Let me begin by wishing those of you reading this article my continued prayers for good health. Like any strategic business plan, it's not enough to just build the plan and hope that the assumptions that formulated the plan's contents were accurate. Any business plan worth its salt needs to be continually reviewed and measured in response to business results and market conditions. Case in point, the plans established by businesses for 2020. Did anyone's plans take into account a world pandemic? Doubtful. Given the current circumstances, would it make sense to maintain the original plan developed for 2020? To do so would be to accept living in a different reality than the one we are experiencing today. Business survival dictates that we re-consider our original plans and strategize, taking into account our new reality.
As I remain sequestered, I have had plenty of time to keep apprised of how the current COVID-19 situation is being handled across our nation. Although we are still in the midst of this crisis, I think it's both fair and prudent to inspect how this is being managed and the steps we might consider to rapidly exit from the current situation.
First, whether you're a fan of the President or not, the results that have been delivered by the Federal Government under his leadership have been nothing short of amazing. Whether it was the early decision to ban travel from China and Europe, the marshaling of federal agencies including FEMA, the U.S. Military, Army Corps. of Engineers and others, these decisions and actions along with the role being played by the private sector are largely responsible for both saving lives and helping to seemingly turn the corner on the spread of the virus.
Let's put these decisions and actions into context. The President's decision to ban travel came under significant attack from his political opponents and the biased media. With claims of xenophobia and racism this decision was excoriated by both adversaries. Funny that I don't hear this discussed much these days. In addition, while the media and the President's political opponents would have you think that healthcare delivery is the responsibility of the Federal Government, this couldn't be farther from the truth. This responsibility resides with our States. The fact that the Federal government in a period of a few short weeks has worked with the private sector to provide State's most in need with medication, masks, gowns, ventilators and excess hospital capacity is nothing short of miraculous. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have made this happen. What we are witnessing here is called leadership. We are also witnessing decisions and actions that are not politically motivated. I wish I could say this of all our elected officials. The Federal government's actions during this crisis are an example of government doing the things it should. Has the Federal government been perfect. Certainly not. The CDC had initial testing availability issues and the statistical models that have been used to forecast the spread and mortality rate associated with the virus have been wildly inaccurate, misleading and in some respects have created more fear than this virus warrants. The failure of these models is also causing poor decision making and the delivery of resources to areas where it turns out they're not needed. That said, the President's handling of this at the Federal level has been quite good.
When looking at the biggest obstacles to dealing with COVID-19 and the most significant challenges that have been created as a result, I can only draw the conclusion that government is a significant problem.
Let's consider the aforementioned availability of COVID-19 testing availability. We initially learned that the early testing kits from the CDC (government) were faulty. This is understandable, nothing is perfect. What we then learned is that there were mountains of regulations which were inhibiting the creation, mass production and distribution of tests. So I ask the question, what is the purpose of these regulations? Yes, these were set aside by President Trump, but why are they there in the first place? Granted, some of these regulations may be warranted, however, no human alive could possibly know all the laws and regulations that govern healthcare providers and pharma companies. Since many of these regulations impede our ability to respond rapidly to unexpected viral outbreaks and illnesses in general, maybe it's time to re-think the crushing regulations that hamper innovation and responsiveness in these sectors.
Let's take a look at hospital beds and ventilators. As a tax paying resident of the State of New York I find my governors' hypocrisy related to these topics mind-numbing. Instead of graciously thanking the Federal Government for assistance, until recently he had consistently complained about not having enough beds or ventilators to handle the anticipated spike in COVID-19 patients. I wish the governor would spare us these complaints particularly since it is his own laws and inaction which have contributed to these situations. In the case of hospital beds, the number of hospital beds in our state have declined by over 20,000 in recent years. Why you ask? Well, New York, like many States have laws which prohibit hospitals from expanding and purchasing specific type of equipment without direct State government approval. So instead of letting the free market dictate the availability of healthcare, we have a State government that attempts to 'manage' this directly. Sounds to me like less government and more free market would have likely made a significant difference in dealing with our current situation. As for ventilators, our governor was told in 2015 by his own health department that any serious health crisis would result in the need for many more ventilators. This came with a recommendation to purchase additional equipment. What did our governor do? Nothing. He failed to purchase any additional ventilators.
While we're discussing the governor, let's provide another example. At this point in time we are beginning to see significant data indicating that the combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azythromicin can be an effective treatment for those infected with the virus. Considering that prescribing this combination of medication has limited side effects and can potentially keep people from having to be hospitalized you might think that Governor Cuomo would be an advocate of such treatment. Nope, not here in New York. At this writing, doctors are not capable of writing prescriptions for these medications as a treatment for COVID-19 unless a patient has already been hospitalized. If they do they are subject to fines, loss of their license and imprisonment. Is Governor Cuomo a doctor you ask. Not the last time I checked, but this is yet another example of government interfering with the relationship between a doctor and their patient and imposing their will on the populous.
For those of you who think nationalized healthcare is a panacea I ask you to consider the situation described above and to ask yourself whether you want government making the decision about what course of treatment you can or cannot receive should you become ill.
On this same topic, do governors really have the legal authority to force privately held businesses to close? And who determines what businesses are essential vs. non-essential? Why are marijuana shops considered essential, while gun stores are not? Why can I purchase alcohol at a drive up liquor store but I can't remain in my car and attend a drive-in church service? Any governor who has taken such action and made such determinations should be responsible to their constituents to clearly show where such power is granted in their State Constitution. In reviewing the United States Constitution this power doesn't seem to be granted anywhere and since many State Constitutions are similar in structure and design, it is likely that these governors are stepping well beyond their authority.
Finally, let's turn our attention to Congress (see related article https://www.dendogstrategy.com/post/term-limits). They might offer the best examples of why less government is the key to our rapid recovery from COVID-19. Given the crisis we are facing, what have the masterminds in Congress done to help remedy the situation. You might suggest that they recently passed a third 'stimulus' bill in an effort to pump liquidity into the economy. Certainly there were aspects of this bill which were meaningful. However, a significant portion of the bill is completely useless unless you have political motivations. For example, somehow the 'stimulus' bill provides funding for the Kennedy Center, PBS and National Public Radio. What these constituencies have to do with COVID-19 I have yet to determine. This bill also doles out money to individuals and families based upon income classifications. Funny, I didn't know that COVID-19 infected people based upon economic status, but apparently Congress believes this to be the case. The bill not only provides financial support to individuals and families as outlined above but also for those who become unemployed as a result of the virus (a good thing no doubt). However, in their mad rush to pass something Congress also designed the bill so that individuals losing their jobs or furloughed would receive up to $1,100 per week in government assistance regardless of whether they were making this amount when employed. For individuals making less than this level when employed, what incentive do they have to go back to work when they can make more money by staying home until the government benefits run out? In their infinite wisdom, Congress also made assistance to businesses contingent upon them using the funds to keep employees on the payroll. For small businesses like restaurants and the like who have been closed by their respective governors, why would you take this money. Sure you can pay your employees, but if you can't open your doors, how do you pay your rent, electricity, heat etc. You have employees to serve customers. If governors are keeping you closed you have no customers and hence no reason to have employees. The list of nonsense in the most recent 'stimulus' bill goes on and on. The examples above just scratch the surface and provide more validation that government creates more problems than it solves.
It seems that Congress' answer to any crisis is to spend more of our money. Why not provide a payroll tax holiday or eliminate taxes for small businesses directly shut down by government decree? This wouldn't cost the American taxpayer a dime! Why do I never hear Congress or my governor proposing ideas that don't involve spending more money? This continued spending is going to create a downstream crisis that could very likely make this pandemic look like a picnic. It's time for our politicians to show some fiscal responsibility.
What could our elected officials do at this point to move us rapidly through this crisis? In my view it's time to engage the business community and ask for their input concerning the most effective and safe means of getting back to business. One thing we know about private enterprises is that they innovate; they adjust. Long lasting businesses know how to overcome challenges and adversity. This situation is no different.
If grocery stores and the Post Office can remain open, having taken appropriate precautions, why can't other businesses do the same? Why can't restaurants re-open and seat a limited amount of customers at scheduled times ensuring that customers remain adequately separated and the restaurant is appropriately cleaned prior to the next group of patron's being seated? Why can't businesses re-open and either rotate in-office employees or establish policies that permit employees at risk to continue working remotely?
Should we keep businesses in the hardest afflicted areas closed? Maybe so. However, for businesses located in areas with limited impact, taking draconian measures seems a bit overkill.
Ultimately, decisions with respect to opening businesses and patronizing them should be left to businesses and citizens. When government begins to prohibit businesses and citizens from engaging in normal activities our freedom hangs in the balance.
The time has come to get government out of the way, look in the mirror and take back our lives. Our freedom depends up it.