Gov. Asa Hutchinson brags along with four other governors in a Washington Post op-ed about their successful strategy of keeping their states open for business.
He was joined by Mark Gordon of Wyoming, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Mike Parson of Missouri.
Arkansas and the others are a model for the rest of the country, they say. Why, we have K-12 “virtual learning,” the governor boasts. If you have a computer and a WiFi signal maybe you do. And engaged parents to keep you on task.
But let’s get real. Better than half of the state’s general revenue-supported operation has been pretty well defunct — public schools and colleges. All made efforts, some valiant, but the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees‘ aggressive assertion Monday that they intended to have real college next fall is a good indication of how closely the substitute measures up to the old reality. Football was first on their agenda, by the way.
State revenue plunged a quarter-of-a-billion dollars in April because of business shutdowns somewhere or another. Asa can call these pieces of the economy if he wants. But pretty soon you’re talking real money. Restaurants, bars, barbershops, gyms, etc. The biggest single chunk of the economy, medical, including dentists and optometrists, have been hammered. Understandably.
Prisons ARE open and Asa has resisted cutting many prisoners loose. At least one of the prisons, Cummins, is a giant toxic viral load.
He has protected landlords. They’re in business evicting the unfortunate. We didn’t earn our reputation as the worst landlord-tenant state in the country for no reason.
Our virus infection rate, hospitalization rate and death rate have been low, though many question the reliability of the data. For one thing, our testing rate has been low and focused almost exclusively on the sick.
But hear the governors:
We knew it was critical, even as the coronavirus has spread, that our state economies keep moving. Agriculture, energy and manufacturing are the backbone of the Midwest and Great Plains. Our beef, pork and poultry feed the world. Our oil, ethanol, coal and wind fuel the country’s businesses.
Like other states, we did have to close pieces of our economies temporarily. To meet this challenge, our states moved quickly to cut red tape and allow private employers to pivot to new business models. Successes include restaurants selling food packaged for commercial use and loosened regulations for day care to expand access to child care for our workforces. The relationships our community bankers have built with businesses over the years helped our region lead the nation for the amount of eligible payroll funding enrolled in the Paycheck Protection Program. All of this helped mitigate the job losses that are drowning unemployment benefits systems nationwide.
Red tape? Shall we talk about Arkansas’s handling of unemployment claims? Or the tardy arrival of the benefits for independent contractors? How about the crony-infected cluster**** of a small business back-to-work grant program? How about letting infected guards and nursing home workers continue to work under the guise of emergency need? Do these people not go home at night, with perhaps a stop at the convenience store on the way?
Stipulated: This was an unprecedented, imaginable crisis. Arkansas has listened to health experts. The governor has been accessible to a fault. But he has resisted stronger measures, including some sought by the mayor of the state’s largest city.
Every state is decidedly not the same, as the governors say. We may have dodged a bullet. Whether by luck or excellent decisions we may never know. And that’s my point. There is so much yet unknown, including the accuracy of expert predictions of a resurgence of the virus and the uncertainty of treatment regimens and the development of a vaccine. The very nature of the disease evolves, with new reporting today about a mutant strain, even more deadly, that developed in Europe.
Self-congratulation just strikes me as risky.
As we move into the next phase of managing the pandemic and consider President Trump’s guidelines for “Opening Up America Again,” we are applying our propensity for planning to reopen the segments of our economies that temporarily closed. Each of us has identified triggers for when regions of our states and sectors of our economies should reopen, based on metrics tailored to our unique circumstances. As we navigate this new phase, we are sharing expertise and best practices on how to safely reopen restaurants, churches, gyms and other businesses while continuing to slow the spread of infection.
Hell, the gyms just opened YESTERDAY. Already we say they’ve “safely” reopened?
Elective surgeries resumed fitfully this week. Doctors, not just those that perform abortions, are howling because the testing requirement is so problematic in Arkansas. Restaurants haven’t reopened yet and some won’t because they think it’s cockamamie and the guidelines not suitable for profitable operation. We NEVER closed churches. And one of the worst outbreaks anywhere was from an evangelical program at a rural church.
And that food production thing? They tell me some of those big meat processors are experiencing a few COVID-19 problems. Ask the folks in Springdale.
Maybe next winter we WILL look back and thank our stars and the wise guidance of these governors for saving their states from perils that wracked others.
Caution says you’d save a victory lap like this for later.
The core reasons our states are open for business are the tenacity, grit and heart of our residents. Their clear-eyed, common-sense approach helped keep our states on track and have set us up to come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. We look forward to leading the way.
Caution isn’t much in fashion today. People are tired of staying home, dammit! The impatient, the selfish, the foolhardy, the spit-flecked gun-waving neo-Nazis and the rest, particularly the corporatists with depleted bank accounts and the politicians who rely on them for campaign money, must be served.