Who Has the Post Pandemic Advantage in Policy Debates?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

When the usual debates pick up as the coronavirus crisis eases, will one side in the endless tugs-of-war that roil policy arguments have a new advantage? It may depend on the battleground—Washington or Sacramento. 

Public employees who went to work in the heart of the crisis–first responders, health care workers–will they get more respect and support for their union positions?

How about Big Pharma which has thrown itself into finding solutions to the virus spread—is it possible Big Pharma won’t the bad guys anymore? 

Or what about big government that interceded on behalf of the public with money and mandates. Has the era of big government, once dismissed by President Clinton, returned? 

And, then what about regulations, swept away to solve problems more quickly, to find solutions and to take risks—risks that are often the bane of regulators—are more and more regulations to be dismissed? 

Life after the coronavirus subsides will change. Every expert tells us so. That will affect policymaking as well. 

Progressives see an advantage because government came to the rescue of out-of-work employees and businesses with baskets full of money. While it’s hard to imagine that printing and throwing money at people and organizations can be sustained over any length of time, progressives see an opportunity to open the door to permanent changes along the lines of guaranteed income for all Americans or more intervention in the marketplace. Further, issues of no cash bail and prisoner release as reactions to the pandemic and crowded prisons, progressives hope will gain a platform for long term reform. 

Conservatives on the other hand see an opportunity to reinvigorate the economy by setting up liability protections for businesses that could, in the long run, lead to needed tort reforms, removing the shadow of so many lawsuit threats that constantly harass businesses. Another conservative approach to building back the economy is to embrace tax cuts, particularly a payroll tax cut to bring back workers and create jobs.

Does either side in the perennial tugs-of-war over ideological prescriptions to achieve a stronger country have a leg up with the public? 

Crises like wars and big economic calamities usually push along changes. In California, already a state heading left, it probably means strengthening that trend. Unions, powerful and influential in Sacramento and in city governments before the pandemic, will grow in strength. Expect proposals to bring more government involvement into business and individual lives to help “manage” or “prevent” future catastrophes to gain traction. 

But, while the trend is for more government in the Golden State, that may not hold true nationally. There will be solid push on deregulation, allowing for greater risk taking. One would hope the same spirit would infiltrate California because the state’s regulatory environment is the most costly, complex and difficult in the nation. 

One test on how the debates are settled could be judged by the results of the November ballot measure on the no cash bail situation. Voters  will decide the referendum on the state law that eliminated cash bail and that has been referred to the voters through the petition process. 

There will be changes for businesses and individuals as the coronavirus dissipates. Security at airports never went back to pre 9/11 standards. Watch for government to wrap its fingers around more of our lives in the aftermath of the pandemic.

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