The “Cure” Can Be Worse

Mandatory federal, state, and local lockdowns are crippling not only our economy, but also our American spirit. We are surrendering our freedoms to the government. We are telling our policymakers that we will allow them to ban our religious services and force us to surrender our jobs in the name of public health. By allowing these tyrannical precedents to be set, Americans are compromising their health in more ways than one. 

Many people believe that this situation is an exception given the dire circumstances surrounding COVID-19. However, I think this is a short-sighted outlook. For instance, under a Democrat administration, would we ever agree to shut down our economy to “flatten the curve” of climate change? If you drive your gas-fueled car or turn on your furnace, the police will arrest or fine you. The government might tell you that it’s a matter of public health, and millions will die if you don’t stay home and surrender your freedoms. I find it highly unlikely that Republicans would go along with a scenario like this, especially not for months on end.

Is no one troubled at all by the fact that the government has the power to arrest you for this? We are preparing ourselves to obey tyrannical orders to protect ourselves from the next crisis. We are setting disturbing precedents. Republican or Democrat, principle comes before a political party. We have to set some boundaries as to what the government can impose on us. As James Madison once said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.” We cannot neglect the consequences of every ounce of power we give the government.

Right now, there are only a few outlier stories of people being arrested for disobeying their quarantine orders, but it’s not too difficult to foresee this becoming an infringement on our freedom. For example, a man was arrested while paddle boarding alone in the Malibu area. Since he was breaking the orders, he now faces charges. What happened to Patrick Henry’s spirit of “Give me liberty, or give me death”?

The COVID-19 shutdown is growing the government in the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal did. People are desperate, fearful, and are left turning to the federal government for economic relief. However, the New Deal permanently expanded the role of the federal government by implementing new social programs that continue to be the burden of American taxpayers today. The policies we allow the government to enforce today will have irrevocable effects and leave the government more powerful than it was before COVID-19. 

Furthermore, while it’s too early for definitive research at this time, I believe that Republicans are only agreeing to these big-government restrictions and interventions because of the Republican administration endorsing them. We are passively exchanging our freedoms for less long-term health security. We may lose fewer lives to COVID-19, but we will lose far more to poverty.

In late March, President Trump received backlash when he said that the “cure cannot be worse than the problem itself.” Some may have been disturbed by what seemed to be a prioritization of the economy over public health. However, it’s ignorant to believe that shutting down our economy will not have long-term health effects. It’s not just about a strong economy. It’s about what an economy means for our livelihood, and our physical and mental health. The initial economic effects will put lower income individuals into poverty quickly.

Part of the issue is that we have conservatively defined what healthcare is. Yes, part of healthcare is going to the doctor and receiving medical care. But it’s more than that. It’s going to the grocery store having access to proper nutrition. It’s having the ability to exercise. It’s forming a social community. Preserving our livelihood is an aspect of healthcare. We have made the mistake of drawing a hard line between healthcare and the economy when they are interdependent. Economic health has a huge impact on the physical and mental health of Americans. It’s no news that the COVID-19 is going to leave America a changed country. 

An economic disaster has major implications for our health. Unemployment and health have a direct correlation, as we saw after the Great Recession. Long-term unemployment decreases access to healthcare, which increases mortality and decreases quality of life. These are issues that won’t just last a few months. Long-term health repercussions from diet, housing, and access to healthcare will impact us for many years. These economic repercussions will be around for decades if we aren’t careful. 

It’s not just physical health, either. Involuntary unemployment adversely affects the mental health of individuals. Many people attach self-worth to productivity, and when they are left unemployed, they become more likely to experience anxiety and depression. During the Great Depression, suicide rates reached a record high with 150 suicides per one million people. It’s projected that a 1% increase in unemployment leads to one more suicide per 100,000 people. This means roughly 30,000 suicides in the U.S. with 10% increase in unemployment. 

This social distress probably isn’t all that surprising, but it shows something important. Unemployment and the economy will have an impact on our health in the next few years. The market took 25 years to recover after the Great Depression. The longer we continue this economic crash, the harder we make it to recover. Bloomberg has created a US recession model based on the jobless claims and stock market trends. This model predicts that an economic downturn is already inevitable. Now we need to brace ourselves and respond. The government has done enough damage.

The president claims the economy will bounce right back, but I don’t foresee everyone hurrying to get on a plane or take a vacation right when the economy opens. It seems like most will be a little more hesitant about socializing after spending months in our homes. Not to mention that the current unemployment rate is close to 15% and rising. People don’t have the cash in their pockets to spend on luxury goods that they had a few months ago. There will inevitably be a recovery period for many industries and for individuals. 

Policy makers can throw fancy stimulus packages at the economy like a bandage, but at some point, there are no more packages to be made. Handing out checks to unemployed Americans can only work so long as there are people to support those checks with their tax dollars. Unlike the free market, which is limitless in its potential to adapt to meet the demands of consumers, the government is limited by the amount of money its tax-payers put into it. When people aren’t working, the government is in trouble. We could spare ourselves more long-term damage by practicing social distancing with businesses open and by quarantining the elderly and the at-risk community. 

So far, Sweden has managed to implement policies that emphasize social distancing without locking everyone down. They claim businesses are cooperating and having success. We should take Sweden as an example and frame our efforts around it. We need to consider the price that we are paying (or will pay), both fiscally and as a society when it comes to the peoples’ dependence and trust of the government. Think of the other health effects that this will have not just over this season but over the next decade. Some economy is better than no economy. The severity of COVID-19 is not an excuse for the government to shut down our country to the extent that it has. The protests in Michigan this week are just the beginning of American unrest in the midst of government overreach.

However, the most concerning part of these orders is how uneducated most people seem to be on the reality of COVID-19 statistics and how drastically they have changed. Last week, Dr. Deborah Birx stated that the government has taken a “very liberal approach to mortality.” The projected COVID-19 deaths without social distancing were up to a frightening 2.2 million, and now the IHME model being frequently referenced is projecting only 60,308 deaths before August 4th of this year. To this point, it’s troublesome that we don’t know exactly how COVID-19 deaths are being counted, especially when it comes to people who have known pre-existing conditions. Based on the current projections, individuals with pre-existing conditions make up 73% of hospitalizations. 

In addition, the CDC’s basis for counting COVID-19 deaths is very vague. Specifically, the CDC states that “If COVID–19 played a role in the death, this condition should be specified on the death certificate.” The CDC goes on to say that if a COVID-19 case cannot be confirmed, but “it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’” From these numbers, it seems that the majority of healthy Americans could be working without much life-threatening risk. 

Hopefully, President Trump will reopen the economy and protect the at-risk community in the process by encouraging social distancing in a more practical way. There are ways we can reopen the economy, especially in states without hotspots, and still mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We can encourage wearing masks, commit to personal responsibility with careful hygiene, and continue to encourage people that are at risk to stay home. Large gatherings can still be limited, such as sporting events and concerts. Businesses can limit the number of people in a space and continue thorough cleaning. These are reasonable provisions, but shutting everything down is absurdly unsustainable and unnecessary. It’s one thing to put these mild restrictions in place, but it’s a bigger issue to require us to stay in our homes and force us into unemployment.

Unless we put a stop to these unnecessary shutdowns, the government will continue to seize our freedoms and push us towards years of economic disaster. The government is using vague information to justify its tyrannical policies and increase its power over Americans. Public health is more than just diagnosed diseases. If we want to continue to have a thriving country, we have to get back to work and put a stop to government intervention. Each day we spend in lockdown, we lose more of our liberties.



Categories: Domestic Affairs

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1 reply

  1. Illuminating article, for reasons the author probably did not intend.

    The author is hell-bent on attacking the outrageous New Deal programs. Her cries, it seems, fall upon deaf ears: the dictatorial programs are widely popular among Americans. Some despotic researchers have found that they’re consequential in reducing suicide rates in America. No matter.

    The measures have simply gotten out of hand. We are “required to stay in our homes” and “forced into unemployment,” denied the freedom to paddle board. Bold claims, made bolder by the dearth of evidence for them. Instead we must heed the wise words of slaveholder James Madison, a clear moral authority on questions of freedom.

    The author comments, contrary to available polling data, that Republicans will not support social distancing measures. Indeed, their support is only temporary and because a Republican administration endorses the policies, a sound assessment of Republican “ideology.”

    The problem, the author contends, is “conservative” definitions of health. Eminently concerned about matters of nutrition and “access to healthcare,” she worries that we cannot “preserve our social community” because of the government, which she, in a truly non-conservative definition, pronounces as “tyrannical.”

    The government, responsible for the crisis, must step back, its “fancy stimulus packages,” written by Adam Smith’s “masters of mankind,” have committed the heretical crime of issuing direct cash payments to “Americans” [undocumented workers, of course, are ineligible for the program, but they are not real Americans, so they merit no mention].

    The author patiently reminds us the one-time $1200 check cannot go on forever. After all, “the government is limited by the amount of money its tax-payers put into it,” a guiding philosophy of Republican presidents as evinced by their deficit spending, never mind the trillions the Federal Reserve has conjured.

    All this can be solved by the divine “free market,” limitless in potential, as the millions of recently furloughed can attest to. We must simply adopt the lock-down policies of Sweden; here she differs from the principal architect of the policies, who has, inaccurately, claimed that “too many have died” thanks to them.

    There is one thing the author and I agree upon: “the most concerning part of these orders is how uneducated most people seem to be…” The author, like the frog, should take the advice of the fox: “Physician, heal thyself.”

    Like

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