Politicians Aren’t Letting the Coronavirus Crisis Go to Waste

March 28, 2020 Updated: March 29, 2020

Commentary

In the interest of controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, government leaders are operating on the principle that everyone is contagious. As of March 29, at least 26 states will have enacted orders restricting where residents can go and how they congregate.

It’s hard to argue against something called “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” but make no mistake, these orders are draconian and send an ominous message to all businesses and their employees. Such broadside edicts will cause widespread economic damage, and there’s no promise they will keep the public safe.

In fact, it isn’t clear how widespread the coronavirus has or will become. Of the 766,761 tests administered and reported as of March 29, 644,604, or 84 percent, have come back negative, according to the Covid Tracking Project. With the exception of hotspots such as New York City and Seattle and some rural areas, of all the talk of every hospital bursting at the seams, and patients lining up for ventilators, we haven’t seen it.

What we are seeing is panic. Retirement nest eggs have plummeted. Schools and churches have closed their doors. Store shelves are empty. Planes are grounded. Sporting events, graduations, weddings, and funerals have been canceled. We are getting a glimpse of the Soviet Union decades ago.

It’s time to put the crisis in perspective. In an opinion piece on March 13, The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald points out that deaths from coronavirus have represented .000012 percent of the population. More people die from traffic crashes, influenza, opioid overdose, and homicides.

Statistician William Briggs asks if the level of “hyper-concern” is warranted. Briggs looked at the week ending Jan. 25 in the United States and tallied 19 million cases of disease, 180,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths. The illnesses, trauma, and disease run the gamut. The only thing they are missing is one common denominator, like a villain virus that can send the country into a frenzied panic.

It’s hard not to think something more is at stake than protecting the public.

The former mayor of Chicago and adviser to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, once opined about never letting a serious crisis go to waste. Mass shutdowns, with no end in sight, have raised serious questions about our liberty and are threatening our livelihood.

Take some of the state orders prohibiting residents from leaving their homes. Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order, signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was emailed to every licensed business in the state and will be in effect for at least three weeks.

“All Michigan businesses and operations must temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life,” states the order, which is a whopping 13 pages in length. In other words, it applies to nearly all businesses that don’t sell groceries, prepared meals, medication, fuel for vehicles, or veterinary care for pets.

The law prohibits people from inviting friends to their homes. Outdoor recreation is allowed as long as people stay six feet apart. Violators are subject to misdemeanor criminal charges.

There are some exceptions, such as “critical infrastructure workers” and “supply and distribution” centers that cater to them, but you can bet company attorneys are looking at the language very carefully, because providers that “abuse their designation authority shall be subject to sanctions to the fullest extent of the law.”

It will be impossible to enforce this universally and broadly. Get ready for some people to run afoul of the law and not others. Michigan isn’t even considered ground zero for contamination. When Whitmer’s order came down, Michigan had 1,035 positive coronavirus test results and eight deaths, most in one specific part of the state.

Whitmer, who is gaining prominence in the Democrat Party, said March 22 on ABC’s “This Week,” “lives will be lost because we weren’t prepared.” It’s hard to imagine who she’s envisioning. One complaint has been a low supply of ventilators, but at the time that Whitmer made that comment, there were no reports of Michigan patients in the queue for the breathing machines.

Whitmer and other Democrats have used coronavirus to attack the Trump administration. A question to ask Whitmer and the 12 other governors who have shut down their states is why they are being caught short-handed for not having equipment and supplies to handle an emergency? It’s not that the possibility of a pandemic didn’t exist.

One problem has been outdated certificate of need (CON) laws. CON laws subject any expansion of hospital beds, equipment or health service to the approval of an unelectable CON board. These laws protect special interests by keeping competitors out. If the free market was allowed to function in these states, governors wouldn’t be griping about a lack of beds and ventilators, which somehow, they feel is the responsibility of the federal government.

Coronavirus is a serious situation, and nobody wants people to suffer and die. But the solution isn’t to force the heavy hand of government, put the brakes on the economy and fix the damage by throwing nearly $2 trillion of tax money at it. This approach creates panic, destroys the economy, and unravels the foundations of our freedom and prosperity.

Americans, when asked, will step up without the threat of criminal penalty. Individuals can decide how best to protect themselves, without government serving as the national physician.

AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute. Her email is amschieber@heartland.org.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.