Back to work: Meet common sense

By Reade Brower | May 21, 2020

When it comes to going back to work and creating some slice of normalcy into our routines, common sense is needed now, more than ever.

The premise is always, “When in doubt, bet on common sense. When in more doubt, bet on more common sense.” If society can do that, and get the politics pushed to the side, America wins, life goes on, and our economy has a chance to rebound.

The challenges are multilayered. First and foremost, our politicians, led by our president, have mangled this. The not-so-fake “New York Times” had an article recently pointing out succinctly how we are not following the playbook of countries who have more successfully managed the COVID-19 crisis.

While our president has decided to blame China and the Democrats, other countries have put “sweeping programs that directly pay companies to retain their workers” while the crisis continues. Action meets the commonsense principle where blame does nothing to move us forward when it doesn’t come with a plan — in the case of blame China, the plan is to punish them and, from this seat, having a kid sit in the corner, with a dunce hat on, is not a successful long-term strategy.

While other countries made the decision to “maintain connections with their employees,” rather than allowing for unemployment claims to shoot up, the U.S. took a different approach.

The Paycheck Protection Act did some of that, but at $350 billion of the $2 trillion stimulus program, it was overshadowed by checks to most Americans ($1,200) and unemployment legislation that was in many cases nonsensical. Many Americans make more on unemployment than they did at their jobs because the federal government is adding $600 a week onto all those qualifying for unemployment. How dumb is that — workers making more money not working than they were when employed. Further expansion of the PPA would have kept the connection between company and employee constant, but we chose a different direction.

The results speak for themselves; the U.S. unemployment rate is now 14.8%. That compares to Canada at 9.8%, Norway at 4.8%, U.K. at 4.1%, Australia at 3.8%, and Denmark at 3.1%. With practically no unemployment, New Zealand (1.6%), France (0.4%), Netherlands (0.1%) and Germany (0.1%) are countries that chose PPA-type action. The numbers don’t lie.

The stimulus checks have not had the desired effect economically. Yes, President Trump’s signature has earned him brownie points, but many Americans have put that money into bank accounts or used it to pay down debt. Neither spurs on the economy. With businesses and restaurants closed, it makes it hard to stimulate any commerce now, yet our Congress is still looking to pass another round of stimulus that includes another $1,200 check. This doesn’t meet the commonsense guideposts.

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While cavalier contact doesn’t make sense now, neither does living in a bubble.

Letting immune systems build up antibodies is something that requires a commonsense approach. While washing hands and wearing masks and gloves makes sense, desensitizing ourselves to all germs does not work because it is impossible to do. If you do not expose yourself to the outside world, your body becomes more sensitive to picking up the germs we are desperately trying to avoid.

Getting back to normalcy, such as eating out and going to group settings, comes with risks, but so does staying away from that. The middle ground needs to be dictated by science and statistics.

The statistics suggest the curve has flattened and is decreasing, allowing us to consider opening back up. If that changes, so should our strategy. Even with testing increased, the average new cases per week has fallen from a weekly high of 226,181 on April 10 to 162,500 on May 15, the lowest since March 27. The other significant number to look at is number of deaths. A high weekly average of 15,410 was recorded on April 17; on May 15 there were 9,792 — the lowest since the April 3 report.

We hear a lot about the cure being more destructive than the disease. If keeping our country closed causes more harm in human carnage than opening it up, that is a reasonable argument.

Then there is the argument of individual freedom; mandatory masks in public, rules about how many people we can congregate with, etc., are causing protests and disunity. This is nothing new; there has always been the “yin and yang” that balances societies.

Common sense demands this is not the time and place for such discord — opening with rules makes sense. Rules are part of our everyday lives. Many states demand you wear helmets on motorcycles, and you can’t drive your car as fast as you want.

Freedom of choice is an argument being used by those who “want what they want.” This doesn’t move us forward unless backed by science and a plan that includes easy testing and contact tracing.

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“The being cannot be termed rational or virtuous, who obeys any authority, but that of reason.” — Mary Wollstonecraft, reformer and writer (1759-1797)

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