President Trump has repeatedly told the country that we cannot afford for the cure to the coronavirus pandemic to be more costly than the disease. Our governor didn’t get the message.
That sounds like a truism and a platitude, but — as our luck would have it — there is a class of politicians seemingly determined to make it so. While ostensibly managing the crisis to protect Coloradans lives, Governor Jared Polis — like other state and local Democrat officials around the country — is doing grave harm to our ability to emerge from this dark chapter quickly once the danger is sufficiently diminished.
Colorado, like virtually every other part of the United States, is under lockdown. Citizens are confined to their homes, most businesses are shuttered, and much of the economy is in hibernation mode. These measures are necessary, at least for the time being. As the world-class public health experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force have made abundantly clear, it is imperative to follow social distancing guidelines in order to “flatten the curve” and prevent our medical system from becoming overloaded.
Commensurate with the government’s responsibility to keep Coloradans safe during the pandemic, however, is the responsibility to ensure that public health remedies don’t trigger an economic depression. On that front, Governor Polis is failing miserably.
If the governor were trying to manage this quarantine in such a way as to maximize the chance of long-term economic disaster, he would be hard-pressed to devise a course of action better suited to that objective than the one he’s chosen.
As any entrepreneur knows, nothing is worse for a business than uncertainty. This pandemic is nothing if not a mass wave of uncertainty: uncertainty about spread, uncertainty about cases, uncertainty about treatment, and uncertainty about when things can finally return to normal.
In uncertain times, government must step in to provide the certainty that society depends on. That’s exactly what the $2.2 trillion dollar relief package that President Trump just signed into law does. The CARES Act provides a pillar that businesses can rely on in the form of low-interest loans that automatically convert to grants as long as they don’t cut jobs. On top of that, the law puts more money in their customers’ pockets, priming the pump for pent-up demand to supercharge our economic recovery.
By contrast, Polis’s recent address to the state did nothing but create more uncertainty. We don’t expect him to know the moment it will be safe to come out, but Polis did far more than leave out an end date. He failed to provide any criteria whatsoever for either opening things back up or modifying his orders to allow essential economic functions. In fact, his arbitrary and summary extension of the lockdown comes amid a decline in new cases of COVID-19 in our state, and the only clue he did provide — “These closures and restrictions will be temporary. But when you lose a life, you lose it forever” — does not inspire confidence. Taken to its logical conclusion, that approach would mean remaining in lockdown forever.
Polis’s failure to offer even a vague reassurance that he has a plan for the economy did not go unnoticed. The entire Colorado House GOP caucus wrote the governor a letter requesting he do so hours before his address. He ignored that request.
I worry, however, that it was something more than a partisan snub. As Polis himself admitted, “The longer this economic paralysis lasts, the fewer jobs there will be to return to, and the more difficult the recovery will be.”
I’ll add to that. The more uncertain businesses are about when they can go back to earning money, the less likely it is that they will be able to weather this storm.
Governor Polis knows what’s at stake. By deliberately introducing unnecessary uncertainty into an already chaotic situation, he’s increasing the chances that the cure will ultimately be worse than the disease.
Tom Tancredo represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009.