Ohio has now joined the other nine (as of this writing) states in lockdown, while several other states have “merely” closed nonessential businesses. Protests against such draconian measures are now cropping up nationwide, with commenters criticizing groupthink in general and raising questions as to whether the blanket approach is necessary, or even the best move. Perhaps building herd immunity might be a more effecting approach in the long run. In any case, certainly, it will be many months or years into the future before the verdict is in as to the worth of shuttering businesses and prohibiting travel. To paraphrase one pundit, “If we wreck the economy, the cure may be worse than the disease.” Will it be worth it? The most extreme views say it will.
Whatever the judgment of history may be, we all have to contend with conditions on the ground now. Governor DeWine was praised for being ahead of the curve in cancelling sports events and urging colleges and universities to ramp up online learning programs. Yesterday’s announcement was more of the same, only restrictive by a greater order of magnitude. Only essential businesses can remain open; that is, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, hardware stores, liquor stores….hold it. Liquor stores? Essential? And how are liquor stores more essential than, say, tattoo parlors, nail salons, and niche boutiques? How does alcohol qualify as more important than books or plants or kitchen gadgets, for instance (and I say this as someone who’s downed a shot or ten once upon a time)? How is social distancing going to work if the liquor stores crowd up? I was building a good head of outrage over this seemingly bizarre–even biased–distinction, when a light dawned. O-h-h-h-h! Wait! We’re talking about state liquor stores here. And where does the revenue go from those operations? And how much are liquor sales going to boom under the lockdown? And what would many voters resent even more than having no restaurants, theaters, or sports? There we have it. Just goes to prove that when it comes to some politicians, the self-serving greed never ends. Kinda blows the altruistic, “concern for the people” meme right out of the water, though. And while I’m on a rant, what sense does it make to close the state parks, which, by definition, epitomize social distancing, especially this time of year? After all, nobody’s on the beaches in forty-degree weather. But….there again, revenue from the parks in March and early April is negligible, so eliminating the upkeep expense puts more money into DeWine’s coffers.
The word so far is that the Congressional vote on financial relief has been delayed because Democrats believe that the Republican proposal is heavy on aid to fat cats and light on assistance to us little guys. Not at all surprising, but meanwhile, conditions grow worse. Denmark decided in a few days’ time to shut down its economy, and their parliament proposed and passed all the necessary measures to help businesses and citizens survive. But the “exceptional” United States again proves to be a miracle of dysfunction, ruled by corporations.
Along those lines, the country seems to be throwing away opportunity with both hands. Short-sightedness prevails. We know we’re in a bad situation, on multiple fronts. We’re collectively afraid, suffering, and strapped for income, so immediate alleviation of those conditions naturally takes the forefront. At the same time, though, we, again collectively, are being presented with the chance of a lifetime to make some fixes. In a recent article, scientist and environmentalist Bill McKibben advocates linking bailout money to certain conditions, unique to each industry that gets a hand-out from the government. As an example, if Uncle Sam, at the behest of the current resident at 1600, dumps a bonanza on the airlines, those companies should have to improve their operations and drastically cut their output of pollution with more fuel-efficient planes and more logical routes. The fossil fuel producers, set to receive even more cash on top of long-standing subsidies, should agree to cease extracting resources and instead move to a focus on renewables. Banks should withdraw support for Big Oil. And so on.
We as a nation are seeing that the sad state of healthcare, medical equipment, and research, along with access to treatment, has never been more glaring. There’s no infrastructure for support organizations to join together to organize their efforts. There’s no unified voice or united effort to solve the health problems facing us: what if Johns Hopkins and the CDC, for instance, were working together? There’s a leadership vacuum at the top of our government that defies description. This crisis, tragic as it is, at the same time provides a real possibility to address and eliminate myriad other ills our nation endures. I’m not ginning up much optimism that we’ll find the political will to demand lasting change, however