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OP/ED: UC Merced Professors Show Contempt For The Common Man

'A dozen professors chastise the sheriff for lifting lockdown but ignore the most important considerations.'


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following opinion piece was written by Merced resident and author James Harold Hall in response to a recent Op/Ed written by a group of UC Merced professors about the local response to the coronavirus pandemic and recent statements by the Merced County Sheriff.


A dozen UC professors chastise the sheriff for a position with which they agree and deploy a range of fallacies and half-truths. It makes us wonder: What is the UC for?

It takes a great deal of education to know so much that isn’t so. The faculty at UC Merced have assailed Merced County Sheriff Vernon Warnke, for refusing to enforce shelter-in-place orders that would jail or fine law-abiding park goers and patrons while setting free less conscientious criminals. It’s revealing that, in 2020, illicit drugs are legal, but haircuts are not.

For the authors, lockdown has conferred more free time and no less pay — their income and retirement are guaranteed by those that have no guarantee, the taxpayer. In those circumstances, it surprises no one that faculty see little problem made by indefinite quarantine. It’s not the life they choose to lead, and they know no one who believes otherwise.

Before they chastise Vernon Warnke, the UC faculty seem to admit he is entirely correct: “law enforcement,” they agree, “is not the best way to keep residents safe from infection during a pandemic.” Instead, they complain that his “statement runs the risk of putting the citizens of Merced County in danger” (emphasis added). It’s not the action they disagree with, it’s telling ordinary people that they will not be prosecuted for petty offenses. A mirage is a terrible thing to waste.

The faculty, who cheerfully imagine themselves companions of the common man, nitpick the sheriff’s handy grammar (unedited, but wholly readable and human). Despite their careful read, they fail to notice that he is right in the broadest way. We make decisions, hourly, that balance risk against other things we want. We enjoy salted french fries and strawberry milkshakes, we walk under the sun, bike to work, or take seat in a car. In each case, we’ve agreed that the benefits outweigh a risk. At other times or for other things, we think caution the better part.

(As an aside, the worthwhile life is almost never the one that merely minimizes risk. To live in a bubble is to be already dead, but awake.)

What’s unclear is why the faculty at the UC will not allow the same courtesy of choice today, despite covid being less deadly than the consequence of other free choices in heart disease or cancer, each responsible for high multiples of covid’s death count, producing 1.2 million deaths each year.

Before examining the rest of their case, it must be said that evidence that covid’s mortality is “ten times higher” than the flu is in some doubt. Random samples show that the disease is much more prevalent than previously thought, implying that it is also much less deadly. Adding the fact that the false-negative rate of covid testing is 20 to 30 percent implies that the mortality rate is overstated proportionally. Rates adjusted for this error may still be too high, since numbers of “covid deaths” have been counted promiscuously — to be a “covid death,” patients need never be tested for covid, and 90 percent of “covid deaths” had other life-threatening morbidities. Already, hundreds of inaccurate “covid deaths” have been discovered by state departments of health (after all, Medicare reimburses $13,000 if a patient is billed as “covid,” and hospitals are deserted of patients).

Where 99.9 percent of flu patients survive, experts believe that the mortality from covid will “turn out to be on the low end of current estimates,” with survival as high as 99.7 or 99.8 percent. Among those who have died, 80 percent are older than 70. We may find that covid has, if anything, advanced death by a few days or a few weeks for most patients, rather than pruning off years or decades of life. Even with permissive death counts, the prediction models have been off by such a margin, and their methods so tortured, that their alarmist authors should be publicly flogged.

Shamefully, the authors disparage the sheriff for his concern over the economic deprivation caused by shelter-in-place. To the faculty, any discussion of these considerations “downplays the human cost of a pandemic” — which is why they never discuss them. Lost to them is the human impact of lockdown, which is at least as deadly as the disease it responds to.

Unemployment causes mortality rates to double for several years, meaning unemployment has a 0.8 percent yearly mortality rate — an excess of the average of estimated mortality rates of covid, since, once passed, the disease cannot abuse you as handily a second time. Government shelter-in-place orders have contributed a record-splitting 36 million new unemployed, hundreds of thousands of whom will die as a result. Without production and employment (the process of wealth creation), poverty will spread madly, adding again to mortality. In the absence of routine medical checkups, some 1.8 million new cancer patients will begin treatments too late. The faculty’s is a key-hole view.

Even before they know the problem, the authors have discovered the solution: more government. It’s not hard, simply pay everyone as much as they might need for 18 months until, perhaps, a safe and effective vaccine is available and disseminated to a population of 330 million free persons (many of whom would avoid an experimental vaccine). Deus ex vaccina. Unfortunately, we have failed to produce a safe and effective vaccine for sars, mers, and the common cold — all coronaviruses.

So shallow is the thinking of these faculty that they cannot see that to provide a vast shower of benefits, the government needs an economy, based in service and production, from which to derive payments. Taxes have fallen like stones to earth, and who is there to borrow from if savings around the world are decimated and even banks are made insolvent by a few months of failed mortgage payments? — points now noticed by The Atlantic and New York Times. It’s a famine of curiosity or imagination to not see how badly things could unspool in not so great a time.

These faculty would describe themselves as liberals, which at one time was the name of those who favored individual rights and freedom. Elsewhere in the world, it’s encouraging that liberalism has proven successful amid the pandemic. Sweden, who is normally the model of social policy for these same faculty, has gone without a lockdown, hoping instead to gather immunity by gradual exposure. A recent study has shown Sweden faring well: Their mortality rate is well below what it would have been with a lockdown, and their economy is expected to manage better because work and retail have not fallen so drastically. A second study released by Cornell finds that “lifting severe mobility restrictions [in the U.S.] and only retaining moderate mobility restrictions, seems to effectively flatten the curve.” Light-touch states like Florida and Texas have thrived. If a safe vaccine cannot be developed in record time, these places will surface both healthier and richer. There’s a lesson in it: freedom isn’t only just — it also works.

A key response to the UC faculty is that shelter-in-place orders were designed by the former San Francisco mayor to suit the needs of densely populated cities (which form, it must be noticed, a majority of his voters), not sparsely populated Merced. Even before covid, we lived with a form of social distancing every day. People should continue to wash their hands regularly, refrain from hearty handshakes, and avoid vectors like crowded bars and buses. The vast majority of infected children are neither symptomatic nor contagious — and, because of it, schools should re-open with haste. Time lost is never again found.

The humor of corruption makes their piece a delight to read. The authors claim that Merced is “home,” but a third of them live in the Bay Area or Sacramento. They argue failing to arrest park goers will erode the “rule of law,” though up until this hour they cheered for illegal immigration and had high tolerance for abuse of illicit drugs. They urge Warnke to enforce the law (by which they mean the Governor’s executive order, which is not a law, in fact), but urge he not uphold the law found in the Constitution. They say that the lockdown has saved hundreds of thousands, and even a few lives are worth any reduction in freedom. But these authors would not agree to suspending elective abortions for a few months, which would achieve the same relief in human lives. Without double standards, they might be found to have no standard at all.

Ever, they say that they are liberals, but they do not believe in liberalism — the provision of power to the person rather than the state.

Call your city council member and tell them to revoke UC Merced’s exemption from local property taxes.  These professors might learn a great deal from living more as the rest of us do.

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