The string of horrifying mass shootings in Uvalde Texas, and elsewhere shines a uncomfortable light on our domestic policy failures in America. Propagandists of the left and right will blame the availability of guns, inadequate school security, social media or other convenient bogeymen.. They all will be right, but for the wrong reasons. Their shallow debate ignores even more intractable socioeconomic causes.
Theodore Roosevelt was a gun enthusiast and avid hunter. However, he also believed that every right comes with corresponding responsibilities . People should learn how shoot to build a disciplined character. Those without such character should not be allowed to own firearms. To the extent we can identify those individuals before they acquire a gun, I believe TR would have favored it and other controls to insure guns were used responsibly. Thus, background checks probably would not have bothered him as well as other limits on ownership.
However, there was more going on here than the use of a gun for an evil purpose. The school shooter in Uvalde had suffered from bullying at school due to a speech impediment as well as other apparent nonconformities (see article). He also apparently came from a difficult family life. Many mass shooters come from equally traumatic backgrounds, as this article points out. Thus, when we talk about school safety, it is past time to also talk about protecting vulnerable adolescents in large impersonal school environments. . It is also past time to ensure that they have access to the mental health resources and family support they need.
The COVID pandemic has strained the fabric of our families and the entire nation. Heinous acts like shootings are the results of a downward cycle of despair and anger. If we truly wish to reduce their incidence and preserve our basic rights, it will require meeting our responsibilities by accepting limitations on our own freedom and the expenditure of money and social policies necessary to combat the underlying causes of such despair and anger.
[With] the recent discoveries of physicians and neurologists, engineers and economists, the public can formulate minimum occupational standards below which, demonstrably, work can be prosecuted only at a human deficit. [We] hold that all industrial conditions which fall below such standards should come within the scope of governmental action and controlled in the same way that subnormal sanitary conditions are subject to public regulation and for the same reason – because they threaten the general welfare.
Theodore Roosevelt, Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech at Progressive Party Convention, August 6, 1912
Hospitals at crisis care levels. Children increasingly infected and hospitalized by the new Delta COVID-19 variant. States forcing businesses to assume the risk of employee and customer infections due to masking prohibitions.
President Biden’s vaccination plan attempts to address these new threats from the coronavirus pandemic. Americans are understandably weary of all of the restrictions and frustrated by the failure of our federal and state governments to develop a clear path out of them. The way to examine the necessity of the plan is to ask three questions:
Is it a good idea?
Is it legal?
Is there a better way to do it?
Is it a good idea?
As I said in my post Wasting America’s Moment, the vaccination program is an effective and uniquely American response to the pandemic. Vaccinations significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and eliminate the risk of death not only for recipients, but also potentially for the unvaccinated. They are also our best way to achieve a return to normality in life by allowing business and government to reopen by lessening their liability for workers compensation and customer liability. The toll on our children should also concern us and supports a masking mandate in at least elementary schools.
Is it legal?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1974 grants the Federal government the power to regulate workplace safety to reduce workplace hazards, including illnesses. This law has existed for over three decades and it’s legality has repeatedly been upheld. In particular, section 6 (c)(1) gives the President through the Department of Labor’ Occupational Safety the right to issue Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) when employees are exposed to “grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards, and (B) that such emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger. 29 U.S.C. § 655(c)(1). This cannot be done by mere executive order. The proposed ETS must be reviewed by an advisory committee, drafted and then published in the Federal Register. While it becomes immediately effective at upon publication, it expires after six months if not renewed through the usual notice and comment procedure under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. See this description of the process on OSHA’s website.
Thus, it will be at least a week before any rule or mandate is adopted. Based on the statement from the White House, the rule will allow employees to escape the vaccination requirements through weekly negative COVID-19 testing. Many other issues will need to be addressed and the President has met with business and labor leaders to begin to resolve them. They will also be hashed out by the advisory committee.
Is there a better way do it?
The new emergency standard is unique since it will apply not just to certain industries, but to to almost every type of workplace in the nation. Imposing a mandate of this breadth should be the province of the Congress, not an administrative agency. Acting through legislation instead of an OSHA rulemaking would have allowed the administration to include measures that are outside of the agency’s power, such as providing federal financial support for the small number of employees who may suffer adverse reactions to the vaccine. Even more importantly, it would have forced Republicans and Democrats in Congress to confront the issues, both specious and valid, about our pandemic response. Such a debate would have exposed the weaknesses in both the anti-vaxxer and permanent lockdown camps, which may be why both sides want to avoid it. The eventual result would not fully satisfy either the Dr. Anthony Faucis or Rep. Marjorie Green’s of the world, but it might satisfy the average American trying to run his or her life in a responsible and caring manner.
Nevertheless, we appear to be stuck with the OSHA emergency standard as the only likely method of spurring vaccinations and stopping the surge in the current Delta variant of COVID-19. If opponents want to be helpful, they will start demanding that the Biden Administration set a clear metric for when vaccination and masking mandates will end. What number they pick – whether it is cases, hospitalization rates or death rates – matters less than the simple courageous act of making a decision and setting a goal for the American people to rally around. Only then will we move beyond irresponsible political rhetoric and see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.
The forever war in Iraq is now close to officially ending. A bipartisan bill to repeal both the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and may have the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. The bill has previously passed the House. Now we must repeal the 2001 AUMF that authorized not just the war in Afghanistan, but also the ill-conceived “War on Terror” that spawned American military interventions across the globe.
Chinese Purchase of American Farms
This article from the American Conservative magazine tells how the Chinese are taking advantage of the decline of the family farm to buy up American farmland and agricultural assets. It is one more example of the monopolization of our food production. A bill has been filed in Congress to stop any further sales of farmland to China and prohibit currently-owned Chinese farms from receiving farm subsidies. It should be passed as soon as possible.
Wall Street’s Buying up of Single Family Homes
The owner-occupied home has been the bedrock of the American family for generations. However, Wall Street investment firms are now using their financial clout to buy up single-family homes as rental properties. It is one of the drivers of high home prices. We should be using our antitrust and federal tax laws to discourage their use of financial market power to monopolize the American Dream.
Prof. Stephen Walt of Harvard University is a leading advocate of the realist theory of international relations that I believe should replace liberal hegemony as the basis for our foreign policy (see this post). Here he gives faint praise to nationalism for its natural ability to unify societies to face challenges like the pandemic. Maybe he had to temper his support to avoid problems with his globalist colleagues.