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Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jared Kushner and the Mystery of the First US Lockdown

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The possibility of US lockdowns – never attempted on this scale in the history of pandemics – was already in the air in early March 2020. The theory of lockdown had been floating around for 15 years but now China was first to try it, and claim enormous success, however fraudulently. 

Incredibly, the US was set to try it out too but getting Trump on board was going to take some doing. The federal government had the quarantine power since 1944. That much we knew. But just how expansive could its exercise be? Would they dare quarantine the well with the sick? How far would this go?

Thanks to several journalistic accounts, we have a better idea of what went on in the White House before the dreadful March 16, 2020, press conference of Donald Trump, Anthony Fauci, and Deborah Birx in which the lockdowns were announced. Along with that came a flier with tiny print about which the ever-trusting Trump apparently knew nothing: “bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms, and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”

Read those words again. Has anything like this ever been issued by any government in the history of the world, before China did it? I cannot think of a case. It shuts not only the places where people do “congregate” but also everywhere where they might congregate. Churches. AA meetings. Civic clubs. Libraries. Museums. Homes! And this happened under Trump’s watch right here in the US! There ought to be a word to describe something more extreme than totalitarian.
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How To Tame a Bureaucracy? Get Rid of It

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Any serious effort to end the crisis must deal with the problem of the administrative state and the bureaucratic power thereof. Without that focus, no reform effort can get anywhere. That is surely a main takeaway from the trauma of our times.

The solution has to be drastic and it has to work. The reason is simple: a free and functioning society cannot coexist with an undemocratic beast like this on the loose, making its own laws and running roughshod over rights and liberties with zero oversight from elected leaders. Until the administrative state is defanged and disempowered, there will be no representative government and no hope for change.

It’s obvious that the bureaucracies will not reform themselves. In promising an overhaul of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, Rochelle Walensky emphasized better communication and less confusing messaging to the public. This is the appearance of an apology: “I’m sorry you’re upset.” The reform will be the same: cosmetic without reality. It will not deal with the central problem as plainly stated by Harvey Risch: “industry subservience and epidemiologic incompetence.”

The agency wants another chance. Maybe it does not deserve one. Still, let us reflect on how reform happens in the real world outside of government.
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A Deeper Dive Into the CDC Reversal

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It was a good but bizarre day when the CDC finally reversed itself fundamentally on its messaging for two-and-a-half years. The source is the MMWR report of August 11, 2022. The title alone shows just how deeply the about-face was buried: Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems — United States, August 2022

The authors: “the CDC Emergency Response Team” consisting of “Greta M. Massetti, PhD; Brendan R. Jackson, MD; John T. Brooks, MD; Cria G. Perrine, PhD; Erica Reott, MPH; Aron J. Hall, DVM; Debra Lubar, PhD;; Ian T. Williams, PhD; Matthew D. Ritchey, DPT; Pragna Patel, MD; Leandris C. Liburd, PhD; Barbara E. Mahon, MD.”

It would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall in the brainstorming sessions that led to this little treatise. The wording was chosen very carefully, not to say anything false outright, much less admit any errors of the past, but to imply that it was only possible to say these things now. 

“As SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, continues to circulate globally, high levels of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools have substantially reduced the risk for medically significant COVID-19 illness (severe acute illness and post–COVID-19 conditions) and associated hospitalization and death. These circumstances now allow public health efforts to minimize the individual and societal health impacts of COVID-19 by focusing on sustainable measures to further reduce medically significant illness as well as to minimize strain on the health care system, while reducing barriers to social, educational, and economic activity.“
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Dr. Birx Praises Herself While Revealing Ignorance, Treachery, and Deceit

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The December 2020 resignation of Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator under Trump, revealed predictable hypocrisy. Like so many other government officials around the world, she was caught violating her own stay-at-home order. Therefore she finally left her post following nine months of causing unfathomable amounts of damage to life, liberty, property, and the very idea of hope for the future. 

Even if Anthony Fauci had been the front man for the media, it was Birx who was the main influence in the White House behind the nationwide lockdowns that did not stop or control the pathogen but have caused immense suffering and continue to roil and wreck the world. So it was significant that she would not and could not comply with her own dictates, even as her fellow citizens were being hunted down for the same infractions against “public health.” 

In the days before Thanksgiving 2020, she had warned Americans to “assume you’re infected” and to restrict gatherings to “your immediate household.” Then she packed her bags and headed to Fenwick Island in Delaware where she met with four generations for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, as if she were free to make normal choices and live a normal life while everyone else had to shelter in place.
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The Economic Meltdown Has Roots in Lockdown

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American’s capacity for denial is truly a thing to behold. For at least 27 months, it should have been obvious that we were headed for a grave crisis. Not only that: the crisis was already here in March 2020. 

For weird reasons, some people, many people, imagined that governments could just shut down an economy and turn it back on without consequence. And yet here we are. 

Historians of the future, if there are any intelligent ones among them, will surely be aghast at our astounding ignorance. Congress enacted decades of spending in just two years and figured it would be fine. The printing presses at the Fed ran at full tilt. No one cared to do anything about the trade snarls or supply-chain breakages. And here we are. 

Our elites had two years to fix this unfolding disaster. They did nothing. Now we face terrible, grim, grueling, exploitative inflation, at the same time we are plunging into recession again, and people sit around wondering what the heck happened.
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The Origin and Operation of the US Administrative State

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On July 2, 1881, only four months into the first term of President James A. Garfield, an angry attorney from Illinois named Charles J. Guiteau shot Garfield in the torso at a Baltimore, Maryland, train station. Guiteau had a motive. He was furious because he believed, due to his work for the campaign, that Garfield would give him a job in the new administration. But none was forthcoming. It was revenge. Garfield died of the wounds months later. 

It was a shocking thing. Congress immediately got to work figuring out how to prevent the next assassination. They had the theory that they needed to end the system of patronage in government so that way people wouldn’t get mad and shoot the president. Not a very good theory but this is how politics works. The result was the Pendleton Act that created a permanent civil service. The new president, Chester Arthur signed the bill in 1883. It was done: the administrative state was born. 

What Congress did not understand at the time was that they had fundamentally altered the American system of government. The Constitution nowhere provides for a permanent class of administrative overlords to whom Congress could outsource its authority. It nowhere said that there would exist a machine technically under the Executive branch that the president could not control. The Pendleton Act created a new layer of statist imposition that was no longer subject to democratic control.
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Must We Make a Case Against Dictatorship?

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Some federal officials have made startling statements in recent days. Given the times in which we live, we can no longer take for granted that they won’t be convincing. 

Ever since lockdowns, which shattered all our social and political rituals and assumptions about government and public health, it seems like everything is open to either question or adoption. Even settled conventions like the separation of powers and checks and balances are being blithely dismissed as pointless distractions. 

On the table now is the power of an unelected bureaucracy, on its own authority and without any juridical check, to mandate that every citizen keep his or her face covered. The Biden administration and the administrative state that technically falls under its purview seems to believe this power should never be questioned by a court. 

And if that is true, that should also be true in every area of public life. The Department of Labor can make any rule, no matter how cockamamie, as it pertains to paid work. The Department of Agriculture can tell farmers, or even home gardeners, what they can plant and how much. And so too for every other one of the hundreds of government agencies staffed with permanent workers.
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The Unmasking of America

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The polls on coercive Covid responses were never entirely trustworthy, not even from the beginnings of lockdowns. This happens when everyone knows what they are supposed to believe and say. The polled don’t really trust the voice on the other end. After weeks of disease panic and media figures screaming that everyone should stay home, mask up, fire up their laptops, order Amazon, and fork over for a Netflix subscription – because this is the only way to deal with a pandemic – people knew exactly what to say when asked.
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Forget About Covid, They Say

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Earlier this year, a phrase was trending because Bari Weiss used it on a talk show: “I’m done with Covid.” Many people cheered simply because the subject has been the source of vast oppression for billions of people for two years. 

There are two ways to be over Covid. 

One way is to do what the memo from the consultants of the Democratic National Committee suggested: declare the war won and move on. For political reasons. 

Deaths attributed to Covid nationally are higher now than they were in the summer of 2020 when the whole country was locked down. They are also higher now than during the election of November the same year. But today we are just supposed to treat it for what it is: a seasonal virus with a disparate impact on the aged and frail. 

Rationality is back! In that sense, it’s good to forget about Covid if it means living life normally and behaving with clarity about what does and does not work to mitigate a virus. The Democrats decided that the hyper-restrictionist ways were risking political fortunes. Hence, the line and the talking points needed to change.
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They Are Still Defending Lockdowns

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Fifteen years ago, writers schooled in computer science began to imagine various totalitarian schemes for pandemic control. Experienced public health officials in 2006 warned that this would lead to disaster. Donald Henderson, for example, went through the whole list of possible restrictions, shooting them down one by one. 

Still, a decade and a half later, governments all over the world tried lockdowns anyway. And sure enough, since April of 2020, scholars have observed that these lockdown policies haven’t worked. The politicians preached, the cops enforced, citizens shamed each other, and businesses and schools did their best to comply with all the strictures. But the virus kept going with seeming disregard for all these antics. 

Neither oceans of sanitizer, nor towers of plexiglass, nor covered mouths and noses, nor crowd avoidance, nor the seeming magic of six feet of distance, nor even mandated injections, caused the virus to go away or otherwise be suppressed. 

The evidence is in. Restrictions are not associated with any particular set of virus mitigation goals. Forty studies have shown no connection between the policy (egregious violations of human liberty) and the intended outcomes (diminishing the overall disease impact of the pathogen).
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