The year 2020 was brutal for stores and restaurants. American retail closures have been at an all-time high and according to the National Restaurant Association about 17 percent of the U.S.’s restaurants (roughly 110,000) closed permanently with thousands more on the brink.
Meanwhile, the government czars are issuing edicts left and right, some from both sides of their mouths. Governor Andrew Couomo, despite his Emmy-winning news conferences, has won over no hearts in the NYC restaurant industry after banning indoor dining. California governor Gavin Newsom has been on an off-and-on-again closing spree, keeping business owners on edge, periodically closing bars, nail salons, restaurants, playgrounds, wineries and other businesses as he sees fit. And, more California news—San Francisco has banned smoking cigarettes inside of one’s own apartment, but allows smoking pot. Go figure!
Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler goes to Mexico on vacation in a private jet and films a video while there telling his own citizens to stay home. And, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, after advising his citizens to stay in place, took a vacation here to Mississippi back in November.
Such examples are all over the news these days as government officials are putting their own residents and business owners in straightjackets who are facing fear of punishment, including jail time and fines if their arbitrary edicts are not obeyed. All the while going on their merry way in a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do.” In the process, these people in leadership positions are destroying American businesses in an unprecedented manner and hampering others in ways that might make a full recovery next to impossible.
Make no mistake about it: government assistance is in no way a “bailout.” It’s compensation for that same government taking away a businesses’ ability to operate. How many businesses out there have enough cash or resources on hand to withstand lengthy shutdowns with severely reduced revenue coming through? Let me answer this: not many. Yet, that is exactly what the government is too often forcing—not asking—businesses to do in order to supposedly stop the spread of COVID. As Rahm Emanuel once famously quipped in a moment of ironic honesty, never “let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Health protocols exist now to fight the pandemic. I would argue that the increased numbers we’ve been seeing are not the fault of businesses, but due to reckless behavior by people in their own homes and circles ignoring safety protocols such as simple hand washing, not touching their faces, being cautious when out in public and, yes, wearing masks. In my view, shutting down businesses en masse is too much of a power grab and its victims are innocent entrepreneurs trying to make a living, most of whom are steadfastly obeying the protocols and health statutes in place. Yet, we shut them down first, referring to just about all businesses as COVID “hotbeds.” Ask yourselves why.
Will the government relinquish its grip when the pandemic does finally subside? History tells us that answer is a resounding “no.” As President Ronald Reagan once said, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.”
California Governor Newsom said early on at a press conference in April that “we see this (crisis) as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern” and as “potential for a new progressive era.”
Not long ago, more people in this country were employed than at any single time in our country’s history. The unemployment rate was at a 50-year low. Wages for workers were increasing at rates not seen in ten years and there were more job openings than people looking for jobs. That is now just a memory. Americans want and need to work. They will follow health guidelines: but for the sake of their own families, communities and, indeed, their very sanity and dignity, they must get back to work. And, America needs their people to get back to work. In reality, all business is essential.
We need to once again treat our entrepreneurs and business people with the respect they work so hard to deserve, not as disease spreaders and greedy, cold-hearted fiends as some portray brave shutdown resisters in the media.
Will we have the courage necessary to do these things? If we don’t, I fear for our future.