Rent and mortgage payments are being deferred, Medicare-for-all is getting a second look and support is growing for a program that would take the nation across the economic Rubicon — a guaranteed basic income.
Seldom is heard those cautionary words of yesteryear, “moral hazard.” A time of great need and fear is shattering any stigma about being on the dole.
A logical conclusion is that politics will follow culture and Bernie Sanders- and AOC-types will call the shots in America. Unless Republicans and conservatives get on board, they will be consigned to history’s dustbin.
Perhaps. But pay attention to another potential reaction to the pandemic. Think of it as the revenge of the nonessentials.
In early 2016, Peggy Noonan wrote a prescient column in The Wall Street Journal about the battle unfolding in the presidential race.
“There are the protected and the unprotected,” she wrote. “The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.”
Hillary Clinton later would call Donald Trump supporters “deplorables,” reflecting her elitist disdain for those who didn’t share her advantages.
Happily, the unprotected and deplorables carried the day and gave themselves a fierce advocate in the 45th president. Yet the 2020 election presents a similar divide, albeit with different language.
The Trump revolution, for all its progress, clearly has more work to do. For by hook and crook, the protected managed to hang on to power.
This time they call themselves “essential.”
Among the many actions governors and mayors took in the last three months, the decisions about working, shopping, swimming and even praying were hugely consequential. They were also arbitrary and often foolish.
Just as the Founders and countless guardians of liberty warned, those with too much power inevitably go too far. Just as inevitably, when government picks winners and losers, the unprotected are the losers.
Being designated an “essential” business or employee meant you could keep working, keep your paycheck and standard of living. If you were unfortunate enough to be labeled “nonessential,” you could lose your business, your home and your nest egg.
Unless you worked for the government. Despite shutdown orders in New York and other blue states, municipal and state workers continued to get paid even as most didn’t have to work.
Although there was bluster from Mayor de Blasio about furloughs and layoffs, there have been none. He even gave raises to his staff, and unionized city workers have not missed a paycheck.
While most had nothing to do, some got the merciless tasks of making sure that nonessentials didn’t work. In an especially galling example, Post reporters caught city inspectors staking out upscale neighborhoods to catch contractors working despite a state ban.
One inspector said a violation occurs as soon as a contractor “steps onto the property.”
“The fine for having any work done is $10,000. First offense. No exceptions,” he said.
Carpenters, painters, floor sanders and others are subject to fines of up to $5,000 for each employee.
A contractor said he was working in Brooklyn when an inspector “boxed in my truck” with his car “and ran into the house I was working on.”
“He told the homeowner he was getting a $10,000 fine and I was getting fined $5,000 for each employee,” the contractor said.
“I had to prove I was fixing the heat before he let us off.”
The arbitrary distinction between essential and nonessential recalls the gag about the difference between a recession and a depression. A recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose your job.
De Blasio, predictably, has been consistently erratic. He ruled that wading and surfing in the Atlantic Ocean are fine, but swimming is not. At one point he threatened to put up fences to keep people out of the water.
Many governors drew similarly ridiculous red lines, with nearly all states with stay-at-home orders allowing liquor stores to open but banning AA meetings. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made it legal to buy and sell lottery tickets but not carpets, furniture and paint. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said private motorboats could carry two people, but not three or four.
Bans against large gatherings are a flashpoint for the faithful as well as First Amendment advocates. New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon and Vermont are among those states where stay-at-home orders do not exempt religious institutions, and court fights are erupting around the country.
In California, more than 1,200 pastors signed a “declaration of essentiality” and an attorney said he expects 3,000 churches to open May 31 “with or without permission.”
Naturally, most of Big Media favor extreme shutdowns, which are happening primarily in states with Democratic governors. It’s possible the journalists are genuinely concerned about the health of their fellow Americans, but it’s more likely they see economic catastrophe as bad for Trump.
The New York Times, which congenitally opposes good news with Trump in the White House, said in a recent Page One headline: “New Cases in U.S. Slow, Posing Risk of Complacency.”
Concerned about the sweeping stay-at-home orders, Attorney General Bill Barr appointed a task force to see if they are infringing on constitutional rights, especially regarding religion. A department statement said, “There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.”
Trump weighed in Friday and used the magic words to boost religious freedom, declaring that churches, synagogues and mosques are “essential places that provide essential services” and urging governors to open them.
As the president put it, “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
Finally, somebody in government sees the light: Praying is essential.
Expose the shame!
Reader Ruth Ort writes: “Tonight I read the article about the conditions at the Roosevelt Island hospital and wept. What those nurses found should have been documented. These images are what nightmares are made of and there should be public outcry for change.”
Insult to independence
Joe Biden deserves the pounding he is getting for his condescending “you ain’t black” statement about black Americans who even consider voting for Trump. In truth, his attitude reflects a larger problem on the left: the view that race, gender and other identities are more important than individual liberty.
Recall Madeleine Albright’s line that there is a “special place in hell” for women who didn’t support Hillary Clinton. And Clinton blamed her defeat on women who voted as their husbands ordered, the implication being that all women should have voted in lockstep for her.
Forget the Declaration of Independence. These Dems endorse the Declaration of Conformity.