The emphasis on “public distancing” to combat the COVID-19/coronavirus should not be mistranslated into an edict to stop caring or taking necessary action. These are the times we must all commit ourselves to extraordinary personal responsibility and individual initiative. We must be courageous, not fearful. We must be wise, not obstinate. We must be a good neighbor, not an isolationist. We must be innovative and not captive. We must be compassionate and not self-centered.
Our policymakers will need to increase, not decrease, our reliance on private-sector solutions and this challenge will require government to modernize and innovate.
To some, that will sound counterintuitive. Surely at a time like this, critics will say, we need to ignore what the private sector can do and trust big government more than ever. But Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden noted the failures of big government in a recent debate when it was suggested government-run health care was needed to stop the coronavirus.
“With all due respect to Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy,” Biden said. “It doesn’t work there.”
Solutions from the private sector are helping significantly. In Colorado, which has a Democratic governor, the state waived regulations so medical professionals licensed in other states could immediately become licensed in Colorado, expedited the process for those currently seeking a medical license in-state, and expanded the ability of medical professionals other than current doctors and nurses to test for COVID-19.
If you reduce regulation, you can increase supply. Government has the opportunity during these challenging times to embrace this reality.
Similarly, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, lifted regulations so trucks delivering alcohol can also haul grocery supplies. Shortages in some grocery stores were not simply the product of mass purchases, but also regulations that restricted supply.
In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt has issued similar executive orders waiving red tape as well.
At the national level, President Trump has tapped major businesses to make testing for coronavirus both easier and more efficient.
Unfortunately, these common-sense approaches often run counter to some of the loudest voices. Thus, some suggest we need bigger government, an approach that would require tax increases at a time economic contraction was already underway in Oklahoma. Such moves would set us back as a state, not speed recovery.
Instead, Oklahoma’s economy needs several pro-growth policy reforms to prevent long-term devastation from the simultaneous assault of the COVID-19 response and the oil production maneuvers between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Oklahoma needs pro-growth tax relief and tax reform — including reforms to increase capital, such as building crowdsource funding infrastructure in Oklahoma, and expansion of tax credit programs that promote innovation and effectiveness in education and work-force training. These reforms are necessary, and the sooner they are enacted, the better for all Oklahomans.
These are the times when everything gets put into perspective, and we must prioritize what is most important. I have every confidence Oklahomans will lead the way.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).