How did it come to pass that something as patently wrongheaded and predictably calamitous as the nationwide one-size-fits-all 2020 “lockdown” of America could occur?
Who decided that 320 million Americans would as a practical matter be put under house arrest; that millions of jobs and businesses would deliberately be destroyed; that the religious, educational, cultural, recreational, entertainment, social and travel underpinnings of civilized life in America would by Woke-like fiat be “canceled”; that the world’s largest economy would be thrown into a sudden tailspin, drastically downsized, and saddled with an increasing quantity of debt that exceeds America’s decreasing gross domestic product by ever larger amounts?
No law enacted by the Congress (the legislative branch) and signed by the president (the executive branch) and validated by the Supreme Court (the judicial branch) ordered the lockdown.
The lockdown arose from the synergistic co-joinder of two contagions: The COVID-19 virus that can kill the body and the fear virus that clouds the mind.
The movers and shakers, the crisis makers, were those who created the fear virus with their now suspect but then hysteria-inducing predictions that the COVID-19 virus would kill upward of a quarter-million Americans, or many more, and those in the media who relentlessly spread the hysterical fear virus into every nook and cranny of the nation.
In that sense, the “deciders” were, respectively, the expert epidemiologists in the Deep State science bureaucracy who, even if wrong in their predictions, were almost certainly acting in good faith and the media mindbenders who almost certainly were not, but who nevertheless function as an extra-constitutional, unelected and largely unqualified fourth branch of American government.
Very quickly, overbearing and overreacting governors and mayors closed schools, churches and businesses even in areas far away from COVID-19 hotspots – so great was the irrational fear. Fear stalked the vast prairies as well as the rapidly emptying streets in the cities.
The die was cast early. The Rubicon was crossed with speed. The media had done a favor for the Democrats. It had turned the coronavirus into a lockdown and dropped it on President Donald Trump’s doorstep a few months before the election.
Trump could not have made frightened Americans come out and fight by going back to work and opening their businesses, no matter what he did. Many employers had already opted to stay closed rather than risk permanent ruin from scurrilous “wrongful death” lawsuits under state law if one of their customers or employees were to die of COVID-19 infection.
The lockdown, even in its earliest de facto form, put an end to the Trump-led renaissance and reformation that by January 2020 had produced record or near-record highs in workforce participation and lows in the unemployment rate.
We are now headed back toward the economic dark ages of the over-taxed, bureaucrat-dominated Obama years. We will be even further burdened with trillions of new debt and the additional known and unknown regulatory fishhooks in the CARES Act and the other “economic assistance” packages and bailouts soon to be forthcoming from the Congress.
Even if all of America’s expert scientists were tomorrow to simultaneously sound the “all clear,” it will likely be a long and difficult process to extract the economy from the clutches of the federal and state governments – the former being heavily in debt and many of the latter near bankruptcy.
Restoring America’s financial, constitutional and political integrity will likely take even longer.
If the progressive-socialist Democrats gain control of the White House, the Senate and the House in the November elections, the misery and destructiveness of the lockdown period will have been a foretaste of what life in America will be for many decades to come.
The incomparable Brit Hume’s insightful above-the-fray comment (Hume, Brit. Interview by Shannon Bream. Fox News. Washington, D.C.: 21 April 2020. Television.) about the lockdown bears the hallmark of authentic contemporary American history. The highlights in his own words are excerpted here in a shortened format that to the best of my ability conveys his message.
“I think it’s time to consider the possibility … that this lockdown – as opposed to the more moderate mitigation efforts … is a colossal public policy calamity … And there is not to my knowledge really powerful evidence that imposing this lockdown – apart from, over and above – the other mitigation efforts is making any real difference. I have my doubts that it is making any difference at all.
“I look at people like Dr. (Deborah) Birx and Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, for whom I have very high regard, and I think, you know, these people got us out on this limb. The president listened to them. They were doing what was, to the best of their knowledge, the right thing to do. It was a major wager, so to speak, and a drastic step … I don’t question their good faith at all, but I think they may have made a very serious mistake here.”
When a full history is written, I suspect that the Chinese Communists and the media will top the “blame list,” and that scientists such as Fauci and Birx will be footnotes at the bottom of the list. Even if their computer models were wrong, they might get a “best efforts” medal.
In the meantime, harking back to Ron Ziegler’s famous circa 1970s non-apology, suffice it to say, “Mistakes Were Made.”
Ernest S. Christian, a lawyer, served as a tax policy official in the Treasury Department in the Ford administration.