The latest French export to the United States is a requirement that people show proof of vaccination to visit indoor bars, concert venues, restaurants and gyms. But will it work?
On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City will be the first American metropolis to import the French health pass. Marketed like an upscale perk, the 'Key to NYC Pass' program will begin on 16 August and become mandatory on 13 September.
De Blasio is doing his best to sell the pass as a carrot, rather than the stick it really is. But his rhetoric is still ominous. He said:
'It is so important to make clear that if you are vaccinated, you get to benefit in all sorts of ways. You get to live a better life. Besides your health in general, you get to participate in many, many things. And if you’re unvaccinated, there are going to be fewer and fewer things that you’re able to do.'
One would be working in government: De Blasio will be requiring city workers to get vaccinated or face weekly testing.
The goal of all this is to increase the number of New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated. A worthy goal, but it’s unclear if the 'show your papers' approach is the best way to achieve that.
There is little doubt that de Blasio’s vaccination mandate will be initially popular in New York City. Big Apple voters consistently voter for interventionist, paternalistic politicians — de Blasio won 67 per cent of the city’s vote in his 2017 reelection, embattled governor Andrew Cuomo won 81 per cent in 2018 and Joe Biden carried 76 per cent of New York City’s vote in 2020.
But let’s just imagine the enforcement nightmare the vaccine mandate will create. Tilman Fertitta, dubbed the 'World’s Richest Restauranteur' and the owner of 50 restaurants brands ranging from Morton’s Steakhouse to Bubba Gump Shrimp, says the federal government should have had a national database of those being vaccinated. 'My employees and friends tell me they have fake cards, we’ve created a mess,' he told CNBC. 'So I’ve got to put someone at the front door and make them the vaccination police?'
Fertitta says he fully supports nudging people to get vaccinated, but de Blasio should have convened a committee of private sector players to work on a plan. 'For some reason he’s being a dictator — this is the way we’re going to do it’. He says that while he strongly encourages employees to be vaccinated, he would 'lose probably 18 per cent of my workforce and shut down' if he mandated it for employees now.
Fertitta can be dismissed by progressives as a self-interested rich guy. But what will happen when it dawns on them that de Blasio’s policy will disproportionately lock Hispanics and blacks out of indoor venues? Almost half of whites in New York City are fully vaccinated, compared to a third of blacks and just under 45 per cent of Hispanics.
'That means that black New Yorkers will be barred from public accommodations at a far higher rate than will white New Yorkers. This is kind of an awkward policy,’ notes columnist Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner. 'There is no doubt that the impact of de Blasio’s rule is discriminatory.’
Councilman Joe Borelli points out that 'Mayor de Blasio is announcing that 69 per cent of Blacks, 58 per cent of Latinos and the majority of Bronx residents are ineligible to eat in a restaurant or go to a gym.'
The Education Department of the much less 'woke' Obama administration decreed in 2014 that any 'disparate impact' in school discipline rates among races was illegal.
Hundreds of school districts were subjected to intrusive investigations for having a racial disparate impact. Many schools told teachers they should have equal discipline rates for all racial groups or have different procedures for suspending African-American students than for whites. 'This was not just bad policy,' Gail Heriot, a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights, told me. 'It forced teachers to tolerate more classroom disorder; disorder makes learning more difficult.' But the policies remained in place, and even lasted until two years into the Trump administration. The Biden administration is likely to soon restart this insanity.
With that kind of record, is there any doubt that some progressives will declare de Blasio-type mandates the real 'new Jim Crow'?
A discussion of vaccine mandates is worth having. Perhaps they might be more sensible than the mask mandates pushed by mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington DC and the California bureaucrats who have now remasked much of that state’s population. But in our current climate, where literally everything is politicised and 'science' is used as a weapon against opponents rather than a guide to good policy, I despair that we can have that conversation.