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The Hidden Costs of COVID-19 Lockdowns

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

A quick look at boarded-up restaurants and closed schools would seem to give a clear comprehension of what the COVID-19 lockdowns have cost us, but the worst losses are mostly hidden — and down the road, will cost us much more, particularly those in the bluest of blue states.

Writing for the American Institution of Economic Research, Jeffrey A. Tucker reminds us that “lockdowns seem focused on expenditures and consumption but fundamentally they attack capital.” As a result, “investment plunged during the great suppression,” and has so far only recovered to 2018 levels.

The capricious unpredictability of what and when the government might choose to shut down, only adds to the difficulty of planning for the future. As most anyone with sense — this precludes most government officials, elected or appointed — understands that the future is filled with uncertainties even in the best of times.

These are not the best of times, and the future is less knowable than ever, as Tucker noted:

You have dinner reservations, a party planned, a wedding with contracts, a business meeting, a concert, a delivery scheduled, or anything at all, and everything can be closed for an indefinite period of time. This could happen any time day or night, all on the authority of government officials and all because of a positive PCR test.

If this is the Great Reset, it’s more like a Great Jumble in which fewer workers with less access to capital in a smaller economy must somehow pay for government largess vast enough to paper over the damage done to the bankrupt and the unemployed.

In these circumstances, you could hardly blame Atlas for shrugging, but the stubborn fact is that Americans want to work and to invest — and make the economy grow.

All Washington has to do is “Get the hell out of my way!” as the wise man once said.

At a time of economic crisis, whether it’s self-inflicted like our current troubles or due to some random catastrophe, the best cure is to grow our way out. The good news is, we know exactly how to do that: Repeal or suspend as many regulations as quickly as possible. The resulting flurry of economic activity is exactly the kind of stimulus the economy needs — and far preferable to another $2,000,000,000,000 in debt sitting like an elephant on top of our future growth and options.

Instead, the Biden Administration has plans for the biggest expansion of the regulatory state — and the fastest shutdown of American energy production — in history.

Just a week or two ago I showed my 15-year-old al about the power of compound interest — how if he saves a little bit, all the time, starting at a young age, compound interest could make him well-off long before retirement. To drive the point home, I also showed him how starting later means having to save a lot more — and spend a lot less, just when the spending gets fun — just to accumulate the same savings he could get by starting young.

His eyes went wide with that uniquely American combination of greed and thrift.

Lesson learned by my teenage son, who is already far wiser than your average Tax & Spend & Regulate Democrat.

What the Biden Administration is doing — with big assists from Democratic governors in states like California, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York — is exactly like the spendthrift who refuses to save any money when he’s young.

By continuing the lockdowns, they’re postponing the growth their states need to climb out of the COVID holes they dug themselves into. By first stifling their economies and then stifling future growth with that capital-killing combination of uncertainty and overregulation, those governors ironically enough will also starve their own state coffers.

So if today’s news doesn’t supply you with any much-needed cheer, at least you can enjoy the schadenfreude of Democrat governors with no money to spend.