The Washington Post reports that Joe Biden, bowing to pressure from the left, will extend the moratorium on evictions, after all. Initially, Biden had refused to do so because, as he acknowledged, he quite plainly lacks that authority. But now, he has decided to violate the law — indeed, the Constitution — and extend the moratorium.
The Post states:
The Biden administration has repeatedly insisted that it lacked the legal authority to renew that program [the eviction moratorium]. However, the delta variant has renewed concerns about the impact of the expiring moratorium on millions of renters and White House officials have explored other options.
But renewed concerns over the delta variant don’t provide Biden with authority to do what only Congress can. It is up to Congress to decide whether these concerns justify allowing people to live rent free.
The announcement of the extension came from the CDC. Speaking to reporters, Biden acknowledged that the move was likely [note: make that surely] to be subject to court challenge, and he expressed doubt about the legality of his administration’s move. Indeed, he said that the scholars he consulted felt the measure was probably not constitutional.
Has any previous president ever made a decision that he publicly acknowledged was probably unconstitutional? It seems unlikely, inasmuch as all presidents swear an oath to defend the Constitution.
Until the courts intervene, which should be soon, the extension will prohibit evictions for 60 days in U.S. counties with “substantial and high levels of community transmission” of the coronavirus. Reportedly, this ban will apply to about 90 percent of the country.
In addition to being illegal, the administration’s ban is terrible policy. The alleged health rationale doesn’t justify the policy. People facing eviction can protect themselves against serious illness due to the coronavirus, including its variants, by getting vaccinated. Once vaccinated, the risk to them of death or serious sickness due to covid does not appear to be greater than the same risks to the homeless during the flu season.
We don’t ban evictions during the flu season. At least, we haven’t in the past. I suppose everything is up for grabs now.
Nor is there an economic justification for banning evictions. A year ago, there was a case. Unemployment was staggeringly high and in many jurisdictions people were essentially required to stay home.
Now, the unemployment rate is fairly normal and people are free to leave their homes to seek work. If anything, the problem isn’t a lack of jobs, it’s a lack of people willing to take them.
There’s also the fact that when people live rent free in someone else’s housing unit, they are basically stealing. I understand that theft doesn’t bother many Democrats anymore. Shoplifting has effectively been legalized in California. Authorities throughout American made little, if any, effort to stop looting during the George Floyd memorial summer, and have done little, if anything, to prosecute looters since.
Still, when tenants stop paying their rent, they impose economic hardship on the many landlords who depend on this income. Collectively, landlords in America are already owed a reported $20 billion. Many of them are members of the middle class. How do they pay their creditors?
Furthermore, these landlords are barred by the government from renting their property to new residents who want to move to town, possibly bringing productivity, creativity, and tax revenue to the area. This undermines the efficiency of the market and its ability to accommodate Americans on the move.
If the government nonetheless wants to allow people to live rent free, it should find ways to do this that don’t entail depriving landlords of rental income. Spread the burden among all taxpayers. Better yet, place the burden of paying rent where it belongs — on renters.
The key point, though, is that this is Congress’ call, not Joe Biden’s. Biden has admitted as much. He is knowingly violating the Constitution he swore to uphold.