Monday, September 26, 2022

Florida Versus Davos

 From Governor Ron DeSantis at The American Mind:

When COVID hit, I had never experienced a pandemic. Probably most people here had never done that. And so I started to do research and consume data, because we were being told what to do by the White House task force, or this health bureaucrat or that. But did any of that actually make any sense? Was any of it justifiable? 

I look back at Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address. Most people remember it for his warnings about the dangers of the military industrial complex, and I think those were very smart observations. But if you read that inaugural address, he talked about this new phenomenon of the federal government funding so much scientific research. And he said, when those two things are intermingled like that, there’s a danger: public policy itself could be held captive by what he called the “scientific-technological elite.” And he rejected that as something that was acceptable. He said, A statesman’s job is not to subcontract out your leadership to a very narrow-minded elite. The job of the statesman is to harmonize all the different competing interests that are in society, weighing different values, and then coming up with the proper policy. And so my view was, we had to choose freedom over Fauci-ism in the state of Florida. 

We had to make sure that our policies weren’t excluding all these important values, just because people with a very narrow-minded view, with some credentials by their name, were telling us that those values didn’t matter. And a great example is when we were dealing with the schools, and whether schools should be open. The fact of the matter is, from a perspective of evidence and data, this was not a very difficult decision. But it was a very difficult political decision. Just in terms of the blowback that we got: we were opposed by almost every major health bureaucrat that would go on T.V., or that was on the White House task force, or in different state capitals. But the reality was, we had seen this go fine in other parts of the world. And we were following observed experience. And we put that ahead of what some intellectual elite thought should happen. 

And I said at the time, if we don’t have kids in school, you’re going to see massive problems that are going to go for years and years and years. And I was the one that was being attacked, time and time again. I did think though, that once we had the kids in school, the school year was going, the sky didn’t fall, I thought all these other states would be forced to open their schools. In reality, you had places that locked them out for over a year, sometimes even more. And so we followed the data, we looked at the big picture, and our state is much better off for having done that. 

And I can tell you, if you look at the test scores that we’ve seen, we’ve actually had students with lower incomes gain over the last two years. You can’t say that about California and a lot of these other places. But all of that came just from being willing to look at the data independently, being willing to set out a vision of what was important to our state, and then executing. Going on that, we rejected the elites. And we were right. 

They’re now trying to rewrite history, acting like they wanted kids in school all along. And we shouldn’t let them get away with that. But we should also point out, not only were they wrong about schools: the elites were wrong about lockdowns, they were wrong about epidemiological models and the hospitalization models. They were wrong about forced masking. They were wrong when they rejected the importance or even the existence of natural immunity. They were wrong about the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines. And they were wrong when I said that COVID was seasonal. Now they admit it. But they didn’t when it was obvious that that was the case. So in almost every major significant issue, these elites who would show up on cable news or wherever, they were wrong. They got it wrong time and time again. 

And so we also served in Florida as a roadblock to what I think would have taken hold in this country, if it weren’t for our leadership. And that’s a biomedical security state. If you look at what they were trying to do, forcing a vax and passports and all these different things, this country would look a lot different right now, if people like me hadn’t stood up and said, not on my watch. You’re not doing that here.

We were one of the first. We were one of the first, if not the first state, to stand up. And this was early in 2021. We were among the first to say, our schools cannot compel students to do a COVID shot. So we got that off the board very early, before it was even available. Because we saw what they were up to. We saw what was coming down the pike. We were one of the first to ban so-called vaccine passports, the idea that you have to show proof of a COVID shot to be able to participate in society. And there were some conservatives that said, “yeah, well, government shouldn’t do a vaccine passport. But if a private business wants to do it, what’s wrong with that?” Well, I’ll tell you what wrong. What’s wrong with that is an individual has a right to participate in society. And we’re not just going to sit idly by if you’re trying to circumscribe people’s freedoms. And that’s true if it’s government; it’s also true if it’s big business. 

And here’s another thing with Florida: if we hadn’t said that, I do think most businesses probably wouldn’t have wanted to do a passport. But if even one did it, what would people say? Florida has passports? Well, guess what, because we didn’t have vaccine passports, 2021 marked the best year for domestic tourism in the history of the state of Florida. Those tourists wouldn’t have come if they had to cough up medical papers, not in those numbers. And if you look at all foreign tourism in 2021 for the entire United States, almost 45% of it was to this state right here, the state of Florida. Of course it was. If you’re going to travel internationally, you want to go and have a good time, enjoy yourself, make your own decisions. You don’t want them haranguing you about wearing a mask or haranguing you about coughing up a vax pass to go get a cheeseburger somewhere. So we were right on that both from a freedom perspective, and from an overall social good perspective. 

We also were one of the first states to provide protection for all employees in Florida—not just government employees—against employer-imposed COVID shot mandates. Our view is very simple. No Floridian should have to choose between a job that they need and a shot they do not want. And that’s the same if you’re a police officer in a municipality, or if you work for the state government, or if you work for the biggest corporations in the state of Florida. We apply that across the board. And we saved tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. And so yes, I think that when you look at where people are moving, and why they want to move, they wanted to live in a place that was rational, that was not doing all these ridiculous things that they would do in these other states. 

Remember, Fauci used to criticize us because we had restaurants open. And what they said was, you can’t eat inside a restaurant, it’s so dangerous. And my view on that is well, no one’s forcing you to do it. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. But don’t impose that on everybody else. Nevertheless, what they said is you have to eat outdoors. Okay, so fine, Chicago, some of these places, you can set out tables on the sidewalk, even close off the street—probably works okay, until it starts to get cold. People don’t want to eat outside when it’s 40 degrees. And so what would they do? They would do “outdoor dining” by building an enclosure around the tables that are outside the restaurant, with worse circulation and ventilation than just being in the doggone restaurant. But it was “safe” because it was “outdoors.” 

So I think people just saw this and they realized how bizarre it was. And they realized that it had no connection to evidence-based medicine. And so they wanted to go back. We would have people, particularly during 2021, they would be in other parts of the country, wanting to meet for business. So instead of meeting in their city for business, they would all separately fly down to the state of Florida, they’d eat and be able to live like normal human beings, do whatever business they needed to do, then they’d all get up and fly right back to where they all came from. And that was something that was commonplace for us. 

I do think people have also noticed the distinction between how states are governed. I’ve had people move from California to New York. And what they’ll tell me is, man, things are just so much easier here. I got my driver’s license easier, the roads are better, all these other things. Here’s an interesting comparison. The state of Florida has 3 million more people than the state of New York, which is our closest competitor in terms of population. And yet New York’s budget is over twice the size of the budget of the state of Florida. But do we have worse roads than them? No. Do we have worse services? No. And we have higher-performing K-12 schools, and the number-one ranked public higher education system in the country. And we do all of that, with no income tax, and the second-lowest per capita tax burden in the country.

We also, with our most recent fiscal year that ended on July 1, had a $102 billion top-line budget. And that yielded a $22 billion surplus, the largest in the history of the state of Florida. And again, with no income tax, that’s purely from expanding the economic pie and economic activity. If you look at our economy, we have more people employed today than we did prior to COVID. That is not true for most of these lockdown states. Our labor force has expanded, and our unemployment rate is lower than it was prior to COVID. By almost every economic indicator, we’ve exceeded the national average month after month after month for close to two years. And obviously people are benefiting as a result of that. (Read more.)


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