Governors shouldn't be exempt from the effects of their policies

Governors shouldn't be exempt from the effects of their policies
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) is paid $159,300 a year to harass a 77-year-old man because he chooses to allow customers into his barbershop. Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew Jersey to require masks outdoors New York City schools will reopen, limiting attendance to 1 to 3 days a week Watch live: NY Gov. Cuomo holds press briefing on coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.) is paid $200,000 for decisions to send more than 4,300 recovering COVID-19 patients into nursing homes. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) and Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) all clear well over $150,000 for their services in keeping their states largely locked down, even as the rest of the country begins to reopen.

As the toll on public health starts to subside in each of these states, the unemployment rates have continued to soar. New Jersey and New York are near 15 percent; Michigan is approaching 23 percent; Virginia, 11 percent. But amid all the calamity from what could be the most significant global event of the 21st century, there’s one thing you know you can count on: The governors and their staffs are still getting paid while the residents of these states, who wish to return to work, are not.

So, as we approach the supposed end of most stay-at-home orders across the country, I propose an idea: In states where governors continue to keep businesses closed, governors and their staff should forego salaries.

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State unemployment benefits, funding for hospitals, emergency loans to small businesses — I’m sure the money from those salaries could find more valuable purposes. But the most valuable thing these governors could do is to start opening their states. Most Americans, not wanting to get sick themselves or spread the disease to vulnerable loved ones, are happy to follow distancing and capacity guidelines in the workplace. As states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas have shown, allowing your state to reopen and its businesses to operate doesn’t yield unspeakable disaster. In reality, it allows people to regain their livelihoods, provide for their families, and fuel the local businesses that are essential to local life.

For the governors on the fence about this, here’s a simple rule to follow: If you think it’s okay to stand six feet apart in a grocery store, you also should think it’s okay to sit six feet apart in a restaurant.

Some still will have trouble accepting this idea, pledging an allegiance to “data-based decisions” that refuse to look at the effects of the lockdowns on mental health and suicide rates. So the longer this goes on, the governors who choose to keep businesses closed and force normal people out of work need to answer a very simple question: Why?

It was right in the beginning — the threat of the hospital system being overwhelmed by COVID-19 seemed possible, based on the available data, and calls from medical professionals and political leaders alike to “flatten the curve” were met with attention and care. With all the uncertainty, strong reactions and policies made sense.

Yet, since then, we’ve learned a lot about the virus: its symptoms, how it spreads, who’s most vulnerable and who isn’t. More importantly, we’ve learned a lot about how to keep ourselves from catching the disease — even if it really is as simple as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

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What, then, is the reason to keep Americans willing to go to work, out of work?

Is it to “flatten the curve” — because, nationwide, we’ve done a pretty good job of that. Is it to wait for a vaccine or some kind of proven antiviral — because, while I have faith in America’s scientists, that date may still be a long way away, if it comes at all. Any governor choosing to keep businesses closed and forcing people into unemployment goes beyond moving the goal posts at this point — it’s taking them off the field and pretending that no explanation is required.

States across the country have proven there is a viable path to reopening, to allowing Americans to regain their livelihoods. For the good of the country, every governor should recognize this — or, at the very least, become much, much poorer.

Corey R. Lewandowski is President Trump’s former campaign manager and a senior adviser to the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign. He is a senior adviser to the Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence's political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of “Trump’s Enemies” and of “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski_.