Our COVID Future: The Establishment Strikes Back - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Our COVID Future: The Establishment Strikes Back

In this third and final article in my COVID-19/election series, four issues are covered: (1) immigration, (2) traditional education’s 19th-century model versus a distance-learning 21st century model, (3) innovation, and (4) media bias. In addition, a civil liberties/lockdown update has been added.

Immigration. Our current legal immigration program favors China, in several ways. As India gets the lion’s share of H1B visas for “specialty occupations” such as white-collar professionals, so China dominates the EB-5 program. Under EB-5, green cards, and a path to citizenship, are awarded to foreign nationals who (a) invest at least $500,000 for two years, and (b) create at least 10 jobs. Both provisos must help fund a Targeted Employment Area (TEA) — essentially, poor rural and urban communities. Among the TEAs that qualified under EB-5 is Hudson Yards. A collection of skyscrapers on midtown Manhattan’s west side, $1.2 billion of its $25 billion cost was financed by wealthy Chinese investors.

A Harvard/Harris poll shows that five in six Americans wish to halt immigration from Mexico as COVID-19 cases climb. The support cuts across political and ethnic lines: 75 percent of Hispanic Americans, 77 percent of black Americans, nearly 70 percent of the most leftist voters, 73 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Hillary 2016 voters, 84 percent of swing voters, and 93 percent of Republicans. More recent polls show support for ending immigration for a time running from 65 to 80 percent of voters.

This makes immigration and open borders issues in the fall elections. The Trump administration has reportedly ordered the Border Patrol to turn away migrants seeking asylum by crossing the Mexican border. Else, migrant flows from South America, Central America, and the Caribbean could overwhelm America’s porous border defenses. On May 19, the CDC extended indefinitely its border restrictions, to return unauthorized migrants.

Education. The at home/distance learning forced upon K-12 schools and colleges bids fair to eventually undermine the nearly two centuries of public education based upon the 19th-century model of Horace Mann. Among those who see post-coronavirus education moving to distance learning is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. An AEI COVID/school districts survey showed that as of April 24 (a) 51 percent of schools surveyed had fewer days remaining in the school year than had already been lost due to shutdown; (b) schools relying mostly or wholly on remote instruction relied more on online access (51 percent) than on instructional packets; (c) online access instruction was more than double the share held by instructional packets. The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, who lives in Palmer, Alaska, presents a remote-learning success story in her state — including the schools her children attend remotely. In the remote area where her family lives, even the school unions are conservative, and 10 percent of students are homeschooled; they can participate in sports and arts at public schools, while public-school attendees can access remote online platforms.

A May 14 poll shows 40 percent of families more likely to homeschool, with 30 percent less likely. Several additional findings are instructive:

With political party as a factor, 45.7 percent of parents who said they would be “more likely” to homeschool identified as Democrat, while 42.3 percent identified as Republican.

Among those parents who said they were “more likely” to homeschool, 36.3 percent were white, 50.4 percent were black, 38.2 percent were Hispanic, and 53.8 percent were Asian.

On school choice, 64 percent were for it: 75 percent GOP, 60 percent each for Democrats and independents; blacks were the most supportive, at 67 percent.

On another educational note, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told Fox News host Martha MacCallum that new Title IX rules would require universities to balance rights of accusers with rights of the accused, to guarantee basic due process to male students accused of sexual assault. Universities had denied such rights, fearing the expense of civil rights lawsuits and the loss of federal funding. Post-COVID education could well make traditional high-cost colleges unattractive, due to exorbitant add-ons paid to support administrative staff, politically correct classwork, and regulatory compliance costs. But PJ Media’s David Solway cautions that too much discretion is left with the schools, who will seek to perpetuate the ancien régime.

Innovation. A few data nuggets, out of countless reports: The development of the drug Remdesivir shows how pharmaceutical research protected by patent law can spur innovation. Andy Kessler sees Big Data igniting an explosion of coronavirus innovation, by use of C3.ai’s Digital Transformation Institute, which has created a COVID “data lake” based upon internet cloud sharing. Researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University have developed a one-minute coronavirus test:

According to the university, the test works by collecting particles from a simple breath test or throat/nose swaps, which are then placed on a chip with a dense array of meta-material sensors. From there, the system analyzes the sample and provides a result within a minute via a cloud-connected system.

The test has a 90 percent success rate in early trial, better than the well-known polymerase chain reaction DNA test.

Innovative screening likely to begin soon is — let’s hear it for TSA (for once)! — checking temperature of passengers before they board airplanes. Location of screening is yet to be determined. While this seems extreme, getting airline customers to return in large numbers may necessitate pre-flight screening.

An intriguing proposal is to accelerate a larger trial of hydroxychloroquine along with azithromycin and zinc, after a successful small trial. If, as many fear, COVID-19 returns even more virulently this fall, having a medication that has worked well is better than the ravages of COVID-20 and the consequent reshuttering of the economy. This will have to be done by executive order, or pursuant to existing federal statutory authority under the Public Health Service Act of 1944. The 1944 law permits imposing quarantines, and taking action to “prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States.”

Media Bias. A major issue that will drive turnout of Trump’s base is countering efforts by mainstream media — nearly all leftist — to monopolize the coverage and interpretation of administration actions. On Feb. 22, 2017, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski committed a major Freudian slip (full video clip, 2:14), complaining about Trump’s influence on his supporters:

Well, I think that the dangerous edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that … is our job.

Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal Trump/Lysol video (4:05) shows blatant media bias aimed at helping defeat Donald Trump; Trump mused aloud during a coronavirus briefing that perhaps injecting disinfectant was “not a bad idea” but added that “it is up to the doctors.” That caveat was tossed aside by media enemies, and the falsehood that Trump advocates people doing this was spread. Not even Dr. Deborah Birx’s telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the media should stop using Trump’s musings has dimmed their ardor. Henninger is right that Trump should not extemporaneously speak on medical matters, as adversary media can be counted upon to distort and exploit such talk. And it may, Henninger notes, cost Trump the election.

Further evidence of media bias came when a reporter tried to quote-shame (1:27) the new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, by confronting her with virus-related statements she made while serving as adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. She answered by reading quotes from various reporters and publications downplaying coronavirus. When she gets answers from them, she said, she would address the question.

Even worse, mainstream media denigrates red-state governors who reopen their state economies as “anti-science,” whilst lavishing praise on blue-state governors whose states have the highest infection and death rates, as Robert Stacy McCain describes for The American Spectator. The one governor given regular open access to America on national TV is New York’s Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the worst basket case in America — and one of the worst on the planet:

Who are these people of whom Cuomo speaks, the ones who can’t be trusted to take “the right precautions” and who would inflict “suffering and death” on America? Where do these irresponsible people live? If Cuomo is talking about the people of New York who elected him governor, then certainly they deserve criticism for their poor judgment. Ah, but you see, it’s the rest of America— the ones who don’t live in New York and didn’t elect Cuomo to lecture us about science — whom he accuses of causing “death and suffering” by ignoring “national experts.” Perhaps Cuomo was referring to Florida, Georgia, or Texas as examples of states “increasing activity … too soon.”

All of those states, led by their Republican governors, are already well on their way to resuming normal life, and their “death and suffering” from COVID-19 have been the merest fraction of the disaster Cuomo has presided over in New York. Gov. Brian Kemp’s Georgia has a per-capita coronavirus death rate about 89 percent lower than New York’s, while the rate in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Florida is 94 percent lower, and Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas has a death rate 97 percent lower than Cuomo’s state. Why is Cuomo on TV lecturing the rest of America about “taking the right precautions,” when these other states have done so much better than New York? The answer to that question, like so many other questions nowadays, can be answered in three simple words: “Orange Man Bad!” …

Because their logic is entirely a function of partisan politics — “Orange Man Bad!” — these self-appointed apostles of “science” cannot be bothered to notice the distance between reality and their own beliefs. The Cult of Eternal Lockdown is always willing to seize on anything that looks like “evidence” of their own superior knowledge, while ignoring every fact that might contradict their worldview. It does not support their argument, for example, to point out that three states (New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) have a combined 42,326 deaths from COVID-19, which is nearly half of all U.S. deaths from the disease. All three of those states voted for Hillary Clinton by landslide margins, so their disproportionately deadly outbreaks don’t support the Dumb Republicans theory of the pandemic. Nor can any of the Eternal Lockdown cultists explain why Ohio, under Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, has a per-capita coronavirus death rate 73 percent lower than the rate in neighboring Michigan, where Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has enforced one of the most draconian lockdown regimes in America.

What Kyle Smith calls “our nevermind media” commits serial errors and immediately flushes them down Orwell’s Memory Hole. Smith compares media coverage of New York’s Democrat Gov. Cuomo — endless praise verging on hagiography — to coverage of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — unending demonization. This juxtaposition persists despite New York’s catastrophic serial blunders — nursing home deaths, ventilator surplus, and unused custom COVID facilities rushed into service by Team Trump — while Florida emerges from lockdown without the predicted health catastrophe. To the contrary, many COVID-19 metrics are far better in Florida than in the shut-down blue states.

When New Mexico’s Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced (2:52) a statewide stay-at-home order for New Mexico, she cited a grand total of 83 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with nine people hospitalized. This is in a state whose population density is 17 per square mile — 45th in the U.S. — with two million people spread over 120,000 square miles. Santa Fe’s population density is 1,640 per square mile; Albuquerque’s is 3,000. Greg Murphy, a GOP congressman from North Carolina and a physician, calls for a region- and risk-specific approach, rather than blanket shutdown. The virus will be with us for a long time, he says, and we must protect the most vulnerable and avoid panic overkill.

Media arrogance — rules are for thee, but not for we — also drives biased coverage. An exemplar of this was when Pennsylvania’s top public health bureaucrat, as her orders drove elderly COVID patients into nursing homes, moved her 95-year-old mother from nursing home care to a hotel. Dr. Nicole Saphier notes that media personalities questioning the administration frequently touch their own masks, thus contaminating them.

Media ignorance is also a factor in spreading doom and gloom. Many mainstream media types predicted that Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp was looking at a bloodbath by selectively opening his state in mid-April. Far from winging it, Kemp worked closely with Georgia’s public health officials in crafting the reopening. In addition, pandemics spread from high-infection to low-infection states; Georgia’s rank was 19th when Kemp started to open up, a minor fraction of New York’s Ground Zero COVID-19 debacle. (Georgia’s health department apparently fudged some numbers — in this they follow abuses of various kinds in other states, such as in New York.)

In all, media leanings during the Trump years may explain why, as The American Spectator’s Jeffrey Lord writes, a 2017 Harvard-Harris poll showed that 65 percent of voters believe that mainstream media publishes lots of fake news — 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Democrats. Distrust of online sources stood at 84 percent.

Most telling of all is this 1988 video (5:06) which shows the top journalists of the day — mostly moderately left of center — nailing Biden’s serial lies and plagiarism during the presidential primary season. The intercut clips of Biden show his blatant dishonesty, arrogance, and self-justifying evasion. Journalists back then had their biases — don’t we all? — but they rarely deliberately disregarded ascertainable facts in favor of preferred narrative. Though mostly partial to the Democratic Party, they were journalists first; today’s pseudo-journalists are celebrated soldiers in the Democratic Party.

A companion key issue is online access bias by powerful mega-corporation gatekeepers who maintain a near-monopoly on access and selectively censor right-of-center postings. Both the Department of Justice and state attorneys general are reportedly preparing anti-trust suits against Google. These should also target Facebook and Twitter, either by deeming them quasi-governments, thus enabling First Amendment suits, or focusing on private violations under the antitrust laws.

Civil Liberties/Lockdown Update. Blue-state governors have pulled a “bait-and-switch”: What started as “flatten the curve” — slowing and stretching out the spread of the virus so that available health resources were not overwhelmed — has become every life is “priceless.” As Jim Breslo asks in the linked American Spectator piece, as to blue-state governors, many of whom are climate change activists: “What is to prevent them from putting in place emergency orders to reduce greenhouse gases?”

An Oregon judge struck down in its entirety Democrat Gov. Kate Brown’s blanket stay-at-home order, but the Oregon Supreme Court stayed the order until it could hear the case. But Texas continued its phased reopening. Texas’s death rate runs higher than the national average, but Texas has always been a state known for its bold risk-takers. Federalism allows Texas to make the choice. Meanwhile, the state has 2.4 million unemployed. In a tweet included in the PJ Media story linked above, Texas Governor Abbott posted this chart:

A couple notes from overseas that may resonate stateside: New Zealand has introduced a contact-tracing app people may install on their mobile devices. Germany, for its part, never implemented lockdown; it allowed business owners and factory workers to flexibly implement operations pursuant to guidelines set by the national health authorities.

As of May 20, for the first time in two months all 50 states are at least partially reopening.

Overall Impact. Henry Kissinger writes that COVID-19 will irrevocably transform the world order. In this he may be an optimist: it appears unlikely that a coherent world order will emerge from the global chaos caused by COVID-19. Erudite talk-show host Dennis Prager, whose PragerU website is an invaluable resource, argues that the worldwide shutdown could prove to be “the greatest mistake in history”:

The United Nations World Food Programme … states that by the end of the year, more than 260 million people will face starvation — double last year’s figures. According to WFP director David Beasley on April 21: “We could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries. … There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself” (italics added).

That would be enough to characterize the worldwide lockdown as a deathly error. But there is much more. If global GDP declines by 5 percent, another 147 million people could be plunged into extreme poverty, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Foreign Policy magazine reports that, according to the International Monetary Fund, the global economy will shrink by 3 percent in 2020, marking the biggest downturn since the Great Depression, and the U.S., the eurozone, and Japan will contract by 5.9%, 7.5% and 5.2%, respectively.

Prager writes that a meme at PragerU is, “ ‘Until it’s safe’ means ‘never.’ ” He has made over 20 trips to Israel, but when he invited friends to come along, many refused, saying it was not a safe place to visit. Having visited Israel twice, I’ll say that it is safer than walking through Times Square in New York City. (I grew up in Manhattan and know the city’s ups and downs quite well.)

Demographer Joel Kotkin sees COVID driving a paradigm geographic shift, with the trend of recent decades driving people towards large urban centers soon to be superseded by a migration towards suburbs and rural areas. The Northeast, which in 1970 had 115 seats in Congress, now has 78; California may lose a seat for the first time in decades. Purple Colorado will add one, while four of five non-purple states adding seats will be red.

Bottom Line. The issues covered here may not be as immediately salient as the others. But they could help decide key states. And they will count, increasingly, over the longer term. Immigration will entail more screening of applicants. Education will migrate increasingly towards distance learning. Innovation will be — unless stifled by an authoritarian administration backed by the courts — a public–private partnership. As for media bias, there is no current cure, so long as the current crop of pseudo-journalists reigns, and so long as entrants emerging from our educational institutions continue to trend leftward. Perhaps the stark realities of a pandemic and its aftermath will shock the new generation sufficiently to permit attitudinal change.

John C. Wohlstetter is author of Sleepwalking With the Bomb (2nd ed. 2014).

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