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Reopening America Is the Only Bailout States Need

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Americans are weary and worried. They are fatigued and stressed by lockdowns, by local businesses staying closed for so long, and by not being able to travel and connect with friends and family. With every day that passes, Americans’ desire grows to return to the strong economy we had in February. 

Unfortunately, some states are choosing control and fear over freedom and a return to the strong American way of life. 

In March, some governors had their entire states on lockdown

Like FDR during the 1930s, President Trump said to not let fear become worse than the crisis itself.

Those locked states predictably had their economies go belly up as unemployment skyrocketed and small businesses closed permanently.

Now, instead of taking responsibility, these state leaders are begging federal taxpayers to bail them out from the consequences of their recent bad decisions, as well as from years of bad fiscal management.  They are asking for, minimally, half a trillion dollars on top of the billions they’ve already received

These bailouts would excuse states for shuttering their economies for longer than necessary and also force taxpayers everywhere to reward them for fiscally irresponsible policies that existed before the current crisis—like out-of-control Medicaid spending and bloated public employee pension liabilities.

The bottom line is that responsible states from Nebraska to Florida shouldn’t have to pay the price for decades of reckless decisions made by Illinois and New York and California and too many other states. Period.

Thankfully, the Trump administration and many state and federal lawmakers have resisted the calls for more massive bailouts, which has had the desired effect of forcing states to reopen their economies, getting workers back on their feet and tax revenue flowing again. 

And, despite the draconian warnings from politicians and so-called experts, Americans have so far managed to avoid a second COVID-19 spike through social distancing and other reasonable measures, even as states have reopened.

Just as important, those ready to get back to normal have been empowered by the president’s move to cut red tape and speed up the glacial pace of bureaucracy through an executive order, designed to spur economic growth and unleash the innovation of our nation’s entrepreneurs, small business owners, and workers. Numerous governors have taken the same approach getting government out of the way and helping people get back to work.

Unfortunately, these pro-growth efforts—combined with resistance to reckless bailouts—have been held back by countless Americans who can’t manage to open their small businesses. And it’s not due to COVID-19—it’s because many can make more on unemployment than taking a new job.

Indeed, from coffee shops in rural Kentucky to restaurants in Oregon to mom-and-pop shops in Arkansas, entrepreneurs throughout the nation have been unable to compete with the government’s offer of more for not working, plus moving them towards Medicaid for all.

The reality is that the economy won’t reopen if people don’t have an incentive to return to work and the unrest and stress of being isolated will grow

Unfortunately, in the so-called HEROES Act, some politicians want to expand this untenable situation for another six months, further stalling our nation’s recovery until after the November election. 

This is flatly wrong: Expanding the massive unemployment bonus—which is already 24 times greater than the $25 per week unemployment hike provided during the 2009 recession—or even giving the impression that it will be extended, will further delay the revitalization of the economy that we so desperately need. 

Americans are ready to live in freedom and prosperity again. They’re ready to work, go out to eat, shop, and be with their friends and families. The pulse of the public says that it is time to reopen—safely but reopen. But Americans are not ready or willing to bail out states for problems that existed long before COVID-19 or to delay the economic recovery by another 180 days or more.

The only bailout states need is a reopened America and a return to the hardworking American spirit and ideal we had in February. That is the only sustainable path to restoring state budget integrity and rebuilding the economy. Thankfully, President Trump and many governors and leaders are standing strong. 

Tarren Bragdon is the chief executive officer at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

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