August 16, 2022

FASTER, PLEASE: The Covid Reckoning Is Coming.

If Republicans retake the House next year, they should dedicate themselves to a full accounting of where this money went. Much of it did not find its way to the people who needed it. This spring, the Labor Department estimated that “at least” $163 billion in “overpayments” went to both legitimate recipients of unemployment benefits and fraudsters. The Paycheck Protection Act, which provided forgivable loans to businesses adversely affected by the pandemic, was described by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz as an “invitation” to defraud the government. “What didn’t happen was even minimal checks to make sure that the money was getting to the right people at the right time,” he said. That program has disbursed roughly $800 billion, about half of which has been forgiven.

And that’s just the unintended misuse of pandemic-related relief. What about the intended squandering of this taxpayer-funded largess? The Republican Study Committee’s review of where some of these funds were supposed to go is just as enraging as the abuse of those funds: “tree equity work,” environmental justice “boot camps,” “safe smoking kits,” and syringes for using illicit narcotics, refurbishing a minor-league baseball stadium in New York, upping the prize money at Arizona horse-racing tracks, and providing public-school staff with instruction in “high-need topics” like “implicit bias” training and “restorative practices.” As a Department of Education document averred, the pandemic was a perfect time to engineer a “culture shift” in America’s schools.

This investigative work is only one element of a comprehensive retrospective on the pandemic. Americans should confront the impulses that led governments to close houses of worship, abrogate the rights of property owners, and draft private enterprise into the work of law enforcement in what were patently obvious violations of the Constitution. There should be hearings into the conduct of teachers’ unions and into school boards in the major metropolitan areas that clung to school closures long after the terrible consequences for young people’s mental health and educational advancementwere known. And what connection was there between the engineered breakdown of society and the eruption of social tensions culminating in some of the costliest rioting the country has ever seen?

The public health apparatus’s reluctance, throughout this miserable event, to meet the public where it lives has become a cliché. They won’t budge, and the country is moving on without them. But moving on is impossible in the absence of a thorough reckoning. The Covid pandemic already seems unlikely to be “forgotten” by history like the outbreak of Spanish Influenza a century ago. Unlike our forebears, we marinate in our trauma. It’s incumbent on this generation to establish for posterity what went wrong over the last two and a half years, if only so that we will never do this again.

Indeed. Much more like this, please: The Elite Panic of 2022.

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