Americans are tired of working like a dog — that is, sitting at home, waiting to be fed by the master’s hand. After nearly a year of futile COVID-19 lockdowns and slowdowns, it’s time for John and Joan Q. Public to get off their tails and work like Americans.
For President Biden, Job 1 is halting the pandemic. His institution of a “100 Days Masking Challenge” on federal property has symbolic value, and his stripping of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed label from the federal emergency efforts has none. It is inoculating Americans that promises to halt the disease. With supplies already running low of the two brands now in distribution, his administration’s prompt approval of Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, reportedly possible within weeks, would boost supplies by millions of doses.
Fighting the virus must not interfere with Job 1a, which can only be removing obstacles to the nation’s economic revival. For Mr. Biden, that means prevailing on states to drop their business bans and stay-at-home orders. The impact of the restrictions has been epic: a loss of 9.4 million jobs during 2020, the most since 1939. Lower-income Americans have been hit the hardest.
The isolation strategy seemed to work at first, but the jagged death peaks that rose and fell last spring resemble Himalayas-like spires this winter. New business bans and stay-at-home orders during the recent holiday season in places like California, Oregon, New Mexico and New York effectively destroyed 140,000 jobs in December while failing to prevent the national death tally from cresting 433,000 last week.
Accordingly, it’s not surprising that a new study by Stanford University researchers of closure effects on COVID-19 spread, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, found nations with “the most restrictive non‐pharmaceutical interventions,” such as the United States, England and France, had no better health outcomes than those like Sweden and South Korea, which did not.
The Biden $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” attempts to save a national economy currently treading water by tossing it an anvil. A $15 federal minimum wage could end up killing at least 1.3 million jobs as firms cut workers to avoid exploding payroll costs. And a $350 billion gift to poorly managed state and local governments would be as futile as reinflating a leaky tire without patching it.
To be sure, a $1,400 check per person, a $400 weekly benefit during unemployment, and a heftier child care tax credit of up to $8,000 per family would help keep the wolf from the door of families harmed by job loss.
Rather than serving up a dog’s breakfast of federal handouts with little to spur productivity, President Biden should focus his attention on doling out vaccines. The U.S. economy will roar back to life when virus-free Americans get back to work.