Lockdowns Benefited the Elites. The Rest of America Is Still Paying the Price | Opinion

Do you remember "15 days to stop the spread?"

A year and a half later, the federal government's original promise that we could end the COVID-19 pandemic if we all just stayed home for a couple of weeks looks barbarically naive. From the political class to academic "experts" to the media, the shifting promises ultimately led to months of harsh lockdowns and, in many places, many months more of restricted economies and closed schools.

Of course, the journalists typing away from their Brooklyn apartments and federal officials working remotely from the suburbs of D.C. were never the ones bearing the brunt of these drastic measures. All the while, it was the common man who suffered—essential workers whose children had no schools to go to, small business owners forced to shutter their doors, service industry workers whose place of work no longer existed.

And tragic new data on drug overdoses once again reminds us of this glaring class divide.

Lethal overdoses spiked 29 percent last year, newly released government data show. The Associated Press reports that an astonishing 93,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2020, up from 72,000 the previous year. Brown University public health researcher Brandon Marshall called it a "staggering loss of human life."

One factor behind the morbid rise is the ever-increasing lethal contamination of opioids, the AP notes. But the report acknowledges the other obvious factor in play: "Lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions isolated those with drug addictions and made treatment harder to get, experts said."

The tens of thousands of additional American lives lost due to lockdown-fueled overdoses are just another addition to the long list of unintended consequences that have plagued the elite's grand experiment. From the comfort of their remote work and suburban lives, so-called experts empowered by the media and our politicians shut down most of society. They took away millions of peoples' jobs, schools, churches, and communities—all while expecting the working people they rely on, from grocery store clerks to mailmen, to keep plowing away.

Lockdowns benefited the elites
A person looks out the window on the Upper West Side as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on December 19, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images

From public health officials like Dr. Fauci to politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the cost-benefit calculation was simple for the elite class. They, rightfully, were concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of a virus that is life-threatening for some subsets of society. But they (incorrectly) believed that they could stop the virus's spread by strangling society to a halt.

And why not? The fallout from the experiment—from heightened mental health issues to upticks in domestic abuse to skyrocketing drug overdoses—was for the most part not falling on their shoulders, or those of anyone they knew.

We now know that elites were largely spared from the economic destruction of lockdowns. Data from Harvard University, Brown University, and the Gates Foundation show that employment for those earning more than $60,000 has actually increased by 2.4 percent compared to before the pandemic. Meanwhile, employment for low-wage workers has plummeted 23.6 percent. And of course, far fewer government employees were laid off compared to those in the private sector. (Talk about a recession-proof job!)

So, the elite class erred on the side of extreme caution regarding pandemic restrictions, sweeping other life-and-death concerns aside. The self-anointed intelligentsia convinced themselves they could vanquish the virus—if everyone simply heeded their dictates. They essentially subjected us to a natural experiment.

And it failed. Miserably.

Dozens of studies have since shown little to no correlation between lockdown stringency and containing the spread of COVID-19. From Florida to New York, states that took different approaches to handling COVID-19 have shown no clear pattern illustrating the success of harsh containment measures, despite their drastic costs.

Indeed, one study even concluded that COVID-19 spread the most virulently at home—suggesting that "stay at home" lockdown orders were more than ineffective, and actually counterproductive. Similarly, research from the Rand Corporation found no evidence that the measures worked. And another analysis found that the costs of mitigation efforts exceeded the benefits for 89 percent of the population.

Even before the new data on increasing drug overdoses, we already knew that the elite led us astray in our response to the pandemic. The only question remaining is whether we'll let them do it again, next time.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and Policy Correspondent at the Foundation for Economic Education. Subscribe to his YouTube channel or email him at bradpolumbojournalism@gmail.com.

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