The Economy: Do or Die
March 25, 2020
There may be people vying for President Trump's job, but right now, no one can envy it. It's not easy leading a country in the best of times. But now -- when the entire nation is at the mercy of a virus no one can predict? That's as difficult as it gets. As prepared as America was -- and no country was more so -- we're fighting a two-front war: one for the economy and one for American lives. Which battle should carry more weight? Right now, some people aren't so sure.
Watching the economy crash hasn't been an easy thing for the administration that, over the last three years, brought it to some of its best moments. So it was somewhat understandable, a week and a half into his "slow the spread" guidance, that President Trump was getting antsy. "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself," he said on Monday, sparking a coast-to-coast debate on whether we should sacrifice people's safety to stop the financial collapse. Although his "nationwide reopening" sights have been set on Easter, President Trump reassured the country after some outcry that he would continue to consult with medical experts before any decisions were made.
Like Trump, a lot of state leaders are anxious for life to return to normalcy. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) even told Fox News's Tucker Carlson that it was "time to get back to the land of the living." "Let's be smart about it," he said, "And those of us who are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves, but don't sacrifice the country." When Tucker pressed him, Dan pointed out the obvious, "No one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?'" But, he went on, "If that's the exchange, I'm all in."
When the interview hit the wire, a lot of people were taken aback by Dan's suggestion. Suddenly, across social media, the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet started trending. Now, as someone who knows the lieutenant governor, I don't think he was advocating the mass abandonment of senior citizens for financial gain. I understand his point that we shouldn't be so bound up by fear that we're afraid to work. But there has to be balance. And in this race to protect people's lives, these are tough decisions that the president, administration, and state leaders all have to work through.
Everyone is wondering who's going to win, Arthur Brooks interjected. Will it be the economists? The public-health people? "And the answer is both and neither," he said. "The ethical thing to do is how to think about the balance between these policy poles." FRC's David Closson agreed. "I appreciate the lieutenant governor's candor," he explained on "Washington Watch," "and I think he has good intentions, but at least in that soundbite, he's presenting us with a false dichotomy when he talks about [this] idea [that] we should be willing to sacrifice to health and safety of older Americans for the sake of younger Americans... I appreciate the position the president has taken. He tweeted this morning that we can do both of these things. We can care about the economy and we can care about those who are vulnerable."
Meanwhile, the controversy did prompt some interesting responses from Democrats like Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.). "My mother is not expendable," he said with emotion Tuesday morning. "Your mother is not expendable. And our brothers and sisters are not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life... No one should be talking about social Darwinism for the sake of the stock market."
He's absolutely right. We can't put a price tag on life. But as much as we agree with Cuomo's sentiment, we don't agree with how he selectively applies it. This same man who stood in front of the cameras and says "no one is expendable" lit up the New York skyline to celebrate legal infanticide! Not only did he expand abortion up to the moment of birth, he's forcing the people to pay for it. If every human life has value, then it's every life. Not just the ones Democrats deem worthy.
Being older or younger, born or unborn, shouldn't mean you're worth more or less. A person matters -- not because of the value they bring to the rest of society, but because they have inherent value as a creation of God. As David pointed out, "A fundamental principle of Christian ethics is that all of us are made in God's image." Without that foundation, we're in danger of slipping into a utilitarian view, where any action -- even killing -- is justified if it's useful for the majority.
If the first order of business is to "save lives" then, Governor Cuomo, let's work to save all of them.
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.