Opinion: From Governor Fear to Governor Unemployment, now Governor Bait and Switch

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Brian Allen, of Arlington. He is an art historian and the art critic for National Review.

Gov. Phil Scott has fomented the worst economic crisis in Vermont since the Great Depression. He’s sowing fear with bad models. Now there’s a disingenuous bait and switch.

In the Covid-19 crisis, Governor Scott and his team succeeded on one front. Smartly and speedily, Vermont expanded its hospital capacity to accommodate nearly 1,000 Covid-19 patients at any point in time.

This was the sole goal of the “flatten the curve” campaign. “Flatten the curve” acknowledges Covid-19 is here to stay, concedes many hospitalizations will come from it, and aims to stretch these needs out so our hospitals aren’t overrun.

We could all support this as reasonable. Every state rose to this occasion. No state’s hospital system, not even New York City’s, was ever overrun.

That was the health crisis justifying Governor Scott’s emergency order. Now we have a bait and switch.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott gives a message by Facebook.

As of last week, Vermont had a total of one ICU Covid-19 hospitalization. We’ve never had more than 38 hospitalizations at any one time.

It’s now “kill the virus,” which, using Governor Scott’s extreme policies, really means “kill the economy.” In another show of poor leadership, he never explained why he changed his agenda and, most important, why he thinks this is achievable.

Where is the data justifying 6 feet of distance as opposed to 3, or even 2? There isn’t any.

The choice is not between Covid-19 and a strong economy. It’s a choice between Covid-19 and a strong economy and Covid-19 and a depression. Either way, the virus is with us.

The governor must keep proving there’s a genuine health emergency in Vermont, not Queens, to justify his extraordinary assertion of power. What is the health emergency in Vermont? Fifty-five deaths, average age 80? Nine hundred Covid-19 infections out of 630,000 people? We don’t have a health emergency. We now have an economic and social emergency.

We can’t keep our economy and people on a knife’s edge. No one can plan anything because the governor, on thin constitutional ice already, might on a whim close his famous spigot. There may or may not be a vaccine. What are his standards? What is his endgame? What is his way out of this mess? We need positive leadership and certainty, not fear and fiat.

Can we really trust someone who thinks getting a haircut is dangerous?

Was it necessary to close small bakeries, cafes, and mom and pop businesses that never have more than a handful of people at the same time? Of course, it wasn’t. This isn’t an “abundance of caution,” it’s reckless, and more so in a place like Vermont with a chronically fragile economy.

Governor Scott tells us that we must endure more economic ruin, more loss of schooling, and more failing businesses because “we’re close to where the big outbreaks are.”

Doesn’t he think we can look at a map? Of the 934 Covid-19 cases, nearly half — 434 — are in Burlington and the towns near it. This area is as far from Boston and New York City as we can get. Bennington County, 50 miles from Albany, has only 60 cases.

Governor Scott closed all doctors offices and barred hospitals from performing nearly all surgeries. He’s flattened one curve but invited another. Deferred cancer treatments, screenings, dental care, child vaccinations and checkups, hip and knee replacements, and scores of other pent up needs will tax our medical system for many months.

How many times have we heard of friends or relatives discovering during a routine checkup that they have an early, treatable cancer? Governor Scott and his people have so frightened the public that even emergency room visits have dropped.

Now in financial peril, with layoffs, can our hospitals meet this bubble in deferred care? Why were these questions never asked? If there’s a health emergency, it’s in the new bubble Governor Scott has created.

There are four remedies we need to take since Governor Scott believes he can extend the state of emergency forever. We need stability and predictability.

First, there is no state of emergency. Governor Scott needs to cancel his order. He needs to clean up outstanding messes like getting at least our rural schools open and easing the killer regulations imposed on our hospitality sector.

Schools should reopen on June 1 and run through July 4. If Burlington and other cities can’t manage this, fine. The rural schools like Arlington’s can.

People know all about social distancing now. Governor Scott’s extreme policies in effect have canceled the summer and fall tourist seasons. No one will plan to come here. If there’s a spike of 10 or 20 infections, he might close the state down again.

Innkeepers and visitors need to use common sense. They can do it.

Second, he needs to broaden his medical advice team. His current group are not practical people. They live in a bubble, in a safe space of laboratories, classrooms, and offices. They rely too much on abstract computer models, all of which have proven wildly inaccurate.

This is a problem in many parts of the sciences. Mathematical models have supplanted empirical evidence. Lots of academics and public health bureaucrats never get their hands dirty in real life medical practice.

Third, Governor Scott and his team need to communicate what we know about Covid-19. They show no interest in the amazing, dramatic advances in Covid-19 care over the last two months, all coming from emergency room and working hospital practitioners.

I see no evidence he has adjusted his policies to reflect this frontline experience, which is positive and shows Covid-19 is something we can handle in the context of a normal life and simple caution.

We know that more than 85 percent of Covid-19 infections are either asymptomatic or lead to a very mild cold. We know 95 percent of deaths in America are people who were in nursing homes or people, almost all elderly, with advanced cancer, dementia, blood disease, obesity, severe respiratory illness, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

If you are under 18, your chances of Covid-19 death are about the same as dying in a car crash on the way to school. These are all facts Governor Fear won’t share.

Instead of peddling fear and making our children into neurotics, Governor Scott needs to emphasize these facts. Why is he running away from them?

Finally, there is an enormous debate among virologists, epidemiologists, and, yes, even academics on the merits of many aspects of extremist lockdown programs. Many would argue some of Governor Scott’s policies are useless or counterproductive.

I suggest that the governor assemble a selection of “lockdown skeptics” drawn from Stanford, Rockefeller, and Oxford Universities. This large group of scientists includes Nobel laureates, distinguished professors and scientists, and emergency room doctors and practicing doctors treating patients in hospitals.

I suggest he convene a televised question and answer session with a handful of these people, his advisers, and the chairs and ranking members of the legislature’s committees on health care, health and welfare, and human services.

Events of this kind are occurring in other states. Why not in Vermont?

We need more voices and a lively debate to compensate for “follow the crowd” leadership and leadership by fear.

38 thoughts on “Opinion: From Governor Fear to Governor Unemployment, now Governor Bait and Switch

  1. Brian, in case you missed it, you should know that 20/20 hindsite has always been perfect. Folks, if the Governor had not prepared for the worst and the virus took off, I’ll bet Brian would be on his soap box screaming his head off. Fortunately, Vermonters behaved themselves and so far Vermont has been spared.

    • Hindisght or no, there is no excuse for the violation of the Constitutions and Scott’s power grab. Neither Japan or South Dakota employed the same edicts and their fatality rates are far lower than the places that adopted totalitarianism.

  2. Vermont is among a small number of states that, at this point in time, is among the least C19 affected. This did not happen by accident. Vermonters were asked to do the right things and we did and received our hard earned reward. I’t is only my opinion but I have to believe Gov. Scott is very close to getting us back to center. We have sacrificed too much and are so close we need to see this through.

    • Au contraire! No – we are not ‘so close’ we always were and nothing has changed. Just as a tree is known by fruit Scotts handiwork is ruined lives and livlihoods proving entire lockdown was totally unnecessary. Correlation does not = causation. And a negative cannot be proven.

      This is the face of communism – destruction of personal and private property, creation of onerous rules conditions, defacto seizing of businesses and private property, shredding of constitution replacing it with edicts and decrees issued by fiat.

      Just as the end justifies the means in Machiavellian terms – seeing the end result merely reveals the means used to accomplish the state we’re in.

      Shame on Comrade Scott and his supporters most of whom are Democrats.

    • Thank you. I too believe Governor Scott has done well for Vermont in the this crisis. He is in conferences constantly hearing the best to deal with the pandemic. HE is not keeping VT closed by himself.

    • We have turned into a socialist enclave and Scott has been key in maintaining that status. If he was a real Republican, he would’ve vigorously opposed the Legislature’s constant infringement of the Constitutions, especially on the killing of the unborn. But he has done the Democrats one better by completely ignoring the standards established hundreds of years ago.

      • Besides, “center” is ambiguous and a refuge for cowards. The further left the Democrats go, the more the “center” drifts their way. We need people who accept the standards of life, liberty, and the right of individuals to determine their own destinies with the guidance of their God. Without the full and unwavering dedication to the right to life and both Constitutions, one might as well admit they are a Democrat or other brand of socialist. That kind we don’t need.

  3. Vermont Digger will no longer allow any comments on articles concerning health or science.

    Have they heard of the scientific method? There is only one curator, one all knowing, all seeing all posting controlled arbiter of information in Vermont. Censor ship costs a ton of money too, people are posting on line, but they can’t keep up with the censorship. Will this ever be the story it truly is? In Vermont?

    See copied notice from Digger.
    VTDigger is making adjustments to its commenting platform to better serve our readers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    This crisis has changed our site in many ways: It’s brought increased traffic from a wider set of readers, and it’s required our newsroom to focus more of our coverage on reliable information related to the virus.
    It’s also caused a spike in Reader Footnotes. Because we moderate every submission, the work of screening these posts is diverting resources that we believe could be better put toward news coverage of this ongoing crisis. Worse, a portion of these submissions show a dangerous risk of spreading misinformation related to public health.
    We still believe that comments can play an important role in moving our reporting forward and allowing the public a venue to share their own experiences. But now more than ever, our pages cannot serve as unchecked discussion forums. With that in mind, we are instituting the following changes:
    Reader Footnotes will be hidden on all pages. Those who wish to read published Footnotes or submit their own for consideration will need to click or tap “View Comments” at the bottom of each story.
    The platform will close for submissions 24 hours after a story is published.
    Footnotes are limited to one per person per story.
    We will not accept any Footnotes on stories related to public health or science.
    By making these changes, we hope that Reader Footnotes will serve to enhance our coverage rather than distract from it. We ask that all commenters please review our existing Community Guidelines to consider what types of posts we are likely to publish — please consider your submission a “letter to the editor” rather than the type of comment you would post on social media.
    Thank you for reading and adhering to these guidelines.

    • It’s disturbing that another casualty of this “crisis” is open debate and a free press. FB and YouTube have already engaged in censorship.

      • I’ve been trying to warn all the candidates running that FB and YouTube are going to make things…..”difficult” for them. NPR, same thing, they screen all the calls to get the ones they want to promote.

        Honestly, nobody understands. I wouldn’t believe it myself, but for the fact that it’s happened 100’s of times to me personally and many I know.

        Front Porch Forum is no better if not worse, I was totally banned from them, for repeating the insane budget numbers of a pocket park. $45,000 for engineering some plantings, a couple of park benches and stone work is insane on less than 400 sq.ft no less.

        Truth has a difficult time in Vermont. Public discourse even more so. Many Vermonters are literally afraid to express any opinion publicly or with a yard sing due to back lash and intolerance.

        • Great article, yet the assumption is that Gov. Fear is trying to “do the right thing”. Clearly, this doesn’t pass the “smell test”—it reeks of UN Agenda 21 (now Agenda 2030, check it out) and part of the globalist plan to destroy America from within. Many state Gov’s are sold out to the CCP and doing their bidding in exchange for financial prop-ups of their failed budgets and pensions (search YT for Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Dec. 2019 Governor’s conference, it caused many o’ gov. to soil their britches, me thinks). Fear will cause people to willingly hand over their God-given Constitutional rights, and I’m seeing it all over town. How very sad and tragic, especially because if we all simply refused to participate, Gov. Fear and his AG and other Orwellian enforcers would have no leg to stand on, and would be overruled by We The People. Sadly that won’t happen; I see the Kool-Aid drinkers behind all of their masks with their heads down.

        • We can be positive in all of the above by giving True North a big ATTA-BOY. In all of the material I have sent, only one time was there an instance of non-print.
          When compared to Digger, who I gave up on 3-4 years ago, there is no comparison.
          Thank you, Thank you True North!!!!

      • Any story on VTD can be reposted on any platform for discussion purposes just as I and others here do w/ sourced links, via fair use laws.

        Posting the title and *no more* than the first few lines or paragraph and linking it back to VTD. Posting stories in entirety is illegal due to copyright infringements.

        As one can see TNR posts strories written by public officials and all readers are allowed to comment.

          • Any person working in media who condones censorship by omission is an enemy of the first amendment and a free press.Censoring peoples comments and opinions based on their ideology is also a mark of a traitor to their profession and to their readers. the media is full of dishonest people who graduated from the current crop of college indoctrination centers. The duty of a journalist or reporter is to report the news, not make it up in their version. They are entitled to their opinions but not their own facts!

        • Business & Economy
          VTDigger issues new guidelines for comments
          By Mike Dougherty
          May 26 2020 | 15 reader footnotes
          VTDigger is making adjustments to its commenting platform to better serve our readers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

          This crisis has changed our site in many ways: It’s brought increased traffic from a wider set of readers, and it’s required our newsroom to focus more of our coverage on reliable information related to the virus.

          • This newest rule is thinly disguised censorship and clearly meant to limit any opposing views from the public square.
            They’ve pulled this before so must say I’m not surprised

    • So in other words, digger increased it’s volume of censorship. Nothing new! When I click on the view comments, it doesn’t work so I can’t read them. Digger is a de-facto arm of the dem/prog party. Any publication that allows Danziger to continually lie about and denigrate the president as depicted in his drawings almost daily proves the point. Their headlines are also slanted and comments are not footnotes, they are comments. Footnotes are usually lines showing where information came from and used to write the article. Just more new speak and politically correct language for the choir of liberal so-called elites who read it. I scan it in the morning for my usual dose of disappointment then move on to real news and commentary.

  4. Brian, the first paragraph of your rant makes the verbiage that follows just that verbiage as your entire argument is based upon a false and highly biased premise. Suggest you look elsewhere for placing the blame on Vermont’s present unemployment problem.

    • Tho our l legislative leaders are destroying our state aided and abetted by their sidekick and pet poodle – traitor to our state Benedict Scott – and difficult to determine who is doing more damage. Author is merely pointing this out however it is plainly seen. As such comment is patently false and completely untrue imo. And merely amounts to shooting the messenger. It’s not enough to attack and call someone wrong – there needs to be a reason. Perhaps you could explain in a bit more detail the reasoning behind your premise rather than another typical drive-by.

      Anyone who doesn’t see what’s going on is blind and living under a rock.


    • You, sir, are the one who is basing your arguments on fear and falsehoods, as well as hiding the fact that you are working directly for Scott. You are not the reasonable Republican you’re trying to portray, and I call you out on your obfuscations.

  5. Is all of this the model for the future? What happens when the current virus mutates? What happens when the next flu comes along? Waiting for a vaccination to resume normalcy is ludicrous. The way this whole situation is being handled will be studied for many years. Looking back, I suspect people will wonder why we did what we did. Maybe not the first moves, while making decisions in a vacuum…but certainly the way it has progressed.

  6. Of the ten worst hit-virus countries, the US ranks 9th, in terms of deaths per 100,000 people

    That means Italy, Spain, Belgium, UK, France, etc., have much more deaths/100,000 than the US.

    It looks to me most of the US is doing well, except for NY, CT, NJ, MA, which, together, have about 50% of the cases and more than 50% of the deaths.

    See URL for data

    The Vermont situation is FAR, FAR better than the rest of the US.
    There should have been only MINIMAL shut-downs, if some COMMON SENSE had prevailed.
    But people were riled up/scare-mongered by self-serving Media, eager to get attention for as long as possible.

  7. One only has to look at his base that elected him, (Scott) twice. He could not have won without the liberal crowd behind him. So his record shows that just take a look at the bills he signed into law…. that says it all.
    Now, that he is feeling the heat from his R base, he has cozied up to the state Republican Committee. Up to now, he was distancing continually from that concept.
    There is a credible R candidate who is in dire need of money to get his message out, and that is John Klar, who has my support. Read what John has written, what he speaks about, what he stands for, and most of all how respectful he is of his support.
    Vermont needs John Klar at the helm. John has a plan, and it is published.We should be taking that seriously.

  8. ‘Perfection is the enemy of progress’.
    Winston Churchill

    Everyone from the Governor on down the chain is aiming for perfection – zero new deaths, zero new cases and zero hospitalizations.

    They’ve destroyed our economy in pursuit of a non-sensical goal, and hang their hopes on billions of federal dollars to placate the restless masses. We certainly have the government we deserve.

  9. The Governor and his Legislative cohorts appear to desire to continue the emergency as long as possible, we have seen the “goal post” for reopening the economy moved time and time again, Worst of all, instead of ‘flattening the curve” the extraordinary actions crushed the curve and prevented the virus to move through the population in a manageable time frame that the hospitals could accommodate. No we still have a large vulnerable population that will become the “second wave” when the state reopens to tourism and the college crowd in the fall This second threat wouldn’t exist had a less intrusive and less onerous course had been followed.

  10. No they shouldn’t open the schools until next year and even if they did it would only be for a week or two not until or through July 4th that was not a good response! But yes businesses should all be open and running the mask s- needs to go out the window! I’m not going to make my kids go to school and to wear a mask all day long, nope no way no how it will not happen! Breathing in a mask all day is more harmful then not having one on at all!

  11. Shut down all non-essential businesses, who made that master list, oh yeah
    the Governor because he listened to the liberal hype, promoting flawed data
    and what’s essential to me might not be for you and vice versa use a little
    common sense something, missing in Montpelier !!

    All businesses should be opened with guidelines, if you don’t like the guidelines
    posted per business……… stay out, most will follow the rules.

    Common sense will get us through this Wuhan Virus. If you don’t feel safe then
    stay home.

  12. It’s the blue states that are trying to nationalize elections w/vote by mail mandate. And the ones who are nurturing their inner Tin-Pot dictator dystopian dreams. And doing everthing possible to spread misery and suffering – they all should be locked up for traitors to our nation.

  13. Thanks for a dose of sanity and reality contrasted with Benedict Scott – and very
    sad to see we have a powermad drunken fool for a governor leading us down the garden path to ruin – SHAME!

  14. The Guidelines for restaurants are extremely onerous.

    People seem to be in more fear now than two months ago. Why?

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