For almost nine months, too many cities and states throughout America have been under some type of lockdown order. In the beginning of the pandemic, when we knew very little about the novel coronavirus, we were told that temporary lockdowns were necessary to avoid cataclysm.
Fair enough, however, that was then and this is now. We know much more about the virus. And fortunately, we have a vaccine approved and another on the horizon.
Yet, almost a year later, millions of Americans, especially minorities and those in the middle- and lower-classes, are paying the price for the never-ending lockdowns.
Because of the lockdowns, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Although the official unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent, this does not tell the full story of the nation’s anemic employment situation.
The labor participation rate, which is a better gauge of the nation’s employment conditions, has dropped to 61.5 percent, as of November 2020. For comparison, 20 years ago, this figure exceeded 67 percent. Among blacks, the labor participation has fallen to a dismal 60.3 percent, far lower than the rate during the Great Recession.
The decline in the civilian labor force participation rate is directly tied to the mass shutdowns of businesses since the spring. Sadly, many of these businesses are no longer in business.
For instance, the restaurant industry, which employed more than 13.9 million Americans before the pandemic, is down more than 2.5 million jobs. Even though evidence shows that indoor and outdoor dining are not main drivers of coronavirus transmission, more than 110,000 restaurants have been forced to close forever because of the draconian lockdowns.
The same trend applies to the millions of independent small businesses, which have been forced to operate at 25 percent capacity, if at all, in many cities and states. America’s small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and they are struggling mightily in the midst of the shutdown madness.
For far too many small businesses, such as hair salons, fitness centers, and ordinary retailers, the lockdown craze has been the nail in the coffin. Many of these small business owners, and their employees, are now jobless, through no fault of their own.
The massive wave of unemployment thanks to the lockdowns has led to increased drug and alcohol abuse, more suicides, higher rates of spousal and child abuse, skyrocketing depression, and several other societal harms.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.”
As if the terrible employment and mental health situations were not tragic enough, millions of children, particularly those in public schools, are victims of the lockdown lunacy.
Across the country, public schools have been closed for in-person learning for months. Millions of students have been forced into remote learning, which is no substitute for traditional in-class education.
Unfortunately, the school shutdowns, which are completely unnecessary given the fact that those under the age of 18 are practically invulnerable to (and highly unlikely to spread) COVID-19, has had a devastating and disproportionate effect on minority students as well as those from working-class families.
Data show that students enrolled in public schools are struggling across the board due to the onslaught of virtual learning. Unlike wealthy families, who can afford tutors, private school tuition, and other resources, most lower-class and minority families are at the mercy of inferior remote learning.
The psychological, physical, and intellectual consequences that needless school shutdowns are wreaking will have lifelong repercussions for this generation.
However, all of the damage inflicted by these pointless lockdowns seems to fall on deaf ears when it comes to the political class who is responsible for this. Perhaps that could be because the political class and out-of-touch elites are mostly immune from the destruction their policies have wrought.
While millions of Americans wait in food lines and their children languish at home, unable to attend expensive private schools, the people pushing the lockdowns are gaining more power, prestige, and wealth than ever before.
As small businesses struggle to stay afloat, Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. are making more money than ever before. Similarly, the vast majority of white-collar workers are more than capable of working from home while most blue-collar workers do not have this luxury.
It is ironic that left-wing politicians, billionaires, and unionized teachers are doing just fine while those they claim to care most about are being devastated by their unnecessary lockdowns.
Or maybe this is part of their plan, to weaken the middle class, stifle small businesses, increase government dependence, and placate teachers unions, which would certainly benefit a powerful minority while devastating the vast majority.
Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is a former public education teacher and editor at The Heartland Institute.