COVID-19: A President Can’t Force States to Reopen
The Constitution reserves police powers for the states
President Donald Trump is appointing a new “Opening Our Country” task force today to jumpstart the economy by early May. But the White House cannot succeed unless it persuades governors to cooperate. By dividing power, the Constitution creates resiliency in emergencies, but also demands cooperation between the federal and state government.
Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have rendered the trade-offs inherent in public policy only more acute. Even though the coronavirus has killed more than 23,000 Americans and sickened a half-million more, strict lockdowns have held deaths significantly below worst-case projections. On the cost side of the ledger, however, just one month of shelter-in-place policies has thrown more than 16 million people out of work and destroyed hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity.
Our elected leaders confront the difficult decision on when to start lifting the lockdowns, even at the risk of a faster spread of COVID-19. Presiding Trump claims that he has the right to determine when businesses open their doors, employees return to work, and consumers shop again. “For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government,” he tweeted earlier today. “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect . . . It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”
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