A Non-Crazy Reason to Oppose Biden’s Vax Mandate
Sometimes a thing can be two things at once, one good and one bad. That requires a choice. In a free society that choice is usually best made by the individual directly affected. If not, then by an open, democratic process. That is not what’s happening with the vax mandate and why the cure is worse than the disease.
I am, by my choice, thrice vaccinated. I understand the Covid vaccine prevents me from getting sick, and it is only a day by day smaller population of unvaccinated people who are actually still at risk of dying. We each make a choice. Now the government wants to make that choice for us.
Vax mandates are an unhealthy thing for our democracy and represent a willful effort by government to exert additional control over an already cowed population. There is a direct line between the Patriot Act, mass surveillance, and vax mandates that allows claims “it is all for our own good” when it is more broadly for our own bad. This is about politics, not medicine anymore.
Whatever you call a country where a central authority makes unilateral decisions to control its peoples’ lives, that is now what America has become. In escalation of that dark reality, the Biden administration announced a mandate requiring employers with 100 or more workers to ensure employees are vaccinated for Covid or tested weekly. A separate mandate requires employers participating in Medicare or Medicaid to have a fully vaccinated workforce, with no testing alternative.
The first rule alone covers 84 million U.S. workers, or two-thirds of the workforce (for now; the government is already working on expanding the program.) People who do not comply will lose their jobs. Workers who test positive will be removed.
It is critical to understand these mandates have been imposed; there was no legislation, no vote, no robust debate, no public record of who supports and who opposes them. It all begs the question of if the threat is so obvious, why has this needed to be so coercive and sneaky? The Biden administration disingenuously forced the mandate as a faux emergency rule through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a sub-office inside the Department of Labor created to ensure workplace safety, not deprive people of a living.
The mandate places an unvaccinated worker (not a diseased worker mind you, but a healthy worker without a vaccination) in the same category as frayed electrical cords and wet floors, a workplace hazard. OSHA, under threats of penalty, outsources enforcement (i.e., firing the worker) to the conscripted employer. Fines are up to $136,532. It will be interesting to see what happens if an employer, for his own reasons, accepts religious exemptions for 100 percent of his workforce.
Left undiscussed is what will be helped by firing truckers (“will decimate industry, worsen supply chain woes”), or how workloads in schools and hospitals will be lessened by firing teachers and nurses, and the effect on the public of firing cops, pilots, and firefighters. There is no evidence of any calculus by Biden of risk versus gain, just one of power.
The Biden administration is also requiring Americans abroad seeking to return to the U.S. to either be vaccinated or test negative, the first time in history something other than citizenship is a criteria for a citizen’s reentry. The decision to allow an American citizen to return to his own country, a right seen as guaranteed by the Constitution, has been outsourced to an airline employee at a foreign airport in contrivance of any due process.
That last bit is new; even during the Ebola outbreak screening was done by American government officials at American airports. Not any more. By outsourcing enforcement to a clerk in Paris, as with outsourcing censorship to Twitter, Biden disposes of Constitutional protections.
All of this has been justified as a legitimate response to an emergency, albeit an “emergency” now heading into its second year and one which has been essentially put to rest in many other democracies at much lower social costs. The problem is that what may seem like a reasonable step in today’s emergency will have a nasty hangover effect when invoked as precedent in less dire circumstances.
Power seized by governments is rarely relinquished. That’s why you are still taking your shoes off at the airport. It is why after “two weeks to flatten the curve” we are talking now about the government controlling who can work and travel.
The government’s history of liberties taken with liberty is poor. Think back to the powers taken by post-9/11 presidents. The result is ongoing mass surveillance of Americans in America (violating the 4A), a global kidnapping and torture program (all laws of decency and human dignity. 5A as Guantanamo still houses American permanent residents,) near-endless wars started without Congressional approval (Article I) and drone killings of American citizens (5A.)
If it was just about medicine we should be testing workers and travelers for diphtheria and tuberculosis, deadly and infectious respiratory diseases, and making a yearly flu shot mandatory (38 million people in America got the flu last year.) If we shared so much concern for our fellow citizens that we force them to vax, why we don’t show similar concern for their general lack of access to medical care for other life threatening things? Why is only Covid subject to so much government?
Biden’s assertion of control over who can work and who cannot is clearly overreach when well-more than half of all Americans are already vaccinated (in some states it is already over 70 percent.) It is not the “least restrictive solution” courts generally favor. It is also unconstitutional. Challenges already filed will inevitably reach the Supreme Court. They will likely hang on states’ rights, or the 14A equal protection clause preventing discrimination based on health status, for example, workers with AIDS.
There is hope. In a three justice dissent on a case in which the Court upheld a state-level healthcare worker vax mandate, Justice Gorsuch expressed concern over the government’s protracted suspension of liberties due to the pandemic. “I accept that what we said 11 months ago remains true today — that stemming the spread of Covid qualifies as ‘a compelling interest.’ At the same time, I would acknowledge that this interest cannot qualify as such forever.”
The challenges filed will not be at their heart about Covid, or medicine at all, but about our democracy. Any notion that public health demands the government take for itself the power to dictate who can work, or which Americans have the right of return, misses the point. Covid should not be the driving force of life in America. A truly healthy society is one where freedom is its core value, not fear.