Civic Lessons From COVID-19


Dear Editor,

The 18th Amendment was essentially a public health law to improve social determinants of health before these terms were widely used. It’s an example of an epoch public health policy failure.

States raced to implement strict quarantine policies. Several suggest maintaining until improved testing is widely available. However, what does improved testing mean and what does it accomplish? Testing is not an end point in itself. It is a component of a decision point. Policy makers must explain the purpose. Is this a true need or an imaginary barrier to mask fear of removing restrictions? Even if the sky is falling, voters have the right to transparency.

These policies severely restrict economic activity that resulted in millions unemployed. Tenants cannot pay rent. Landlords cannot pay loans. Less income exists to tax. State policies directly reduced their tax base. The number of states implementing restrictive policies reduce the federal government’s tax base. States are requesting federal aid for lost income caused by state policies. Instead of employing out of work citizens, building domestic capacity, governors outsourced essential medical products overseas.

Strict policies exempted factories producing “essential” healthcare products. However, many “essential” medical products require “nonessential” inputs. The policies shattered supply chains. The abundance of states with similar aggressive policies devastated supply across the country. Since a state cannot force out of state “non-essential” factories to supply internal essential factories, they require federal assistance.

Many of these policies significantly reduce individual rights. Physical protests are strongly “discouraged.” Facebook’s CEO doesn’t understand or agree with protestors concerns about overzealous counterproductive policies. HE censored groups organizing any kind of protest as “fake news” regardless of users’ knowledge, credentials, education, and experience. Many distancing laws include monetary penalty and jail time. We risk fines for protesting policies that cause job loss. We are forced indoors and punished for using parks where UV light and wind evaporate virus droplets. We can be put in jails that lack these protective factors. Exercising personal constitutional freedoms are punished while many criminals are been freed. We are being restricted indoors while prisoners released.

We are citizens of both state and federal governments. Both have competing and overlapping responsibility. Why should the federal government shield states from negative consequences of policies that reduce both tax bases, complicate both coordination efforts, and overzealously impinge on citizens’ individual rights to participate in government?

Alan Burke