Biden Can’t Have It Both Ways on the Virus

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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks while making a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, Pa., September 30, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

When your campaign media arm is also known as “the media,” not only may you enjoy being asked almost nothing but friendly questions, but you may also find that internally inconsistent assertions go unchallenged. Consider the Biden position on coronavirus: He would be tougher on the virus and also easier on the economy at the same time. How’s that?

Think of coronavirus response as a seesaw: If you stomp down on the economic end, and grind it into the ground, the other end — public safety — rises high. At least in theory. We can’t actually be certain how effective the lockdowns have been in containing the virus.

But here’s something we do know: You can’t have both ends of the seesaw high up in the air at the same time. Crush the economy, maybe there’s a big uptick in safety. Loosen up the economy and allow people to mingle in public spaces, and there is a corresponding rise in risk. What is the proper balance of health vs. jobs? No one can really say. If we welded shut the door of every American dwelling, we’d probably reduce the transmission of the virus. And as soon as the doors opened, the virus would start spreading again.

Abetted by the media that shows no interest whatsoever in calling out the logical inconsistencies of Democrats, Biden contends both that he would have been quicker on the draw to prevent the spread of the virus and that he would have magically saved everyone’s job at the same time.

What are we to take away from this? What exactly could Trump have done that would have averted school closings and job layoffs? Biden’s coronavirus talking points are nothing but magical thinking: He would have “listened to the science,” he would have “taken it more seriously,” he would have “set an example.” The virus doesn’t care about any of this blather. We have to live with the reality of a worldwide pandemic to which there are no solutions that minimize economic loss and health risks at the same time. A couple of months ago, French people on Twitter were bragging that life was back to normal in France after a lockdown quashed the virus. Now France, having reopened its economy, is having a second wave of the virus. Same thing in Spain. Both countries have seen record surges in recent days. Britain is having another outbreak too. Germany just had 4,000 cases a day for the first time since early April. The chart of economic activity in Western Europe in this piece is pretty much the inverse of the chart of coronavirus infections. See-saw. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to save lives,” is the sort of meaningless blanket statement Biden tends to make. Biden cannot have it both ways. There are tradeoffs.

Biden, of course, like Trump, would not even have the authority to impose nationwide mask mandates or lockdowns, which are properly left up to state and local authorities. So his suggestions that he might shut down are mere acts of imagination anyway.

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