The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing hysteria the virus brought with it has sent the U.S. into a tailspin across nearly every aspect of American life. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 6,000 points from an all-time high in February. Thousands of Americans have died as a result of the virus. Small businesses face a bleak future of uncertainty when the call to reopen is finally made, and a projected 20% of Americans are expected to reenter former jobs which no longer exist due to the lingering effects of COVID-19 on the economy.
Needless to say, we must respond to the crisis, and there is seemingly one institution which has the ability to generate the necessary response—the U.S. government. It would be quite the response, since massive government intervention and temporary suspension of American freedoms are apparently the only options. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Do they not? Of course not. For many politicians, this is an opportunity—a chance to spread the ever-expanding reach of government power and a general encroachment on American rights. Take a look around, and see the tyrannous acts committed against the American people in the name of social distancing. I see the writing on the wall. We will be dealing with the scale back of this government seizure of emergency power for decades following the eradication of COVID-19. Politicians are focused on scoring political victories in their response to the pandemic, and some leaders are seeking to use their newfound authority to respond in ways which are trivial at best and Orwellian at worst.
Former Mayor of Chicago Rahm Immanuel's quote, "You never let a serious crisis go to waste," has never rung truer than in this instance, and certain politicians are taking every possible advantage to ensure this massive government interventionism shall entrench itself to become the new normal for Americans. The most glaring example of the politicization of the pandemic can be seen in the Democrats' blocking of the Republicans' $2 trillion stimulus bill following the immediate economic collapse. One reason Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave for blocking the stimulus bill was because the bill did not strive to protect American workers. So what is the best way to protect American workers then?
According to Erica Werner, Paul Kane, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis with the Washington Post, Pelosi believes the best way to protect American workers is to "require airlines and other companies that receive aid to pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage." Doubling the minimum wage in order to stop the pandemic is logic only a Democrat could understand, but a minimum-wage hike was not the only agenda-based gripe the Democrats had with the stimulus bill.
According to Dylan Matthews with Vox, "Democrats … are demanding at least $10,000 in federal student loan forgiveness per student."
This is after Donald Trump decided to freeze loan payments and interests rates for the next 60 days, but nothing short of total debt forgiveness will satiate the Democratic agenda. It is all too politically convenient an opportunity for Democrats to push their agenda, but the issue is these conditions do not expire after the pandemic is under control. These programs like a $15 minimum wage and student loan forgiveness will fundamentally shape the America of tomorrow; it is important to be mindful the proposed cure to the economic ills as a result of the virus should not be worse than the virus itself.
We, however, do not live in the future. We live in the now, and the circumstances of the now have corrupted local politicians with their newfound sense of emergency power and transformed them into modern-day autocrats. Stay-at-home mandates, closing of non-essential businesses and curfews—these are all blatant indicators those in power do not trust their constituency to act with prudence and a fair degree of common sense to take reasonable precautions for preventing the spread of the virus. Not only do I find this insulting to my intelligence as an American, I actually believe the governments themselves are showing the warts of incompetence and irresponsibility with their newfound power.
Let us look at Los Angeles, California for example. The LA government ordered a popular Venice Beach skate park be filled with sand to deter large gatherings of people from violating the stay-at-home order.
According to local news source KABC-TV, the Parks and Recreation service said, "Due to the numerous violations, it had to be done." I am glad the prudent LA government is using its resources so wisely.
On a more serious note, Bill de Blasio ripped a page straight out of 1984 in New York's COVID-19 response. Last weekend, de Blasio announced the creation of a new hotline on his personal Twitter which will allow New York residents to snap a picture of other residents to report them to government authorities. De Blasio ensures New Yorkers that "enforcement comes right away," in accordance with state social-distancing guidelines.
Though not as extreme as de Blasio's Thought Police, Starkville has even instituted intrusive violations of personal freedoms. According to Ryan Phillips of the Starkville Daily News, being in groups of 10 or more people is "a criminal offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 in fines, plus court costs." It falls to the American citizen to ensure our leaders do not grow accustomed to their new powers, and once the crisis passes, we must evaluate and reclaim the freedoms guaranteed to us.