An Anti-Business Governor
(The following letter was addressed to Gov. Larry Hogan with a copy forwarded for publication.)
The purpose of this letter is to outline questions and comments regarding the press conference on April 24. Assertions that small business has been a top priority are called into question by your actions. If equal weight had been placed on the physical, mental and economic health of all the citizens, a balanced approach would have been pursued. Evidence of such an approach would have been the creation of a task force on day one that represented the viewpoints of not only epidemiologists and the medical community but also business, banking and mental health. Instead a lopsided, reactionary strategy based on faulty “science” was implemented leaving immeasurable human and financial destruction in its wake.
This single focused strategy also gave rise to government gods recklessly choosing who lives and dies, who gets a paycheck and who doesn’t. Home Depot is safe but hundreds of other businesses that could manage six-foot spacing are unsafe? A hair salon can provide services to an essential person with papers but no one else? Are essential people and businesses somehow immune from COVID-19? Why are all state employees still receiving paychecks when the state’s income has been decimated?
Missing from the press conference was any discussion of real data. I presume the team is familiar with the studies emerging that suggest infection is far more widespread resulting in a death rate under 1%? Or does the team focus more on the attacks leveled at these studies instead of the possibilities they suggest? Has an attempt been made to estimate the actual death rate considering asymptomatic case rates may be 50% or greater? Let’s assume the death rate is around 0.6% as some suggest. Would you have supported a complete destruction of demand if we knew this on March 1? Doubtful.
But what is done is done. How do we move forward and protect the vulnerable from the very infectious COVID-19 and the rest of us from the government gods? I am very happy to hear that business minds have now been added to the team because I fear that if it were left to the medical professionals, stay at home orders would be in place until a vaccine was available. Can commonsense steps be taken to open many businesses now? Yes.
A simple approach would focus on the existing demographic data for deaths and ICU admissions. As of today, there are 929 total deaths in Maryland and 551 patients in ICU. (For perspective please note that that 50,668 Marylanders died in 2018 from all causes.) In the press conference we learned a high percentage of these numbers represent nursing home patients. While these lives are as valuable as any other life, people in nursing homes are not the ones shopping and operating businesses. What about the workforce? How many of the deaths were people under 65 without underlying health conditions? Using percentages from various studies this number is probably between 17 and 42 people out of a population of 6,043,000.
This data suggests government should stop playing god and immediately allow any business to reopen that can adjust to physical distance guidelines. Protect the vulnerable and allow everyone else to go back to work. Each individual chooses. Anyone uncomfortable leaving the house can remain there. Open public spaces with physical distance guidelines. Phase in the remaining businesses and events as soon as possible based on real data. Would infections spike? Probably. But once again, what is the hospitalization rate for those under 65 without underlying conditions? Balance this threat against the devastating impact of staying closed another two weeks.
Every day matters. Each minute we remain closed, the consequences will pile up exponentially. All lives matter. Waiting is disaster. It is absurd to rely on continued federal bailouts. It’s time to save ourselves both from the virus and the government’s reaction to it. If we start the process now, we will be one day closer to the oft discussed herd immunity and one day further from toxic herd fear.
During the press conference, the lack of any attempt to dispel fear was disturbing. Some would suggest that a healthy level of fear aids the government gods in their ability to control people. How do I know fear levels are sky high and people’s brains paralyzed? Simply observe how many people wear a mask when engaged in solitary activities. The fear will subside, however, as the damage mounts. There will be serious questions. Even now folks wonder why you listen to federal guidelines when they don’t make sense. And if commonsense is absent from Maryland’s strategy, it won’t be long before we wonder why we should listen to you.
Response To Letter
Hello Mr. Chismar. Longtime since I heard from you. I would first like to respond to your October 26, 2018 letter in which you attack Mayor Rick Meehan. At least the 2018 letter relates to one of my long-standing positions, the pension funds lack of funds, may I explain why?
In your earlier letter you say the mayor is “uninformed and disingenuous,” regarding his opposition to “binding arbitration for Firefighters/Paramedics.” You go on “I have a ton of respect for him … the mayor has decided to use false scare tactics and town resources to fight the binding arbitration referendum.”
You fail to point out that the arbitrator in binding arbitration is not elected by the people therefore he is not accountable to the people. Not very democratic, Mr. Chismar. To allow him/her to make a decision that could so greatly affect the lives of the people, gives the people no recourse.
Chicago just asked for a bailout for problems that directly relate to their reliance on binding arbitrators. Chicago has had over 20 years of binding arbitrators and look at the mess they have? Others with binding arbitrators are certain to follow. Unelected arbitrators were a bad decision for Chicago. Even the Chicago police, fire and rescue will have a bad consequence from the reliance on binding arbitrators, who overpromised and now can’t deliver.
The mayor was perfectly right to warn the people. It was Rick Meehan’s responsibility to inform the voters that they would be granting decision making to someone who is not accountable to the voters. Just because the police do it doesn’t mean it’s right or will lead to a different outcome than Chicago.
I have a long history with the council on the town employee’s pension funds. I did not believe the town should make promises to its employees that it couldn’t afford to keep. However, after the promises were made and as recent as four months ago, I have consistently warned the town on underfunding its generous promises. I was a keen advocate of reducing the annual assumption of how much the funds would grow from 7.5% a year to 7%. Particularly since in recent years they only have grown at 4.5% annually. The higher the guesstimate at growth the lower the amount of the council’s annual contribution to the funds. I didn’t think they went far enough and steadfastly recommended 5%. They weren’t willing to. Time will tell. The issue you blame me for is not my issue. You just show your ignorance.
On April 17, 2020 I penned an opinion piece titled “The Kitchen Sink” that compared presidential responses to two depressions the 1920 depression, and the 1929 depression. Compared to our present-day response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 1920 depression was similarly due to an Influenza (the Spanish Influenza). In your response titled “Arguments Need Facts” you didn’t respond to these.
Like the attack on the mayor you attacked me. In my article the “Kitchen Sink” I contrasted Harding and Coolidge’s policies during their presidencies with FDR’s. Admittedly Harding and Coolidge are barely remembered however they dealt with both the Spanish Flu (which killed 1.5 million in today’s terms) followed by the 1920 depression, which was resolved in two years. While FDR instituted expensive program after program for near a decade dragging the depression on for over 10 years.
Trump seems to be following FDR’s path, in his dealing with the Wuhan Flu today. Incidentally both houses of Congress are on board with Trump. Your letter did not respond to any of these issues.
It was interesting to me, and I thought might be to the readers, that during Harding and Coolidge crisis, the 1920 depression, every bit as severe as ‘29, these two presidents did barely anything, allowing the economy to rebound in two years, 24 months. While FDR repeatedly threw the ‘kitchen sink’ at the ‘29 depression, and it went on and on for a decade or more. He was unable to bring it to an end. Although it is true that FDR was the most popular president in American History serving four consecutive terms from 1933 till his death in April of 1945. However, it was WWII in late 1941 upon our entrance, 12 years later that brought an end to the so-called Great Depression, not FDR.
Mr. Chismar, your letter is titled “Arguments Need Facts.” FDR was against binding arbitration. Moreover, FDR was against all unions in government, although he supported the Davis Bacon Act and Unions outside of government. FDR famously said, “no union shall be in my government. … my government employees will only have one boss, the people.” There is a fact for you. In 1962 Kennedy through an executive order allowed unions in governments.
“Facts,” Mr. Chismar. Rather than vituperative attacks on Mayor Meehan and myself don’t you think you should practice what you preach?
Falls Church, Va.