OpEd By Jim Waters, who is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.)
Social media’s abuzz following Gov. Andy Beshear’s latest shutdown in response to a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Much of the backlash deals with the apparent inconsistencies of the governor’s latest restrictions.
“They can have 3,000 fans at a game at Rupp, 12,000 fans at Kroger field and high school football is still a go. But only 8 at your house for thanksgiving?” posted Eric Redmon, whose Facebook profile indicates he’s an Army veteran and former state worker. “Governor Andy Beshear couldn’t be more inconsistent if he tried.”
It’s a valid point that must be addressed – particularly when you move off public property and venture into mandating what happens in private homes and schools.
Beshear, in his 96th executive action issued during the 197 days since the first case of coronavirus was discovered in the commonwealth, limited holiday gatherings to only eight people “from a maximum of two households.”
Beshear’s latest action isn’t being well-received, and for good reason.
While the governor’s limiting Thanksgiving gatherings in homes, shutting down churches and schools, prohibiting dining in restaurants and lecturing “all businesses that can close to the public must do so,” he’s allowing basketball games to continue and fitness centers, event venues and theaters to remain open.
Enquiring Kentuckians want to know more about these inconsistencies.
“If an event venue can have 25 people why can’t a restaurant have 25 people at a time?” wondered Carolyn Zimmerman of Auburn on her Facebook site.
Another head-scratching inconsistency is Beshear’s claim that his latest restrictions aren’t a “shutdown.”
Maybe not for those businesses allowed to remain open.
But what about the multitude of restaurant servers and bartenders who depend on daily tips whose incomes will drop dramatically or dry up altogether as many bars and eating establishments – especially smaller, locally owned ones – can’t take another economic hit caused by inside-dining prohibitions?
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said “even before the restrictions were announced she had owners calling in tears.”
It all sounds like a “shutdown” to me, especially since Roof foresees Beshear’s latest restrictions pushing more restaurants already on the brink of closing into permanently locking their doors.
The newspaper also reported that Chef Jeremy Ashby, who owns the Lexington Diner, said “restaurants feel ‘vilified’ by limits that target them but not other high-traffic places like Kroger and Walmart.”
The inconsistencies combined with unenforceable orders – like the rule limiting Thanksgiving gatherings to eight people from no more than two households in private homes – hinder Beshear in his well-intentioned efforts to motivate individuals to voluntarily act to slow the pandemic.
“I … maintain that the issue at hand is the need to strike an appropriate balance in mitigating a legitimate public health concern without using the force of government to cripple the core functions of society,” writes Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, who’s pre-filed legislation for the 2021 General Assembly session to reform state law regarding governors’ executive powers. “Sadly, we are further away from achieving that as a result of the newly-announced restrictions.”
Maddox’s concerns are well-founded.
Why, for instance, is Beshear hammering restaurants and schools when he acknowledged in announcing the latest round of restrictions that “our long-term care facilities are being overwhelmed?”
Why, then, doesn’t his latest order target these facilities instead – especially since it’s a well-known fact the virus has raged in them since its arrival in Kentucky?
Maddox adds she’ll celebrate the holidays “in accordance with my family’s tradition regardless of the Governor’s opinion on this matter.”
I expect most Kentuckians will do the same.