FROM OUR PRINTED JUNE 1, 2020 EDITION:
by Jeffrey T. Kuhner
Gov. Charlie Baker is destroying the state’s economy.
For nearly two months, his draconian shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc and abrogated basic civil liberties. In fact, the lockdown is the most sweeping restriction of personal liberties in U.S. history.
Many Massachusetts residents were hoping his May 18 “phase one” announcement to begin re-opening the state’s shattered economy would finally see burdensome restrictions start being lifted. They were mistaken.
We are the last state to reopen in the country, behind even New York—which has been ground zero during the coronavirus pandemic. After Baker’s press conference, Massachusetts will continue to lag further behind.
Baker said some construction sites, manufacturing facilities, churches and houses of worship could reopen immediately. He stressed, however, that they would have to abide by strict workplace safety standards and social distancing guidelines. Moreover, churches could only be filled up to 40 percent capacity and attendees must wear masks and sit six feet apart. That was the supposed “good” news.
The bad news is the lockdown will go on at least until late July. This all but guarantees that thousands of small businesses will be bankrupted, forcing them to permanently close. Baker said that on May 25 barber shops and hair salons would be allowed to reopen but by appointment-only. Offices (outside of Boston) can also open—yet only at 25 percent maximum capacity. Most workers will still be forced to work from home. In Boston, offices will be permitted to reopen on June 1, again only at 25 percent maximum capacity.
Baker says phase one will last at “least three weeks.” He cautions, however, that it may go on “much longer” depending upon the public health data trends. Phase two will allow for restaurants, retail stores and motels to reopen under stringent regulations. This phase will also last for a minimum of three weeks. Phase three enables bars, casinos, gyms and museums to reopen. Yet only if they meet a myriad of complex benchmarks and safety standards. Phase three must also go on for at least three weeks.
After all of this is completed, then Massachusetts ent- ers phase four: What Baker calls “the new normal.” According to Baker, this phase could last years until a vaccine is discovered (if it ever is).
It is obvious that the Massachusetts RINO Republican is taking his cues from the leftists at The Boston Globe and the incompetent Democratic establishment. For months, they have been urging that everything—including the economy—be subordinated to fighting COVID-19. Even if this means an economic collapse and a new Great Depression.
So far, Baker’s shutdown has resulted in over one million Massachusetts workers losing their jobs. Tens of thousands of businesses have been shuttered. The state’s unemployment rate is near 29 percent—levels only seen in Third World economic basket cases.
His phased reopening means countless waiters, waitresses, bartenders, shop owners, museum employees and hospitality workers will go weeks, even months, without an income. Baker has deliberately turned his back on them.
Moreover, his lockdown has created serious divisions within Massachusetts society—one that threatens social unrest and deep-seated economic alienation. The government class has been untouched by his authoritarian lockdown. Not one state employee or bureaucrat has lost their job, been furloughed or had a pay cut. It is small businesses and the working- and middle-class who have borne the brunt of the pain.
The big lie being pushed by The Globe and Baker’s liberal media allies is that “we are all in this together.” This is pernicious nonsense. Our media and bureaucratic elites still have a job; in fact, for many of them this whole ordeal has been a long, paid vacation. It is easy for them to urge shelter-in-place and to support the lockdown when their bellies are full. But for countless Massachusetts residents who aren’t getting a paycheck, and can’t pay their bills or make their rent and mortgage payments, the shutdown is becoming a matter of personal survival. Yet, they weren’t represented on Baker’s 17-member advisory board.
The question that Baker and his supporters cannot answer is this: If thousands of customers can legally enter national retail stores, such as Walmart or Home Depot, then why not local small businesses? If grocery stores or churches can now be open, why not restaurants and bars? The answer is obvious: Because they don’t have powerful lobbyists, who are major donors to Baker and his cronies. The shutdown has never been about protecting public health; rather, it is about expanding political power and social control.
Baker’s four-phase reopening is based on central economic planning and a massive regulatory state. It creates a vast new bureaucracy, full of regulators and inspectors. Their goal is to enforce his complex, arbitrary and economically ruinous edicts. It is state socialism masquerading as a reopening strategy. One thing is certain: Baker’s prolonged authoritarian lockdown will strangle what’s left of Massachusetts’ economy and private sector.
His “new normal” is a state characterized by economic stagnation, sky-high unemployment and rampant poverty. He is a political thug drunk on power and hubris. It is time for mass, peaceful civil disobedience. Otherwise, Massachusetts is finished.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is host of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston. His daily show airs
6:00-10:00 am EST. He can be reached at: