Governors vs COVID-19: Hobson’s Choice or Sophie’s Choice?

Last week, President Trump stated that he had the power to reopen the economy and intimated that he would soon do so. Governors immediately pushed back on that notion, the loudest, biggest mouth in the room being New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo said that in America, “we don’t have a king. We have a president.” He said that according to the Constitution, the governors have this sole power.  I maintain now, as I did then, that the president played the governors, particularly Cuomo, baiting them to push back in order to get them to “own it” in a very public way – which they did – so that there would be no confusion, no way out. Cuomo was – as usual – especially vocal, taking the bait and marking his territory with his usual false bravado.

Suddenly, when the Constitution suited his political purposes, Andrew Cuomo enrobed himself in it. Likewise, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey and others. Many governors didn’t mind so much when President Trump acted essentially unilaterally to shut down the economy, since they knew it would cause widespread pain and hardship that they could then blame on Trump, using the issue as a political cudgel during an extremely contentious, vitriolic campaign. Now that the President wants to begin to heal the pain, the Governors suddenly want their Constitutional powers back so that they can keep their states shuttered and make the pain deeper and longer-lasting, hopefully till November 3rd, in order to destroy Donald Trump’s economy and therefore, the man himself.

After reclaiming their territory and removing President Trump from the equation, Governors Cuomo, Murphy and others now suddenly want him back in their lives. Having driven their respective states into financial ditches through bloated pension systems, pork and so much corruption, mismanagement and failed leadership, governors are bitching and complaining – especially Cuomo – that they don’t have the money to implement the reopening of their states. Admitting New York is “broke,” Cuomo even visited the White House on his knees earlier this week to plead his case. In my fantasies, I pictured the meeting playing out much like Johnny Fontaine’s visit to Don Corleone.

Governors wanted their Constitutional powers, demanded them and President Trump acquiesced. Be careful what you wish for.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced a plan this week that would allow barber shops, nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, gyms and other businesses to open Friday (April 24). If Georgians can master the art of hairstyling, manicures, massage and tattooing while remaining six feet apart, then we may be on the precipice of the latest innovation in safe sex since Ancient Romans started using sheep and goat intestines and bladders as condoms. That’s Georgia. They boil crunchy peanuts until they have the texture of baked beans. What can I tell you?

President Trump told reporters that Georgia’s Coronavirus case numbers don’t meet the threshold needed to reopen under White House guidelines.: “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree, strongly, with his decision to open certain facilities.” The President added, “he must do what he thinks is right.”

I spend a lot of time immersed in news, politics and culture. As far as reopening the economy is concerned, I find most do not straddle the fence but stand firmly on one side of the issue or the other, sometimes for their own personal reasons, sometimes for their own political reasons, sometimes simply out of hatred for Donald Trump, sometimes looking beyond themselves, seeing the whole picture and thinking about the good of the country, sometimes not.  

Many are willing to roll the dice and keep the economy shut down, particularly if a low-risk tolerance has governed their lives, if they are in high-risk categories, if they know someone personally who has become ill or died and/or if they are at a particular station in life where they no longer need to be concerned about money. Those people are certainly free to remain in their homes for as long as they wish and are also free to hand over their stimulus checks to those who could use them.

Others tend to look at the country as a whole, since “we’re all in this together,” seeing the long-lasting or even irreversible damage that can be done to the economy – and our society/culture – if we remain shut down for a protracted period of time…….not the least of which are widespread poverty and the threat to our national security, the former killing more people throughout history than any disease known to man, the latter, a very real possibility at a time when rogue regimes are sabre rattling.  

Then, there’s the third group. They simply want Donald Trump gone. Their blind hatred consumes them, filling every waking moment, the basis of every opinion and decision. If people have to die, if we have to suffer through another Great Depression, it would be worth it, so long as Donald Trump is destroyed. That’s the Bill Maher camp, the media camp, the far-left progressive socialist Democrat camp, the hate-America camp, the hate-Trump-and-his-supporters camp. Their choice? Keep it shut down until November, economy and lives be damned.

In an earlier blog, I outlined the unintended consequences of remaining shut down indefinitely. The poverty-driven despair and desperation that lead to stress and depression that lead to alcoholism and drug abuse that lead to domestic violence, suicide and death cannot be understated.  I cited studies based on real data from past economic downturns, not flawed models, studies which reveal bleak numbers, numbers which would eclipse deaths due to COVID-19.

To define this as a “one automatically equals the other” decision is frankly an oversimplification. Keeping the economy shut down is not going to eradicate Coronavirus any more than gradually reopening the economy is going to kill half the population. Looking at this from thirty-thousand feet, weighing all of the evidence, I have always come down on the side of reopening the economy……not flipping the switch, mind you, but dipping our collective toe in the water, gradually easing ourselves in, taking necessary precautions. Therefore, like President Trump, I strenuously disagree with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s plan.  

The choice now rests with the governors. I don’t envy them. President Trump has made it clear that the White House will let it be known if states attempt to take actions at variance with the new guidelines. Georgia is the first. There will be more.

With that in mind, I have a message for the Trump-haters: Since we have firmly established that your governor has the sole power to reopen your state, should he/she make an ill-advised, bone-headed decision – like Governor Kemp – and you see a rise in Coronavirus cases/deaths in your state, make sure you blame YOUR GOVERNOR, not President Trump. That goes especially for those living in Michigan, California, New York Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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