Exploiting the pandemic

Exploiting the pandemic

We repeatedly have cautioned against government exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to justify its ends to the detriment of sound public policy. Alas, and sadly, we are seeing more and more examples.

As The Wall Street Journal reported last weekend, urban planners at home and abroad have been using the pandemic “as a chance to give streets a radical makeover.”

That is, with motor vehicle traffic still truncated because of pandemic-related restrictions, bike lanes are being forced onto an unsuspecting public.

Sometimes it is coming under the cover of darkness, illuminated by work lights.

In Paris, for instance, and by mayoral diktat, 400 miles of bike lanes are being added. The rationale is that commuters avoiding public transit (in order to avoid its potentially virus-transmitting close quarters) are demanding it.

Supposedly.

And the bike lanes supposedly also will help prevent massive traffic jams from the very same public transit-averse commuters who might otherwise jump into their cars.

Never mind that there’s little stated evidence of such. Never mind that any commuter-clogging likely will be more a result of reducing available lane volume, not to mention parking and delivery options for businesses. And then there’s data suggesting large increases in bicycle-pedestrian accidents.

But none of this has deterred “progressives” and a very vocal activist minority to engage in what, in at least one case, has been termed a “guerrilla approach” (in Milan, Italy), to reinvent public transportation in their dubious image.

Pittsburgh, of course, has been no stranger to the expanded bike lane debate. However, it is not mentioned in The Journal article. Which could have a perverse backfire in the erstwhile Steel City.

Given that Mayor Bill Peduto fancies himself as somewhat of a “progressive’s progressive,” a European-style “democratic-socialist” steadfastly promoting anything and everything “green” (no matter its true cost-efficiency imbalance), the omission might just embolden him to more fully express his inner bike-lane “guerrilla.”

But that would be a major fail for any semblance of sound public policy.

Along those same exploitative lines is this development from neighboring Ohio that simply is beyond the pale:

The Ohio Lottery has been running a television ad featuring a beleaguered dad, working on his laptop at home during the coronavirus pandemic, with the sound of rowdy children in the background.

It more than intimates that its scratch-off ticket lottery games could be the needed escape, apparently mentally and financially.

How else could one interpret this line, the ad campaign’s catchphrase:

“Scratch your way out.”

That’s a horrible message in flush times. It’s an even worse message when a large percentage of the populace feels as if its mental health, if not its economic future, have been flushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Of course, according to government propagandists, gambling only is a vice when not sponsored by the government, right?

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).