I was pleased that President Trump rejected the notion of a “new normal” when a reporter used that phrase at his press conference announcing the phased “Opening Up America Again” plan. Trump rejected the concept outright and said that his unequivocal goal is returning the country to “normal,” i.e., to the robust economic life we were enjoying before COVID-19 forced us into a sudden and calamitous shutdown. When Trump said he wanted people eating in restaurants and going to sporting events again, I cheered.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has gone the other way, telling us that we have to accept a “new normal” of an extended societal crouch. The other day, he said:
So we’re going to a different place, which is a new normal. We talk about the new normal. We’ve been talking about the new normal for years. We are going to have a new normal in public health. By the way, the way we have a new normal in an environment, the new normal in economics, a new normal in civil rights, a new normal and social justice, right? This is the way of the world now. We’re moving to a challenging place, but potentially a better place.
He also said that the New York economy won’t get back to speed until we have a vaccine — perhaps 12-18 months from now — and it is “100 percent safe.”
I’m sorry, metaphysical certainty in these matters doesn’t exist. Even if a vaccine works for everybody, some may experience deleterious side effects. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe. Risk has to be managed. It can’t be eliminated.
Will life change? Of course. It always does.
But that doesn’t mean we have to accept a “new normal” — quickly becoming a cliché — that implies accepting a less robust U.S., with fewer people working, reduced prosperity, not to mention increased constraints on liberty and, if I get Cuomo correctly, environmental policies that will suppress economic vitality. There are certainly some who seem to be calling for that.
Good grief, how often during the Obama administration did we hear that sluggish growth and lost manufacturing jobs was “the new normal”? President Trump’s policies proved the wrongheadedness of that kind of pessimism.
Accepting a “new” less robust “normal” wasn’t warranted then and it isn’t now. To be sure, it will take time to get back on our feet safely. But I am glad that decline is a choice the president refuses to make.