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An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19

An old man like me should be made more vulnerable to death by COVID-19
© getty: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

I am 82-plus years old, with two heart defects, making me exceptionally vulnerable to death should I get COVID-19. The ideal for me, of course, would be community lockdowns until a vaccine is found. But that can’t be what is best for society. Last month 21 million Americans lost their jobs to lockdowns. The month before that nine million became unemployed. America is being destroyed financially. I can only imagine the intense financial and emotional devastation of those millions of people.

We need to get the country working again. Of course, when human contact increases, so too will the spread of the coronavirus. Still, individuals in large measure can take precautions, even in the workplace. And people over 65, the most vulnerable to the bug, can take special precautions. The reason we see so many young people attending, say, a rodeo or public beaches in California is that they likely view themselves as nearly invincible, having only a 1 or 2 percent risk of death should they be infected.

We are now living in a country where governors have seemingly become despots — benevolent despots, but despots nonetheless. And these good people have run their states inconsistently. The automobile industry in Michigan can go back to work despite high numbers of infected in the state, but that same industry in California can’t. My own view is that, say, Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Virgin Hyperloop to build new certification center in West Virginia SpaceX awarded contract to build US military tracking satellites MORE will make his employees safe and should be permitted to do so. A California assemblywoman yelled, “F--- Elon,” but I think she is misguided. What is her view on the four million people in California who have lost their jobs to the virus?

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There is another problem I have with state lockdowns: the U.S. Constitution has been tossed out the window. As former chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger, I am especially protective of the human rights that the Constitution recognizes and protects. The Commerce Clause has been tossed: we generally can’t travel or even leave our homes. First Amendment religious freedom has been altered so that we can’t go to church even in a safe manner. The First Amendment right to assemble is gone. The right to private property as especially enumerated in the Fifth Amendment has been denied, as has due process. That amendment reads: we cannot “be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Yet governors deny our shops and jobs without due process or just compensation. Thirty million people so far have been left out in the cold. Some get a relatively small stimulus payment from the government but note that this government money was initially taken from taxpayers or borrowed or printed. 

Another problem I have is with the cheap criticism pervasive throughout the country. I think President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE, California Gov. Newsom (D) Michigan Gov. Whitmer (D), New York Gov. Cuomo (D), Dr. Fauci, and all the other leaders in the country are trying to do the best they can. But this universal nightmare of worldwide contagion by an invisible bug is so big and so multifaceted that no one knows fully how to handle it. Even the trusted and revered Dr. Fauci, in a radio interview with host John Catsimatidis on Jan. 26, said about the coronavirus outbreak in China, “It’s a very, very low risk to the United States.... It isn’t something that the American public needs to worry about or be frightened about.” 

Dr. Fauci, governors, and officials in Washington, D.C., are not omniscient, but they are doing their best and should be spared nasty criticism. Try walking a mile in their moccasins. G. K. Chesterton once observed that something can be so big that many do not see it. COVID-19 is as big as the world. No one should be expected to have all solutions.

Ronald L. Trowbridge, Ph.D., is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute. He was appointed by President Reagan to the United States Information Agency and later became chief of staff for Chief Justice Warren Burger.