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Heaven Protect Us from the Muscular

Here’s a slice from George Will’s recent and wise warning of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lawless exercise of raw power:

Elsewhere in today’s improvisational government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s behavior has become notably muscular. The CDC’s name denotes a specific mission that this agency cannot be entirely blamed for not having altogether mastered. Controlling diseases involves medicines, social protocols (e.g., “social distancing”) and, suddenly, a sweeping excision from property rights: The CDC has this month asserted a power to prohibit — through the end of 2020, but actually for as long as the CDC deems “necessary” — the eviction of private tenants from privately owned residences because of unpaid rent. This, even though eviction levels have been below normal during the lockdown.

The CDC’s order protects tenants earning up to $99,000 — almost quadruple the official poverty line of $26,200 for a family of four. Or, for those filing joint tax returns, tenants earning up to $198,000, who are in the top quintile of U.S. households. Tenants must inform their landlords in writing that they have sought government assistance, that they have lost income or received substantial uncompensated medical expenses, and that eviction would render them homeless or would result in their living elsewhere “in close quarters.” Noncompliant landlords can be fined up to $100,000 and incarcerated for up to a year.

Congress is, as usual, a bystander. A regulation promulgated by the executive branch grants vast — almost limitless, the CDC clearly thinks — discretion to an executive branch bureaucrat, the CDC director, when acting to contain any “communicable” disease, such as a seasonal flu, spread by “infectious agents.” If the director deems state regulations “insufficient,” he or she may “take such measures to prevent such spread of the diseases as he/she deems reasonably necessary, including inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, and destruction of animals or articles believed to be sources of infection.”

DBx: Note that one term, meant as a criticism, that George Will uses to describe this CDC action is “muscular.” So in this light consider that a Washington Post report today describes – apparently approvingly – the plan that President Biden will implement to fight covid as “far more muscular” than actions taken under the Trump administration.

Many pundits, politicians, and twits today regularly complain that Trump allegedly minimized the danger of covid. Maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. I have no interest in either defending Trump or jumping on the bandwagon filled with people who are certain that he is personally responsible for nearly 200,000 deaths.

But I join with some others who ask this question: Where are the criticisms of the very many politicians and bureaucrats who minimized, and who continue to minimize, the dangers of the lockdowns and of the enormous expansion of discretionary state power over people’s lives and livelihoods, all taken in the name of protecting us from covid? Why is being be less-concerned-than-thou over the dangers posed by covid a cardinal sin and a sign of great stupidity, while failure to warn of the grave dangers of this blast of government suppression an attitude that warrants no criticism whatsoever?