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Key: Red (Republicans control governorship and legislature); Blue (Democrats control governorship and legislature; Purple (divided control of executive and legislative branches)
Five states led by progressive governors and controlled by the Democratic Party have banded together in a Western States Pact to coordinate the criteria under which they will resume economic activity in their respective states. In other words, “we’ll decide together when our people can be free.” Of course, the language of the pact sounds elevated:
As part of the Western States Pact, the Governors commit to working together toward the following four goals:
- Protecting vulnerable populations at risk for severe disease if infected. This includes a concerted effort to prevent and fight outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- Ensuring an ability to care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions. This will require adequate hospital surge capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment.
- Mitigating the non-direct COVID-19 health impacts, particularly on disadvantaged communities.
- Protecting the general public by ensuring any successful lifting of interventions includes the development of a system for testing, tracking and isolating. The states will work together to share best practices.
When progressive governors “share best practices,” civil liberties are a secondary consideration. And doubtless, central command of the state economy will be one of those “best practices.”
Attorney General Barr issued a memo to US Attorneys around the country yesterday detailing the need to monitor state and local governments in their jurisdictions for violations of civil rights:
I am directing each of our United States Attorneys to also be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens,” Barr wrote. “As the Department of Justice explained recently in guidance to states and localities taking steps to battle the pandemic, even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.”
“The legal restrictions on state and local authority are not limited to discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers,” Barr continued. “For example, the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy. If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court.”
The Western States Pact has helpfully self-identified California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Colorado as places to “be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.” Even as other states are re-opening their economies, the “Pact” states will be continuing house arrest for its citizens until their safety surveillance system is completely operational.
“Undue interference with the national economy” is going to be an interesting issue. With about a fifth of the US population incarcerated in these states, it seems that “undue interference with the national economy” is sort of a given. Powerline provides a timely reminder of how “undue interference” works:
I don’t think our political class in Washington or the state capitols have the slightest idea of how they have disrupted the workings of our economy beyond the mere measure of the (huge) number of people filing for unemployment, which they think can be fixed simply by printing more money and sending out checks.
The good folks at CEI produced [the embedded] six-minute video of “I, Pencil” a few years ago, and it makes for salutary viewing just now as our government contemplates “plans” for “re-opening” the economy. Give it a look, and contemplate the effects the shutdown is having on the millions of daily decisions made by producers and consumers alike. Maybe our political class just needs to just get the hell out of the way.
And that may happen sooner rather than later in some parts of the country. But the Western States Pact Prison is likely to remain closed for a while even as health data demonstrates that, although not defeated, COVID-19 is waning in those jurisdictions — beach parties or not.
[Note: Links to all my CoVID-19 posts can be found here.]Published in