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At a time when politics has become vicious and national, Americans would benefit from looking at leaders’ competing visions at the state level. Who is actually making people’s lives better or worse, and how? The public may be starting to do so as Govs. Ron DeSantis, Gavin Newsom, and Andrew Cuomo have attracted national attention for — well — a variety of reasons. But their controversies only scratch the surface. One of the important and under-appreciated stories of the last year is how pro-lockdown states ruined the livelihoods of millions of Americans without any lives saved to show for their heavy-handed interventions.
Most states with the strictest COVID lockdowns destroyed millions of jobs for their citizens, while those with modest, targeted rules are largely experiencing low levels of unemployment even for normal times.
The relationship between state lockdown stringency, quantified by a simple average of four lockdown measurements from May, July, October, and January from WalletHub and unemployment rates in March, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is strong and statistically significant.
The five states with the strictest lockdowns over the last year — Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — have an average unemployment rate of 8.06 percent. In the five states with the lightest restrictions, unemployment sits at just 3.48 percent — lower than the 3.5 percent national rate before the pandemic hit the US.
Of course, there are a few outliers. Small, rural Vermont and Maine had strict policies and low unemployment, while federal-employment-reliant Virginia had strict policies and slightly below-average unemployment, too. None of the 16 laxest states had unemployment above the national average, however, and the overall trend among states is strikingly clear.
Eight of the 10 highest unemployment states, meanwhile, had unitary Democratic state governments in 2020, and the other two had divided party government. Six of the states with the 10 lowest unemployment rates had unitary Republican state government, while the other four had divided government, and just one Democrat.
Based on the relationship above, if the 15 states with the strictest lockdowns eased their policies to the level of the average state, they would have about 865,000 more people employed today. And progressives should understand — maybe they already do — that these restrictions are not putting investment bankers and corporate lawyers out of work, but rather low-wage workers in greatest need.
According to the government, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree was 3.7 percent in March, 6.7 percent for those with just a high school diploma, and 8.2 percent for those with less than that. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the US lost 11 million jobs last year with an hourly wage below $19.48 while gaining a million jobs with an hourly wage above $31.39.
At the same time, ample scientific evidence points to the fact that lockdowns did not save lives, regardless of the media force-feeding its preferred narrative to the public. There was no correlation at all between the aforementioned lockdown stringency index and total COVID deaths, compiled by Worldometer, through the beginning of March. The strictest states had an average COVID mortality of 1,423 per million and the laxest states of 1,449, while the average state was higher than both at 1,482.
A study by five University of Chicago scholars published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists of the United States of America stated that: “We do not find detectable effects of [Shelter-In-Place] policies on disease spread or deaths.”
A medRxiv study by several other professors concluded bluntly that “Claimed benefits of lockdown appear grossly exaggerated.”
And a peer-reviewed study by European epidemiologists in the journal Frontiers in Public Health found that “Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate.”
As the saying goes, “follow the science.” There have been several vital non-medical and medical interventions that saved lives from COVID — rapid vaccine development first among them. Yet, there is simply no strong evidence that strict, lengthy lockdowns saved lives, while there is strong evidence that they destroyed livelihoods.
Progressive politicians across the country assumed unique powers in the last year, took away personal freedoms, and destroyed livelihoods without saving lives, but they’ve still yet to admit their historic failures or be held accountable for committing them.
The public should ask why progressives should attempt to bring major change to the nation, let alone govern any state government, when they have failed families so starkly across the country.
Ryan Fazio is an investor, writer, and local government official in Connecticut. He tweets @ryanfazio.
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