVID-19 in a New York City hospital.

It’s hard to write a story about someone else without injecting yourself into the story. But I feel compelled to write about this: for my mother, for those alone in the hot zones, in hospitals scared to death, and to those who are close to death.

For the candy man in a New York City hospital room alone in and for his wife who prays at home in isolation. Know the candy you offered was just candy to some, but for some like me, it offered a reprieve from our childhood hardships and sadness. You weren’t just offering Lifesavers; you were unwittingly saving young lives. (In the interest of full disclosure you didn’t offer Lifesavers—they weren’t kosher—but I thought it was a good line.)

As you lie in bed alone, I want you to know although you never had your own children, you helped raise many. There were the lentils, the kosher M&M’s—and, yes, they are kosher now. There were the aspirin candies, the lollipops, and the dearth of other treats I have forgotten about. Oh! And the Peanut Chews!

But more than the candy, it was the moments when we were real young sitting on your lap, and as we got older the moments sitting beside you. It was candy you offered, but sanity, love, and safety were the true treats.

Then there was that time of year, Simchat Torah, the giving of the Old Testament that you truly raised your game. There were the big suckers and the candy apples offered, not just to the young but there was always a candy for my mother and her dry mouth. She was your close friend, how close I didn’t realize until a certain fog was lifted from my own life.

You instinctively knew which one of your children needed extra candy, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hadn’t seen you in years and sadly, for a while, I had switched the type of candy I consumed and changed the people I sat by for the “comfort” and “love” that I desperately sought. I was newly sober when I saw you again at a family event. I remember the massive smile you had on your face. What I didn’t know was that you and your wife were confidants of my mother’s throughout my struggles, always giving her all the support (and candy) she needed. What I also remember was there was no judgment, no questions, just a silent welcome back. It was never “Oh, Yehuda,” it was always, “Ohhhh, Yehuda.”

It’s been more than 22 years since that day, and we have seen each other only a handful of times. I just want you and your wife to know, you have raised many children, some more difficult than others, and it takes the most special of people to offer the more difficult more candy.

I know many a kid has come in between the time you helped me and today, but just know that all your children are praying for you right now, and it is imperative that you get better because we both know there is so much more candy that needs to be given.

Your name in English means life, you have enriched so many, saved so many, and we in turn at this moment are praying for yours. L’Chaim!

Great America

The Wu New Deal

How Democrats intend to use the Wuhan virus crisis to restructure government and society according to their whims.

In his survey of the Great Depression and World War II, Freedom From Fear, historian David Kennedy makes the point that the New Deal—which manifestly failed to end the Depression—was only a failure if you assume that its purpose was, in fact, to end the Depression.

Likewise, the Democrats’ attempt at pushing their wish list of a Wuhan virus rescue bill.

If you assume, instead, that the purpose of the New Deal was to restructure the government’s relationship to the people and to society, then it was certainly a success. This is especially true of the so-called Second New Deal, passed mostly in 1935, which included Social Security, the Banking Act, the Wagner Act, other workplace protections, and unemployment insurance. Designed to provide a measure of security to periodically unemployed workers, it also made sure that people—for the first time—habitually looked to the government as the source of that security.

If you assume that its secondary purpose was to cement an emerging Democratic Party political coalition, then it was potentially an even greater success.

From the outset, Roosevelt had wanted to bring liberal Republicans into the Democratic fold, while marginalizing the more conservative southern Democrats who generally opposed his agenda. The prelude to World War II cut that short, as progressive Republicans from the west and Midwest—most prominently, Hiram Johnson, George Norris, and William Borah—stayed true to their isolationism. Nevertheless, blacks, urbanites, and union workers began voting for Democratic candidates in numbers that persist even to this day, though the current reshuffling of the parties threatens to undo some of that.

And there were people in the Roosevelt Administration who were sorry to see the economy recover because it closed the window on that restructuring.

Do you want to know where Rahm Emanuel got the idea for never letting a crisis go to waste? Look to the New Dealers.

Restructuring to “Fit Our Vision”

Which brings us to the Democratic version of the Wuhan coronavirus stimulus package. Now, the original idea—a payroll tax holiday, bridge loans to small and medium-sized businesses—wasn’t bad.

The eventual idea—trillions of dollars of helicopter money in an economy where there is less and less to spend it on, combined with some side-pork for votes—is less appealing. But at least it’s still geared toward doing something about the problem at hand. It seeks to tide over individuals and small businesses until the restrictions relax, and economic activity recovers.

The House Democrats had their own ideas, however. Via Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) Twitter feed, we know that these included:

  1. Corporate pay statistics by race and race statistics for all corporate boards at companies receiving assistance;
  2. Bailing out all current debt of the postal service;
  3. Required early voting;
  4. Mandated same-day voter registration;
  5. A $10,000 bailout for each and every borrower with federal student loans;
  6. For companies accepting assistance, one-third of board members must be chosen by workers;
  7. Provisions on official time for union collective bargaining;
  8. A full offset of airline emissions by 2025;
  9. Greenhouse gas statistics for individual flights;
  10. Retirement plans for community newspaper employees;
  11. A $15 minimum wage at companies receiving assistance;
  12. Permanent paid family leave at companies receiving assistance.

None of this makes any sense if you assume that the purpose of the bill is to forestall or soften the economic effects of government action to combat the virus.

But if you assume that the House Democrats don’t really see the purpose of the bill as aiming at any of those things, but rather as Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” then it all makes a lot of sense.

I admit, I made the mistake myself. I assumed at first that, facing a collapse of in-person retail, a 33 percent drop in the stock market, a mother of all margin calls centered on international banking, and the prospect of the credit of the U.S. government being in play, Clyburn meant that he wanted the bill to fit their vision of economic aid.

No such luck.

Every item on that wish list is geared towards remaking society, directly grabbing political power, or solidifying what they see as their emerging coalition. And just because they didn’t make it into the bill that ultimately passed doesn’t mean those proposals are dead.

Democrats happily would insert the Justice Department into board elections, giving political hacks another tool to extract favors and money. They would replicate the damage caused by public unions, by putting private unions on both sides of the bargaining table. The inevitable green mandates would pay off the Tom Steyers of the world. Elections would become even more suspect. And they would include payoffs to universities (what, you thought unconditional student loan forgiveness was for the students?) as well as to increasingly liberal community newspapers.

In other words, restructuring things to fit their vision.

Great America

How Government Is Standing in the Way of Lifesaving American Innovation

In the race to find a solution to this pandemic crisis, President Trump needs to reject both Washington incompetence and Chinese subversion.

In plague times, politicians and physicians alike need to embrace the fundamental teaching of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” How then are we to understand the harm that a problem, COVID-19,and the “cure”—quarantine and its attendant economic catastrophe—that seems to be worse than the disease?

The current national state of emergency is as revelatory as it is sudden. It shows us both what we should do and what we shouldn’t. Let us be clear, to borrow a favorite phrase of a previous president: America First companies can protect us—if only bureaucrats get out of the way.

President Trump could order his administration to use America’s companies and tell his public health authorities that they’ve done quite enough—which is to say they’ve done far too little to prepare for the crisis.

We should use American companies to do contact tracing of the ill, and allow start-ups that want to administer at-home coronavirus tests to do so. Yet rather than acknowledge that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary dispensations, our FDA stops U.S. innovators at every turn, preferring to do business with intellectual property thieves like the Chinese Communist-backed Beijing Genomics Institute, a state-owned entity currently in yet another legal fight with an American company.

President Trump Needs To Tell Fauci, the NIH, and the FDA: “You’re Fired!”

Recent history provides too many examples of institutional failure. We have already examined how lacking Dr. Anthony Fauci is now and has been before and during the HIV/AIDS crisis. He is a fraud. Whether he is a crook or a fool is perhaps open to interpretation.

“Despite President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, the federal funding powerhouse led by Dr. Anthony Fauci isn’t spending any money on it, and clinical trials for it are lagging behind other drug studies,” CNN reports.

Instead Fauci has been touting Remdesivir from Gilead through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Gilead’s Remdesivir costs thousands of dollars and works less well than hydroxychloroquine—a generic that has worked all over the world. Remdesivir requires intravenous administration and has stronger side effects.

Why is the good doctor pushing a bad cure?

What motivates Fauci, as anyone can see from his many interviews and long career, is fame.

Vanity must be his favorite of the seven deadly sins. And deadly it has been—just not for Fauci.  HIV/AIDS activists wisely picked up on this character trait and shamed Fauci into doing more after years of inaction, as even fawning portrayals of Fauci acknowledge. ACT UP, having bent Fauci to its will, finally got him to act—but not before thousands of gay men perished. Then, as now, Fauci left patients in limbo while he cultivated his ties to the drug manufacturers.

Fauci works closely with Gilead and other drug manufacturers. Once again Gilead has helped advance Fauci’s public persona while he has advanced their drugs, sometimes even against the interests of the U.S. government or HIV/AIDS patients.

Fauci even praised a Gilead television ad for Truvada, or PreP, a $1,000-a-month drug. It’s illegal in most countries for pharmaceutical companies to advertise, but Fauci found much to like in the ad. He had reason to. After all, his organization funded the study with your money.

“What I really liked about the ad is it didn’t just say go get on PrEP; it said get tested,” Fauci told NBC News in 2018. “A, get tested. B, there are more options to protect yourself.”

Fauci has also spoken at events funded by Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies.

Later, President Trump’s HHS sued Gilead alleging that the drug manufacturer had profited from millions of taxpayer funded research dollars against the interests of patients. Gilead lost the suit right around the time it needed a new drug to help it take off. With few drugs available for the coronavirus, Daniel O’Day, Gilead’s new CEO only been on the job months—turned to Remdesivir, a drug marketed toward solving the Ebola virus. Remdesivir failed at that, too. Indeed Congolese officials found too expensive and too ineffective compared to cheaper alternatives.

“The results were most striking for patients who received treatments soon after becoming sick, when their viral loads were still low—death rates dropped to 11 percent with mAb114 and just 6 percent with Regeneron’s drug, compared with 24 percent with ZMapp and 33 percent with Remdesivir,” wrote Wired’s Megan Molteni.

Sound familiar? The same thing has been true of the ultracheap hydroxychloroquine which has proven effective nearly everywhere it’s been tried—if tried early enough.

For this reason alone, it is unconscionable that there are delays in testing results, thanks to the FDA’s byzantine rules that make it easier for Communist Chinese companies to test while hobbling U.S. firms.

Gilead is left with a huge stockpile of Remdesivir that is too expensive and too unnecessary—they’ll have more on the way once they are approved, they promise! Fauci has once again used taxpayer resources to force patients into a lengthy and ridiculous clinical trial process for the drug—only this time its Americans desperate for hope as opposed to Africans. If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail, fail again.

With Fauci’s credibility invested in Gilead, we ought to ask to see Fauci and his family’s portfolio too, especially after he publicly admitted that he would take hydroxychloroquine.

Then again, it’s amazing how cheaply some people, especially scientists, will sell out.

Indeed, putting politics and press conferences ahead of pharmacology has been the medical establishment’s raison d’être as it offloads the costs of its expensive labs and bureaucracy. Dr. Francis Collins’s NIH, for example, charges the government thousands of dollars for genetic sequencing that costs the private sector just hundreds.

Hard Lessons in Self-Reliance

The success of generic drugs over Gilead’s Remdesivir reveals that Big Pharma—and its handmaiden, the NIH—won’t save us but will happily soak us with ever higher drug prices.

To anyone paying attention it ought to indict both the wastefulness of the National Institutes of Health ($40 billion annual budget) and the pharmaceutical industry (trillions in market capitalization) that wonder drug chloroquine (the typical dose costs $20 in the United States, pennies elsewhere) was developed in Germany in 1934—fully 10 years before the NIH itself was authorized by Congress and an American patient experienced its full effects.

The history of chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine deserves careful attention and was the subject of a rather amazing address by G. Robert Coatney in the 1960s. Dubbed “Mr. Malaria,” Coatney had explored 16,000 solutions to the malaria problem. During World War II, the War Production Board issued Conservation Order M-131 and heavily restricted the use of quinine. A synthetic had to be found.

“The effort involved scientists from the universities and industry, private individuals, the U.S. Army, the Navy and the Public Health Service, plus appropriate liaison with Great Britain and Australia,” and it also totally and completely failed.

The European powers understood that access to cures or treatments had national security implications. The power to blockade or restrict life saving drugs is the power to enfeeble and kill as both the Communist Chinese and the Food and Drug Administration remind us today. Holland blocked German access to its valuable Indonesian quinine farms so Nazi Germany—lacking any overseas colonies—was forced to innovate.

Autarky meant relying on the German people and their genius. Unlike today’s America, Germany put their best—and crucially, youngest—minds to work. Hans Andersag discovered chloroquine in 1934 at the tender age of 32—an amazing discovery but utterly consistent with all the available research that discoveries are made by the young.

In a gerontocracy like America, the NIH continues to dole out money to aging scientists without anything to show for it—even as its own research shows the persistent Boomer bias against younger scientists receiving funding.

To be sure, Bayer was very much a part of the Nazi regime, which barred Bayer’s scientists from receiving the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physiology after they discovered Prontosil, the first commercially available antibiotic. Germany’s innovations had to stay in Germany. Boomers love throwing around comparisons to the Great Depression and World War II, perhaps to suggest that they, too, would be capable of suffering what their parents endured. How ironic, then, that a company with Nazi ties ultimately made the drug keeping all the Boomers alive and the world economy running. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Wernher von Braun gave us NASA and even Disneyland, after V-2 rockets rained down on London.

Of course, Bayer has rightly apologized for its human experimentation during World War II but we ought to be asking why our own medical system is so sclerotic and well, geriatric, that we rely on foreign science, foreign scientists, and foreign sources of funding. (Fauci is 79 while Collins is 69.)

And is it not human experimentation to force people into clinical trials for drugs that do not work?

Why does it take five, 10, or 15 days for coronavirus tests to be done? Why are people dying waiting for tests?

Why do we need a world war—or a metaphoric reference to it—to make our institutions work? How do you expect to cure a novel virus with old thinking and old institutions?

Beware Chinese Gifts

Technology means doing more with less and yet our government seems to do less with more. Technology means making space for the new and young as the tired and old retreat gracefully from the public stage in a peaceful handoff of power.

Technology has been sorely lacking from America’s response to coronavirus. Our so-called leaders have taken a more low tech approach, preferring to turn all Americans into Uighurs under involuntary house arrest indefinitely.

Zoom, allied with the Chinese facial recognition companies SenseTime and Megvii barred from the United States for their mistreatment of the Uighurs, laughably convince America and her institutions to trust them while they train their datasets on us.

Silicon Valley lamented that it took Zoom CEO Eric Yuan nine attempts to get his visa. What if the U.S. deep state was right about him? How should we think of the British government using Zoom to communicate? The company reported to the SEC that its large data center—an R&D center really—has 500 engineers and personnel in China. This is unheard of. A Silicon Valley CEO friend told me he looked to hire a project manager from Zoom and found he had 100 direct reports as compared to the typical 12. The disturbing behavior and lax user security ought to have us very concerned.

We ignore American ingenuity at our peril as we invite the world into our country, our cell phones, and our screens. Why did an American manufacturer of powerful spy cameras find he could only do business in China after receiving a DARPA grant? Follow the logic through. The U.S. taxpayer subsidized the creation of the Chinese surveillance state. Why do we allow drone manufacturer DJI to sell to every American municipality while Impossible Aerospace has built a better drone?

TikTok has even enlisted the “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger to make cringeworthy viral videos telling us to stay at home. Perhaps it would sound less alarming if not for that Austrian accent. That’s easy to do if you are a Boomer and have a home, but so few Millennials have been afforded the income or opportunity to make their house a home. Does Arnold’s Mexican maid stay at home with him or in the home he bought for her? No Muscle Beach for you, citizen!

If technology is meant to do more with less, would it be too much to ask that American-born companies restore America’s freedoms? Where are the America First companies here to protect our liberties while they protect our cell phones? Why is it OK to use American ingenuity to target us with ads but not to help us avoid infection?

U.S. allies—Taiwan, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, and even Czechia—happily use state power to direct its technological advantages without shuttering everyday life. Taiwan built an “electronic fence” to quarantine its people while sounding the alarm about China’s state sanctioned lies about the virus. Israel moved to tap secret troves of gathered cell phone data. Singapore introduced an app—TraceTogether—to help identify if someone crossed paths with the infected. South Korea revealed where the infected lived, when they left for work, what trains they took, and where they tested, according to the New York Times. Low technology solutions work as well. Czechia went from zero mask usage to 100 percent in 10 days and ended the growth of new coronavirus cases.

Our allies understand that privacy is a luxury good that we can ill afford in a pandemic. How long should we stay confined to our homes? At present no one has an answer except possibly for forever.

And yet our health officials force us to queue up where we can be infected en masse. That is, if we are lucky enough to even get a test. Once we take a test we must wait days for the state labs to get around to telling us the results. Some receive their results after dying waiting.

For now, however, the FDA won’t let us test at home. Apparently, the agency was too busy telling us not to worry about the addictive nature of opioids. A drug is a substance that causes a change in physiology or psychology. Food is, well, food. Under what authority do diagnostics fall under the Food and Drug Administration’s purview? The FDA doesn’t want to explore new technology. Peter Thiel rightly notes that the areas of least regulation in our economy have seen the most promise.

There is no way out from politics. The administrative state has not delivered the benefits it promised. In the state of emergency it is ultimately the sovereign who decides who to follow and who to ignore, who to copy and who to reject.

In the race to find a solution to this pandemic crisis, President Trump needs to reject both Washington incompetence and Chinese subversion.

Great America

Is the U.S. Media Parroting China’s Propaganda?

America’s mainstream media outlets like to lecture us that “democracy dies in darkness,” but the truth, too often, is buried in their own greed.

Are U.S.-based media companies and journalists deliberately pushing Communist China’s propaganda and disinformation about COVID-19 to protect their Chinese media partners and profits?

Regrettably, it wouldn’t be the first time American media entities served as willing dupes for America’s strategic enemies.

In 1931, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty wrote a series of articles praising a strategic threat and rival model of governance to the United States and liberal democracies everywhere—namely, the Communism of Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union.

One, headlined, “Stalinism Solving Minorities Problem,” claimed “racial favoritism” was banned, and that Stalin’s policies offered “hope to all sections.” This hideous piece was published at the very time Stalin was slaughtering ethnic minorities, starving millions of Ukrainians, and sending hundreds of thousands to work camps.

In the end, Stalin perpetrated one of the most horrific democides in human history: between 6 million to 10 million men, women, and children died as a result of Stalin’s reign of terror.

Few Americans knew what was actually happening in the Soviet Union, however, in large part because Duranty, whose sympathies were with the Communist regime, abdicated his journalistic duty to be objective and report about the facts of the appalling slaughter.

Duranty perpetrated one of the greatest journalistic frauds of the past century. The American public was lied to by omission and commission, all because of Duranty’s support for Communism, abetted by his editors’ laziness and, perhaps, similar sympathies toward the hideous ideology. Ultimately, the Russian and all the captive nations of Europe threw off the Soviet yoke, put the lie to Duranty’s propaganda, and liberated an entire continent from Communism.

Unfortunately, another strategic threat and rival model of governance to the United States and the free world has emerged today—Communist China. And the American media has learned nothing from Walter Duranty’s disgraceful behavior.

But it’s more than just amnesia and a refusal to learn from the past. And it isn’t just ideology that is driving the media’s aid to the Communist Chinese. It’s profit.

It’s not just big tech companies, Hollywood, the NBA, and academia that are kowtowing to Beijing’s whims. Virtually every major media entity in the United States has some form of Chinese investment or is invested in China. Comcast, the parent company of NBC News, has significant business ties to China, yet its reporters and commentators never disclose those relationships—which, naturally, significantly shape their coverage of China. Recently, an NBC News reporter was used in a Chinese government propaganda video to tout the regime’s “success” in controlling COVID-19.

None of this is news to those Americans paying attention to Communist China’s insidious influence campaign.

For more than 20 years, the Washington Post and New York Times, among others, have had a business relationship with China Watch, an offshoot of China Daily, a Chinese-government newspaper. The newspapers for more than 30 years have run pages of propaganda in special “advertorial” inserts in their print editions, at a reported price in excess of $100,000 per page, adding millions to the papers’ ad revenue.

This relationship expanded over the past decade, with the Washington Post actually sharing content from China Daily via a Post-managed website that is no longer active (fortunately, plenty of media outlets have screenshots).

Despite the attempt to cloak it, the relationship remains, with China Watch continuing to call the Post a “media partner.” The Post is often the most widely cited U.S. publication in China Daily coverage of American news. See, for example, this opinion article about last year’s Las Vegas shooting rampage.

The South China Morning Post—owned by Alibaba, a company with significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military establishment—also shares Post content and has a content-sharing agreement with Politico. Recently, the SCMP published an article that attempted to re-write the timeline of the global pandemic.

Apparently, these media outlets’ calls for “transparency” have fallen on deaf ears—their own. None of these U.S. media outlets have divulged how extensive and profitable their business ties are with the Chinese government’s media outlets; nor have the Chinese entities shared such required, detailed information in their filings with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Still, the Post doesn’t hide all of its business relationships with companies tied to the Chinese regime. For instance, the Post’s digital marketing company touts the work it does for Huawei, a Chinese communications equipment manufacturer that has been accused by a number of governments, including that of the United States, of building equipment to advantage its Chinese government investors; and is considered as a potential threat to America and her allies’ national security.

Recently, ProPublica, a U.S. investigative reporting nonprofit, revealed in a detailed study how Chinese propagandists had launched a significant campaign on Twitter and other social media platforms to spread misinformation about the coronavirus via a Chinese government-controlled marketing company called OneSight. Its clients, among many others, include China Daily and Huawei. Some of those social media posts were shared by U.S. media outlets and reporters (almost all of which have now been removed).

The Washington Post and New York Times have stated on a number of occasions their business relationships with Chinese government-controlled entities in no way influence their reporting—which may well be true since reporters from both publications had their media credentials pulled by the Chinese government last month.

But the months of coverage in those papers raising doubts about the true risk of Covid-19, and attacking those citing its origins in Communist China, leave one skeptical if, for no other reason than that for these media giants the profit motive remains.

For example, the Post reported on February 2, “The flu is a much bigger threat than coronavirus, for now.” Then this on February 3? How about this from February 5: “The coronavirus reawakens old racist tropes against Chinese people,” which has been a new theme for the Post over the past two months?

In fact, in the midst of a pandemic caused by Communist China’s malfeasance and disinformation that cost untold thousands of Chinese lives, the Post has encouraged other media outlets to cover rumors to smear the Trump Administration with claims of anti-Asian bias with little or no evidence.

Fake news is bad enough; but one would have hoped parroting Communist Chinese propaganda was beyond the pale even for them.

But for that hope to have been plausible, one would have had to forget how, for three years, these same media outlets peddled the Russia-gate lie, claiming the duly elected president of the United States was a puppet of Vladimir Putin, due to Russian influence and propaganda infiltrating the 2016 U.S. elections. Ironic, isn’t it, that at the very time hundreds of thousands of Americans are suffering from the effects of a virus media outlets like the Washington Post downplayed for weeks, these same outlets continue to condemn others for citing its origin and refusing to place the responsibility for the pandemic where it rightly belongs: on Communist China.

These media outlets need to shine a light on their ties to China and, we can only hope, prove their objectivity to the American public. Because if “democracy dies in darkness,” the truth should never be buried by greed.

Great America

Social Media in the Time of Quarantine

This coronavirus pandemic should serve as a moment of unity and fortitude in which politics are put aside, and transparency prevails online. Now must be a moment of international cooperation and digital information flow.

The historic sweep of COVID-19 across Asia, Europe, and now the United States simultaneously has gone “viral” digitally and across social media, effectively becoming the biggest news story on the planet overnight.

As is the case with any major developing news story, social media users quickly took to their platforms of choice not only to stay informed but also to share experiences related to the virus and updates from quarantine with their audiences. If the growing pandemic can be seen as one repercussion of globalization’s ubiquity, then the reaction online can and should be seen as a manifestation of Big Tech’s omnipresence in the digital era.

It is imperative in this time of crisis that so-called social media truly be a platform for the people, serving the best interests of users who may have no other way to connect with each other and the rest of the world. While Big Tech has drawn ire in the past for banning users who do not conform to executives’ standards, it is critical that social media actually serve as a platform for all in these trying times.

Politicians, policymakers, journalists, and other public-facing leaders use the major tech platforms not only to find out about breaking news, but also as their chief distribution tools to disseminate official information, statements, and press materials to constituents and stakeholders.

With “social distancing” and quarantine measures in place intercontinentally to contain the further spread of the virus, so-called social media is taking on an even greater importance: serving its primary function of connecting friends and family who may be isolated from one another, either miles or continents apart.

In mainland China, for instance, Hubei province—a region roughly the size of the entire country of France—was under a hard quarantine for weeks on end over the Lunar New Year. At one point in time, Chinese authorities had nearly 700 million people—one-tenth of the global population—under some form of quarantine.

Now, the virus has reached crisis levels across the Atlantic. As of this week, the UK finds itself under a full lockdown for the next three weeks. Still, the number of cases there and throughout Europe continues to balloon, with no end to the quarantine in sight.

In the United States, the virus has spread to all 50 states. Our southern border has been shut off to nonessential travel, and California Governor Gavin Newsom along with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have implemented shelter-in-place mandates. Most states are turning to some form of quarantine, if not hard shutdown, and nonessential businesses are shuttered for the time being.

As we have already seen with most universities asking that students not return from spring break, and major corporations such as Walmart and Amazon mandating remote work, there is a very real possibility, for the first time in American history, that citizens will be homebound for the foreseeable future. Real human interaction may forever be altered as a result.

During this time, citizens will be turning to social media not only for news, but also for comfort, solidarity, and connectivity. Big Tech firms should be looking for innovative new ways to streamline remote work for companies, while also providing users with a human experience they may otherwise have to go without.

This coronavirus pandemic should serve as a moment of unity and fortitude in which politics are put aside, and transparency prevails online. Now must be a moment of international cooperation and digital information flow. Big Tech should be leading that push for openness and collaboration.

Companies like Parler are at the forefront of facilitating this crucial transmission of information: history will look back on our role at this time as even more important than that of news and media outlets responsible for reporting fairly on the pandemic. Social media content in this time of “social distancing” is about to serve as the chief record and digital archive for this novel moment.

Great America

Plastic Bags and the Recycling and Reuse Scam

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Back in 2014, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 207, which banned grocery stores from offering customers “single-use” carryout bags. Permanent implementation was delayed by a November 2016 voter referendum, Proposition 67, which unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the measure. Today it is well-established law.

The only way SB 207 was sold to the grocery industry was through an incentive that permitted them to keep the 10 cents per “reusable” bag that they would be required to charge customers.

California’s pioneering ban is touted by environmentalists as an example for the nation, and progressive cities and states have enacted similar laws. But in reality, it is a misguided policy that does more harm than good.

Today, instead of reusing the free single-use bags to line their trash cans and dispose of their cat litter, Californians now pay 10 cents every time they exercise that privilege. And how does this help the environment, when reusable plastic bags have 11 to 14 times the mass of disposable plastic bags, and hardly anyone reuses them that many times?

Further evidence of the absurdity of laws banning single-use plastic bags is found in a study commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency, which estimated reusable grocery bags made of cotton fabric to have 131 times greater “global warming potential” than conventional disposable plastic bags.

And now consumers have fewer reasons than ever to reuse their reusable bags, because it turns out they’re germ carriers.

This isn’t new information. Common sense would dictate that when consumers purchase grocery items, and allow them to knock around inside a plastic bag, pathogens will be transferred from the surfaces of the grocery items onto the surface of the bag.

Similarly, when consumers set those bags down, such as on the seat or floor of a bus or subway car, or in a shopping cart that someone else is about to use, any pathogens on that surface or on that bag will transfer back and forth—presumably over and over.

And even among those who reuse these bags more than 11 times, or 14 times, or 131 times, how many people disinfect them, every single time?

A recent article entitled “Greening Our Way to Infection” appearing in City Journal, provides an excellent summary of the disease risks attendant to reusable grocery bags. John Tierney exposes the absurd denial of public health authorities, both before and since the COVID-19 outbreak, to the risks of using reusable grocery bags. He writes:

A headline on the website of the New York Department of Health calls reusable grocery bags a “Smart Choice”—bizarre advice, considering all the elaborate cautions underneath that headline. The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

This is the world the green extremists want us to live in. Not only shall we reuse our reusable plastic bags more than eleven times, just to break even on the “carbon footprint” vs. a disposable plastic bag, but we shall “segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside the tote bags; to wash and dry tote bags carefully; to store tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse tote bags for anything but food.” And cat litter.

The Irrational Extremes of Recycling and Reuse

While recycling is both profitable and green in certain cases such as with newsprint and aluminum, for most garbage it is neither. Plastics, bags and all, are a compelling example of this. For starters, there is no factual basis for the argument that plastic must be recycled because we may eventually run out of petroleum. This is easily documented.

According to OilPrice.com, in 2012 “plastics production accounted for about 4 percent of global oil production.” Four percent. According to the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, over the past 20 years, proven oil reserves increased faster than consumption. In 2018, there were 1.7 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves worldwide, up from 1.1 trillion barrels in 1998. Plastic, which can also be made out of natural gas or coal, will never run out of the raw materials required for its manufacture.

As for plastics accumulating in the environment, the ocean in particular, much of it comes from fishing nets. One of the largest accumulations of ocean plastic is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of concentrations of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean created by ocean currents. According to Sea Shepherd Global, nearly half of the plastic in these areas come from discarded fishing nets, and “more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.”

As for the source of ocean plastic coming from sources on land, a report in USA Today cites a study published in the journal Science that estimates 242 million pounds of plastic waste are discharged by Americans into the oceans each year, and that the total discharge of plastic waste into the oceans, worldwide, is between 8 to 12 million tons.

A quick, somewhat innumerate read of those numbers might incline one to believe that America is the prime offender, but that would be wrong. Once pounds are converted into tons, it turns out that plastic waste from America, at most, constitutes only 1.5 percent of the plastic trash currently going into the world’s oceans.

This is where it becomes problematic to focus on recycling and reuse, rather than containment in landfills. Because even in America, it is a costly indulgence to recycle most of the waste stream. To emphasize recycling in developing nations is futility. The scarce economic resources of developing nations in Africa and Asia would instead be much better used to develop landfills.

There is No Shortage of Landfill Capacity

One of the earliest serious intellectual revolts against the modern recycling industry came in an in-depth 1996 essay in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Recycling is Garbage.” Authored by the same John Tierney who recently joined City Journal after more than two decades as a reporter and columnist with the New York Times, it exposes how misguided environmentalism and government subsidies corrupted the waste management industry.

In his 1996 essay, Tierney described how environmentalist journalists and activists convinced the nation that if something wasn’t done, and soon, Americans were destined to be “buried alive” under the mountain of trash they were creating. He explained that most materials in garbage are not worth recycling, but that politicians are now afraid to oppose recycling. He explained that modern landfills are now required by federal law to be “lined with clay and plastic, equipped with drainage and gas-collection systems, covered daily with soil and monitored regularly for underground leaks,” but the perception remains that opening new landfills will poison the local populace.

Nearly 25 years later, for most Americans, all of these misconceptions still constitute conventional wisdom. The biggest misconception of all is the claim that there is no room left in America’s landfills. Today more than ever, there are plenty of alarmist reports making that claim.

From Waste Business Journal: “Time is Running Out: The U.S. Landfill Capacity Crisis.” From Global Citizen: “Where Will The Trash Go When All the US Landfills Are Full?” Perhaps the biggest scare story of all appears on the website “How Stuff Works,” where they visualize what America’s roughly 258 million tons of municipal solid waste each year would look like if it was dumped onto one pile, year after year for 100 years. The estimate takes into account a doubling of the U.S. population over this hypothetical century, apparently assuming the annual waste flow would also double during that period as well.

If you keep filling up this landfill for 100 years, and if you assume that during this time the population of the United States doubles, then the landfill will cover about 160,000 acres, or 250 or so square miles, with trash 400 feet deep. Here’s another way to think about it. The Great Pyramid in Egypt is 756 feet by 756 feet at the base and is 481 feet tall, and anyone who has seen it in real life knows that it’s a huge thing—one of the biggest things ever built by man. If you took all the trash that the United States would generate in 100 years and piled it up in the shape of the Great Pyramid, it would be about 32 times bigger. So the base of this trash pyramid would be about 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, and the pyramid would rise almost 3 miles high.

That sounds like an awful lot of garbage, and an awful burden on the land and the people. But it isn’t. Compared to the size of the lower 48 states, compared to the size of America’s urban areas, compared to the area of America’s reservoirs, or mines, or the footprint of its freeways; compared to pretty much any other major category of American infrastructure, it is negligible. To counter the scope insensitivity of the average American journalist, here are some calculations:

A “trash pyramid” 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, rising three miles high, if it were to be poured into America’s roughly 2,000 active landfills, would require each of those landfills to accommodate 100 vertical feet of garbage, over a surface area of 341 acres. Altogether, these 2,000 landfills would consume about 1,066 square miles of land. Notwithstanding the fact that some landfills are designed to accommodate up to 500 vertical feet of trash, or the fact that parks and other amenities are often built on the top of landfills once they reach capacity, 1,066 miles is a trivial amount of land compared to other impacts of human civilization.

For example, America’s lower 48 states occupy 3.1 million square miles. This means that if by 2120, 650 million Americans were still producing the same per-capita quantities of garbage that they produce in today’s throw-away society, those 1,066 square miles of landfills would only occupy 0.03 percent of the available land. America’s urban areas consume just over 100,000 square miles; these hypothetical landfills only increase that by one percent.

Just America’s 10 largest reservoirs occupy 2,670 square miles; the entirety of America’s reservoir inventory would occupy a far larger area. America’s open pit and surface mines occupy thousands of square miles as well, and if America is to innovate its way into the electric age, rare earth mining will increase that footprint. As for America’s 46,000 miles of interstate highways, even at a conservative estimated average width of 300 feet, taking into account all interchanges and not counting all the other national and local roads, these interstates consume 2,600 square miles.

Civilization Requires Tough Choices

The evidence supporting containment in landfills versus recycling is unambiguous. Last month in National Review, Kyle Smith pointed out not only the excessive cost of recycling but reminded us that it’s a good time for a fundamental reassessment of our waste management policies.

“It costs $300 more to recycle a ton of trash than it would to put it in a landfill,” Smith wrote. “When the next budget crunch hits New York—and that’s due approximately ten seconds after the next stock-market crash—recycling would be an excellent program to cut.”

That budget crunch has arrived. And even if the markets and the economy come roaring back, New York City taxpayers have better ways to spend their money than supporting a parasitic industry that does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help the environment.

But the moral argument doesn’t end there. Americans who support environmentalist policies need to think about the example they’re setting for the rest of the world.

The message that needs to go out to developing nations—along with “develop clean fossil fuel and quit poisoning your air with genuinely harmful pollutants”—is build landfills and sequester your solid waste. Americans need to show by example how modern landfills are built, not how to painstakingly “recycle” everything regardless of its utility or affordability.

Eventually, just as eventually American innovators will commercialize fusion power, American innovators will commercialize plasma waste converters, turning solid waste into valuable feedstock to generate energy and building materials. When that day comes, not only will waste management no longer leave an expanding footprint, however trivial it may be, but we can mine the landfills if we wish.

In 1996, in his essay for the New York Times about recycling, Tierney arrived at the ultimate reason for its persistence as policy despite its negative economic impact and despite being of dubious environmental benefit. He wrote:

The leaders of the recycling movement derive psychic and financial rewards from recycling. Environmental groups raise money and attract new members through their campaigns to outlaw ‘waste’ and prevent landfills from opening. They get financing from public and private sources (including the recycling industry) to research and promote recycling. By turning garbage into a political issue, environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s as true today as it was in 1996, and it applies to so many issues of public policy where environmentalists have formed an alliance with powerful financial special interests. It is wonderful when one may reward his psyche and his pocketbook at the same time, but when delusion and corruption are the prerequisites for such rewards, society loses.

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Great America

We’re All Preppers Now

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that we live in an uncertain world. A lot of frivolous things are likely to go away when this is over.

Doomsday prepping has always been a controversial, minority pursuit. While it has occasioned some curiosity from the general public—and even some reality shows—generally speaking, it is not in keeping with America’s culture of optimism and consumerism.

No one likes the bearer of bad news, and preppers suggest that American security and prosperity are fragile things, and that the future may look very different and require an entirely different set of skills than the ones rewarded today. There’s not much need for “marketing assistants” when the end times cometh.

The Left Doesn’t Like Preppers

The Left takes a particularly dim view of preppers. After all, at least one dimension of leftism is faith in government and in uniformity. Hodge-podge self-help, inequality, and being armed all go against the Left’s cult extolling the virtues of government and central planning. Prepping is inherently individualistic, and those of means have a leg-up in their ability to prepare.

In the words of a 2017 article from the scam artists at the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Doomsday preppers’ emphasis on ‘preparedness’ appears to make sense. Family preparedness may even be advisable. Nevertheless, beyond a few legitimate reasons, doomsday prepping, for the most part, represents a dark worldview that combines, to varying degrees, end-times apocalyptic views, an obsession with firearms (and other weaponry), conspiracy theories and too often an anti-government sentiment. When combined, these radical views become toxic and lead unsuspecting followers down a funnel of despair, which perpetuates fear, paranoia, and extremism.”

While the SPLC’s own motives appear to be rooted in “fear, paranoia, and extremism” in the service of their prodigious fundraising, there is no doubt prepping can become an unhealthy obsession. I suspect, for some, it is a “first shall be last fantasy,” where people currently very low in social prestige are elevated if the current social order disappears.

A similar nihilistic “accelerationism” is common among far-right figures, some of whom have expressed total indifference over the stock market and recent economic troubles.

These are not healthy approaches to prepping, nor for the foundations of a good life.

Prudent Prepping

Prepping at its best is conceived of as a type of insurance. We don’t expect the 1-2 percent chance of various disasters, because the future most likely looks like the present. In such a scenario, we’re more likely to die from metabolic syndrome or a car accident than in confronting a horde of zombies. So, like other insurance, it’s probably not something about which people should be obsessed. You have to prepare for retirement and good health much more than you prepare for a six sigma event.

But right now we’re in the middle of a six sigma event, and the preppers are a step ahead.

Many people, even wealthy people, have been caught flatfooted. Friends are reaching out with advice on firearms and other matters. Before the official advice on preparing for a quarantine came down, many had no food or ability to survive even a few days without dipping into the economy and its elaborate supply chains. It pays to prepare for a rainy day before it rains.

The mad rush to grocery and gun stores are showing the differences between preppers and the unprepared, as well as the haves and have nots more generally. Those who thought ahead could focus on topping off their existing supplies. The wealthier could pay extra to get what they need. Even the preparations ordinary people are choosing—eggs, toilet paper, bottled water—show a lack of appreciation for what this particular emergency looks like.

FEMA and others have for many years counseled the need for a 72 hours kit. Here in Florida hurricanes happen regularly. In other parts of the country, there are earthquakes or blizzards. Yet most of us, even those who can afford to prepare, put these events out of mind in between bad years.

In spite of our collective prosperity, we live in a country where many of our countrymen have no wealth accumulated: no emergency funds, no food, and no resources. A great many others have spent their small piece of the pie on the good life: vacations, concerts, and the latest smartphone. They have little to show for it, and right now they wish they had that extra money to provide for contingencies.

There is a reason “Rent-a-Wheel” is a thing. Wisdom comes late.

No One Is Coming To Save You

We have seen the fruits of being unprepared in events like Hurricane Katrina. It was a total disaster. The failure to evacuate often stemmed from a lack of appreciation for the storm or the lack of resources available for people to get out of town. The failure extended to individuals and the government.

In addition to flooding, New Orleans experienced “the storm after the storm,” as desperate people and the existing criminal class took advantage of the disorder or were holed up inside the Superdome. The media made this a story about George W. Bush, but even an American president cannot get people to take simple, affordable steps to maximize their chances of survival.

At the moment, disorder appears to be less of a problem. But we are seeing something like what Sam Francis called anarcho-tyranny. Some police departments have told their communities that they’re on their own, and that they will not respond to calls for theft or even 911. Others have released jail inmates. At the same time, they are enforcing curfews, closing public parks, and protecting the government and its officials, as well as those adjacent to the government.

While there is always talk of the government keeping down a restive population with bread and circuses, it seems the circuses are unnecessary. Various sports leagues have shut down amid the coronavirus threat, concerts have been canceled, and it seems it takes little more than Netflix to keep people’s appetite for entertainment sustained.

One admittedly disheartening aspect of this virus is the “social distancing” counsel. One of the most important forms of social support, time with family and friends, is now fraught with risk.

That said, a lot of frivolous things are likely to go away when this is over.

In addition to making globalist pursuits like international travel less popular, the shutdown will likely make all of us realize that many jobs and huge sectors of the economy are completely optional. Sure, we miss the restaurants and being able to buy things at the store, but how much worse off is the nation when the various marketing hacks and financial engineers can’t do what they do? How many face-to-face meetings have proven to be totally unnecessary? People will learn to cook at home, travel less, maybe even read a book, and otherwise enjoy the simpler things in life.

While there has been a mass push to load up on debt spending nationally, those who didn’t already figure it out are realizing that personal debt can be a great vulnerability. Perhaps some of the prudent savings culture that arose after the 2008 economic crisis will reemerge.

Finally, in spite of its pretensions of ability, most of us are realizing that no one is coming to save us. The $2 trillion package out of the Congress—which amounts to about $6,000 per American—is only distributing about $1,200 per person. Money for small businesses has been severely delayed, and many will fail over the next few months without cash flow. Most of those who are on the higher end of the income scale—though hardly rich—are getting nothing. There is little help and little willingness to help from public authorities, in spite of our gargantuan federal budget.

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that we live in an uncertain world. Far from being laughable curiosities, we’re all preppers now.

Great America

Even on COVID-19, Left and Right Are Divided

Even COVID-19 has brought no cease-fire in the ongoing American civil war.

If there is one thing on which you’d think left and right could agree, it would be the proper response to the present coronavirus. After all, COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish between left and right: Conservatives and liberals are just as likely to contract and even die from it.

Yet, it’s amazing how consistently left and right differ on even this issue.

Virtually every opinion piece in The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other mainstream, i.e., left-wing, journal share two characteristics: a sense of foreboding (millions will die) and an unshakeable conviction that to prevent mass death, the world’s economy must be shut down.

Meanwhile, virtually every opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal and on just about every conservative website contains less foreboding and asks more questions about whether the cure may be worse than the disease. To cite some examples:

March 11: Ben Shapiro published a piece titled “Our Fears About Coronavirus Are Overblown.”

March 16: The Hoover Institution published a piece by Richard A. Epstein whose thesis was: “I believe that the current dire models radically overestimate the ultimate death toll.”

March 16: City Journal published conservative thinker Victor Davis Hanson’s piece whose thesis was: “Our response could prove as harmful as the virus itself.”

March 17: My column titled “Why the Remedy May Be Worse Than the Disease” appeared on many conservative sites.

March 19: The lead Wall Street Journal editorial was titled “Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown.”

March 19: A column titled “Will the Costs of a Great Depression Outweigh the Risks of Coronavirus?” appeared on The Federalist‘s website.

March 24: The Wall Street Journal published a column by two Stanford professors of medicine titled “Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?”

Meanwhile, the liberal and left-wing media published hundreds of articles warning us of millions of deaths if we don’t shut down the American economy.

Or take the example of President Donald Trump’s announcement at a press conference on March 19 that hydroxychloroquine had “shown really good promise” in helping to cure COVID-19.

Virtually every left-wing news medium mocked him for making that claim.

March 21: “AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Breathless Takes on Drugs for Virus.”

They implicitly or explicitly blamed the president for the death of an Arizona man who ingested a fish tank cleaner because it contained chloroquine phosphate (because the name sounds similar to hydroxychloroquine).

March 24: CBS News published a story headlined “Arizona Man Dies, Wife Ill After Taking Drug Touted as Virus Treatment: ‘Trump Kept Saying It Was Basically Pretty Much a Cure.'”

March 24: The left-wing site BuzzFeed simply lied about that story in order to blame the president: “A Man Died After Self-Medicating With a Form of a Drug That Trump Promoted as a Potential Treatment for the Coronavirus.”

March 24: The left-wing St. Louis Post-Dispatch did the same in its headline: “Man Dies After Taking Chloroquine Phosphate, Additive in Drug Touted by Trump as COVID-19 Treatment.”

March 24: The Democratic governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, issued an order that, in the words of the Nevada Health Response, “prohibits (the) prescribing and dispensing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

A particularly egregious example of the left-right divide on the coronavirus response appeared in The Washington Post on March 27. One of its columnists, Max Boot, wrote:

“Radio host Dennis Prager bemoaned our unwillingness to sacrifice lives as we did during World War II, saying ‘that attitude leads to appeasement’ and ‘cowardice.’ The United States lost 418,500 people in World War II … but it would be far worse to lose 2.2 million civilians—the worst-case estimate of the U.S. death toll if we let the novel coronavirus spread unimpeded.”

On my radio show and in my weekly PragerU “Fireside Chat,” I criticized New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the way he defended shutting down his state: “I want to be able to say to the people of New York: I did everything we could do. … And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

It is hard to imagine a more morally absurd sentiment. Anyone who thinks rationally knows it is not worth depriving millions of people of their incomes, forcing thousands of companies to go out of business, causing recovering addicts to lapse back into addiction and much more economic and social damage to “save one life.”

As we are fighting a “war” against the virus, I used a war analogy to make my point. I noted that if we had fought World War II with the attitude that we cannot lose one life, we would never have fought the Nazis or the Japanese. I further noted that we do not make any social policy based on saving one life. For example, every time we raise the speed limit, we know thousands more people will die.

But the left went nuts. Max Boot in The Washington Post is only one example.

So, then, why this left-right gulf?

One reason, as I have written previously, is that hysteria is to the left what oxygen is to biological life. Leftists pride themselves on being rational. But the further left one goes, the more feelings displace reason.

A second reason is hatred of Trump. On the left, damaging Trump is more important than truth and more important than the welfare of the American people. If Trump believes hydroxychloroquine offers hope, let’s debunk its usefulness.

A third reason is leftists are afraid—of life and of death. Fear of life is why they build “safe spaces” on campuses for students who cannot handle a visiting speaker with whom they differ. And they are afraid of death. They undoubtedly find Patrick Henry’s famous cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” incomprehensible, if not downright foolish.

Even COVID-19 has brought no cease-fire in the ongoing American civil war.

Great America

Work in the Time of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic should have liberated workers from the old constraints of their workplaces. But many employers remain attached to their outmoded controlling ways.

If corporations want to maintain the legal fiction that they are people, they would be wise to support the rights of actual people. Because one right that corporations ask us to defend for them—the right of freedom of speech—is the same right they happily deny their own workers.

Thus do public rights vanish behind the doors of private corporations, despite the fact that corporations blight the landscape and bombard the airwaves with advertisements, despite the fact that corporations say whatever they want while they limit what their workers may say.

Such is the choice between bread (or “bread”) and freedom, which is no choice at all. Not when employers police speech within the workplace. Not when some employers seek to extend their police powers to conduct warrantless searches of people’s homes.

What these corporations want is control—total control over the whereabouts of their workers.

What these corporations demand is the right to violate the privacy rights of people who work from home, making employment contingent on the right of employers to spy on their workers.

What these corporations would have workers do is authorize a national campaign of domestic surveillance—to automate the process—via spyware.

By having workers spy on themselves, corporations impose a loyalty oath like no other.

Though a worker may acknowledge and accept this oath, promising to discharge his duties to the best of his ability, we know the truth: that all passions yield to God and country; that the chief business of the American people is what makes business possible; that these prophets include character, industry, and ambition.

We work to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

We work to unite freedom of speech and freedom of worship with freedom from want and freedom from fear.

The work goes on, as it must, until we receive the reward of freedom and peace.

The work is a pattern of good works, showing integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility.

The work must truly be our own.

Great America

Hockey Sticks, Changing Goal Posts, and Hysteria

There’s still time to find a balance between public health and the economy: Trump must find it before April 30.

Last year, Glacier National Park in Montana began removing signs that warned visitors the park’s gigantic glaciers would start melting away by 2020 due to global warming. Park officials altered other climate change flair such as brochures and displays to postpone the threat to sometime in “future generations.”

Like so many claims about the catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic global warming, predictions about disappearing glaciers were quickly memory-holed. And, as usual, the experts behind the flawed science that misled millions of people to believe their actions would cause the destruction of one of nature’s most awesome sights didn’t apologize. No scientist or government official even had the guts to stand up and say, “Oops, my bad.”

Quite to the contrary—prophets of nonexistent doom are often cheered as heroes no matter how many times they’ve been wrong.

Take Dr. Michael Mann, for example. The Pennsylvania State University author of the infamous “hockey stick” graph is still considered a god among the international climate change set; his graph launched the modern-day climate movement even though his work has been widely refuted by scientists and hacked emails showed how he and his fellow researchers manipulated data to “prove” their theory.

Now, we have the latest version of the hockey stick graph and it is related to COVID-19. The alarming visual indicates a huge spike in estimated deaths and hospitalizations in the United States from coronavirus infections over the next few weeks. Last week, a researcher at the University of Washington released a study that appears to serve as the scientific justification to extend the CDCs social distancing guidelines until at least April 30.

Christopher Murray, director of the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, warns that daily fatalities will climb from zero on February 24 to a high of 2,214 on April 15. (Much like Mann’s hockey stick graph that claimed to show warming temperatures, data from the period before the spike cannot be accurate since the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. was reported in mid-January. If it’s as contagious and as lethal as we’ve been told, hundreds if not thousands of people would already have died from the disease in the first two months of the year unbeknownst to healthcare providers.)

By May 2, based on Murray’s model, more than 60,000 Americans will be dead; by the beginning of August, nearly 84,000 of our fellow countrymen will have succumbed to the disease.

The need for hospital beds, intensive care units, and ventilators will far outpace supply, according to Murray. By this Friday, U.S. hospitals will need more than 135,000 beds, nearly 26,000 ICUs and more than 20,000 ventilators to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

And this disaster scenario will occur even with the draconian measures enacted at the federal, state and local level to slow the disease’s death march.

“The estimated excess demand on hospital systems is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures in all states that have not done so already within the next week and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths,” wrote Murray.

From Common Sense to House Arrest

The White House, apparently, is listening. After first disputing an outlandish study produced by the UK’s Imperial College that projected a few million Americans would die from COVID-19 this year, Dr. Deborah Birx presented Murray’s report to the president over the weekend. Birx referred to Murray’s model in a Rose Garden briefing on Sunday.

“It’s anywhere, in the model, between 80,000 and 160,000, maybe potentially 200,000 succumbing to this,” Birx cautioned. “That’s with mitigation.” She insisted that the current measures would need to continue “with a level of intensity.”

During a confusing press briefing Tuesday evening, Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, presented the models to the American public. The president solemnly prepared the country for a “very tough two weeks” that could witness the death of 100,000 to 200,000 Americans. But neither Birx nor Fauci could convincingly explain the data supporting the ominous charts—while Birx seemed married to the ultimate death toll, Fauci tap-danced around the study’s projections, wish-casting about better outcomes and riffing about how new information would improve the model’s efficacy.

So in a matter of weeks, relying on sketchy and incomplete data, government experts have pivoted from offering common-sense steps to fight a virus to declaring government-imposed house arrest. “Flattening the curve” is old news; preventing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans requires tyrannical diktats that a month ago freedom-loving Americans could scarcely imagine.

COVID-19 wasn’t transmitted person-to-person before it was transmitted person-to-person. Masks weren’t necessary; now, they might be part of a required uniform should anyone dare to leave the house. It’s like a bad flu; now it’s way worse than the flu.

Governors are one-upping each other in an egregious power play that defies science, common sense, and decency in a despicable trampling of constitutional rights. The appeal to authority, a common tactic to quash any dissent in the climate change debate, is in full effect as laypeople are warned not to question the advice of credentialed medical and health professionals.

The consequences of this collective overreach—and that’s putting it mildly—have been mind-boggling. The world’s most vibrant economy is at a standstill. Millions of hourly employees are being laid off or let go as unemployment claims skyrocket to historic levels with the worst yet to come. Small business owners fear bankruptcy. The stock market is tanking while politicians on both sides of the aisle, along with the president, concoct bailout plans to fix the economic disaster they helped create.

School children and college students are done with public classes for at least five months. Job offers to college graduates have disappeared. Weddings, graduation ceremonies, and funerals are prohibited. Places of worship are shuttered; religious leaders who defy a government guideline—not a law on the books—to serve their flock are being arrested. Daily joys like a stroll on the beach or dinner at a restaurant or a game of pickup basketball or a round of golf have been stripped from our lives with shockingly little protest. And an army of Karens are policing public spaces to tattle on Facebook if anyone refuses to submit.

Sick people suffer alone; seniors are cut off from family and friends. Lonely children are further isolated as schools close down and their teachers and friends are out of reach. Panic and fear are weaponized to dictate individual behavior.

Echoes of Climate Alarmism

It all has an eerie ring to those of us who’ve covered the climate movement. (Barack Obama connected climate and coronavirus in a tweet on Tuesday: “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial.”)

And just as happened with the climate change agenda, farfetched models with incomplete, untested data drive public policy decisions. Anyone who disputes the experts or challenges the assumptions must hate the environment or the children or the future. (In the case of COVID-19, you must hate grandma.) Anyone who laments the destruction of the economy is a heartless, greedy money-grubber. “Profits over people!” the detractors are taunted. The goalposts keep moving, doomsday is extended, but harsher and harsher actions are nonetheless demanded from above.

So, what if, as Trump accurately said just a week ago, the cure is worse than the disease? What if Murray’s models are woefully off by a factor of five or even 10 but it’s too late to salvage jobs or small businesses? His data is already way off: As of March 31, Murray predicted the U.S. would need 98,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients but only 22,000 were hospitalized that day.

Will the White House, much like Glacier National Park, just change the message while the agitators escape any accountability?

The president is trying to do the right thing but this is a breaking point. If Trump ruins the economy and torches his solid economic achievements based on a handful of flawed models and the evolving opinions of unsure advisors, it will be hard to walk it back. If these figures don’t move to support Murray’s modeling—and fast—Trump needs to reconsider his plan.

There’s still time to find a balance between public health and the economy: Trump must find it before April 30.

Great America

FDR as Conservative Champion?

It is time the intelligent Right deprived the moronic Left of the ability to swaddle their socialistic cynicism and defeatism in the great and misapplied legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Writing here on President’s Day last month, I engaged in the fundamentally disagreeable activity of taking issue with people with whom I always wish to agree and generally do, on the still very unsettled subject of Franklin D. Roosevelt. My contention for many years, advanced in my 2003 biography of FDR, is that Roosevelt was in fact, as he considered himself to be, a conservative—though a reforming one. 

At the time, I was objecting to a televised exchange of nodding complementary agreement between Mark Levin and retired professor Burton Folsom. I usually agree with Levin and almost always do when he is discussing contemporary affairs. The only encounter I have had with Folsom was a very civilized disagreement about Roosevelt in writing with him about 15 years ago, and I have had the occasion to go over the same points with Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, where Folsom was a faculty member for many years. 

Last week, Mark Pulliam of Misrule of Law, an internet “chronicle of legal and judicial mischief,” took up these same cudgels and accused me being “full of vitriol” toward Levin and Folsom for criticizing “FDR’s performance and the efficacy of the New Deal,” of writing a “hagiographic biography” of him as “Black . . . obviously adores Roosevelt.” At least I am granted the distinction of being put together with my friend Newt Gingrich as a conservative defender of FDR. This assault came in the midst of what was a very perceptive summary of the fragmentation of the American conservative intelligentsia in response to the Trump phenomenon. 

As anyone who has read any part of it is aware, my book was not at all a hagiography—Roosevelt was not a very ethical or amiable person, despite his overpowering charm and suavity, and his indisputable courage in managing his infirmity (polio). He was, however, a great leader and the most important man in the world in the 20th century, and with Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, the greatest champion of democracy at least since the American Revolution, if not the Periclean Age. 

I offered no vitriol at all against Levin and Folsom; since I generally share their perspective my purpose is not to antagonize but to recommend a tactical change of course to contemporary thinking conservatives. 

My motive is both to strengthen the appeal of Trump-era conservatism, and to correct the widespread misperception of Roosevelt as a socialist and somehow the person responsible for the present leviathan-state. It was for that reason that I wrote the book about FDR, which I commend to Pulliam and to Levin. I think Folsom read at least part of it, which prompted him to take issue with me. 

My purpose here is entirely constructive. I seek the avoidance of an exchange of fire between ideological and policy allies over an esoteric historical matter based on the long uncontradicted view on the American Right that Roosevelt was an enemy of conservatism. Roosevelt wanted to make America safe for wealthy people like himself. Both as a matter of Christian justice and political practicality, he wanted a contented working-class and agrarian class, as he thought equitable in a rich country, and the only assurance against social instability. He cut back the benefit system in the summers and said to his cabinet, “No one dies of starvation in this country in the summer.” 

He restricted straight cash payments of unemployment benefit to those incapable of working or finding work and operated immense workfare schemes that built much of the infrastructure of the country and conserved much of rural America at bargain expense to taxpayers because he vehemently opposed what he called “the pauperism of the dole.” 

When it comes to long-term social and economic policy, Roosevelt gets a solid B-plus. As a president of catastrophe-avoidance, and catastrophe was well underway in 1933, FDR deserves a perfect score.

FDR would be as scandalized as any of my three opponents in this exchange at the corruption of his emergency welfare plans to deal with a collapsed financial system and approximately 30 percent unemployment with no direct relief from the federal government when he was inaugurated in 1933. Roosevelt would revile the degeneration of what he founded into a system of taking money from those who earned it and giving it to those who have not—irrespective of merit, in exchange for their votes, with all of his mellifluous and acidulous eloquence.  

Roosevelt’s greatest economic failings were his reluctant approval of the Wagner Act (1935), which augmented the ability of organized labor to unionize the workforce, and his recourse to higher taxes on upper incomes in the mid-1930s. He only signed Senator Robert Wagner’s bill because he had authorized corporate industry-wide price-fixing and he was trying to raise incomes and prices and reverse deflation. He only raised taxes on the rich (with many available exonerations) to cover his political flank against populist charlatans such as Louisiana’s Huey P. Long and the geriatric crank, Francis Townsend (who proposed straight cash payments to Americans like those in the current coronavirus relief legislation). 

I had this argument with Jim Powell in the Wall Street Journal about 12 years ago. He objected to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which brought rural electrification and flood and drought control and inland navigation to eight states and employed many thousands of unemployed. Powell contended that Roosevelt should have let the impoverished farmers of the region migrate in penury to the cities where they eventually would have enjoyed a higher standard of living. This was a policy prescription not easily distinguishable from Stalin’s contemporary slaughter of the kulaks, and is un-American. 

What motivated me on Presidents’ Day was the Levin-Folsom agreement that these workfare projects of Roosevelt’s were a “quid pro quo” (in the brief pendency of that expression’s odium because of the Ukraine nonsense), as Roosevelt caused the Congress to allocate the funds and the beneficiary-states understood that the funding would dry up if they didn’t vote for Roosevelt. This was unutterable nonsense and the TVA has flourished under fourteen consecutive presidents, seven of them Republicans. These retroactive quarterbacks have never suggested any serious alternatives to what Roosevelt did and no significant part of his domestic legislation has been seriously altered except taxes, and it took until John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (both disciples of FDR), to enact the late recognition of how stimulating tax reductions can be. 

Economics is a less dismal science than it was when Herbert Hoover was grimly raising taxes to deal with the Great Depression. When it comes to long-term social and economic policy, Roosevelt gets a solid B-plus. As a president of catastrophe-avoidance, and catastrophe was well underway in 1933, FDR deserves a perfect score. 

The entire financial system had collapsed, the banks and stock and commodity exchanges had all closed sine die, (except for two states where bank withdrawals could not exceed ten dollars). Roosevelt acknowledged that the New Deal would, and did, make many mistakes, but it saved the country. That was what he was elected to do, and he went on, with Churchill, to save the Western world, retaining the White House and both houses of Congress through four terms. It is no more just to blame Roosevelt for the shambles of the Great Society and what has followed than it is to blame Thomas Edison for electric fires and Henry Ford for automobile accidents. It is a know-nothing argument and my present interlocutors are not know-nothings.

Finally, I have heard Mark Levin enunciate the ghastly fiction that Roosevelt gave eastern Europe away to Stalin. In fact, he forced the Normandy landings at least a year ahead of when Churchill wanted them, rejected the mad British idea of charging up the Adriatic instead, and thus saved France and most of Germany for the West, enabling us to win the Cold War, all of whose principal institutions (the Marshall Plan and NATO) were devised by the strategic team bequeathed by Roosevelt to Truman—Marshall, Acheson, Eisenhower, Kennan, and Bohlen, etc. I commend to Levin chapter 24 of my Roosevelt book the next time he feels the Yalta myth congesting his mental faculties. 

It is time the intelligent Right deprived the moronic Left of the ability to swaddle their socialistic cynicism and defeatism in the great and misapplied legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

Great America

Did CDC’s Focus on Social Justice Reduce Its Readiness?

The Centers for Disease Control should spend its money and time fighting disease, not playing politics.

You had one job, CDC: to prepare America to combat infectious disease. It’s a sign of what’s happened to the government generally over the last 20 years, that CDC used its resources to advance left-leaning agendas instead of focusing on positioning itself to fight infectious disease. 

We’ve seen the headlines blaming the president for the lack of readiness in response to the outbreak. In mid-March, the Guardian reported, “Trump’s staff cuts have undermined Covid-19 containment efforts.” You can find other such headlines here, here, and here

Most of these accusations are either completely untrue or wild distortions of the facts. The get-Trump media are so obsessively politicized that much of the coverage of the virus has been corrupted in the same way that Russian collusion coverage was so unreliable. PJ Media, for example, published this list of the “Top 10 Lies About President Trump’s Response to the Coronavirus.” 

Lost in the debate over whether CDC had enough money to prepare for the crisis is this critical question: What was the CDC doing with the money it already had?

Why, for example, is the CDC spending resources to study transgender health? There are 2,287 search results for “transgender” within the CDC website. The CDC published the following guidance for LGBT youth: 

Having a school that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. Positive environments can help all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes.

 

CDC uses its disease-fighting appropriations to fund “education and health agencies in states, territories, and large urban school districts to conduct the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The YRBS monitors the health behaviors of U.S. high school students. Starting in 2015, the national YRBS questionnaire and the standard YRBS questionnaire (the starting point for the state, territorial, and large urban school district questionnaires) included questions about sexual identity and gender of sexual contacts.”

A search of the CDC website for the term, “climate change” yields a whopping 5,578 results. The CDC proudly exclaimed, “CDC’s Climate and Health Program is excited to celebrate 10 years of supporting state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies as they prepare for specific health impacts of a changing climate.” It reports funding over 18 “grantees” around the nation to support the “BRACE” framework, an acronym for advancing climate change agenda (essentially political propaganda for Green New Deal-type public policy). The CDC is quite open about using its scientific credentials to “Serve as a credible source of information on the health consequences of climate change.”

The CDC sees its role in the climate change debate as providing, “leadership to state and local governments, community leaders, healthcare professionals, non-governmental organizations, the faith-based communities, the private sector and the public, domestically and internationally, regarding health protection from the effects of climate change.” 

That’s right, instead of fighting disease, the CDC bureaucrats use their scientific credentials to “lead” our local governments on climate change. In a true republic, unelected bureaucrats are not the ones “leading” elected officials. 

Bureaucratic culture undermined the CDC’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some blamed the FDA’s complicated “Emergency Use Authorization” protocol which was so complex that it required weeks to clear. 

Although the United States had a 10 companies with the technical capacity to mass-produce COVID-19 tests, the CDC instead exerted a government monopoly over test production. But the CDC proved unable to produce sufficient working tests to meet the immediate demand leading to a missed opportunity to assess and contain the early penetrations of the virus in the United States. 

Across government, social-justice priorities have gradually diluted and even displaced core missions of government agencies. CDC used a not-insignificant portion of its scarce resources to create a platform for unrelated priorities. We don’t have time for that crap anymore. 

If CDC employees want to use their own time and money to promote climate change and transgender social issues, they should be free to do so. But taxpayer money should not be used to advance political agendas—particularly when those agendas are completely unrelated to an agency’s mission. The Centers for Disease Control should spend its money and time fighting infectious disease, not playing politics.

Great America

Coronavirus Even Closed the Waffle House

We all come from a different place, but we all end up at the same destination, usually at places such as this diner. When our cathedrals are locked, we worry and wonder if we will ever get back to our idea of normal.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pennsylvania—It is early Sunday morning along one of the few congested stretches of the Lincoln Highway when an empty parking lot below the familiar cheery yellow sign for the local Waffle House catches the eye.

The 24-hour diner chain, born in the Atlanta suburbs 65 years ago and now spreading across 25 states with nearly 2,000 locations, is primarily known for its ability to serve as a touchstone in every community it serves. It feeds a cultlike following among foodies and road warriors.

But it is also known for another remarkable distinction: It closes for no disaster.

Yet at store No. 1673, the doors are now locked. It is one of 418 diners the chain has closed, an announcement made through social media last Wednesday with the hashtag #WaffleHouseIndexRed. The reference is to the Waffle House Index, an informal metric created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a measure of the effect a natural disaster is having on a community. A green index means full menu service. Yellow means services have been limited. Red indicates closures—a major disaster. A whole bunch of Waffle Houses including this one hit red on Sunday due to the novel coronavirus.

The shuttered doors along the first coast-to-coast U.S. highway tells you everything about the state of things. The coronavirus’ spread is likely to get worse in the coming weeks before it gets better—before we get better.

No matter where in this country you walk into a Waffle House, whether in the diner’s home state of Georgia, here in Chambersburg or in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania, without fail you can expect a cheerful hello at the door, a jukebox at your table, no-frills seating and the nostalgic scent of frying oil for the hot irons. The waitstaff will definitely call you “honey,” and, of course, you’ll hear orders shouted to the kitchen in the diner’s distinct hash brown lingo.

When your waitress shouts, “Scattered!” that is someone’s hash brown order, meaning they are all spread out on the grill so they get nice and crispy. “Smothered!” means someone ordered theirs covered in onions. “Peppered!” is a nice dousing of jalapenos. “Covered!” means melted American cheese on top. And “Country!” of course, means it’s doused in sausage gravy.

Waffle House was founded in 1955 by partners Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner. Both men died in their late 90s in 2017, just more than a month apart. The privately held company is now headed by Joe Rogers Jr.

The Waffle House is a lot of things to a lot of people: It is where the regular guys or gals go after a long Saturday night on the town, and where they go back to on Sunday morning after seeking redemption for Saturday night at church.

It is a night out for a family of four; the beacon on the highway for the hungry long-distance driver; the place where you and your friends went after the prom; and maybe where you or your child had his or her first job.

You are never alone at the Waffle House, even if you spend your time contemplating life, staring at the white subway tiles trimmed with black diamonds on a yellow background. In normal times, the odds are good that you’ll walk out with three new friends and hope for the future. But not now.

Njeri Boss, the director of public relations for the chain, said in a statement that the closures were all related to COVID-19. “We referred to the index as a way to help people understand how big of an impact this virus has had on the restaurant industry,” Boss said. “With so few customers visiting our restaurants, we are rapidly losing the ability to offer enough work hours for our associates to earn money needed to live their lives and pay their bills. Hardest hit so far are our restaurants in the Midwest and along parts of the Gulf Coast.”

The closure of store No. 1673 here in Chambersburg is listed online as temporary.

America’s idea of normal is like listening to an old folk song. It is filled with all of the sounds that make up our heritage—the banjo from Africa, the fiddle from Europe, and the gospel sounds from the mountain people who first carved out the frontier.

The lyrics are the stories we tell when we sit at the Waffle House counter alone and together as the jukebox plays.

We all come from a different place, but we all end up at the same destination, usually at places such as this diner. When our cathedrals are locked, we worry and wonder if we will ever get back to our idea of normal.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

 

Great America

School’s Out Forever?

Homeschooling certainly has its challenges, especially when foisted on families with little or no warning. But many families may find that its benefits outweigh the costs in this time of virus induced homeschooling. Expect the number of permanent homeschoolers to rise as a result.

With just about every public school in the country closed at this time, the only way for kids to get an education is at home. Many see this as nothing less than tragic. Writing in Education Week, Stephen Sawchuk claims that schools are an “absolute necessity for the functioning of civic culture, and even more fundamentally than that, daily life.”

If Sawchuk is correct, the country’s troubles extend way beyond the Wuhan virus. While shutting down public schools is certainly a massive disruption, our civic culture was just fine before the government’s monopoly on education came to be.

The push for the government’s role in education began in the 1830s when a group of dedicated reformers declared that state involvement was needed to ensure all children get a better, more unified education. Leading the charge was Bostonian Horace Mann who, with like-minded souls, campaigned for a greater state role in education. They argued that a centrally planned system of tax-funded schools would be superior to the independent and home schools that existed at the time.

As the late Cato Institute scholar Andrew Coulson noted, “Shifting the reins of educational power from private to public hands would, they promised, yield better teaching methods and materials, greater efficiency, superior service to the poor, and a stronger, more cohesive nation. Mann even ventured to predict that if public schooling were widely adopted and given enough time to work, ‘nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete,’ and ‘the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged.’” (Emphasis added.) While Mann’s utopian goals obviously didn’t quite work out as planned, they did create a link in people’s minds between the “institution of public schooling and the ideals of public education” that tragically still exists.

A look at literacy rates is instructive. In 1840, before compulsory public schools existed, literacy rates were about 90 percent.

But today?

According to the Literacy Project, 45 million Americans today are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th-grade level. Half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th-grade level. In California, 25 percent of the state’s 6 million students are unable to perform basic reading skills. It’s way past time to reappraise the Mann-created mess.

Homeschooling certainly has its challenges, especially when foisted on families with little or no warning. But unlike in the 19th century, home learning today doesn’t have to depend on family members sitting at a common table going over the ABCs. With computers omnipresent, the best teachers in the world these days can teach the world.

In “We’re All Homeschoolers Now,” the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke cites just a few of the ample resources available to parents. Outfits like Zearn and STMath are providing their materials online for free during the coronavirus outbreak. Longtime resource Khan Academy has a wealth of educational resources. Prenda Microschool is offering its coursework to families for just $100 for the remainder of the year. The Cato Institute’s Kerry McDonald lists even more resources. Also, the Home School Legal Defense Association is a one-stop-shop for all aspects of homeschooling.

Additionally, many home-schooling veterans have been offering a trove of support to the newbies, many of whom will find their unfamiliar role difficult. Married to a teacher, Michelle Thomas homeschools her four children and explains how she and her husband can swing it on a single income. She extols the many virtues of educating at home: her kids have become close friends, the family has no competition in helping form their kids’ character development, flexibility in the school day, etc.

Even families who enthusiastically embrace their new role may find the money lost from cutting back on work hours daunting. But, writing about California, Reason Foundation’s Corey DeAngelis suggests that the state could “give some portion of that funding to parents to cover educational expenses during the shutdown. The state could allow school districts and families to split K‑12 education funding 50–50. That could be a win for both groups. School districts would get to keep half of the funding for students who no longer attend them. Families would get to use half of their children’s education dollars to find a school or program that fits their current needs.”

As good an idea as that is, California lawmakers undoubtedly will pass on it. Any legislation that disrupts the big government-big union complex is a sure loser. Despite the fact that kids educated by their parents outperform traditional public school students, the teachers’ unions and other wild-eyed statists have been gunning for homeschoolers for years. In March 2008, a California state appellate court ruled that parents who lack teaching credentials could not educate their children at home. Needless to say, this decision sent waves of angst through California’s homeschooling families, while delighting the teachers’ unions. United Teachers of Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy asserted at the time, “What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher.” Lloyd Porter, a California Teachers Association board member, chimed in: “We’re happy. We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting.”

Sadly for the unionistas, however, sanity prevailed a few months later. In August 2008, a state appellate court ruled that parents may indeed legally homeschool their kids in California even if they lack a teaching credential. No matter, the California Teachers Association maintains that allowing parents to homeschool their children without a state-issued stamp of approval results in “educational anarchy.”

At its yearly national convention in 2015, the National Education Association passed Resolution B-83 (exactly the same as 2011’s B-82, 2008’s B-75, etc.), which read in part: “The National Education Association believes that homeschooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience . . . Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.

Also, courtesy of the California Federation of Teachers, there is a law on the books which hurts homeschoolers. It stipulates that enrollment in online charter schools be restricted to students living in a contiguous county to where the school is based. This makes as much sense as being told that because you live in Los Angeles County you can’t use Google as your search engine because the latter’s home base is in Santa Clara County, which is not adjacent to L.A.!

According to the latest numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, about 1.7 million kids are homeschooled in the United States, with about 190,000 of them based in California. That number undoubtedly will increase if the virus threat continues for a protracted period—by how much is anyone’s guess.

As you contemplate homeschooling your young ones, please consider: your family may wind up a tighter unit and your children more literate. At the same time, they will not be exposed to perverse sex education, bullies, indoctrination, the teachers’ unions’ archaic tenure and seniority rules, and so on.

Think about it.

Great America

Black Swans and Super Bubbles

America is at a crossroads economically. The immediate challenges are daunting. But the good news is America remains well positioned to lead and inspire the world in the 21st century.

“Black Swan: an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences.”

Investopedia

For decades there have been so-called “permabears” claiming that investment returns in the stock market were unsustainable. When the internet bubble popped in 1999, the permabears felt vindicated. But then, starting around 2003, the bulls came back. In 2009, the housing bubble popped and the permabears were vindicated once again. But then the bulls came back with a vengeance, going on an 11-year rampage during which the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose from a low of 6,627 on March 2, 2009 to a dizzying height of 29,398 on February 10.

In 10 years, 11 months, and nine days, the Dow more than quadrupled.

If an investor put their savings into the stock market back in early March, 2009, and sold it in early February 2020, he would have realized an annual return of over 14 percent. The chart below shows the value of the Dow since 1970. It is not a logarithmic scale, so the grade of the slope indicates absolute changes. So why is it that the value of the Dow displayed almost no growth between 1970 and 1985, then embarked on a roller coaster ride heading mostly up?

Whenever delving into the dismal science of economics, it’s important to acknowledge that nobody, regardless of their credentials, has a crystal ball. And when it comes to discussing the big variables, primary causes, and optimal solutions, there is no consensus.

But with stock values correcting yet again, the permabears need to be heard. It isn’t just stock values that are at risk. The bubble this time has been dubbed the “super bubble,” incorporating not only stocks, but bonds and real estate as well. To understand why permabears make this argument, the historical interest rate trends since 1970 are illuminating.

The next chart shows the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rate over the past 50 years. The first thing to notice is the inverse relationship between the T-note rate and the growth trends in the DJIA. As the rate for T-notes fell, the value of the Dow rose. The relationship between index rates and the value of stock equities makes intuitive sense. When fixed-income T-notes and bonds are paying high rates of return, there is less demand for stocks. Also supporting this inverse relationship between interest rates and the value of stocks is the fact that when interest rates are low, more borrowing occurs, which stimulates consumer spending and corporate profits, raising the value of their stock.

There is historical data to back up this theory. When the internet bubble driven stock market peaked, helping drive the Dow up to 11,723 by January 2000, 10-year T-notes were paying 6.7 percent. But as the stocks fell, so did interest rates. The Dow bottomed out at 7,740 in September 2002, with the trough for the 10-year T-note shortly thereafter in January 2003 at 3.3 percent. Then as stock values rose, Treasury rates rose as well. When the real estate bubble popped in October 2007, the 10 year T-note was back up to 5.2 percent. But the Great Recession decimated the stock market, and threatened to crash the entire economy.

In moves to stimulate the economy during this extraordinary time, the 10-year T-note hit a low of 2.1 percent by December 2008. But then something strange happened. The interest rate of the T-note never fully bounced back. The highest it ever got, during this most recent 11-year bull market in stocks was 3.2 percent in October 2018. And when the DJIA hit its all time high this past February, the 10-year T-note was already down—way down—at 1.5 percent.

This fact, that interest rates were at an all time low when the stock indexes were at all time highs, makes this correction in stock values different from the two most recent previous corrections. It means that interest rates were still being lowered in order to stimulate economic growth even when the stock indexes were increasing. It means that this time, the most easily applied and reliable tool to stimulate economic growth, lowering interest rates, is not an option. It is the reason the permabears have referred to this most recent investment bubble as the “super bubble.”

“Super bubble” refers to the belief that not just stocks are overvalued, but also bonds and real estate. The reason bonds are considered overvalued is related directly to interest rates, as set by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury. When current debt is issued at a lower fixed rate of interest, then debt that was issued in the past at higher rates increases in value. This is because on the open market for bonds, any bond paying a higher rate will fetch a higher price, until whatever fixed amount the bond pays in interest matches the current interest rate.

For example, a 10-year T-note purchased for $10,000 in October 2018 was paying 3.2 percent, or $320 per year. But once interest rates fell to 1.5 percent in February, the October 2018 T-note only had to pay $150 per year to trade at a competitive rate. Since the rate is fixed, however, the price rises instead. All of a sudden this $10,000 T-note paying $320 per year is theoretically worth $21,000, because 320 divided by 21,000 equals 1.5 percent. While this explanation is a gross oversimplification, the causal relationship between interest rates and bond prices is indisputable. When interest rates fall, there is a rally in bond prices. Bonds, along with stocks, have been great investments over the past few years, but how can they possibly continue to appreciate?

The 10-year Treasury note is currently paying 0.5 percent interest, and the previously referenced pricing equations are now yielding absurd results. The market for bonds is freezing up, with pricing models entering uncharted territory. One thing is certain, the bond bubble, along with the stock bubble, has popped.

Which brings us to real estate, the third major asset class that the permabears allege has entered bubble territory. Unlike stocks and bonds, real estate is a tangible asset. While real estate isn’t finite, since the square-foot inventory of real estate perpetually increases, there are practical, physical limits on the growth or shrinkage of real estate inventory that, at least compared to stocks and bonds, puts a floor on how far its value can crash. But real estate still obeys the same law of leverage; when falling interest rates lower the cost of money, more borrowers increase the demand and prices rise.

As can be seen on the next chart, however, when it comes to the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, we’re back to those “lifetime lows” that preceded the last crash in real estate values in 2008. As an investment, it is likely that real estate values will continue to hold in the U.S. markets where there is global demand from foreign investors—the California coast, New York City, Miami. U.S. real estate in general will benefit from foreign investment—assuming it is not restricted—as foreign capital seeks the relative stability of owning property in the United States. But broad American consumer demand for real estate requires Americans to retain a capacity for borrowing, a capacity which can no longer be expanded by lowering mortgage lending rates. They are about as low as they can go.

What does it mean when asset portfolios can no longer offer returns that interest investors? What happens when the value of stocks and bonds fall by trillions of dollars overnight? These questions, urgent enough on their own, are compounded by the fact that while the super bubble only required a pin-prick to pop, the COVID-19 recession is more analogous to a wrecking ball than a pin. What’s going to happen?

For about 40 years, America’s economic growth has been stimulated by gradually lowering interest rates and increasing debt. How much debt can a nation handle? How does the burden of interest payments impact the ability of businesses to pay their operating costs and the ability of consumers to engage in ongoing borrowing and spending?

A good way to measure the ability of a national economy to handle their debt burden is to look at all debt—public and private—and compare that to GDP. The next table shows that relationship.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this relationship, because the ability of a nation to borrow depends on its income, just as an individual consumer’s ability to borrow depends on their income. As GDP grows, borrowing capacity grows. As shown above, while U.S. GDP has surely grown over the past 50 years, the amount borrowed has grown faster. Back in 1980, total borrowing in the United State was only 1.5 times GDP. This would be comparable to a person back then earning $50,000 per year, and owing a total of $75,000 for their home mortgage, automobiles, and whatever else they’d bought on credit. That’s not an alarming ratio.

The trillion-dollar question today is what is an alarming ratio?

What’s interesting is that the most recent ratio reported by the Federal Reserve, with total debt about 3.5 times GDP, is actually down from a high of nearly four times GDP in 2009. With the value of all debt in the United States currently at $75.5 trillion, over a reported 2019 GDP of 21.4 trillion, this suggests it would be possible to issue up to $10 trillion of new debt merely to reach the 4.0 ratio of debt-to-GDP we nearly reached a decade ago.

Once you accept the heretical notion that all debt is equal, that it doesn’t matter which balance sheet holds the debt, then you might consider the vitality of the U.S. economy as if it were a household. Can a household with an income of $50,000 manage a debt of $200,000? Yes. Easily. But there’s much more to this story.

The Primacy of Collateral

As in 2008, the Federal Reserve right now is preparing to purchase debt by issuing credits to banks and other creditors. This time, however, the Federal Reserve intends not only to purchase U.S. Treasuries and government-backed mortgages but also private debt. The goal is to stabilize the bond market and other financial markets, fund government payments to citizens and businesses that have been sidelined indefinitely by the COVID-19 pandemic. This explains where the federal government is getting $2 trillion to spread immediately into the economy.

The ability of the Federal Reserve to print money, along with fractional reserve lending and federal budget deficits, are all practices that invite condemnation from fiscal conservatives. Debating whether enhanced liquidity, investment, and economic growth is worth enduring the inherent risk of these financial innovations is a fascinating exercise. It’s also futile, because they’re here to stay. And what fuels financial innovation, the engine of liquidity, is collateral.

The collateral of the United States is incalculable, but there are abundant clues. According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent Financial Accounts Report, the total value of all financial assets in the United States in 2018 was $244 trillion. This certainly doesn’t include everything of value in the nation, and with that, it’s useful to consider the collateral of the United States as compared to that of any other nation.

Step way back for a moment and imagine if a fleet of extraterrestrial investors swept into earth orbit and decided to buy the planet. Imagine they negotiated with each national government, paying them all in some intergalactic currency. How would the inherent value of everything in the United States—land, natural resources, universities and hospitals, intellectual property and infrastructure, everything—compare to similar assessments made in other nations? It’s a safe bet that America’s collateral would fare quite favorably in such an appraisal.

There is a sound argument that balance sheets for the various sectors of the U.S. economy can be linked. Shifting debt from consumers and banks to the government, and from the government to the Federal Reserve, doesn’t change the overall national economic health. One cannot reference the consolidated total debt awash in the U.S. economy, $75.5 trillion, in all sectors, without considering the total value of the U.S. economy, easily in excess of $244 trillion. That is not an unhealthy ratio.

The current decision by the Federal Reserve to create as much money as it wishes in order to protect the government, financial, commercial and consumer sectors of the U.S. economy from going into deflationary default is logical and necessary, even if it may be heretical to fiscal conservatives.

The U.S. economy right now, and the global economy, exists on a razor’s edge between inflation and deflation. Of the two, deflation would be far more catastrophic, because deflation would reduce income and inflate the real value of debt. Deflation would make it impossible for debtors to pay their interest, putting them in default, crushing demand, bankrupting creditors at the same time, and collapsing national collateral. It must be avoided at all costs.

If You’re to Spend Money You Don’t Have, At Least Spend Wisely

America’s ability to print money isn’t unique. Every currency union in the world relies on what the purists derisively refer to as “fiat money.” Nations concoct currency out of thin air, turning it into either printed notes, or electronic transfers. Currencies are no longer backed by precious metal or any other commodity. Their value is based on the willingness of buyers and sellers to trade those currencies for other currencies, and at what rate of exchange. This is how money moves in the world, and despite the enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies or the perennial warnings from the gold bugs, it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

For this reason, America’s currency remains likely to stay strong despite the decision of the Federal Reserve to inject $10 trillion, or even $20 trillion, into the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve has even offered to inject U.S. dollar liquidity into foreign central banks, in a move that will help their liquidity at the same time as it further solidifies the position of the U.S. dollar as the global transaction and reserve currency.

Skeptics should ask themselves how exactly will the U.S. currency devalue versus other currencies, and if so, how would that harm the U.S. economy? The debt-to-GDP ratio of China, America’s emerging competitor, is now 300 percent of their GDP, comparable to that of the United States. It is unlikely, however, that China’s debt-to-collateral ratio is as healthy as ours.

China, for all its dynamism, is a thin pan on a hot fire. In the long run they face demographic collapse, political instability, and dependence on imported fuel. Their cultural soft power is poor and getting worse. Nobody wants to live in a world dominated by the Chinese regime—not even the Chinese! As for the European Union, much like the Chinese the Europeans face demographic stagnation, political instability, and require imported fuel. There are no other economies big enough to muster a currency even remotely competitive with the dollar.

National collateral is not just physical and financial assets—it is the cultural vitality and political coherence and demographic resilience of a population. This intangible collateral influences the value of a currency as much as the physical collateral, and in this intangible category, America has collateral to burn. No other nation even comes close.

And if the dollar did devalue, so what? Americans would have to import less and export more. Jobs would be created. Investment would refocus within America’s borders. Wages would rise commensurate with prices. What exactly is the downside of a weaker dollar?

In the long run, though, critics have a point. What America’s Federal Reserve has been doing, and is now doing more than ever, is the most impudent application of Modern Monetary Theory in the history of the world. The only way it can be sustained is if genuine economic growth consistently exceeds the growth of debt. Forever. This is not a certainty, even in the short run.

How long the Black Swan in the form of COVID-19 remains perched on our economic doorstep is an open question. How soon it flies away will determine how soon economic growth can resume.

In the long run, what guarantees GDP growth is not financial engineering, but real growth in productivity and output. America’s GDP growth over the past 50 years was fueled not only by debt accumulation, but also by the inordinate expansion of America’s financial sector, and by the artificial expansion of borrowing collateral due to foreign investment and overregulation which creates artificial scarcity. The housing market in California is a perfect example of this.

The best path forward is managed, moderate inflation, a stable currency, and a refocusing on genuine economic growth instead of growth in the financial sector. For this to happen, some if not most of these magically materializing trillions of dollars need to be directed into public and private investments in enabling physical infrastructure, research and development, aerospace and military technologies, pure and applied physics, and medical breakthroughs.

The worst thing that could possibly happen is to see all that money squandered on stock buy-backs, pension fund bailouts, much less “green” schemes and new bureaucracies to enforce “diversity.”

America is at a crossroads economically. The immediate challenges are daunting. But the good news is America remains well positioned to lead and inspire the world in the 21st century. How that happens is up to us.

Great America

Who Will Win the Coronavirus War?

It may be that Americans after coronavirus will be more skeptical of progressive projects, less individualistic, more desirous of national self-sufficiency, more closed off as a society.

Wars never leave the world the way they found them. Americans suddenly are at war, not with men or a philosophy, but with a deadly virus from China.

The country has not experienced anything as traumatic as the coronavirus outbreak since 9/11, perhaps even since World War II. Millions of Americans are suddenly worried about losing jobs or loved ones. Some already have. The luckiest live in government-ordered isolation, cut off from friends and family.

Nobody knows how bad this will get. No one knows what the world will look like when it’s over. But the suffering will leave a scar on our national consciousness. Will that suffering produce the kind of unity seen in moments of tribulation from our nation’s past? Consider the catchy World War II tune, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free

Praise the Lord and swing into position
Can’t afford to be a politician
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea

As Congress stalled in helping Americans in desperate need of help, you can’t help but think: what happened to that combination of goofy good nature, solidarity, and hope?

Americans came out of World War II prosperous, proud, and confident—the unchallenged masters of the world. But America is not the same country that beat the Nazis. Today our nation is enfeebled, vulnerable, divided, shamefully incapable of protecting its own people from death and destitution.

Somehow, we are talking about whether “Chinese virus” is the appropriate name for a killer virus that came from China. Lawmakers hold up financial relief with tangential matters. The scrambled priorities and bitter conflict, as we face down this profound challenge, betoken a nation deeply divided and fallen far from glory.

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then surely the corona cataclysm will prove no exception for partisans to drop their swords. We know this because it’s happening already. Familiar political warfare is bleeding into the crisis and defining it, transforming it into a civil war over America’s future. In a time when unity is most needed, America is at war with itself over the legacy of the crisis.

So Much for Open Society Pieties

“THIS IS WHY WE NEED BORDERS!” President Donald Trump tweeted Monday, in a belated endorsement of his own America First agenda. That America had been left long exposed to the coronavirus, or something like it, was a nod to those on the Right who see the Wuhan virus as a massive “I told you so” moment. To them, the virus is a massive stress test on the global post-war order, a bug that is causing globalism to implode in real-time.

In the heat of emergency, the watery pieties of the “open society” have turned out to be luxurious fantasies. No, borders are not just arbitrary lines. Yes, people do want leaders who put their countries first. No, we should not have shifted all of our manufacturing to a hostile regime that threatens to cut off medical supplies during a pandemic.

For Trump and the nationalists, the coronavirus shows that we’ve been doing things in a way that is fundamentally wrong. Then there are those on the Right who—understandably, in light of the recent history of journalism—are incredulous of the pandemic’s significance, convinced it is mostly the fabrication of a vicious, partisan media. Both of these groups are skeptical of the institutions in their own ways.

Then there are those for whom the world before coronavirus was working just fine. You might call this group, which consists of most journalists, academics, and various liberal partisans, “institutionalists.”

To the institutionalists, the problem is that Trump is not a serious president. He won’t let the scientists do their jobs. Of course, there are populists for whom the problem is that America is no longer a serious country. You can be part of this last group and lament President Trump’s handling of the crisis, but this group differs from the institutionalists in that it is not inclined to pin all of the blame on Trump. To the institutionalists, it’s all the president’s fault.

For institutionalists, the coronavirus exposes a dangerous drift away from trusting in “science” and “the experts,” incidentally the same experts who have been running things for generations. They all believe that an open society is the best and that all cultures are basically equal. Many are still saying these things, insisting that China bears no culpability in the outbreak and that Trump is a “racist” for insisting that they do. To the institutionalists, the pandemic could have been stopped if only Obama were still in office.

But it is they who are, embarrassingly, finding the need to slam their borders shut. A worldview that needs to change overnight to survive can’t be a very serious one.

Institutionalists’ Failure of Imagination

It’s possible Americans are about to learn this for the first time in many years. As millions face down unemployment and some face death, policy leaders are stuck debating what to call the thing that is causing their suffering. Calamity looms, but ideologues sideline immediate financial relief for the sake of “diversity and inclusion.” How did America become so incapable?

The populists have an answer: at some point, America became home to partisans with so faint an attachment to their people that they stopped caring. A ruling class of selfish, sleazy profligates cut off America’s roots and sold its future. And so even now, in this moment of great need, they won’t give up their decadent distractions.

The institutionalist way of looking at things, apart from a lack of imagination, is frivolous. Only a fool or a coward would seek to “fact check” the president of the United States for giving people “false hope” or evenunsubstantiated hope” during a national crisis. The pedantic needling of the press shows self-importance, willful blindness, and a pettiness of the soul that, beyond exhibiting poor taste, is an almost criminal disgrace in this time of great trouble.

Our sense for the momentous has been blunted by the glad overuse of words like “historic” by the institutionalists in journalism to describe trivialities. But this feels different. It’s difficult to discern the significance of something historic when in the middle of it, but if the populists are right, the liberals might be the ones swept away in the tides of war. It may be that Americans after coronavirus will be more skeptical of progressive projects, less individualistic, more desirous of national self-sufficiency, more closed off as a society.

But we don’t know that. All that is clear is that America is falling apart, and when this nightmare is over, it will belong to whoever can best explain what went wrong.

Great America

Coronavirus Stimulus: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What started as a meaningful relief effort for workers and families morphed, as it so often does, into a ride-along for unrelated—and a few ridiculous—provisions designed to benefit certain lawmakers or expand the bureaucracy.

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package and sent it to the president. What initially began as a bill designed to help the workers and families hurt by job loss or disruption caused by government measures to fight coronavirus morphed into an 880-page behemoth.

Here are the highlights: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Relief is temporary and targeted, and designed to help families and workers fast.

Coronavirus has hit working families hard. If they’re not sick, then they can’t work because the government has kicked them off the job to implement “social distancing” and other public health measures. Small business owners, who generally live on small margins, are told their businesses must close—even though the mortgage, utility bills, and payroll are still due.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was initially drafted to support these people, to make up for the government-mandated sacrifices required in a public health crisis. The good news is that it still did.

While advocates of limited government traditionally oppose this kind of state-run care, conservatives and even some libertarians acknowledge that this is the limited role government should play, particularly when it is the government forcing people off the job for reasons of public health.

What’s more, these provisions are temporary, designed to help families through a crisis not of their own making.

Direct relief to families.

All U.S. residents with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples) will get a one-time $1,200 ($2,400 for couples) “rebate” payment. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. Payments will start phasing out for earners above those income thresholds, and will not go to single filers earning more than $99,000, head-of-household filers with more than $146,500, or more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

The initial draft of the legislation put out by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had made these payments regressive and based on 2018 tax filings, creating a situation that would punish poor families—who would need the help the most—and failing to recognize major changes in circumstances that can happen in two years.

Thanks to the work of Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in particular, the payments were updated to be based on 2018 or 2019 returns. Checks will go to all families, as well as seniors and the disabled, not just those who had a tax bill.

Expanded unemployment insurance for those kicked off the job by the coronavirus.

Unemployment insurance will be expanded for four months to those who cannot work because they’re either sick with coronavirus, their workplace is closed due to government public health mandates (those who are paid while teleworking are exempt), or they are caring for someone with coronavirus or for a child who is home due to coronavirus related school closures.

The trick here, however, is getting access to relief. Unemployment offices around the country are overwhelmed and unresponsive. Even the unemployment websites keep crashing.

Small business loans.

Small businesses and nonprofits under 500 employees will have access to $350 billion worth of loans to help bridge the period of state government-mandated closures. Loans taken by small businesses to keep employers on payroll may be forgiven. The federal government will forgive eight weeks of cash flow, rent, and utilities.

Small businesses can also opt for a tax credit for keeping idled wages on their payrolls during the pandemic, if certain criteria are met.

Congress disappointed everyone by taking weeks to pass this bill instead of days—and this may be compounded through the Small Business Administration process, which can take nearly a month.

Because Congress dragged its feet, relief may be coming too late for some small businesses.

Hospitals, as well as state and local governments, get help

The measure provides $100 billion for hospitals to help them deal with capacity issues, lack of equipment, and patient treatment. State and local governments, some of which are struggling with lack of revenue and unemployment insurance demands due to business closures to comply with government public health recommendations, will also have access to $150 billion. Another $8 billion is set aside for local governments, and no state will get less than $1.5 billion.

The Bad

 A $450 billion fund for corporate lending, doled out largely at the discretion of the treasury secretary and amplified by $4 trillion in lending from the Federal Reserve.

While small businesses operate on thin margins, large businesses have more of a cushion (that is, if they’re not using all their profits to juice their market price by buying back all their stock). That said, if the goal of government support in a public health crisis is to help people remain employed, there is an argument that some corporate assistance may be warranted.

The legislation provides around $450 billion worth of loans ostensibly for struggling industries, cities, and states, all at the discretion of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Rules added to the bill will order an inspector general and an accountability committee to oversee how the money is spent, but oversight is only as good as the overseers. If an oversight board is used to weaponize a political agenda in any direction, it will lose credibility. It is also unclear how much authority this oversight board will actually have.

The lending in the bill will also be coupled with $4 trillion worth of special business lending programs implemented by the Federal Reserve.

The direct lending authorized by the legislation comes with strings. No loan can exceed five years, and corporations that receive the money cannot engage in stock buybacks or pay dividends for one year. Executive compensation for corporations borrowing government funds is also limited.

Special provisions for the airline industry. 

The airlines were the only industry specifically carved out in the legislation for explicit support. The airline industry will get $58 billion, half in grants and half in loans, as well as a reprieve from three major excise taxes. Half of the funds go toward “continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits,” while the other half goes to loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, repair stations, and ticket agents.

The law also stipulates that borrowing corporations must maintain their employment levels to the extent practicable until September 30. Yet on Friday, United Airlines announced that the company would be taking the money—but very likely laying off people in the fall.

The Ugly

The whole stinking process.

A full picture of this bill isn’t clear without an understanding of how flawed the process of passage was. In the Senate, staff scrambled for drafts of the legislation that somehow were only available to lobbyists. The final version of the bill was released just 20 minutes before the Senate’s vote. The majority leader’s office did not alert senators to what the new changes were. No one had time to read the final 880-page bill before it passed.

In the House, Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) requested a recorded vote on the biggest single relief bill in history. A recorded vote simply means the vote of every member is written down, as opposed to everyone simply nodding at one another in agreement. Massie was denied his request by both Republicans and Democrats, who refused to grant him the sufficient second necessary to proceed.

Worse still, there were enough members present to constitute the quorum necessary to hold a recorded vote. Walking off the floor, Massie called it a “cover-up.”

“They had enough people there to pass the bill,” he said, “but they still refuse to have a recorded vote, and they told me they were trying to protect members.”

In denying Massie what is normally the rote institutional courtesy of a sufficient second, the House of Representatives passed a $2 trillion bill without any members having to go on record for it.

Provisions that will surge layoffs.

In the hours before the Senate vote, a group of four Republican senators identified a provision they assumed was a drafting error made in haste: individuals eligible for unemployment insurance will receive 100 percent of their income at the state level, but also $600 a week from the federal government.

This provision will incentivize layoffs, they argued, because individuals will actually make more money being unemployed than they will at their jobs. An amendment by Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) to fix the provision was defeated in a 48-48 tie.

Unrelated pork for legislators, lobbyists, and unions

If legislators and lobbyists are skilled at anything, it is never letting a crisis go to waste. The CARES Act is an emergency coronavirus relief bill, designed to help the families and businesses impacted by a government response to a public health crisis.

But in a crisis, there is opportunity. At least, there is if securing government funding is your goal.

Take Boeing, for example, the company with planes that keep crashing. The company got a special $17 billion carveout.

The Treatment of Sunscreen Innovation Act also mysteriously made it into the legislation—in fact, a bill to address coronavirus, a viral infectious disease, mentions the word “sunscreen” 49 times. The bill provides for FDA approval of “innovative” sunscreens, and largely benefits the French cosmetics giant L’Oreal, which has operations in Kentucky—where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for re-election in November.

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund also got a boost when its spending limits were removed. This largely benefits Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), whose home-state ports will be dredged as a result. One GOP aide characterized the decision as “easy to give Shelby, since he’s been wanting it for years and now why not give it to him?”

Apparently this coronavirus relief bill is about “wins” for Richard Shelby. If only the Americans struggling to pay rent had such a willing advocate anywhere in the Senate’s leadership.

The pro-labor lobby also got its claws into the bill with a requirement for those companies taking loans. For the length of the loan, companies must stay neutral in any attempt by their employees to organize a union—a direct slap at right-to-work states.

The government itself also grew larger. Even after receiving their annual pot of money for the year, big-spending appropriators saw fit to lavish even more largesse onto areas of the government.

Take a look at a sampling of what lawmakers will tell you is so very necessary to help the workers and families impacted by coronavirus:

  •     $10 billion loan to the U.S. Postal Service
  •     Extension of $48 million in sex-ed funding
  •     $25 million in “salaries and expenses” for the House of Representatives
  •     $60 million for NASA
  •     $500,000 for a water project in Central Utah
  •     $3 million for “forest and rangeland research” by the U.S. Forest Service
  •     $78,000 “payment” to the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development
  •     $99 million for the Department of Energy
  •     $25 million to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  •     $75 million in grants to the National Endowment for the Arts
  •     $75 million in grants to the National Endowment for the Humanities
  •     $75 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  •     $7.5 million to the Smithsonian Institution
  •     $50 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services

What started as a meaningful relief effort for workers and families morphed, as it so often does, into a ride-along for unrelated—and a few ridiculous—provisions designed to benefit certain lawmakers or expand the bureaucracy. Even when facing down a pandemic, Congress just can’t pass up the opportunity to benefit their re-election campaigns, their own projects, and those of their friends.

Great America

The Wuhan Virus Has Exposed Modern Americans’ Disconnect from Reality

Americans could use a little less “Netflix and chill,” not more.

By now, the Wuhan virus has hit home for everyone. Stores ransacked; schools closed; all large gatherings and events canceled; long-distance travel prohibited; pork-filled stimulus bills written and debated; some major cities enforcing mandatory quarantines. People everywhere now remain anxious in their homes and plan to stay there for at least another month, rationing precious toilet paper and keeping updated on the situation.

While the experts claim that little is known about the Wuhan virus, enough is known to suggest that the response has been excessive. While there is a worrying possibility that the Wuhan virus will make a sizable impact on public health (along with the possibility that it probably won’t), the hype surrounding it has already created a huge imposition on daily life and cost the global economy trillions of dollars. Everyone must “do their part” to confront the pandemic or face the wrath of their conscientious peers.

This kind of hype and the subsequent reaction to it seems to grow worse with each year. Right before the Wuhan virus, there was President Trump’s “historic” impeachment. And before that, there was the death of General Qasem Soleimani and the possibility of World War III. And before that, in no particular order, there was the imminent climate catastrophe, Russian collusion and the Mueller report, the Amazon rainforest burning down, and periodic nuclear threats from North Korea.

People should know better by now, yet they seem to fall for the hype every time—including many conservatives. The promise of the tech age and the ubiquity of smartphones and the internet was that it would arm people with relevant information and rational courses of action. Rather, it has done the opposite—magnifying doubts and fears about everything and everyone.

In most cases, the only thing that information technology has done is cause people to become less tethered to reality. Screens now replace people’s senses, and the algorithms embedded in social media do people’s thinking for them.

As such, most people spend more time in the virtual world and less time in the real one, making them ever more vulnerable to exaggerated doomsday narratives. In particular, this retreat from reality takes a toll on a person’s memory, imagination, and common sense.

Remember swine flu? Or bird flu? Or Ebola? Or Zika? Or SARS? Each of these diseases from the past two decades was arguably worse than the Wuhan virus. In the case of swine flu, more than 1,000 people died from it before Obama declared a state of emergency. Big Tech and the mainstream news will never report this. And yet, for all their distrust of the media, people still seem inclined to believe the pundits and clueless scientists over their own experience.

This then leads to a lack of context. Everything seems new and unprecedented, and therefore unknown and scary—except that this isn’t true. Pandemics have always existed, and there are proven ways to deal with them that don’t involve shutting down the economy and putting everyone under house arrest.

Context Is Crucial

The lack of context leads to a breakdown in imagination, specifically the ability to mentally process the details of a situation. In the case of pandemics and money, people struggle mightily with scale.

When learning about the tiny fraction of people who have died from the Wuhan virus, people envision a barren landscape with corpses lining the streets and soldiers in hazmat suits rounding up hordes of infected people still left. By contrast, when hearing about the trillions of dollars lost or spent in response to the Wuhan virus, people imagine this a small expense, the government equivalent of not dining out on the weekend.

At the time of this writing, the number of deaths from the Wuhan virus is around 30,000 worldwide and just over 2,000 in the United States. This sounds like a large number until one accounts for the 8 billion people who inhabit the globe and the 153,424 people who die each day.

Moreover, the average age of those who die from Wuhan virus is 77 and mainly poses life-threatening risks to those over 60 (earning it the nickname “The Boomer Remover”) or those who suffer from other health problems, which made up 99 percent of the victims in Italy. It is understandable for those who are elderly to fear this disease, as they should fear all diseases, but it makes little sense for everyone else immediately to self-quarantine for a month or more only to still catch the virus right after the quarantine ends.

With people fearing the worst and struggling with math, it is only normal that logic will also fall away. Nothing makes sense. Crowds can lead to the spread of disease, so people congregate at stores to panic buy. Only specific locations (mainly those with large elderly populations like retirement homes and churches) have experienced fatal outbreaks of the Wuhan virus. Yet every place is closed, including schools, amusement parks, restaurants, and bars. Only certain people are at risk of having the Wuhan virus, so everyone and their pet should be tested for it. The abandoned shops and ongoing panic may encourage looting, so cities should release their prisoners and stop arresting vandals. And of course, the Wuhan virus originated in the Wuhan province of China, so it’s racist to refer to this fact.

No Mere Inconvenience

For those insisting ad nauseam that they are taking the virus very seriously, this is not serious. This is panic. This is a “South Park” episode. People are losing their minds because of the media, and the media is losing its collective mind because of the people taking them half-seriously, and politicians and organization leaders are under huge pressure to do something, the more expensive the better.

Further, for those who claim that enduring inconveniences for the sake of saving lives is worth it, the current lockdown is not a mere inconvenience. It is a profound disruption that has already uprooted many people’s lives. Small businesses are closing; people are losing jobs or seeing their hours cut, schools everywhere are canceled for the next month; universities have let out two months early; countless employees need to work from home while watching their children; hospitals are overrun; families are rationing necessities; and churches won’t even be able to hold services for Easter. A nationwide shutdown to wait out the virus is simply not worth all of this.

We can hope people will come to their senses, come out of their houses, and begin to talk over the preppers perpetuating worst-case scenarios on social media. People already spend enough time hovering over their screens, mistaking media gaslighting for reality; they don’t need to compound this problem with a needless self-quarantine. Americans could use a little less “Netflix and chill,” not more.