Greatness Agenda

Can China Turn the Wuhan Coronavirus To Its Advantage?

Recent experience and the Western mindset may be leading Beijing to reach that conclusion.

Can it be that after systematically lying to the world for months about the Wuhan coronavirus—about its existence, about its transmission, about its lethality—that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) thinks it can turn this worldwide pandemic to its advantage?

Yes. And here’s how.

First, China has to rewrite its role in the virus’s emergence, “[portraying] itself not as the country that allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked for weeks but as the country that has defeated the virus and is now on hand to save the rest of the world.” The Chinese plan to do that by using propaganda and social media to muddy the waters as to the origins of the virus, and then to claim that China made heroic sacrifices early on to buy time for the rest of the world.

In this, they have willing accomplices. The World Health Organization, still taking its multi-generational victory lap for having conquered smallpox, eagerly parroted China’s lies, even as it was denied access to the virus epicenter. It continues to do the party’s bidding on Taiwan.

In the West, our manias and blind spots about race and “othering” help to squash discussion of practices that facilitate viruses jumping from other species to humans, like bat soup and wet markets. And by now, the Chinese government has every incentive to let the markets go on, since shutting them down would be a tacit admission of their culpability.

Now, having allegedly conquered the virus, China stands ready to donate massive quantities of equipment, and to organize the global pharmaceutical effort to create both treatments and a vaccine. As the United States struggles with its own medical supply chain, China will try to fill America’s traditional role in helping other countries during a natural disaster.

Admittedly, all of that would be more persuasive if Czechia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands hadn’t discovered hundreds of thousands of defective masks and tests.

Further, the CCP seems to think that the economics of the Wuhan virus work in its favor. As the rest of the world—except Sweden, it seems—shuts down, China’s recovery has begun. British ad giant WPP reports that organic sales there are down 16 percent, but rebounding, and down less than the 35 percent that had been anticipated.

Rumors of a resurgent virus in other parts of the country aside, if China ends up ahead of the curve on the recovery, it will be in a position to buy up overseas assets while those countries are still selling at distressed prices. China could end up with productive assets, rather than simply flipping distressed real estate, as so many Western investment firms did earlier in the year when the shoe was on the other foot.

The virus and its stress on the hospital system has made us painfully aware of our dependence on China for key supplies such as surgical masks and antibiotics. Such a move might also forestall a move to reposition critical supply chain operations out of China or even back to the United States. Even given that the FDA continues to make production of these items ridiculously difficult at home, there are plenty of countries outside of China that could do that work.

But Chinese ownership of those facilities would nullify that option: the CCP could either prevent the move or end up controlling the production, anyway. Rather than the Wuhan virus circumscribing China, it could end up accelerating its long-game plan to force the rest of the world economy into its orbit.

Even if we were able to move pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing back on-shore, we would quickly be vulnerable again without a massive, Manhattan Project-like in next-generation tech.

As Josef Stalin noted at the Tehran Conference in 1943, World War II was a war of machines; the United States was lucky to have Henry Kaiser producing Liberty Ships and Henry Ford producing bombers. The next war will be a war of computing power—artificial intelligence, quantum communication, and quantum computing. Unless we bring chip manufacturing back to the United States, we’ll rapidly find ourselves dependent on Chinese drug discovery. The same goes for just about every other critical industry. Since China already has a lead on us in those areas, it can afford to tread water on the existing supply chain, if it chooses to.

In a fair world, China’s Communist Party would be shunned by every other country. In a fair world, it would have lost the Mandate of Heaven at home and would be facing an internal crisis. In a fair world, the future of the party’s rule wouldn’t be in doubt—it would have been sealed.

Unfortunately, it won’t be that easy.

Great America

The Courage to Disrupt

Americans must heed more than survival instincts. We need a growth mindset.

When we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, America must seize this historic opportunity to transform its economy and the world through disruptive innovation.

Throughout history, pandemics have spawned periods of significant human advancement. The Black Plague ravaged the populations of Europe and Asia in just under five years, laying the groundwork for the Renaissance and unrivaled creativity. After the Spanish Influenza pandemic, America experienced a 25 percent increase in women’s workforce participation.

More recently, the financial crisis of 2008—an economic pandemic—ushered in cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and the gig economy—launching over 30 “unicorns” like Uber, Grubhub, and Airbnb.

Why do such crises trigger mass creativity? The structural drivers of innovation are powerful and profound, but subtle. Every act of creation, Picasso said, begins with an act of destruction, which should endow us with hope that a nation on pause is sure to flourish after this crisis.

To do this, however, Americans must heed more than survival instincts. We need a growth mindset.

Most organizations and institutions are performance-oriented, driven by quarterly numbers, and fear of failure. This hyper-focus on quantifiable productivity, while critical, hinders transformation by restraining forward-looking investment. Organizations, thus, become divided between transformation zone innovators and production zone operators.

Transformation zone innovators recognize the need for investing resources to adapt to changing market dynamics. Production zone operators resent investments that fail to yield immediate financial returns. Most of us operate in the production zone, which Geoffrey Moore in Zone to Win describes as a barrier to transformation.

In ordinary times, navigating these transformational waters requires extraordinary leadership. Companies either will adapt and catch the wave or get roiled under it. For example, Microsoft remade itself and avoided the production zone conflict by appointing its transformation zone lead, Satya Nadella, as CEO.

Nadella reimagined the most profitable franchise in software history to fuel Microsoft’s successful launch into the cloud. In a similar vein, Jeff Bezos transformed Amazon from online books to delivery of goods to the world’s largest provider of cloud services. For the nation not merely to survive but thrive in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we must emulate Nadella and Bezos.

Extraordinary times like these clarify our vision and spur us to action. Today we see American ingenuity at its best: distilleries are mixing hand sanitizer; textile factories are making masks; automakers are producing ventilators; and honky-tonks are live-streaming Music City acts around the world, collecting tips via Venmo.

After the pandemic has passed, the next big wave of innovation is likely to occur in the processes that enable transformation. Not in online content, but in the pedagogy to enliven it; not in 5G communications, but in telehealth regulations and processes; not in onshoring drug production, but in transforming the way we manufacture. These disruptive innovations will enhance education, accelerate the gig economy, optimize the supply chain, and revolutionize pharmaceutical production.

Thanks to this crisis, from our new perch atop the transformation zone, we see clearly our precarious overdependence on China. Even before the pandemic, bi-partisan leaders, including both the Obama and Trump White House, warned of the dangers of having critical pharmaceutical supply-chains held captive by China, our biggest geopolitical adversary.

This pandemic is forcing government and industry leaders to rethink regulations and reduce our reliance on foreign suppliers.

Our government recognizes the need for the United States to secure the bio-economy, including through supporting significant pharmaceutical production innovations such as adopting continuous manufacturing, launching bio-foundries, and incorporating 3D printing.

When we return new factories to America from overseas, they will have the best, cleanest, and fastest technology available anywhere in the world. But, as we have seen repeatedly, government alone is incapable of solving our problems or propping up our markets.

Paralysis born of fear or neglect is unacceptable. Those who see this challenge as the opportunity of our lifetime shall reap its benefits. Our prosperity is not dependent on the government, but on American ingenuity and transformational action.

While the pandemic may have temporarily disrupted our lives, we will transform disruption into disruptive innovation. And when we do, history will look back at this event as America at its best.

Great America

Layoffs Anyway?!

In a time of national crisis, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts begged the government for a $25 million handout before ungraciously kicking its staff to the curb. This is reflective of D.C.’s culture, certainly. But it does not at all mirror the rest of America.

The ink is barely dry on the $2.2 trillion congressional relief package and companies who received funding in the bill—which is designed to help keep people employed—have begun announcing layoffs, anyway.

On March 27, United Airlines announced that, despite taking some of the $58 billion in funding earmarked for the airlines, they’d be laying off staff as soon as the law allows.

And on Tuesday, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, recipient of $25 million in funds provided, among other things, to cover employee payroll, announced it would be furloughing 250 administrative staffers for five weeks, bringing the organization’s total layoffs to more than 1,100.

The Kennedy Center already announced it would be cutting the paychecks for musicians at the National Symphony Orchestra on Friday, and will kick them off their health insurance if concerts do not resume by May.

According to leaked emails, the Kennedy Center leadership actively lobbied Congress to be included in the $2.2 trillion bill, despite the obvious fact that the plight of the Kennedy Center, which is already federally supported in annual spending bills, didn’t seem to most Americans to be in the same league as struggling small businesses, families that suddenly lost their primary means of income, and hospitals short on life-saving ventilators and other supplies.

Still, the Kennedy Center ended up receiving $25 million from Congress. Admittedly, this is a pittance compared to the $500 billion in loans that mid-sized and big businesses will be able to access. But it’s become emblematic of Congress’ inability to focus on those truly in need.

As families struggled, small businesses shuttered, and hospital staff went without protective gear, congressional relief stalled for weeks, in part due to disagreement about how the relief loans to large corporations should be structured—but also so congressional appropriators could pick and choose their favorite projects to fund during a national emergency.

It’s why, in a bill with the stated purpose of helping families, small businesses, and health care providers, a water project in Utah got $500,000, sex-ed funding was extended by $48 million, the U.S. Forest Service got $3 million for “rangeland research,” and “innovative sunscreens” got special FDA review.

But there is something about that $25 million for the Kennedy Center, in particular, that highlights the divide between Congress and the rest of the country.

Though established to be “the nation’s cultural center,” the Kennedy Center is more often seen as the playground of D.C.’s bureaucratic elite. It’s most notable event, the Kennedy Center Honors, features celebrities giving awards to other celebrities while making overtly political statements against President Trump and anyone who supports him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) gets standing ovations, though, obviously. And celebrities use the platform to push their own woke causes that honestly have very little to do with anyone who is just trying to put food on the table.

The Center’s management says it’s all about the arts. But it’s really about elite celebrity culture. It’s not like they want the general public there. A seat to attend its 40th-anniversary production started at $6,000.

And that’s what makes the Kennedy Center’s treatment of its own employees—the administrative staff, the janitors, the parking assistants, and even its own orchestra—so revolting.

The Kennedy Center is not some small-town restaurant operating on a thin margin, where three weeks of government-mandated closure is the difference between mustering basic survival and losing everything.

According to their most recent annual report and publicly available tax filings, the Kennedy Center is sitting on $500 million worth of net assets, including over $140 million in expected donations. In 2017, they reported $150 million in revenues from programming. Their endowment is around $120 million.

This is an organization that can afford some generosity in a national crisis, particularly since they’ve just been given a $25 million cash infusion, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, on top of the $41 million they’ve already received.

Yet, there is a striking difference between how the Kennedy Center, the “nation’s cultural center,” has responded versus the many other multimillion-dollar organizations that have chosen to put people over profits during a national pandemic.

Hanes has retrofitted its factory to produce surgical masks, which are in short supply. Starbucks is paying its workers for 30 days, regardless of whether they can come to work. The grocery chain Wegmans is giving its employees a raise through March and April. Distilleries are now making hand sanitizer.

In Texas, Houston millionaire Jim McIngvale is offering free meals to families in need in the parking lot of his furniture store. Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, is retrofitting his million-dollar company to make surgical masks. Walmart is paying cash bonuses to its hourly workers. McDonalds is extending paid sick leave to quarantined employees. Marc Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce, has made a 90-day no-layoffs pledge and is urging other CEOs to do the same.

True, the Kennedy Center isn’t a billion-dollar for-profit organization, but it’s sitting on a heck of a lot more assets, not to mention a $100 million endowment, than the ordinary not-for-profit.

But, as Kennedy Center board chairman David M. Rubenstein made clear, those assets aren’t for employees. The Kennedy Center intends to “preserve as much capital as we can,” he said this week.

In other words, the musicians, parking attendants, and cleaning staff may not be able to make rent, but too bad, because those self-congratulatory celebrity bashes aren’t going to pay for themselves.

In a time of national crisis, the so-called “national cultural center” begged the government for a $25 million handout before ungraciously kicking its staff to the curb. This is reflective of D.C.’s culture, certainly. But it does not at all mirror the rest of America.

One of this country’s most celebrated poets, Maya Angelou, said that when someone shows you who they are, believe him. The Kennedy Center has made its priorities clear. It’s a move we shouldn’t forget. And it’s the kind of thing Congress cannot continue to reward.

Greatness Agenda

Trump Should Use the Pandemic to His, and America’s, Advantage

Does Trump have what it takes to fulfill that which he was called to do, as Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan did for their generations? Or, will he surrender to the democratic-globalist oligarchs who control our dying society?

When Rahm Emanuel told audiences that former President Barack Obama should “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” he was applauded. Emanuel was referring to the Obama Administration’s response to the Great Recession. Clearly, President Obama agreed. Obama ushered in the greatest reorganization of the American socio-economic order under the auspices of resolving the financial crisis (which, of course, Obama never actually did resolve).

Similarly, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China offers President Trump a momentous opportunity to enact his own sweeping agenda—all of which would be far more beneficial to the American people than Obama’s statism. Trump needs to press his advantage with as much vigor and alacrity as Obama pressed his during the financial crisis.

The Disease Is Globalization

The COVID-19 disease is really the disease of globalization. It is also globalization’s inevitable, natural end.

The current pandemic will allow President Trump to do the things his most ardent critics prevented him from doing over the past three years: tighten America’s porous borders (not just along the southwestern United States, but everywhere), end America’s self-destructive trade policies by reclaiming key industrial capacity from abroad, and attack the leftist vision of “socialized” healthcare.

The response to the pandemic is also a chance for the president to advocate some of conservatism’s greatest social policies: a return to a “family-first” national social policy of the sort that defined the United States before the rise of post-World War II liberalism.

Want to finally bring about the death of the Education Department? Are you ready to pop that higher-education bubble before it breaks us? Do you want to encourage policies that will support family formation at earlier ages? Or perhaps simply ensure that those families stick together? How about we finally create programs that ensure homeschooling becomes the norm rather than the exception?

Are any of you interested in rejiggering the economy so that one person can afford to pay for a family of four while a spouse either works part-time or stays at home with the children, as our grandparents did? Maybe you’re a fan of the “go local” movement.

All of these can become a reality, thanks to COVID-19.

A History of Resistance

Without a biological crisis of this magnitude, the “Make America Great Again” agenda would never be enacted the way it should be. Politicians are too lazy and no matter how difficult economic life in this country may have been, people are too comfortable with the familiar.

We’ve already seen how Trump’s policies (other than his participation in more Mideast wars and tax cuts) have been neutered by the democratic-globalist elite who rule us. Three years ago, when Trump declared a travel moratorium upon seven predominantly Muslim countries out of concerns that terrorists were originating from those states, our democratic-globalist elite resisted.

After Trump rightly launched a “trade war” upon the Chinese for their decades-long economic assault through unfair trade practices, “free trade” Republicans chafed. Despite having spent years promising to “build the wall,” Trump found himself dogged by both of the feckless parties in Congress and watched as his every attempt to fulfill that campaign promise was stymied by a corrupt judiciary.

The dynamic has finally changed.

The Paradigm Shift is Here

In response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration issued a partial travel ban for those coming into the United States from China (one could still hop a flight to China from nearby Singapore or South Korea and then fly into the United States, unfortunately).

Still, many have acknowledged that the president’s travel ban likely saved lives. Imagine that: travel bans now save lives when just three years ago, they were “racist.” In fact, Trump’s critics started insinuating that he was a racist for insisting upon a travel ban with China when the disease first spread from Wuhan. They’ve since backed off, given the severity of the disease (no, COVID-19 is not merely the flu).

Suddenly, everyone is asking why the heck we’re so reliant on China for our supply chain. Even six months ago, the free traders in the United States were demanding that Trump surrender to China in the “trade war.” In December, Trump made an initial deal with China. Bet we’re all wishing Trump had never made that “phase one” deal with China last Christmas!

By listening to the Wall Street tycoons and K Street influence peddlers (all of whom benefited from “free trade” with China), when China sneezed, the whole world caught a very bad cold—and few had enough paper products to wipe their noses.

Suppose, instead of making a deal to return to normal, Trump had fought for legislation allowing for America to reclaim even a fraction of its industrial capacity from abroad. We certainly would not have the bottlenecks in our supply chain that we’ve been forced to endure today. Personally, I like having toilet paper.

As the disease spreads throughout our country, our already strained medical system (thanks, Obamacare) is at risk of collapsing. Further, this COVID-19 outbreak gives Trump and his allies one more chance to fix one of their greatest legislative failures: overturning the Affordable Care Act once-and-for-all and fix our ailing healthcare system as well as our dying industrial base.

Whatever the real mortality rate with COVID-19 may be, the fact remains that our hospital system cannot take the load. Already hospitals are stretched to capacity in places like New York City. Should the country return to “normal” prematurely, the disease will soon swamp metropolitan and rural hospitals alike, as people resume their normal rate of travel. That’s why we must “flatten the curve.” And in flattening the curve, we can also squash the scourge of socialism.

As for immigration: Mexico’s government desperately wants the wall built, in order to keep sick Americans out of their country. So, in effect, Mexico may yet pay for the wall!

Natural disasters have a way of reshaping events and fundamentally altering paradigms. Or, rather they force leaders to accept a new paradigm. The COVID-19 pandemic presents Trump with just that opportunity.

All National Crises Are Political—and Only One Side Wins

Fact is, Democrats have never stopped behaving as Emanuel urged in 2009. As Rachel Bovard has heroically detailed, the recent stimulus bill meant to provide relief to Americans during this national emergency is full of candy for Democratic Party special interests. Similarly, congressional Republicans have been all to happy to throw some handouts to their “free trade” cronies at taxpayers’ expense.

Perhaps Trump should do the same for his voters.

President Trump should take a page from his opposition’s book and spend the next five weeks pressing his agenda. Trump should shut the country down—including suspending air travel—to truly “flatten the curve.” Using the military, he should enforce social distancing to slow the spread of the disease.

During that time, Trump should also press his agenda through—by “pen-and-phone” if he must—to get this country back to what it was supposed to be, not continuing to help make it what every “democratic socialist” leader since Woodrow Wilson has made it into. For the last century, progressives from both parties have abused crises to refashion America into the socialist dystopia it has become. Now is the time, possibly the last time, for Trump to return the favor on our behalf.

Does Trump have what it takes to fulfill that which he was called to do, as Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan did for their generations? Or, will he surrender to the democratic-globalist oligarchs who control our dying society?

As Trump might say, “We’ll see.”

Great America

Why the Media’s Coronavirus Campaign Is Failing

The president’s enemies may think he’s a joke, but it’s not too late for Trump to surprise everyone.

The corporate media misunderstands the role of a president during a crisis. Above all, people look to their president for hope. Right now, whatever Donald Trump is doing seems to be working. To the consternation of his foes in the press, Trump’s approval ratings are up, while theirs are down.

That must be awfully frustrating. After all, Trump is a buffoon who doesn’t respect the scientific experts. Trump, as everyone knows, blundered in the early stages, letting a critical month go by while Democrats were laser-focused on impeach . . . er, the coming pandemic.

Reasonable people won’t pin all of the blame on the president. America is, after all, a federation of states, with a massive and sprawling bureaucracy. And the most inveterate Trump critics must admit that nobody saw this pandemic coming. People don’t care about what steps could or could not have been taken a month ago. They care about what’s happening right now.

In times of emergency, people look to their leaders for stability. Even liberals, while claiming to oppose authoritarians, have found themselves bewitched by the ersatz authoritarianism of New York’s sleazy governor, Andrew Cuomo.

If at first President Trump was careless—a shameful mistake, to be sure—he is now taking the crisis seriously. Things are dark and they will get darker, but if Trump can play the part of “wartime president” convincingly, many will be ready to forgive him.

The coronavirus is a psychological event, something that works to the advantage of someone, like Trump, who has a big personality and who understands human psychology better than most people. The media are convinced that Trump is a misanthropic monster, but the truth is that the president has a rough humanity. Trump, though you’d never know it from the news coverage, obviously likes people. He has a social genius that will help him weather this crisis, whatever may come.

The coronavirus will test his competence as a president, sure. But Trump’s detractors vastly overestimate the significance of policy expertise and underplay the importance of social skills.

A confused class of technocrats assumes that average people judge presidents as they do—on whether they make perfect, expert-approved decisions. But most people are more attuned to intangibles, such as likability, confidence, and an ability to lift the public’s spirits—in short, they judge the president as a moral figure, whether he’s someone who inspires them, not on whether he’s a genius in a lab coat.

Trump is approaching the crisis with wartime bravado and surprising balance. His concern for the economy, doubtless tied up with his reelection, is completely sensible and humane. But he is extending the lockdowns by another month (at least) anyway, guaranteeing weeks of further financial and psychological suffering for the American people in order to limit the death toll. No one can say that he isn’t taking this seriously.

Trump has shown restraint, too, or at least a lack of concern about making the most of the moment politically. The coronavirus is proving Trump right about an awful lot. This could have been a big “I-told-you-so” moment. He’s now demonstrably right about China, about globalism, about the decadence and corruption of “the swamp” and in the permanent bureaucracy and in Congress —which could not even muster itself to throw more than a few breadcrumbs from the high table, even as millions of Americans lost their jobs.

For years now, the president’s detractors (and some fans) have likened Trump to an American Caesar, a would-be tribune of Middle America who had ridden to power on the resentment of an angry underclass of “deplorables.” If Trump is really a “strongman” as they say, then surely this is the moment for the American Caesar to step out of the shadows.

With Roman resonance, a corrupted aristocracy is failing its people from the halls of the Senate while celebrities offer insipid reassurances from inside their mansions. Hospitals in some places are overwhelmed, millions are in distress, and despite all of this chaos and misery, a major political party finds sympathy to spare for migrant workers and “diversity” initiatives.

The media, meanwhile, are preoccupied with nipping at the president’s heels for “racist” rhetoric and doing everything possible to depress the public. “Enemy of the people” has never sounded more accurate.

If there ever was a time to “drain the swamp,” it’s now. Trump has been given a golden opportunity to strike a contrast between himself and the failures of the bipartisan ruling class and the corruption of the times, more generally. He has an opportunity to be the people’s champion.

Outside of feuding with the media and rattling some stuffed shirts with “Chinese virus,” however, Trump strangely has responded to this crisis as an aloof federalist.

Of course, he’s right that the states have their role to play. But the heavy-handedness that some expected from this “dictator” has hardly materialized. That may come as a disappointment to the most committed ideologues in the Trump camp, who have long seen Trump as a solitary champion for the “forgotten Americans” who single-handedly would transform the GOP into a party for working people.

If that was the hope, then the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill fell short. Trump seemed more concerned with signing a bill than with making sure it was a good one. Trump might have used the bully pulpit to keep the Republican party—of late said to be his personal cult—in line with working-class prerogatives.

Nowhere has Trump looked more laissez-faire than in his clashing with Cuomo. Why would a nationalist hesitate to mobilize the production of critically needed medical supplies?

But Trump is no ideologue. He goes by instinct, and his instincts are often smart. His presidency may well survive the coronavirus without his ever becoming the populist revolutionary many said he was, and the sort the moment appears to be demanding. He may succeed while disappointing his bitterest enemies and his most ideological supporters alike.

The president’s enemies may think he’s a joke, but it’s not too late for Trump to surprise everyone. He may even win over some of those who, in peacetime, otherwise would hate his guts.

Who in his right mind would want him to fail?

Great America

Don’t Downplay the Wuhan Virus—the Real Story Is China

Instead of directing our anger at the shutdowns or our president, we should direct our anger at the politicians—both Democrats and Republicans—who allowed China to become the menace that it is, and happily allowed countless American jobs to be outsourced there.

In confronting COVID-19, there are two connected but distinct contagions—one medical and the other financial. We need a balanced and informed policy that grasps the seriousness of the medical problem and addresses it even at the cost of damage to the markets and economy.

But in addressing the disease we cannot inflict deep and lasting damage to our way of life: 35 percent unemployment is just not tolerable.

Faced with this dilemma, some have tried to minimize the danger of the disease, comparing it to a seasonal flu. They are wrong.

On the other hand, some advocates of taking all medical precautions are heedless of the suffering that a prolonged shutdown would cause—particularly to vulnerable groups among the elderly and unemployed. They are wrong, too. Each of the extremes in these opposing views is unbalanced and uninformed.

Further, at a time when there is an overriding need for national unity, the debate over governmental responses to COVID-19 is intemperate and politicized. This is also wrong.

It is pointless and destructive to play the blame game. America’s current health crisis is not the fault of President Trump or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It cannot be pinned on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) or New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Want to point an accusing finger? Point it at China.

We Should Reopen Soon

Without question, we should reopen the economy at the end of this month. People need certainty. A long term shutdown is not an option, and does nothing to stop the ultimate spread of the virus. The only purpose of a shutdown should be to prepare the economy for the eventual re-opening, which means stocking up on medical supplies and creating programs so at-risk persons can get the added help that they may need to maintain their distance from the rest of us.

It’s also true that there’s been some hysteria about the Wuhan virus. Surely, the initial estimates of deaths have probably been overstated. Yet—in order to make the case that we should reopen the economy sooner than later, which is more-or-less correct—many on the Right have been downplaying the danger of the Wuhan coronavirus.

For example, in a post by Scott Johnson on Powerline, former United Health Group general counsel Kevin Roche writes, “The average person has basically a zero chance of having a serious illness from the virus, even if they were in heavy contact with it.” Because of this, “the threat is actually low, consistent with a serious flu year.”

To come to this conclusion, Roche cites the example of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that experienced an outbreak as this whole thing was getting started:

There were over 3,700 passengers and crew on the vessel. Every one of them undoubtedly had constant, heavy exposure to the virus in close quarters. Using gold standard testing, less than 20% of the 3,711 people were positive, meaning they were actually infected. And out of those positive tests, a little over half were actually symptomatic. [Eight] people died, or about 2% of those with symptoms or .2% of percent of the vessel population.

But this approach is wrong. The Wuhan virus didn’t spread to all 3,711 people on board the Diamond Princess ship precisely because the ship locked down as soon as the outbreak was discovered. If Roche is arguing against a shutdown, he can’t assume only 20 percent of the population will get the virus.

The Death Rate Is Likely 5 to 10 Times Worse Than the Flu

This virus is so spreadable that most everyone will eventually get it, especially if we return to business as usual. That’s not an argument for an eternal shutdown, however. Even if we keep shutting down, it just delays the fact that the majority of the population will get this virus eventually, and things won’t be better until most people have already gotten the virus.

In fact, the most positive case right now is that many more people have the virus than authorities can know, and most of these people were asymptomatic, while the rest had symptoms that didn’t require hospitalization (you only get tested if you go in, and even then tests have been short in supply and rationed).

Again, all this is why we shouldn’t shut down forever, and we should use the shutdown to prepare for opening back up. Yet if we want to open back up, and be smart about when we do that, the correct question is: Out of those who were infected, how many experienced severe symptoms and what was the death rate?

Take the same Diamond Princess example. Of the 3,700 aboard, around 700 were infected. Out of the 700 infected, 400 were asymptomatic, and eight died, while around 300 experienced symptoms, often severe. Eight dying out of 700 is around 1 percent. And while the population on the cruise ship was relatively older, they were also relatively healthier and possibly received a degree of medical attention that many would not.

The answer as to the death rate is that on the ship it was about 1 percent, and looking at the broader population as low as 0.5 percent. But that’s still (ballparking a bit here) 5-10 times worse than the seasonal flu.

It’s not the bubonic plague, but it’s still 5-10 times worse than the flu, which kills in the tens of thousands every year. For those who experience severe symptoms, they often include severe fever, headache, and breathing problems. In bad cases the virus often hits a person with a fever, then comes back, several days after they recover from the initial fever, worse than before. While it’s true that being older greatly increases the risk of death from COVID-19, young and healthy people can still experience these severe symptoms.

Other odd symptoms abound. Many people lose their sense of taste and smell right before they get sick. While sick, many have severe joint and nerve pain much unlike the normal aches and pains of the flu. There are also some concerns the virus can have long-term effects, including on a person’s fertility and lung capacity.

Of course, many more experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Yet Roche saying that “The average person has basically a zero chance of having a serious illness from the virus, even if they were in heavy contact with it,” and that “the threat is actually low, consistent with a serious flu year” is completely untrue. We are seeing otherwise young and healthy healthcare workers experience a disproportionate number of severe cases, precisely because they are being exposed to such large quantities of it.

Trump’s Response Is the Correct One

But the point isn’t to pick on Kevin Roche, who is a highly accomplished and intelligent man. A large number of other conservatives are needlessly downplaying the Wuhan virus.

On Fox News, for example, only a handful of personalities—including Tucker Carlson—have been consistent in taking the virus seriously from the get-go. This widespread downplaying of COVID-19 is both politically wrongheaded, and bad for the country—just like overblowing the virus is bad for the country.

It is politically wrongheaded because politicians, including Trump, have an incentive to err on the side of caution during times like these. Voters will forgive a bad economy in times of crisis, at least momentarily, but they won’t forgive a leader who doesn’t appear to be taking action in the face of death. That’s why Trump’s plan—to continue suppression measures through April and then move to mitigation—is the correct course of action. His rising approval numbers that the media is trying hard to ignore show this to be the case.

It’s also worth pointing out that the narrative suggesting the economy was perfect before the shutdowns came along is wrongheaded. America was sitting on the highest-ever corporate debt load to GDP before the virus hit, and the global economy has been slowing since 2017—this possibly explains why the market has reacted as it has. This isn’t Trump’s fault, and the president’s policies have kept the economy chugging along in spite of this. But business cycles, which seem to end about every 10 years, exist. And neither tax cuts—nor anything else for that matter—can eliminate them.

Aren’t Trump’s reelection odds now in shambles? It’s not unlikely that the economy, absent the virus, would have slowed throughout the remainder of this year. But now with the virus, the economy could actually come bouncing back (albeit from a lower level) during election-time. When it comes to elections, the direction of the economy is much more important than the absolute level. And the president can blame all economic problems on the virus . . . and China.

Which brings us to the most important point: Don’t miss the real story.

The Real Story—the China Menace

The real story is that this virus may have escaped Wuhan’s biosafety level-4 lab, one of the only such labs in the world, by accident. Here, Chinese scientists likely were sloppily messing around with things they shouldn’t have been messing around with, which included studying bat viruses.

The mainstream media has called this a conspiracy theory, but even a paper by researchers at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou said that the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan,” after a researcher was infected by a bat in the laboratory. That wouldn’t be the first time, as China had a SARS outbreak in 2004 that originated from a lab. And after this Wuhan virus outbreak, China just happened to pass a new “biosecurity” law.

Of course, the Guangzhou paper immediately was taken down by the Communist Party, and China vehemently denies the virus has anything to do with its biosafety level-4 lab in Wuhan. Yet this is the same government that forces abortions, interns millions of Uighurs, and packs warehouses in residential areas full of explosive chemicals. China’s government-run economy pollutes so much that a huge chunk of its farmland is toxic. The Chinese Communist Party is equally indifferent to human life, corrupt, dangerous, and sloppy.

Lab outbreak or not, once the virus started spreading late last year, Communist Chinese officials persecuted the medical professionals there who spoke out about it. China, after suppressing information about the outbreak and blatantly lying to the world, went on to blame a seafood market, the pangolin, and then the U.S. military. Although the U.S. media still repeat the seafood market claim, the Lancet called that explanation into question immediately.

China’s behavior and lies wasted the little time we had to react to the virus. We closed our borders to China, but we didn’t close them to Europe until it was too late. China spread the virus to Europe, and Europeans spread the virus to the United States. To top it off, we now know that Xi Jinping, China’s president, allowed 5 million people to leave Wuhan and infect the rest of the world.

Today, to add insult to massive injury, China is attempting to ship shoddy medical supplies to the rest of the world. European governments are saying that the equipment is uniformly “below standard or defective.” China has also launched meaninglessly small amounts of aid to boost propaganda efforts at home.

Be Angry at China, Then Do Something About It

Instead of directing our anger at the shutdowns or our president, we should direct our anger at the politicians—Democrats and Republicans alike—who let China become the menace that it is, and happily allowed countless American jobs to be outsourced there.

We don’t even make essential medical supplies in our own country anymore, including antibiotics. Incidentally, China has threatened to cut supplies of antibiotics to America unless we tone down the criticism.

It seems even our media is in the pocket of Communist China’s dictatorship. For example, they’ve consistently repeated Chinese propaganda about how well China is handling the virus compared to America, even though China’s infection stats are quite literally unbelievable.

Not focusing on the China threat is bad for the country. Our policymakers, at the least, should be frantically working to get the production of these critical supplies back onto American shores. Next, organizations that have close ties to China, and repeat Chinese Communist Party propaganda, should face repercussions—not just in the court of public opinion. This includes corporations, universities, and media outlets.

Finally, America should be rethinking the benefits of globalization, all the more after this crisis. That doesn’t mean totally abandoning the rest of the world, it means the launch of a new working-class conservatism and middle-class capitalism here at home.

Greatness Agenda

Visas for Pottersville

Facing 30 percent unemployment, we’re importing more foreign workers. Why?

In the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is shown an alternate, dystopian version of Bedford Falls. In Pottersville, renamed for the greedy local mogul, the neighborhood bar is instead a raucous saloon, George’s flirty childhood friend has become a prostitute, and his real-world wife, Mary, is instead a spinster librarian.

At one point in Bedford Falls, George and Mary confess their love while on a phone call with a wealthy school friend. In the course of the call, Sam Wainwright announces plans to build a plastics factory in Rochester. George answers:

Why not right here? You remember that old tool and machinery works? You tell your father he can get that for a song. And all the labor he wants, too. Half the town was thrown out of work when they closed down.

If there had been a Pottersville version of that call, Sam, instead of hiring those jobless locals, would have responded, “Hire Americans? Nah, I’ll just import foreign workers on visas. Hee haw!”

Welcome to Pottersville.

Bad Policy Meets Harsh Reality

With 10 million unemployment claims just in the past two weeks and a jobless rate that could reach 32 percent, the Trump Administration is continuing the trend of increasing importation of foreign workers, whose numbers have doubled over the past decade.

The State Department has waived the interview requirement for H-2A visa farmworkers to speed their arrival, while the Department of Homeland Security is going ahead with a lottery for H-1B cheap-labor visas for tech firms and possibly increasing the number of H-2B nonfarm seasonal workers (for landscaping, hotels, carnivals, etc.)

This last is perhaps the most unreal. Following its recent practice, Congress responded to pressure from industry lobbyists to increase the number of H-2B visas by passing the buck to DHS, authorizing—but not requiring—it to increase the number. The administration decided on the largest-ever increase—35,000 additional visas—in the long-ago days of 3 percent unemployment (i.e., March 5).

Rather than retract that increase under today’s radically changed circumstances, DHS last week formally submitted the order for the increase to the White House and was expected to start doling out the visas this week.

But a blistering monologue by Tucker Carlson on Wednesday seems to have given the administration pause. DHS tweeted Thursday that “DHS’s rule on the H-2B cap is on hold pending review due to present economic circumstances. No additional H-2B visas will be released until further notice.” The increase should never have been submitted and should simply be canceled—the only “review” that’s needed is a review of the news headlines—but this is better than nothing.

Whatever happens with this temporarily suspended increase, the very existence of the visa program is contrary to the interests of American workers. Employers who use the H-2B visa—like those who use other low-skill visas or hire illegals—complain that they try to hire locally but that few Americans want the jobs and those who do show up aren’t good workers. Donald Trump himself, when he was running for the nomination, defended his own properties’ use of the H-2B visa by saying that Americans didn’t want the seasonal jobs he had available.

Before the current economic meltdown, employer complaints about worker quality were not entirely without merit. It’s not that foreign workers are generally better than Americans. But when unemployment was at 3 percent, visa workers (and illegals) might well have been better workers than the Americans who didn’t already have jobs. At that time, such American workers could include ex-cons, recovering addicts, clueless teenagers, and people with disabilities who call for more oversight and accommodation. Even under those conditions, there was no excuse for these low-skill visas, since without them employers would have no choice but to get creative in order to draw such harder-to-employ Americans into the world of work—a tight labor market is the best social policy.

But those conditions—when former chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was telling people that the U.S. was “desperate” for more foreign workers—no longer exist. With millions suddenly out of work, there’s no excuse for the admission of any foreign visa workers.

And, unlike the numbers in other visa programs that are mandated by statute, the H-2B increase is entirely discretionary. The administration (and this decision was made at the White House, not by some low-level bureaucrat) could simply have told Congress that it would not exercise the option of increasing the cap. Authorizing that increase was one of the swampiest moves the White House could have made, one put on hold only belatedly and grudgingly.

Still Too Many

Even the guestworker programs where DHS does not have discretion should be halted given our new realities.

Even if the above-mentioned increase is actually canceled, the H-2B program is still set to import its base level of 66,000 foreign workers this year. The State Department announcement last week that it was speeding the admission of foreign farm workers claimed they are “a national security priority.” Employers submitted 275,000 applications for the 85,000 H-1B visas for “skilled” workers (many in tech), which will be doled out starting in October. And the Optional Practical Training program, a scheme that gives work visas to foreign graduates of U.S. universities masquerading as students, continues to fill hundreds of thousands of white-collar jobs with foreigners despite the fact that it has no basis in law.

The president has the authority to stop the admission of all foreign workers, recently upheld by the Supreme Court in last year’s “travel ban” case. Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is quite clear:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

“Detrimental to the interests of the United States” is practically the motto of our foreign-worker programs even in the best of times, but in today’s conditions, it’s an understatement.

Cheap-labor lobbyists undoubtedly would sue to enjoin any order by the president halting the admission of foreign workers. The administration should welcome such lawsuits; it would be hard to imagine a less sympathetic plaintiff than a company demanding that a judge order the admission of foreign workers in the current economic climate. Even losing such a case would be a political victory for the president and sane public opinion on these questions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste Wuhan virus proposal included, amid all the other nonsense, automatic renewal for all foreigners with work permits. It didn’t end up in the final bill, but at least you could make a case for narrowly tailored measures freezing everything in place until the crisis passes. In fact, I expect USCIS will administratively extend all expiring work-permit deadlines.

But the corollary of such a freeze would be a freeze on the admission of new foreign workers. Unfortunately, even under today’s emergency conditions our borders seem to operate as a ratchet for foreign workers—none of those already here have to leave and those whom employers want to import get to come in.

What does that make jobless American workers? Mr. Potter put it best: “Suckers.”

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

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.

Elections

Robert Gates Makes a Damning Case Against Joe Biden as Commander-in-Chief

Before anyone considers electing Biden to the presidency on grounds of the Delaware Democrat’s purported moderation, the electorate should examine all the reasons why the former defense secretary says Biden has “been wrong on nearly every foreign policy and national security issue for the past four decades.”

Robert Gates is the epitome of a moderate political thinker, public servant, and lifelong specialist in international security. After a lengthy career appointment as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, he served as deputy director of the CIA under President Ronald Reagan, deputy national security adviser and, later, director of the CIA under President George H.W. Bush. Gates served for two years as President George W. Bush’s secretary of defense and two-and-a-half more years in the same office under President Barack Obama.

Here is a man with no appetite for bombast. Here is a judicious national security establishment figure firmly aligned with the Bushes, Jim Baker, and Brent Scowcroft. Here is someone who is hard to imagine wearing a MAGA hat but is surely a patriot committed, in his own manner, to American greatness.

Gates is a Republican and is certainly no liberal, but his reputation for moderation, pragmatism, and managerial talent was such that Barack Obama wanted to retain him for a long stint as secretary of defense. It wasn’t the easiest of tenures, but for two and a half years, Gates worked diligently and as smoothly as he could with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the Obama-Biden national security team.

It is therefore a matter of grave alarm—at least a DEFCON 2 and possibly DEFCON 1, the ultimate state of alert—when Gates, that most centered of centrists, asserts that Biden has “been wrong on nearly every foreign policy and national security issue for the past four decades.”

The entire syllabus of Biden’s foreign policy and national security errors is a target-rich environment for the many American Greatness writers with expertise on particular issues. Anyone who makes the case for Biden’s election to the presidency should be made to defend the extremism and demonstrated failure of Biden’s national security record.

Let’s consider Biden’s fatal flaw when it comes to defending the United States, our allies, and friends, against ballistic missiles.

During the Reagan and first Bush administrations, a signature issue for the ambitious senator from Delaware was ballistic missile defense. Biden mocked Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, insisting that a program for research and development of effective defenses against ICBMs was a dangerous delusion.

Following the lead of his mentor, the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Biden said that the research and development of missile defenses was a waste of money because it was a foregone conclusion that effective defenses would be impossible.

With less than acute logic, Biden also said that R&D for missile defense was “destabilizing.” Why? Well, Biden said, because the program moved in the direction of undoing the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the cornerstone of the Strangelovian “mutual assured destruction” doctrine that encouraged the ever-growing lethality of offensive nuclear weapons on both the Soviet and American sides.

Think about that for a moment. If R&D for missile defense really had been as useless as an alchemist’s labors at turning base metals into gold, why should that have changed the strategic offensive balance between America and the Soviets?

Consider, too: Soviet diplomatic pronouncements and propaganda agitated vehemently against American R&D for missile defense. If the Soviets really had believed that Reagan was wasting American defense dollars in pursuit of a delusion, why didn’t they encourage Reagan to keep doing it? Why did they denounce the program so stridently?

Biden, who has never been regarded as much of a thinker, somehow missed that point.

When Reagan pursued the R&D anyway and the honest scientific community came around more and more to recognize the feasibility of effective ballistic missile defense, Biden and Kennedy remained steadfast in their deep denial.

As a senator, Biden slowed the development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses. Americans, our allies, and our friends should never forget that Biden struggled mightily to prevent them from having the defenses they now enjoy.

Today, the United States has a robust ballistic missile defense program that keeps getting stronger and more capable.

Israel is famous for its effective missile defenses. After first gaining missile defense systems from the United States, Israel’s own homegrown missile defense technology is so substantial that it has become a product for export.

Saudi Arabia has destroyed numerous incoming ballistic missiles over the past several years, including missiles targeted at Riyadh only last week. Without the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense systems that Biden fought to prevent, Saudi Arabia would have sustained crippling damage and casualties from Iranian missiles launched by Tehran’s clients in Yemen.

Countries circling the globe now have ballistic missile defenses because of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.

All of the NATO countries are in Reagan’s debt for the anti-missile shield that now protects them.

Japan, Korea, Kuwait, and Bahrain are among the nations with U.S. Patriot defenses.

The United Arab Emirates has the most advanced missile defense assets in the Gulf region. It was the first country outside the United States to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

It pleases Biden’s campaign and the Big Media to describe Biden as some sort of moderate as he prepares to face President Trump in the November election. But the reality is that Biden is on the far-left on all issues, only a tiny bit less extreme in substance and style than Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and “the squad.”

When it comes to missile defense, in fact, there is no meaningful difference between Biden and Sanders.

An authentic moderate is hard to find. Robert Gates comes as close as anyone to meeting the definition.

Before anyone considers electing Biden to the presidency on grounds of the Delaware Democrat’s purported moderation, voters should examine all the reasons why Gates says Biden has “been wrong on nearly every foreign policy and national security issue for the past four decades.”

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.

First Principles

Experts and Statesmen in the Time of Coronavirus

The war against COVID-19 puts the choice between expertise and common sense front and center. Are we to be ruled by statesmen or experts?

The Chinese virus is a clarifying agent. Among other things, one can see the choice between republican and progressive government—the rule of the people on the one hand and the rule of experts on the other. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden perfectly embody this choice in response to the crisis.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the way the two men approach the expert advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and member of Trump’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Trump is adamant that he will listen to and consider what Fauci has to say, but in the end he, as the elected president, will determine the right course of action. For Trump, politics is the overarching art: immunology and epidemiology are subordinate sciences. Biden promises the opposite, saying “If I’m elected president, I will always lead the way with science. I will listen to the experts and heed their advice. I will do the opposite of what we’re seeing Donald Trump do every day.”

Who Rules? 

This is the choice before us. Are we to be ruled by experts as if they are our guardians simply because they might be smarter than us in specific fields, or are we to rule ourselves?

The supposed legitimacy of the former approach comes from fear. We are told the world is too complex. We need the experts to guide us, protect us, and save us. We need an elite guardian class to rule over us because we cannot make it on our own. But this cowardice makes us nothing more than slaves, not citizens.

The legitimacy of self-rule springs from our love of justice and our virtue. In our republican system, it requires a commitment to the truth that all men are created equal, and to the proposition that the just powers of government are derived by consent. It requires courage, moderation, friendship, and grace. It is these virtues that allow us to live free, apart from the “chains of despotism” as Madison says in Federalist 55.

The rule of expertise is not politics rightly understood; it is management. There is no deliberation involved. Instead, there is only bureaucracy, administration, and a religious—actually, cultish—devotion to what we now call science.

The rule of the people allows for statesmanship and liberty. Though statesmen might not always be “at the helm,” we the people, as the safeguard of our own liberty, can elect representatives with wisdom and prudence or pay the price when we don’t. We evaluate how well they do, discuss, debate, and then decide who should govern through elections.

Expertise Is Not Prudence 

The rule of expertise, while on the surface promising intelligent leadership, is incapable of prudent government. The rule of expertise leads to incompetence, strife, and corruption instead of scientific precision and impartiality.

This is because the rule of expertise is built on a weak foundation. People’s faith in “science” is often misplaced. Most of what we call science is really just scientism—the foolish belief that men cease to be men when they put on white lab coats and begin charting numbers and lines. Scientism overstates what men can actually know. Moreover, the rule of expertise stands or falls on the belief that men are basically good and scientists are immune to the unjust desire to rule for their own benefit.

Admittedly, it is hard to convince anyone in the grips of this false religion that there is more to governance than the opinions of (necessarily) flawed experts. The warm embrace of the dream world provides great comfort that somehow the right human beings are in control. Most people will fight to stay asleep in the cave of shadows, insisting that they know the truth.

Regardless, the vast majority of “experts” are useless academics and professional bureaucrats. Their fields of study are full of jargon and credentials that lead to conformity and groupthink. Experts learn early that challenging the authorities in one’s field is risky for one’s career. Whatever thinking is involved quickly devolves into vague, abstract theorizing about ideas that are unable to be proven or disproven and thus do not threaten the ideas of one’s peers or superiors.

Often, what is supposed to be science ends up being just another form of cronyism, and what we call “expertise” ends up being knowledge of otherwise useless jargon and how to navigate a career field. The government bureaucracy that results is incompetent, often harmful, and tyrannical.

This is not to say there are not very smart men whom we can legitimately call experts—men like Dr. Fauci. But even at their best, these experts are incapable of prudence. Their knowledge is specific and precise, limiting their ability to consider circumstances broadly. Their skillset is often highly technical, built on years of experience and careful adherence to established protocols, limiting their ability to consider new solutions. And, besides, they typically confront only one problem a nation faces, not the full spectrum of the problems we must face.

In short, science and expertise can be wonderful things that help us to know what is, but they cannot answer the question of what we ought to do. This is the difference between science and politics. One is about knowing; the other is about acting. Expertise and science are subordinate to the art of politics. Experts make terrible rulers.

Prudence and Common Sense 

Those who don’t presume to be experts, on the other hand, tend to be more attuned to actual circumstances. Whereas experts often enjoy the comfort of abstract thinking, regular people are more immediately connected to the harsh realities of life and the consequences of their decisions. A miscalculation might be professionally embarrassing for an expert, if anyone even notices. In real life, a miscalculation hurts one’s business or family.

Likewise, the normal man is often better equipped to consider the highest things. Less enamored of his own knowledge of or power over the world, he tends to rely more on pre-scientific knowledge, or common sense. He tends to be more aware of what he doesn’t actually know, more reliant on conscience, and to have more faith in the divine. In short, normal people tend to be comfortable looking to the heavens for help and guidance.

The American regime is founded on the idea that common citizens with common sense can achieve sensible politics. This can lead to a sort of local statesmanship, often manifested in family, small businesses, and peaceful communities, where people live with the consequences of their actions. Occasionally it leads to statesmanship proper: the ability to look after the wellbeing of the whole nation with prudence, wisdom, and faith.

The Present Moment 

If you listen carefully to the White House press conferences on the coronavirus pandemic, you will notice that Trump emphasizes the newness of the problem, the complexity of the circumstances, common sense, community, and action. Expertise has a place, but it is and must remain in a subordinate role. He sees the inherent connection between Easter and getting through this and doesn’t shy away from prayer. His critics, on the other hand, whine about the need to listen to expertise and science, as if these are gods who will save us if we just submit to them.

It is not by happenstance that the choice between republican and progressive government aligns with a choice between a party of people who worship God, promote families, seek to protect babies, care about local business, and respect science in its place, and a party of people who worship “science,” eschew religion, promote abortion, are cosmopolitan, and sneer at traditional families. It should not surprise anyone that in this crisis one party wants local control with federal support and one party wants local submission to federal control. One is the party of the people; one is the party of scientism.

The war against COVID-19 puts the choice between expertise and common sense front and center. Are we to be ruled by statesmen or experts?

As we emerge from this crisis, I predict that we will find the battle lines between the two camps have only hardened and the stakes are higher than ever. But at least things will be clear.

Greatness Agenda

Wuhan Coronavirus Must Be Our Sputnik Moment With China

Now will we take the threat China poses seriously?

Back then, it seemed to make sense. We were in a Cold War that easily could have turned hot and taken all our lives. Of course, it’s easy to forget that we had 25,000 nuclear warheads aimed at each other across the East-West divide. So if America could cultivate dissension and sow division between the two biggest Communist dictatorships, and so weaken the “Second World,” so much the better. 

That was how Henry Kissinger sold President Nixon the idea of cozying up to the Chinese Communists. After 25 years of nonrecognition and isolation, an American president wasn’t simply going to reestablish perfunctory ties with Beijing, but instead, he spent a whole week in China as a part of normalizing relations with the dictatorship. 

At a time when the main threat to us was the continued global spread of Communism and nuclear war with the dictatorship in Moscow, such a move had a quality of intuitive seduction. 

Yet Kissinger’s idea of weakening the “Socialist International” by driving a wedge between Beijing and Moscow broke one of the cardinal rules of good strategy: it is never wise to empower one enemy simply for the sake of weakening another, more proximate one. 

Nixon’s fatal acquiescence to the plan to lure China away from Moscow led to Beijing’s playing America—and the West—like a cheap fiddle in the decades that followed. 

With the geopolitical door opened by a president who had earned his anti-Communist credentials after World War II on the House Un-American Activities Committee, Beijing realized a dream come true. With America on its side, the Chinese Communist Party could skillfully engineer post-Kuomintang China’s reception back into global political life and international trade. 

And they were unbelievably successful.

Whether the administration was run by Republicans or Democrats, China would move inexorably closer to the position it craved: the maintenance of an ironclad dictatorship within its borders, while also having the freedom to trade with the whole world and influence international affairs as “just another country.” And we let it happen. 

From Jimmy Carter’s decision to reinstate their “Most Favored Nation” trading status in 1979, to China’s accession under George W. Bush to the World Trade Organization in 2001, the murderous regime has achieved each and every goal it needed to realize in order to become a peer competitor to its greatest enemy—us. Perhaps the global pandemic that is the Chinese Wuhan coronavirus could change that. It must.

Many have asked the reasonable question: Why are we producing upward of 95 percent of our antibiotics and medical equipment needs in Communist China?

Even before one explores the question of how rife these exports are to geopolitical exploitation, forgery, and failure, this fact appears suicidal.

But let’s just stay with the question: Why are we doing business with China at all?

This is a country with a system that killed at least 45 million of its own citizens in less than five years under the guise of the “reform” movement that was Mao’s Great Leap Forward and then starved another 30 million of its citizens to death.

This is the country that massacred thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square as the Iron Curtain was crumbling and which now censors the internet domestically for any mention of that failed revolution. And it does so with the help of supposedly American companies like Google

This is the nation that imprisons its people simply for following the “wrong” religion or for being a member of an ethnic group it has deemed undesirable. A nation that will harvest these prisoners’ organs against their will to sell or to use for those whose survival is more “important” to the state. 

And this is the country that has created a “social credit” rating system that allows the government systematically to denude you of your remaining civil rights, one by one, should your behavior or views be found to be politically incorrect or déclassé—that is, contrary to the official party line. 

Yes, China is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, it has abused and persecuted those who have spoken out about what really happened in Wuhan in December and January, and then launched an international propaganda campaign to downplay their government’s culpability. But that’s not really the problem. 

My question again: Why are we doing business with the world’s biggest Communist dictatorship at all? So the plastic toys we give away with Happy Meals cost us the least possible? Or so that we can be blackmailed when we need N-95 masks for the next viral outbreak? 

In 1957, when our grandparents turned on their transistor radios and heard the artificial beeps of the world’s first satellite beamed down from space they had their Sputnik moment. That’s when Americans realized the Soviets had out-thought and out-engineered us and that’s when we finally started to take the existential threat the Soviets posed seriously.

The Wuhan Coronavirus must be our Sputnik Moment for the threat China represents now.

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

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

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 ‘Parasite’ Pandemic

People with a platform need to maintain calm while aligning their audiences’ priorities with their own. Calm trickles down, but so does panic. Calm is essential to enduring any crisis. This one is not exempt.

“An exam is like slashing through a jungle. Lose that momentum, and you’re finished.”

—“Parasite” (2019)

If grocery store shopping in 2020 feels like the “Hunger Games,” watching how many of America’s elected officials, members of the press and celebrities have responded to COVID-19 during quarantine feels like watching “Parasite.”

In “Parasite,” the Kims, a low-income family of four, deceive the Parks to gain employment as an English tutor, art therapist, driver, and housekeeper. What begins as a sympathetic attempt at making a decent living in South Korea (Ki-woo speaks English fluently but does not have a university degree) turns into a malicious, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest scheme, making this truth abundantly clear: We live in a Darwinian world where we need to use our minds to survive.

In this world, low-income or “gig economy” workers try to survive in the jungle; higher-income earners removed from the jungle, like the Parks, play. The Parks’ living room, a former playpen, overlooks their lush, green backyard that, by no coincidence, resembles a jungle.

At face value, director Bong Joon-ho portrays the Parks unfavorably: the film implies Mr. Park has a cushy tech job because of his college degree, not his intellect. But the nuances show the Kims behave much like the Parks as their income grows. Wealth can make people less cautious and aware of the skills that enable them to survive. It can breed complacency and encourage risky behavior.

If Bong made a movie called “Virus,” the Kims would hoard bottles of Purell and sell them for 50 times the retail price; the Parks would be Senators Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) profiting from insider trading.

A third group would consist of people like the driver the Kims manipulate the Parks into firing. This group—the fired driver or any entrepreneur who earns his income the honest way—watches the media frenzy from their televisions, isolated or in quarantine, playing by the rules.

Many of those who have used their platforms to preach about staying out of touch act out-of-touch. They’re playing, but not by the rules, and everyone is watching: media consumption increases by about 60 percent when the government forces consumers to stay home, according to the Nielsen Corporation.

This pandemic makes clear why recent polls say the percentage of Americans who want to raise taxes on the rich equals the number who want to cut taxes for everyone. But in reality, entrepreneurs who have accumulated wealth by making things have added the most value in this pandemic.

While members of Congress were fighting over a relief bill, Elon Musk was building ventilators—and donating hundreds of the machines to New York’s under-supplied hospitals.

Politicians, members of the press, and celebrities need to take mindful, common-sense steps to show they match Americans’ top priority: survival. These steps show how they can increase their value while aligning themselves with the public’s interest.

By the end of March, upwards of 4 million Americans will have filed for unemployment claims, the highest on record. Members of Congress should exhibit leadership and comradery by forgoing their salaries that range from $174,000 to $223,000 per year to send to Americans.

Americans ranked the news media last in terms of how they have handled the coronavirus pandemic response in the United States, according to Gallup poll results released March 25. It’s not hard to see why: asking the same question about word choice (“Why are you calling it a ‘Chinese’ virus?”) multiple times does not inform a Pep Boys owner about when his son’s military base will open, the likelihood of his ICU nurse daughter contracting the disease, or whether or not he can keep his business afloat.

Journalists add value in that they create knowledge. Regardless of one’s own personal view of President Trump and his verbiage, these questions divert attention away from finding solutions and cheapen the serious economic and health effects the country faces. Reporters should be “above it” and ask questions about medical progress and economic plans.

Many television journalists need to replace fearmongering with pragmatism. I advised a private healthcare organization about how effectively to communicate with the public during the 2014 Ebola crisis. Words like “prevention” and “pragmatic” don’t catch people’s attention. If they did, leading causes of death like cancer, suicide, and auto accidents would take more precedence. But including a live death tracker that resembles a New Year’s Eve countdown (or a North Korean ticking time bomb) clock implies CNN cares more about its headlines than it does about its viewers.

Replacing the death tracker with a timer, starting with the date and time Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the COVID-19 response bill, would have aligned them with the public by instilling a sense of urgency: Congress needed to act. Acknowledging the public’s fear—and their right to be fearful—builds trust. Stoking fears does not.

Celebrities need to stop announcing their test results (positive or negative). Americans sympathized with Tom Hanks when he announced he and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19. It also made the reality of the virus’ presence more real. Now, as thousands of Americans wait for their results (if they’re lucky enough even to get tested), the country reading about Heidi Klum’s negative result corroborates “Parasite’s” message: the wealthy have it easy.

Public figures need to show leadership. Mark Cuban ensured Dallas Mavericks arena workers would receive compensation, questioned why 3M increased ventilator mask prices, and demanded that Republicans and Democrats pass the response bill. Brad Paisley started a service in which volunteers deliver free groceries to the elderly from “The Store,” a supermarket he founded with his wife in 2018 that provides free food for people who have fallen on hard times.

Gal Gadot, an Israeli model, released a video montage of celebrities singing “Imagine,” an anthem John Lennon himself called “virtually the Communist Manifesto,” during a time in which the world is suffering from a virus that originated in a Communist-run country. “Come Together” would have been a better choice.

The CDC uses patriotic terms like “war” and “protecting America.” It’s time politicians, the press and celebrities align themselves with the third group: the ones who elected them . . . read their articles . . . and stream their content.

The climax of “Parasite” results in the former housekeeper’s husband, quarantined in the Parks’ bunker, starting an all-out riot in their backyard. People with a platform need to maintain calm while aligning their audiences’ priorities with their own. Calm trickles down, but so does panic. Calm is essential to enduring any crisis. This one is not exempt.

Great America

Narrative Painting by Numbers

In our constitutional republic, it’s imperative for public policymakers to adopt sound measures based upon facts and effectively communicate them to the people to garner their consent. Our irresponsible media make that very difficult to do.

In this pandemic, we have multiple and daily reminders about why the corporate-leftist media ranks the lowest in the public’s esteem and confidence—hubris, ignorance, irresponsibility, duplicity, fearmongering, and an abject lack of self-awareness are but a few.

For the press, this abysmal reality has been quantified statistically by a recent Gallup poll, wherein “only the news media received a negative approval rating” with 44 percent. (Quite rightly, hospitals and health care workers received the highest approval at 88 percent.)

While one suspects this news surprised many in the elitist media, you wouldn’t know it from the latest manifestation of their patent disdain for the vast majority of Americans, 3,283,000 of whom were forced to file for unemployment last week due to the COVID-19 virus and the unprecedented public health measures taken to combat it.

Looking for more information about this sort of tragedy in the annals of American employment—the previously reported record number had been 695,000 in 1982 during “Stagflation”—I clicked on a CNBC report. After reading it, I realized there was a critical omission of important information.

Curious, I checked other outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC News, and MarketWatch. These, too, had the same omission of critical information.

The omitted critical information is the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Only Yahoo! Finance edged toward providing this information but stopped short at the end of the report: “There are currently more than 487,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and 22,029 confirmed deaths as of Thursday morning, according to Johns Hopkins.”

Though this report and others did provide a link to stories with U.S. numbers of cases and deaths, it omitted that information from its own reporting, as do the other media reports. In fact, by citing the global COVID-19 numbers because they are higher, they actually buttressed my suspicions.

Why didn’t these reports include the numbers of U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths?

True, there may well be media reports that do include U.S. cases and deaths. But why didn’t these and so many others? After all, the COVID-19 virus (and China’s Communist Party) are the reason more than 3 million Americans lost their jobs last week. And at no point throughout their febrile fearmongering has the elitist media been shy about citing these U.S. figures and their most dire projections and consequences regarding them.

Certainly, these stories have no trouble prognosticating your impending abysmal financial straits, noting how the full extent of the layoffs was likely “understated” and the consensus is that unemployment will skyrocket. As MarketWatch reports, “Some analysts say the unemployment rate could climb to 20% or higher if the worst-case scenario comes to pass and the economy is shut down for months. Those are 1930s Great Depression level numbers.”

The above reports and others in that vein constitute a disturbing pattern and, given Gallup’s findings, the American public knows why we’re seeing it: the media thinks you’re stupid and dangerous.

Yes, the same people who want to stop airing President Trump’s pandemic press conferences because, unfiltered by the media, his popularity is soaring, now want to make sure you can’t make your own assessment about whether the public health measures implemented to combat the Wuhan virus are proportionate to the crisis or an overreaction.

In sum, they don’t want to risk you deciding the cure is worse than the disease.

Evidently, the elitist media—and all those who believe nothing short of a lengthy, indefinite national lockdown of 331 million people is the only solution to controlling and curtailing the pandemic—want to prevent any economic facts on the ground from being considered when assessing the now dual crises affecting our lives and livelihoods. This is the height of feckless hubris.

As I noted earlier last week, what policymakers need is data—on both COVID-19 and the economy—to make informed decisions regarding this and, sadly, future pandemics:

Because of the unknown in this pandemic, policymakers have every incentive to overreact, for they are the ones with the most to gain and least to lose by overreacting. The issue, then, is when the American public—that is losing everything with every passing day—determines there has been an overreaction.

By no later than early April, it would be wise for policymakers to articulate a comprehensive, proportionate, fact-based plan for any public health measures needing to be continued, curbed, or canceled. Their patience as strained as their family budgets, the American people deserve it; and will settle for no less.

The collection of requisite data is of the utmost importance to the functioning of our federal system, whose flexibility allows the most immediately responsive and effective public health measures to be determined and implemented. Local, state, and federal efforts, individually and collectively, allow for diverse populations, especially those most at risk, to be treated with the needed health measures, which the science so far has shown may not need to be the same across the board.

Consequently, if the accumulating data allows, our federal system—and, yes, our freedom—should begin mitigating the devastation both of the pandemic and the pending recession.

In our constitutional republic, be it in good times or in a crisis, it is imperative for public policymakers to adopt sound measures based upon facts and effectively communicate them to the citizenry in order to seek and garner their consent. If our policymakers fail to do this, the public will reject continuing public health measures, such as lock-downs, or, alternatively, they may refuse to return to their daily lives.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who want a “one-size-fits-all-331-million-people” indefinite national lock-down—regardless of the ensuing loss of lives, livelihoods, and other human suffering the concomitant depression will cause—publicly to state what data will ever allow for the first steps to a return to normality in people’s personal lives and professions.

While the elitist media—who are still employed and being paid for their pontifications—won’t provide America’s COVID-19 figures in their unemployment reports because they think we are dangerously ignorant rubes, trust in your own ability to make up your mind. I submit the following as of the morning of March 27, 2020*:

3,283,000 unemployed last week

85,498 U.S. cases of COVID-19

1,311 U.S. deaths from COVIDd-19

1.5 percent U.S. mortality rate from COVID-19

Now, as you contemplate these statistics, put yourself in the position of a responsible public policymaker, wrestling with how to protect lives and livelihoods from the ravages of a pandemic and pending depression.

Suddenly, on the same day you read their report about record weekly unemployment numbers, you are alerted to a new headline from the same CNBC: “The Coronavirus May Be Deadlier Than the 1918 Flu: Here’s How It Stacks up to Other Pandemics.”

As a public policymaker you’ve made your first sound decision: Ignore the fear-mongering media.

*Note: In my own hard-hit state of Michigan, the grim number of COVID-19 cases stood at 2,856, deaths at 60, and the mortality rate was 2.1 percent, which was higher than the national average.

Greatness Agenda

The Long-Term Contagion From China

The Chinese Communist Party’s threats include potential disruption to global supply chains, financial markets, and deadly pandemics. But the “soft power” spread by Confucius Institutes on college and university campuses is another type of virus we must immediately quarantine from American culture.

Thanks to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Americans grow increasingly aware of the threat China poses both globally and in the United States. Yet many still don’t know the true extent of it.

They think of the Chinese threat (rightly) as coming from our dependence on cheap imports and its harmful effect on domestic manufacturing; the dangerous amount of America’s national debt they hold; and now increasingly, they understand China’s control of the medical supply chain.

But this moment of heightened awareness serves as an opportunity to highlight another threat hiding in plain sight on our college and university campuses. They’re called Confucius Institutes and they’re nothing less than a well-coordinated infiltration of higher education by a hostile foreign government.

Confucius Institutes are Chinese government-funded entities formed to promote Chinese propaganda to America’s student body under the guise of Chinese language studies. Right now, there are 107 Confucius Institutes located across 45 states. Even Politico, hardly a nationalist publication, pointed out the threat back in January 2018. That story noted:

A 2011 speech by a standing member of the Politburo in Beijing laid out the case: “The Confucius Institute is an appealing brand for expanding our culture abroad,” Li Changchun said. “It has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power [emphasis added]. The ‘Confucius’ brand has a natural attractiveness. Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”

Their purpose is not to educate America’s students, it’s to reprogram them. It was why I first created the website ChinaOnCampus.com in early 2019. It’s also why a 2019 Defense Authorization Act smartly limited Pentagon funding for language programs at any university that sanctioned a Confucius Institute on campus.

For anyone who says that a CI chapter is simply about promoting culture, they’re right in a way. But it is promoting a culture of intolerance and authoritarian control with a long record of human rights abuses: Intolerance of the West and of Christianity; authoritarian control of anything from the press and social media to political dissent, most famously in Hong Kong; and human rights abuses against the unborn and millions of Uighur Muslims.

Pew Research reported that between 2004-16 more than 1.5 million foreign students obtained permission to stay here and work after their graduation. Of those, 53 percent graduated with degrees in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). This means they are being placed into positions that control every conceivable element of infrastructure vitally important to our national security. They work around our power grids, our cell phone networks, and in every other American industry that could cause gridlock if disrupted.

These graduates stay in the United States through what is called the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). Of the 1.5 million who have stayed, 21 percent come from China. This means more than 300,000 workers holding positions in key areas of specialization throughout our country.

There are now 369,548 Chinese students, up from 98,235 just 10 years ago, studying at U.S. universities. This 300 percent increase, coupled with the exposure of China’s expansionist tendencies, should be a cause of concern for any rational American.

This is not xenophobia. This is a rational reaction to the dangers of ignoring obvious national security risks for the sake of progressive woke culture or globalism.

China is depending on exploiting our politically-correct-at-all-costs culture. I certainly don’t mean to implicate or demonize all Chinese-born students or workers (some are certainly here for legitimate and positive reasons) but how can we be sure? It’s simply a fact that many of these workers are engaged in corporate espionage on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party. Just last week a Chinese-born man trained in spycraft was sentenced to four years prison after an FBI counterintelligence operation revealed he was working on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security.

Knowing all of this, how can we continue to let China’s state-sponsored propaganda outposts thrive on America’s college campuses?

The Chinese induced global pandemic has awakened many to the national security risks posed by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party. Yes, the CCP threats include potential disruption to global supply chains, financial markets, and deadly pandemics, but the “soft power” spread by Confucius Institutes on colleges and universities is another type of virus that we must immediately quarantine from American culture.

If we don’t, we only confirm the Chinese government’s assumption that we are indeed fools.