I believe firmly that individual liberty is the bedrock of our Republic. Our government was created—unlike all before it—to sanctify, protect and preserve that liberty. A fierce commitment to individual liberty is the only hope that democracy has of avoiding the “tyranny of the majority.” We are witnessing this now, as majorities claim to be in favor of prohibiting a minority from working unless they submit to their will. Proponents argue that this is for “the good of society,” but such has been the excuse of majorities for stripping the rights (or property, or lives) of the minority since time immemorial.
It’s time. With 74% of Massachusetts residents—of all ages—having received at least 1 shot, there is nothing more to wait for. The only group without access to vaccines are children, and their risk of severe outcomes from COVID is so low as to be “difficult to quantify,” (the CDC estimates their risk at around 1/100,000 ~ 3-4x lower than flu, and far lower than their risk of suicide, drowning or dying in a car accident). When it comes to that other bogeyman—long COVID--study after study, shows that the risk appears to be no higher for kids who have contracted COVID than those who never had COVID at all (i.e., most of the time it’s “long-pandemic”). The time is now.
Masks Must NOT Stay
Masks are not benign, nor do they serve to reduce case growth. They are not the reason that flu went away, nor RSV. We need to consider long and hard if we want to become a masked, submissive, permission-seeking state, and what impact that will have on our communities, our children, and our economy. It will not reduce disease. It will likely further atomize our communities and harm our economy. It will also likely accelerate the transition of the country’s cultural locus from the northeast to freer places. It will harm us and our state.
No to Vaccine Mandates
The COVID-19 vaccines offer personal protection from severe disease, they do not stop infection or transmission, nor do they impact community case rates. In places like England that track infections by age and vaccination status, as of last week, in every age over 30, case rates are higher in vaccinated than un-vaccinated cohorts. This doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t offer substantial personal benefit, but it does mean that mandating them as a condition of employment is unethical, as the only rationale for doing so, would be to reduce spread. They clearly do not serve that purpose. When we consider that vaccination rates are significantly lower among minority communities here in Massachusetts (white 73%; black 66%; Hispanic 59%; Asian 79%) and the U.S. overall, the disparate impact of such policies adds to their moral indefensibility. When put into the broader context of a labor shortage, it seems plain batty.
Super-Charge School Choice
Despite spending 4th most per capita on K-12 education, our schools are failing. Even here in Massachusetts, fewer than half of our kids are at or above proficiency in reading and math. The one-size-fits-all approach to public education is not working. There are too many different kinds of kids, communities and parents. We need to trust parents to know what their children need, and let the funds follow the child. This is the only way that we can secure the futures of our kids and our country.
An Economy That WORKS
Here in Massachusetts, policies that support economic growth are often pitted as opposed to those that support the marginalized in our communities. The opposite is true. Federal tax revenues don’t go down when we lower tax rates, they go down when we have recessions—since 1980 the only times revenues have declined have been during recessions. Even people who believe in government spending as the way to solve all of society’s ills, should support pro-growth policies. Here in Massachusetts, we have a lot of work to do to restore our pre-pandemic prosperity. That starts with getting people back to work.
Our immigration policies need to support Americans first. That’s not a prescription for more or less immigration. It’s a prescription for purposeful decisions regarding immigration, with an eye to how it impacts other aspects of our lives and our neighbors’. Unfortunately, the state of our national “debate” is such that we can’t even talk about things; and if you can’t talk about things, you can’t fix them.
We are a welcoming country. Every year, we welcome more than 1 million new legal immigrants. This reflects our purposeful immigration policy. Through August 2021, there were 1.3 million encounters on the Southern border. It is unclear what number are returned, vs. allowed entry, though some estimates are as high as 30-40%. But what is clear, is that this does not reflect our purposeful immigration policy. As such, it may not serve the interests of our country or our communities.
Energy & Climate
The voters who care most for the environment, tend to be those who are the most affluent, and hence the least likely to be impacted by minor shifts in pricing. The proposed TCI, for instance, would amount to a significant gas tax. Given that many of the affluent who support it no longer drive to work, and rely on others to deliver all manner of other goods and services to their homes, the cost of this program—whose actual environmental impact is unknown—will be borne by those least able to bear it. As we have seen many developed countries clambering to embrace renewable energies, there are many cautionary tales. Take Canada for instance. Canada now generates 2/3s of its energy from renewables. Yet their CO2 emissions per capita remain higher than ours. Or Germany, which by de-nuclearizing is in fact (and expectedly) increasing its Carbon emissions. Then there are of course the issues associated with availability. While solar power may be a perfect solution for sunny Spain, it is a much less realistic one for New England. The Green New Deal looks to be like just this kind of cautionary tale—a wild expenditure whose costs will be borne by the poorest, and unlikely to have any real impact on the environment. When considering energy policy, we must lead with the premise that energy should be reliable, cheap, and abundant.
Like so many hot-button issues, gun control ends up long on action, and short on results. Chicago, for instance, has some of the strictest gun laws in the country—but also some of the worst gun violence. Massachusetts has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country—and yet it remains an animating issue. Unfortunately, at this point, it is likely that the zeal of that animus may be causing more harm than good. Recently, for example, gun manufacturer Smith and Wesson announced plans to move its headquarters (and 750 jobs) to Tennessee—due exclusively to the regulatory climate in our state.
For myself, both I and my husband grew up in hunting families--he in Louisiana, me in Utah. I know what a significant—and valuable—part of the culture that is in many parts of the country. I have no desire to tamp down on that at a federal level. This is one issue—like so many others—that I believe is best left to the policy laboratory that is the 50 states.