13 May 2020 Course Correcting After COVID-19: Fear Must Never Again Be Used to Deprive Americans of Their Liberty
Freedom Group Releases Blueprint for Restoring Liberty and Restarting the Economy Safely
Washington, D.C. – “Certain, measurable harm was imposed on our civil liberties, on our economy and on our health so we could reduce the less certain public health risks of COVID-19” and this must never happen again, says the National Center for Public Policy Research in a just-released report. The report, Beyond COVID-19: Blueprint for Restoring Liberty, Rebuilding the Economy, Safeguarding Public Health and Responding to Crises, offers 54 specific recommendations to help bring the nation through this crisis and better prepare it for the next one.
Governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic has reflected “the precautionary principle on steroids,” says the blueprint. The precautionary principle is the idea that government should regulate potentially harmful behavior even when there is scientific uncertainty over the level of risk.
Over 30 million jobs have been lost, 39 states have imposed quasi-martial law, trillions of dollars have been added to the national debt and our Constitution has been left in tatters due to the fear of the unknown, the report asserts.
“COVID-19 is a serious public health problem that required a serious response. But governments at the state and local level took a meat cleaver to fundamental rights instead of a scalpel and left the nation with an incredible scar,” said David Ridenour, the principal author of Beyond COVID-19. “States have the authority to regulate activity in the interests of public safety, but they must do so by the least restrictive means necessary and apply regulations equally to everyone. But many states didn’t do so: Maryland and other states banned churches from accepting donations at drive-in religious services while allowing fast food drive-ins to operate. These states made a value judgment – essential liberties are not essential, but nonessential services are – and it is wrong.”
Beyond COVID-19 calls for measures to protect fundamental rights, to change America’s relationships with China and the World Health Organization (WHO), to roll back regulations that helped exacerbate the crisis, and to focus on pandemic relief rather than wealth redistribution.
Among the blueprint’s specific recommendations:
- Withhold federal aid from state and local governments that unduly infringe upon fundamental rights;
- End the Paycheck Protection Program and replace it with a more modest, but highly targeted, program to help small businesses keep employees at high risk of COVID-19 on their payrolls;
- Reopen colleges and universities in the fall;
- Create a special federal court to address COVID-19-related takings cases, to provide small business owners who have lost everything due to government-enforced closures an inexpensive and expeditious means of receiving relief while putting pressure on local governments to reopen as quickly as possible;
- Rescind or relax regulations that raise energy costs for struggling Americans while providing minimal or no benefits;
- Expand Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) scrutiny of Chinese investments in the U.S., which include pharmaceuticals, medical devices and personal protective equipment;
- Amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to permit Americans to sue China for their COVID-19 losses;
- Terminate U.S. funding for the WHO;
- Repeal Certificate of Need laws which restrict the number of beds and other equipment at hospitals;
- Get the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the testing business;
- Replace epidemiologists with economists at government briefings, as continued focus solely on health risks will jeopardize economic recovery.
“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic we will face. This is why the steps we take must be driven by two overriding considerations: First, we must bring about a rapid recovery from the economic devastation brought on by the nationwide lockdown by lifting regulatory barriers that impede a rebound. Second, the measures we take must also ensure that we are better prepared to confront the next pandemic when it strikes,” said Bonner Cohen, Ph.D., coauthor of Beyond COVID-19 and senior fellow at the National Center.
“A key part of the recovery should be restoring the eroded U.S. industrial base by ending our dependence on China, the source of COVID-19, for key technologies and materials — including pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients and critical minerals used in medical equipment and national-security-related hardware,” added Cohen. “Additionally, COVID-19 has shown itself to be particularly virulent in urban settings, such as New York, Detroit and Chicago. We now know that policies that encourage high-density housing and an overreliance on densely-packed public transportation enable a virus to spread more rapidly, resulting in a greater loss of life.”
In addition to Ridenour and Cohen, National Center Senior Fellows Horace Cooper and Drew Johnson also coauthored the report.
To schedule an interview with any of the authors, contact Jenny Kefauver at (703) 842-7405 or cell (703) 850-3533 or [email protected].
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