In a society saturated with politics, primary schools teach third-graders to check their racial privilege or lack thereof, and local television weather reports veer into climate science. Many people, finding insufficient satisfaction in just doing their jobs, grasp for the prestige and excitement of becoming political performers.
The office website of Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy says he “is the Nation’s Doctor” — note the capitalization — “providing Americans with the best scientific information on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.”
With the nation gorging on politics, this mission statement becomes an invitation to political advocacy. Murthy advocates a “whole-of-society effort” to stop what he calls an “infodemic” of health “misinformation.”
So, a category of speech is comparable to an infectious disease — something government should urgently eradicate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a housing policy (the eviction moratorium), and Murthy, too, has an expansive policy agenda. He advocates, inter alia, “product design and policy changes on technology platforms,” and government investment in “rumor control mechanisms.”
The government should consider “appropriate legal and regulatory measures that address health misinformation while protecting user privacy and freedom of expression.”
The last eight words are not reassuring while the nation is awash with arguments for “balancing” freedom of speech against myriad competing — and supposedly at least equally important — social values, such as comity, sensitivity about diversity, everyone feeling “safe,” etc. What other speech might be declared inimical to the nation’s “health”?
The city government of Anaheim, California, recently announced that a private venue that was to have hosted an “America First” rally — featuring two of the dregs of Congress, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, both Republicans — had canceled the event. The private venue had a right to do so and said it did when it learned who the speakers would be. However, an Anaheim government spokesman said, “We as a city shared our public safety concerns” with the venue.
This supports the suspicion that Anaheim said it could not, or would not, protect the event from protests threatening “public safety.” This suspicion is strengthened by the city’s statement that “we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does not reflect our city and its values.” Anaheim has no such duty, and the First Amendment has no exemption allowing communities to connive at impeding speech that does not “reflect” the community’s values.
The Federal Reserve Board and some of its regional banks are wading waist-deep into politics. Disregard the Fed’s embarrassing policy that its employees should avoid using “biased terms” such as “Founding Fathers.” And never mind that the Fed already had enough to do fulfilling its three statutory mandates (to promote “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates”) before it unilaterally adopted a fourth: to produce properly “inclusive” growth, as measured by criteria of the Fed’s choosing. So, monetary policy must have distributional effects that satisfy particular political standards. Furthermore, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., notes the mission creep by some of the Fed’s politicized regional banks.
The Boston Fed has, he says, an “intense interest in ‘racial justice’ activism,” a matter “fraught with ideological assumptions and interpretations.” Toomey says the bank “appears to believe that economic disparities … can only be explained by racial animus.” Boston Fed publications assert a “continuous epidemic of racially motivated systemic violence against Black lives,” and insist that “Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people live each day on the brink of socioeconomic collapse.” The bank favors political action against American society, which “still is intentionally shaped by racism.”
The Minneapolis Fed also ranges far beyond its expertise and statutory mandate in asserting that “race is a social construct” and “racism forms the foundation of inequality in our society.” It engages in political advocacy, an activity that only Congress can add to the Fed’s statutory mission. The Atlanta Fed, too, has promulgated similar woke boilerplate (e.g., proposing “restorative housing reparations”). The San Francisco Fed’s obsessions include climate change. The bank’s president says this potentially affects everything, so it necessarily is germane to the bank’s responsibilities. These supposedly include everything pertinent to the economy, meaning: everything.
All four banks have ignored Toomey’s requests for documents concerning their plunge into fashionable political causes. Perhaps these banks, like the surgeon general and Anaheim’s city government, have time and resources to spare because they have excellently completed the jobs they actually are supposed to perform. Perhaps.
Will is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.