"national security reasons"
By Scott Sumner
In recent years, presidents have increasingly used emergency powers to do things that the founders never would have anticipated, such as launch trade wars or build walls after Congress explicitly refused to authorize expenditure for that purpose. Now President Trump is pushing the envelope even further:
Donald Trump has issued an executive order to force meat-processing factories to remain open, as concerns mount about the US food supply chain after the closure of several big plants because of Covid-19 outbreaks.
The US president invoked the Defense Production Act — a Korean war-era law that permits the government to compel companies to take action for national security reasons — after a spate of recent outbreaks at processing facilities raised concerns about serious food shortages.
One can argue whether it is justified to force the closure of certain businesses during a pandemic, but forcing a business to remain open? President Truman once forced the steel industry to re-open, and you can sort of understand the logic linking steel to national security.
But meat? I wonder how many vegans view high meat prices as a threat to national security?
In the early days of the Trump administration, there was a perception that he was advancing “free market” policies. Now that’s all gone out the window, as the federal government takes over our credit markets.
On the other hand, kudos to Trump for trying to speed up vaccine development.
In Brazil, many libertarians supported President Bolsonaro, despite his support for dictatorships and torture. Previously, I suggested that this would end up being a mistake, and now it looks like it was:
The one-time star minister is being forced to reconcile his free market “Chicago Boy” identity with the need for massive government intervention. Amid reports that he is being sidelined from projects over his hesitancy to spend, analysts are questioning how long he will remain in the post.
Those concerns were exacerbated last week when Sérgio Moro [a famous corruption fighter] abruptly resigned as justice minister, leaving only a handful of moderates, including Mr Guedes, in the Bolsonaro administration.
“I have no doubt that the minister is experiencing anguish because he is taking measures that are contrary to his convictions, his soul,” said Tadeu Alencar, a lawmaker with the Brazilian socialist party, who met the minister in recent weeks. “His deep-seated convictions have not changed in the face of the crisis.” . . .
“He is lamenting that Brazil was starting to develop a structure in its economic organisation and that is no longer going to happen,” said Elias Vaz, a lawmaker.
“It is clear he is depressed that his entire agenda has been compromised.”
PS. This post is not about whether meat-packing plants should remain open; there are good arguments either way. The point is that these decisions should be made locally, by people with deep knowledge of the Covid-19 situation, not a President who may be biased by political considerations.