Commentary: Carney overreaches, and it appears China is winning

By Reid K. Beveridge

Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We are living in unusual times. There is a state of emergency everywhere we turn. Most of these are declared by the governor of wherever one lives.

Governors have tremendous power when the emergency is real. But most such emergencies, such as for storms or riots, are short-lived. The emergency resolves in a few days or a couple weeks, and the authority wanes and disappears.

But the governor’s – any governor’s – power is pervasive and can be extensive and intrusive. Delaware Gov. John Carney is a good example. He now has amended his emergency declaration at least 11 times. But at least he’s not as bad as the governor of Michigan, who has restricted highway travel and barred Walmart, among others, for selling anything but groceries.

Reid Beveridge

Some governors, including Carney, have set up police check points near the state line and are turning out-of-state motorists around if they don’t have legitimate business within the state, or aren’t passing through. No, having a vacation home at the beach isn’t legitimate business in this definition. Indeed, this is exactly what the governor of Rhode Island did from both New York and Boston. Too many rich folks’ vacation homes in Newport.

Sooner or later, these declarations of emergency require a balancing act. The balance has to be between what is called the “science” and the American economy. Or to put it more bluntly, the science vs. the economy.

Hence, the further even grimmer question: What happens next fall/winter if this thing flares back up in a big way? It’s the science vs. the economy at that point. What will governors do then? Will they shut us down and confine us to our homes all winter in the hopes the coronavirus won’t spread further? Or will stores be open and businesses available? Or more to the point, will people be working or not? Will they be paying the rent or their mortgage, or not?

If not, who pays the bill? There are only so many $1,200 relief checks the nearly bankrupt federal government can write before the script becomes as worthless as the Venezuelan bolivar or Zimbabwean dollar. Worse, the states – all states most likely – face their own form of bankruptcy for the drastic reduction in tax revenue because people aren’t working (no income tax revenue) or aren’t spending (no sale tax revenue in many states). Delaware’s “deficit” is somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. Who pays for that, since all states (I know of) have a balanced-budget requirement.

Every now and then, an interesting map shows up on TV. Shown in red are the nations with the worst outbreaks of coronavirus. Clearly, the United States is the worst hit. But what is telling is the spread over the whole world. Just as clearly, the worst areas are in North America and western Europe (and Iran). But not China. That is, if one believes the numbers China is reporting, which it probably isn’t a good idea to believe.

On  a recent Sunday, the New York Times carried an article asserting that the Republican Party will be “scapegoating” (their word) China for the spread of the coronavirus. “Scapegoating?” Really?

Perhaps a better word is blaming. Even if you don’t believe reports alleging that the virus really originated in that Chinese military lab in Wuhan, you know that COVID-19 originated in China. And you know that Chinese officials disciplined the two doctors who first sounded the alarm. One was called in and forced to recant and apologize. He later died. The other has simply disappeared, the same way the Chinese Communist Party “disappears” people it doesn’t like.

And then China lied about the extent of the problem, using the World Health Organization to cover its prevarications until it became too obvious even for the Italians and Iranians to stomach, too late for them and too late for too many in New York City, too.

Now, we are coming up on two months with a sequester-in-place mandate in Delaware and most other states. Various intensities of this stay-at-home order are found in different states. Perhaps the strictest is Michigan’s. Protests have erupted there and other states.

As this continues, it’s not about the travel or purchasing, it’s about going back to work. The divided political opinion on going back to work is interesting. Interviewed on a recent Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., asserted that this can’t be done until there is widespread testing available. To date, it’s not – widespread as she defines it, that is.

So far, you get tested if you have symptoms or if you are a front-line health professional. But not if you simply say you want to be tested. That number of tests never will be available because it would be hundreds of millions of tests.

Many economists are saying that reopening cannot await this level of testing because the economy will be damaged beyond easy recovery. It would mean horrendous unemployment for years, maybe decades – perhaps worse than the decade of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

They assert this would be worse than the pandemic, that deaths from murder, mayhem, suicide, and poverty would far exceed those of COVID-19, bad as that is.

The other day, some publication noted that China’s economy has been badly damaged, too, with a gross domestic product contraction of 6.8 percent. Is that all? Some estimates peg the U.S. GDP contraction in the second quarter of up to 25 percent.

China has won. Get it now.

Reid Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He now resides at Paynter’s Mill.