Saturday, August 7, 2021

Musings on the Eviction Moratorium and Providing for the Common Good

     By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Last weekend President Biden allowed the eviction moratorium to expire, citing legal issues and over $42 Billion in unused federal aid available for renters.  The Editorial Board of The Washington Post concurred with Biden, but after a frenzy of opposition from leftist Democrats, Biden reversed his position and supported extending the moratorium.

Extending the eviction moratorium in spite of legal and Constitutional issues and existing federal aid for renters reflects the leftist ideals of progressive Democrats, who also promote $3.5 Trillion more in social programs on top of a massive national debt of over $28 Trillion.  These contentious issues will define the future of American democracy--if it has a future.

A healthy democracy must provide for the common good.  Public welfare should be synonymous with the common good, but it has become a partisan issue.  The Democratic Party has made Black Lives Matter their mantra for social justice issues, and Republicans continue to promote Trump’s racist and radical right politics--and the next election is over a year away.  

Both parties now define welfare and social justice with racial preferences that conflict with the common good.  There was a time when both parties had advocates for public welfare as an essential component of the common good, but those political moderates have disappeared.  They must be restored in Congress to save democracy from its demise.

A major shift in partisan priorities is needed to reconcile public welfare with providing for the common good, and that requires balancing concern for the poor with fiscal responsibility.  President Biden has continued to acknowledge legal issues with the eviction moratorium, but increasingly powerful extremists in both parties have silenced what were once moderate voices.

Pandemic relief measures including the eviction moratorium, increased unemployment compensation and the prospect of additional social welfare benefits proposed by Democrats have increased the expectations of lower income Americans.  Those expectations have encouraged many to remain unemployed, leaving their pre-pandemic job vacancies unfilled.

Providing for the common good in America requires that compassion is balanced with common sense.  David Von Drehl has described the eviction moratorium as “a mess that exposes the decay in American politics.”  Congress must rediscover altruistic values to prevent its polarized politics from further degenerating American democracy into a political circus.      

The eviction moratorium fiasco should have “woke” Americans to the need to balance the altruistic and libertarian values essential in a healthy democracy.  Welfare is neither the enemy nor the primary objective of democracy.  A healthy democracy requires balancing individual rights and partisan objectives with providing for the common good.  Sadly, Americans have allowed distorted partisan loyalties to blind them to seeing the common good.  


The Editorial Board of the Washington Post supported President Biden’s initial decision to allow the eviction moratorium to expire, opining: There’s plenty of money to avoid evictions. States just have to spend it. The opinion went on to say, “The eviction moratorium was a desperate, humane measure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed in September on shaky legal authority. The Supreme Court upheld it only through the end of last month. Some 6.5 million households owe back rent.  The best idea all along was not an eviction moratorium but rental assistance, so that hard-hit tenants could keep their homes and landlords, who still have to service their properties, could also get a lifeline. In fact, Congress approved $47 billion worth of such assistance in successive covid-19 aid bills. The eviction moratorium lasted long enough for states to begin handing out this money. The transition from moratorium to rental assistance should have been smooth. It has instead been devastatingly inefficient: States have distributed only about $3 billion of the $47 billion.”  See

Shortly after President Biden allowed the eviction moratorium to expire, he reversed course and “issued a targeted moratorium on evictions in areas hardest hit by COVID-19, replacing a nationwide evictions freeze that expired Saturday despite legal concerns about doing so unilaterally.  The new action, in effect for 60 days, bans evictions in counties with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, reflecting where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinated residents mask indoors and in public settings.   Biden and Democratic leadership faced a growing backlash from progressive Democrats after the Democrat-controlled House adjourned for recess last week without taking action on a bill that would have renewed the moratorium. It came as the rise in the coronavirus delta variant stoked new fears about a resurging pandemic.  Major legal questions remain, however.  Over the past year, the CDC extended the moratorium meant to help Americans struggling to pay rent during the pandemic three times. But as recently as Monday, the White House said only Congress can extend the evictions freeze again after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the CDC overstepped its authority when it created the policy.”  See

In his erudite way, George Will described “the still-unfolding eviction moratorium as exacerbating a preexisting institutional political ailment in America that includes constitutional disarray.  ...In March 2020, Congress legislated an eviction moratorium applicable to federally subsidized housing expiring in July 2020. In September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an executive branch appendage, began acting as a supplemental legislature. The CDC declared a ban on evictions from any rental housing for nonpayment by individuals making under $99,000 annually or couples making $198,000, who self-certify having suffered pandemic-related financial injury. The Biden administration has extended the ban three times, through July 31. The CDC evidently thinks that it can do things the president clearly cannot ever do: for example, order a national mask mandate. And if Congress has empowered the CDC to suspend any activity involving mobility that might spread an infection, then there is no limit to Congress’s power to delegate to administrative entities essentially legislative power. 

As of June, landlords were owed $27.5 billion in unpaid rents. Almost half of landlords own only one or two rental units. They continue paying mortgages, property taxes, insurance and utilities while the CDC requires them to house nonpaying people or risk jail. Landlords can plausibly argue that the moratorium is a “taking.”  The Constitution says government shall not take private property “for public use, without just compensation.” By ordering yet another extension, Biden has dared the court to defend the separation of powers. Whenever this lawless moratorium seems about to end, there will be another wave of media stories anticipating a tsunami of evictions, triggering calls for what would be a sixth extension. By then an eviction moratorium would seem normal and warranted as “social justice” because evictions might have a “disparate impact” on minorities, and hence be evidence of “systemic racism,” even absent evidence of disparate treatment.  Meanwhile, many tenants who could pay their rent are choosing not to.  Like excessive unemployment benefits, it’s an incentive for some to remain out of the workforce.”  See

Progressive Democrats who were infuriated by Biden’s initial failure to extend the moratorium on foreclosures are now emboldened to shape their leftist agenda for the coming months.  “They plan to keep pressuring the Biden administration to chart a leftward course while vowing to hold party leaders to their promise to move an infrastructure plan only if it is accompanied by trillions of dollars in new social-safety-net spending.  The lawmakers who called on the administration to extend the moratorium, after the White House insisted it did not have the legal authority to do so, said the lesson they took away from the experience is that their activist backgrounds and methods can achieve results,  ‘Activists are in Congress, so let’s be clear: Expect things to be different than maybe what people are used to. We don’t have the same eyes, the same background or agenda as some others,’ said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who slept on the steps of the Capitol to draw attention to the moratorium’s lapse.  But forcing the administration’s hand on an eviction ban may be an easier task than ensuring their priorities do not get shortchanged during the upcoming legislative fights, with Democratic moderates in both chambers wary of the amount of spending liberals are advocating.

The administration has been careful to tend to the needs of liberals when it has drawn their ire, which has bought Biden some goodwill. Many of House liberals’ priorities were included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill enacted earlier this year, such as a larger child tax credit, and the administration and congressional leaders included the Progressive Caucus’ priorities in the social-program spending package. Hiccups along the way, however, suggest more trouble could be in store for the president in the months ahead with the left wing of his party. There is lingering dissatisfaction on the left that a campaign promise to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour has yet to be realized. Liberals are pressing Biden to do more on immigration, voting rights, climate change and gun control. See

David Von Drehle best summed up the eviction moratorium as a "mess that exposes the decay in American politics. “A last-minute order by unelected bureaucrats to extend the pandemic moratorium on evictions is perhaps humane — if landlords aren’t human — but in other ways is a billboard displaying so much that is wrong with American politics. It is an example of posturing over governing. The moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September 2020 (and extended multiple times) was an emergency response to an emergency situation: When covid-19 hit, the economy shut down overnight. Millions were thrown out of jobs. No one knew quite what to expect. For multitudes to lose their homes would have been an unnecessary additional calamity. The long-term solution was to restore the economy, which has been done in significant measure. The midterm solution was to provide financial aid to pandemic victims so they could keep up with their rent through the crisis. That money — tens of billions — was appropriated. But through failures of government, the bulk of the relief is sitting unused. Whatever crisis was created when the moratorium on evictions expired on July 31, it was a crisis of competence, not of caring. Governments across the country have failed to deliver available aid to the people who need it. But instead of solving that problem, the CDC order extending the moratorium is almost certainly illegal and fails to address the core problem. Posturing in such ways rather than finding solutions is a poison in the bloodstream of modern politics.It’s a free country, and Americans can subscribe to a belief that property is theft if they want to. But the law says otherwise. People are allowed to purchase real estate and to rent their property for money. There is no moratorium on mortgage payments for landlords. Their bills come due every month.

It's all about competence vs. posturing. As a society, we decided through our elected officials to cushion the impact of the pandemic on renters and landlords. Huge sums of money have been appropriated for that purpose. The task of government bureaucracies is to distribute that relief to legitimately needy renters so they can pay what they owe. Instead we have a bureaucracy, the CDC, depriving property owners of contractual protections month after month — while members of Congress and the administration maneuver to blame the Supreme Court for future evictions. 

In sum: political decay dressed up to look like compassion.” See

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