Just as the dust is settling on the presidential election and Vice President Joe Biden is being considered the presumptive president-elect, state and local governments have begun reinstating various lockdown measures. With the hope that more bailout money will soon be headed their way under a Biden administration, many Democrat officials are becoming even bolder in their efforts to lock down and control the economy. But not without opposition.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was forced to modify his recent closure of New York City public schools after public backlash that his policies put children’s education behind the economy. In Southern California, people came out to protest new curfew orders that severely limit Californians’ ability to leave their homes at night. And in Pennsylvania, some bars and restaurants outright defied Governor Tom Wolf’s ban on private-sector sales of alcohol on Thanksgiving Eve.
With edicts like these coming down from the top, it’s no surprise families are finding it harder and harder to get by. Businesses have closed up shop all across the country during the pandemic, and even those temporary closures are rapidly turning permanent. According to a Yelp.com local economic impact report, more than 140,000 businesses have closed their doors for good. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans remain unemployed nine months after initial lockdowns took place. And it’s rapidly becoming clearer that lockdowns are also having a dramatic impact on children’s mental health and well-being, not to mention their ability to excel in remote classrooms.
The World Health Organization has even pleaded with leaders to stop using lockdowns as the primary method for combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the economic impacts doing so has on all individuals, and in particular, on the poor.
Yet despite the number of closed businesses, the loss of tax revenue, the impact on families, and public fatigue, Democrat-controlled states and cities are still anxious to continue lockdowns and court the federal government for a bailout.
The truth is, states have been mismanaging their own budgets for decades. Welfare programs have been left open to waste, fraud, and abuse, and states have spent well beyond their means without thought towards long-term consequences. Now, with welfare and unemployment insurance (UI) stretched to the extreme and tax revenues coming to a halt, blue states are banking on a federal bailout—an influx of cash—to camouflage just how self-destructive their policies have been. And if some in Washington get their way, they just might get one.
This week, a coalition of lawmakers released new legislation to pump $908 billion into COVID-19 relief programs, including $160 billion for state and local governments. Such a proposal would likely have been a non-starter for President Donald Trump, who declared in May that “well-run states should not be bailing out poorly run states, using coronairus as the excuse!” But a Democrat in the White House…well, that’s a different story.
Maintaining course and holding strong against bailouts will force state governments’ hands and give businesses a fighting chance. Caving and bailing them out only perpetuates the problem—without any relief for business and without a path forward. Americans do need relief, but not the kind Democrats are after. They need work—not welfare—to stimulate the economy and their lives, and policymakers should act now to end lockdowns and allow businesses to be open.
Chase Martin is the legal affairs director at the Foundation for Government Accountability.