This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for COVID-19.
OK, obviously I’m not actually thankful for a global pandemic that’s killed 250,000 of my fellow citizens, wiped out tens of thousands of private businesses and condemned millions of American children to the educational wasteland of Zoom School.
But with the long COVID-19 nightmare have come lessons, reminders, glimpses of everyday truths for which we should be grateful but seldom are. As that great motivational speaker George Carlin put it so well: “Remember: Inside every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud!”
And so one silver lining in my playbook is that we live in a nation so wealthy, one with an economy so strong, that even after nine months of lockdowns, the Dow Jones just hit a record high — breaking the 30,000 barrier for the first time in history. I don’t play the markets, but I do have a 401(k), and when I checked it yesterday morning I said, “Thank you, Jesus!”
I could have said, “Thank you, Donald Trump.”
Talking to Reason magazine’s science writer Ronald Bailey earlier this week, he made the point we should be happy this coronavirus did not come to America a decade ago. “We’d have really been screwed. We simply didn’t have the wealth or technology to make the vaccine that’s going to solve this problem a year or so after it began.”
“It’s an amazing feat of innovation that needs to be totally appreciated,” Bailey added.
And it’s a feat that was made possible, at least in part, by the economic forces unleashed by Trump’s policy of deregulation. When it comes to innovation, the Obama years brought us the clunker of Obamacare and the slowest economic recovery in a century. Be thankful that, if COVID-19 was going to slam into an American economy, it was Trump’s and not Obama’s.
This doesn’t mean Trump handled the crisis well. Far from it. It’s hard to imagine a leadership challenge less suited to The Donald’s skill set (aka “manic tweeting and non-stop self-aggrandizement”) than a pandemic. I have no doubt a President Bush, Obama or Biden would have done a much better job at the presidential optics.
But the lesson of COVID-19 for which we can all be grateful is that it’s reminded us how little politicians actually matter to our lives. And when they do matter — from teacher’s unions shutting down classrooms repeatedly proven safe to mayors closing restaurants despite any evidence they’ve created significant spread — they are usually making things worse.
Drew Cline, president of the New Hampshire-based Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, sees a similar silver lining. “I expect we’ll see a great effort to rollback bad and unnecessary regulations that were exposed by the pandemic,” he told me yesterday.
“People have seen firsthand the harm even small rules can do to businesses, especially mom and pop shops, and consumers. From telemedicine to beer sales to occupational licensing to food truck locations, there will be a bigger movement than we’ve seen in a long time to cut red tape and allow for the freer exchange of goods and services.”
Bailey, by the way, is also the co-author of the book “Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know,” which lays out just how much those of us lucky enough to live in the first half of the 21 century have to be thankful for: The global poverty rate has fallen from 42% in 1981 to 8.6% today. Natural resources are becoming ever cheaper and more abundant. Since 1900, the average life expectancy has more than doubled, reaching more than 72 years.
Yes, this Thanksgiving is ruined. Yes, I’m going to miss the unbelievable brisket my Jewish mother-in-law makes every year. But the good news is that I get to spend this lousy, COVID-plagued Thanksgiving in the miracle on Earth known as the United States of America.
Michael Graham is a regular contributor to the Boston Herald. Follow him on Twitter @IAmMGraham.
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