We have just locked ourselves down for a number of weeks, bringing almost everything to a screeching halt, and our federal government has spent trillions of dollars of borrowed money in the process. What are we accomplishing? If we had been able to take a two-week hiatus to knock the COVID-19 virus in the head, and then return to normal, that would have been one thing. Instead we have been many weeks in lockdown, and still have no clear path forward.
What would have happened had we called upon our government to have the experts inform us of the risks, and let us each deal with the facts based upon our individual circumstances? Arguably, we’d be much better off. Instead, what our government has done is bring our economy to a standstill while they busied most of the nation with trying to figure out how we can access the trillions it has borrowed and are now doling out. All of this activity is diverting us from the real task at hand, that of working to address our individual issues, of not getting sick while keeping the bills of our households and businesses paid.
So after these numbers of weeks, we are still face-to-face with the virus and the issues related to it. If businesses actually receive the government money, they are then required to keep the employees on the payroll, or will have to repay it. Many businesses and households report that they have yet to see the promised assistance.
The fact is, government overcommitted and vastly under-delivered. The plan required a lot more money than they thought, and a lot more manpower than they had available. But even if the federal government had committed the additional trillions of dollars necessary to match what they told the American people, their plan only took us to July. Then what? This virus is not going away soon, and people aren't likely to be out and about at the same level as before. Cape May County in season is all about lots of people; we hope to see them, but they aren’t likely to pack in tightly, nor should they. By their avoiding crowded situations, we may see less spending. That means fewer jobs for employees and smaller staffs for businesses. It would have been far better for many businesses had they spent the last number of weeks adjusting to the new reality instead of chasing government grants and loans.
The horror which we are currently living out has a parallel in the 1930s. The federal government stepped in, attempting to mitigate a cyclical recession, and created a supply and demand imbalance. Its efforts led us into the Great Depression. According to an historical article by Forbes magazine in 2009, “What prevented the normal forces of supply and demand from working? The main culprit appears to be government policies…”
Cape May County’s situation is much more challenging than most others because our season is upon us, and it is so short. We have to convince Governor Murphy to allow us to accommodate the customers who desire to be served, with the employer, employees and the customers knowing the risks. As I said in an earlier column, life is a risk, when we step into our cars, we are in danger of being one of the 37,000 who die on America’s roads annually, so we drive carefully. We must do the same with our health.
Because COVID is a reality, we avoid crowds and keep our distance; we wear masks; we wash our hands frequently. If we are part of the cohort which is in greater danger from the virus, we exercise far greater caution; older people and people with health issues must show greatest care. Again, we need to encourage our governor to open up our economy, while looking to the federal and state governments to keep us all informed of developing safety measures and risks.
When we look for government to do too much, we are frequently disappointed. This is a case in point.