Lockdowns have consequences.
While it’s important that America followed President Trump’s lead to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s time to lift the lockdown restrictions in most places and reopen our economy to get back to our regular lives.
Americans are conditioned to liberty — not lockdown.
Americans don’t want an indefinite government check — they want their jobs and their lives back having learned to protect themselves.
Standing in the way of that are some governors who want to place high bars on re-opening their economies. As citizens of a democracy, there are some things that should scare the daylights out of us.
Government abuse of "emergency" powers should be right at the top of the list.
Americans should be extremely wary of power-hungry leaders who may unnecessarily prolong draconian economic restrictions in regions that have successfully overcome or prevented COVID-19 outbreaks.
As a former governor, I’m deeply concerned about the long-term ramifications of letting leaders get away with trampling on individual liberties in an effort to demonstrate that they’re doing something about the coronavirus pandemic, even in areas that had little incidence of the virus or where few healthy people are at risk anymore.
In Illinois, a county judge has already ruled against Gov. J.B. Pritzker, saying he "shredded the Constitution" by extending a strict stay-at-home-order order that disproportionately impacted residents of rural communities.
"The message is clear, we are not Chicago and we already distance ourselves just by our rural life styles," declared Illinois State Representative Darren Bailey, who filed the lawsuit and is technically the only person exempted from adhering to Pritzker’s order until others join his lawsuit.
"Why should we be punished with the loss of jobs and closing our businesses when the coronavirus emergency isn’t the same for us?"
The Illinois governor, who immediately requested an emergency stay of the ruling, blasted Bailey for challenging his unilateral exercise of sweeping powers that inherently infringe on individual liberties, arguing that "people’s safety and health have now been put at risk" because the courts agreed that Bailey had the law on his side.
Pritzker wasn’t the first Democratic governor to offer this demagogic justification for exceeding his legal authority.
He won’t be the last.
Right across Lake Michigan from Illinois, for instance, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was forced to beat an unceremonious retreat after pushing Michiganders too far with stay-at-home orders that forbade citizens from visiting their own property or purchasing certain products at stores that are otherwise open for business based on the same pretense Pritzker employed.
She’s clearly desperate to retain her remaining emergency powers — but thanks to ordinary citizens standing up for their rights, the chastened chief executive now has to ask a deeply suspicious legislature for permission to extend her orders by an additional 28 days.
Citizens of the United States are not servants of the government.
The government and its agents are the servants of the people.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was particularly explicit when he lectured a reporter on the ethics of quarantines after being asked about the economic impact of lockdown restrictions, callously dismissing the financial struggles of working families who have been harshly impacted by the pandemic.
"How can the cure be worse than the illness, if the illness is potential death?" Cuomo scoffed.
"It's not just about you … Get your head around the 'we' concept. It's not all about you. It's about me too. It's about we," he argued, adding that Americans who are facing economic hardship should simply "take a job as an essential worker."
Despite his previous praise for the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, Cuomo is now resisting the White House timeline for reopening New York, preferring a plan that keeps people confined to their homes for longer than public health experts consider necessary.
But the issue of excessive stay-at-home orders goes beyond economic well-being.
There is also a very real danger posed by an idle citizenry denied access to normal diversions. Over the past month, New York City has seen a jaw-dropping spike in crime, including a 55% increase in murders compared to the same time last year.
Why are the victims of violent crime not worthy of the same single-minded attention that Cuomo lavishes on COVID-19?
For that matter, why aren’t the mental health consequences of extended isolation — an issue that Cuomo also downplayed during the same press conference — not a challenge that our society should also tackle together?
While it’s obviously not the right time for every part of the country to start reopening their economies, it’s important to start having an earnest national conversation about the true long-term risks of excessive economic lockdowns.
History has shown that exceptional powers granted to governments in times of crisis aren’t always readily relinquished after the emergency is over.
That is precisely why the Trump administration recently launched its Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a program that provides state and local officials with specific, data-driven criteria and a detailed, multi-phase plan so they can reopen their economies as quickly and safely as possible.
Already, half of all Americans reside in states that are already beginning to take the first steps toward returning to normalcy.
While President Trump is determined to defeat the invisible enemy and save American lives, he also understands that the U.S. economy can’t remain in suspended animation forever. It's time to responsibly phase out obsolete stay-at-home orders before they start doing more harm than good.
Mike Huckabee was the 44th governor of Arkansas and a 2016 Republican candidate for president. He is currently host of "Huckabee" on TBN.
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