It is time America went back to work. People want to work. We understand that self-sufficiency and meaningful employment is part of the good life — the American dream.
Medical leaders have advised us to distance ourselves from each other and to lock ourselves into our homes. The vast majority of the country has undertaken these measures and heeded the counsel regarding improving our hygienic habits.
Our caregivers and first responders have undertaken risks to themselves to provide assistance to our communities. I am grateful to them. I advocate that we continue to follow the patterns of behavior that will reduce the risk of community spread.
At some point, though, we cross from a mitigation period of separation to inducing health and societal problems from poverty and economic duress.
We are crippling our economy and witnessing the destruction of the life savings of entrepreneurs and investors who have created small and medium-sized businesses. At least 10 million workers have lost their jobs over the past two weeks. Friday’s jobs report showed that the unemployment rate worsened by almost a full percentage point in March, and it’s only likely to get worse. A quarter of small businesses say they’re close to closing, so millions more workers are expected to be unemployed in the weeks and months ahead.
Restaurants are shedding employees and shutting down as state and local governments are urging people to sequester themselves in their homes. By some estimates, 40% of those that close temporarily will close forever.
State and local governments are issuing “shelter in place” orders and attempting to enforce them at the point of a gun and handcuffs. The politicians are trampling on constitutionally recognized rights and preventing people from making their own economic choices.
There are ways to deal with the spread of this virus without further economic devastation and unconstitutional government mandates. Information from medical experts indicates that the most susceptible to the virus are the aged and the infirm. We should protect them and those who interact with them. Our policies regarding health should be to control the access to our most vulnerable population. We should test our elderly care workers, medical care providers, and first responders first and regularly. As they come into contact with the at-risk population, we can regulate those interactions appropriately.
Shutting down the economic life of the nation (not to mention constitutionally protected rights) has its own risks, which may be worse than the disease itself. We see this in the philosophy of the various states. Some governors are closing down their states completely. Others, such as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, have urged their citizens to adhere to healthy guidelines but have refused to enforce quarantines.
As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis noted earlier when he rejected a mandated shelter-in-place policy, when Florida has previously resorted to such extreme measures, there was a correlated increase in a number of societal pathologies. Child abuse, suicides, drug abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes increased.
Governors resisting stay-at-home mandates have been criticized for their refusal to overreach, but even their states have been economically devastated by their responsible measures employed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Many states have forcibly closed or jawboned against “nonessential” businesses.
But every sole proprietor and small business entrepreneur believes their business is essential. Restaurants provide essential dietary services for many senior citizens. Even flower shops become essential because families want floral remembrances at funeral services.
When you have used your life savings or mortgaged your house to take a risk to create a business, you truly believe that your business is providing something essential to your community.
In normal times, we let the market determine what businesses are essential. If the consumers in the community want your product, they will be willing to forgo some other item to purchase your product. If your store is not essential, it will go out of business.
Currently, state and local governments are attempting to determine what businesses are essential. In the process, they are wiping out the soul of the American economy.
It’s time for a new approach, one that values and protects all life. We must give hope to the public and set forth a plan to reopen the economy and remove oppressive government restrictions. Right now, the cure is proving worse than the disease itself.
Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican, represents Arizona’s 5th District in Congress. He is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. You can follow him on Twitter: @RepAndyBiggsAZ.