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OPINION | Blaming 'the Chinese'

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A REPUBLICAN businessman who’s developed somewhat of a following in the post-2017 world recently blamed "the Chinese" for an economic contraction foisted on us by U.S. politicians. What’s that line about there not being a “dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans?

Democrats, rather than acknowledging the actual truth whereby they nominated the most entitled, empty and unappealing candidate in their party’s modern history, chose to blame their 2016 presidential loss on "the Russians.” Yes, the legendarily inept Russians spending a few hundred thousand dollars, some of it after the presidential election, managed to swing the election to Donald Trump.

Enough about the Dems.

This same Republican businessman added on how certain he is that “Trump will decouple our economy from China” in response to the new coronavirus that originated in China. Yes readers, this will be the 2020 line from some Republicans who once knew better. The economy is collapsed, and “the Chinese did it.” You can’t make this up. This is our modern, dystopian reality. Liberals and conservatives are the victims of “foreign forces” beyond their control. How embarrassing. Wake up Americans, the world is watching.

While it is, let’s unpack what certain Republicans want people to believe, and want their politicians to do. Let’s start with “decoupling” from China. The modern conservative movement was given oxygen and subsequent life by the great Ronald Reagan, who stared down actual communist regimes of the thoroughly murderous and collectivist kind like the Soviet Union. A major reason he knew the former Soviet Union would fail, and that China would have to evolve such that it was “communist” in name only, is that he knew collectivist policies rooted in the planning of economic activity were doomed to stupendous failure. How interesting then, that modern conservatives of a certain kind are so adamant that, so long as their man is in office, this person should make decisions about “decoupling” the most productive people in the world (that would be the American people) from the very people whose own productivity (that would be the Chinese people) enables so much U.S. dynamism.

It’s sad that something so obvious must be said, but if Americans think the U.S. economy is weak and getting weaker now, try to imagine the contraction that will reveal itself if Trump were dictator as some of his supporters believe, and could force a cessation of economic cooperation with the very people who comprise the world’s second largest economy. Don’t worry, the thinking crawls toward something quite a bit more ridiculous.

Passed around lately by conservatives is an anonymously sourced article indicating the Chinese government built a lab to allegedly “demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States.” Such a speculation might be interesting in a Hollywood kind of way if it weren’t true back in January and February when the virus started spreading that most — whether left or right — didn’t take the virus or its spread seriously.

In that case, assuming the Chinese created a lab to prove that they could “combat” something like the new coronavirus, who would have cared? Whether it was hard-left New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo warning us to “Beware the Pandemic Panic,” Manjoo parroting the expressed views of similarly skeptical WHO officials, or all too many from the right (including President Trump) who viewed it sans alarm, there was little worry about the new coronavirus not too long ago. To then pretend, as conservatives are now, that the Chinese created the virus in order to conquer it and somehow prove they’re better than we are is just too silly for words.

Others think “the Chinese” created the virus to weaken us economically. Yes, one might suppose some Chinese leaders are as braindead as certain American leaders and pundits whereby they believe trade is war, and that prosperity in other countries harms their country, but then this would counter the view held by some on the right (probably the same people) that the Chinese have long been “cheating” us by “manipulating” trade agreements in order to inundate us with exports. OK, so which is it? The two absurd lines of thinking are rather contradictory. Indeed, if the Chinese have all along been trying to hurt us by giving us daily raises through their export of increasingly cheap goods, why would they try to export a virus that would collapse an economy on which conservatives have long told us the Chinese are reliant on for exports? For the Chinese to try to engineer economic contraction stateside would be the equivalent of Gucci seeking the annihilation of Beverly Hills.

Which brings us back to the new coronavirus, which all too many think is peaking in the U.S., and that will bring with it a global death rate well under 1%; the deaths largely concentrated among the elderly who, by virtue of being old, are in some instances “dying with coronavirus” as opposed to dying specifically from it. If the Chinese were trying to hurt us economically with a virus, why manufacture one that harms those largely no longer participating in the economy, and that thankfully doesn’t kill too many in general? So many questions.

Back to reality, the virus is not what’s wrecking the U.S. economy. What’s crushing it is the imposition of command-and-control by local, state, and national politicians; many of them Republicans. Lest we forget, 26 U.S. states are led by Republican governors. Those governors could have (and some did) refused to treat their citizens like children, and instead requested that they be careful. Republican President Trump could have said much the same; that Americans don’t need to be commanded to not potentially get sick or die, plus he could have reminded the skeptics that the best way to fight illness — without peer — is prosperity. But he didn’t.

More specifically, Republicans could have stuck to their limited government guns. Rather than command-and-control, along with empty-headed calls for their guy to “decouple our economy from China,” they could have chosen freedom. If so, their voters would be much better off economically, and likely healthier.

Instead, some Republicans are blaming the Chinese for an economic crack-up created by a political class heavily populated by Republicans. How sad. They sound like Democrats.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, vice president at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading. His new book is titled “They're Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America's Frustrated Independent Thinkers.”

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