Bring Back The Constitution

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Betsy McCaughey, What About The Constitution?

Health care workers and first responders are the heroes of the pandemic, but right behind them are the bold business owners defying dictatorial governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo. Like the owners of Mac’s Public House on Staten Island, who refuse to be put out of business. They’re standing up for your rights as well as their own.

Since last March, governors have shuttered restaurants, gyms and other businesses, destroying what owners have built and putting employees out of work. Yet, when these governors go on television to brief the public, they only talk about the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. They never mention the number of businesses failed or people out of work — as if these consequences don’t matter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has gone on for nine months and could last another half year, even with a vaccine. It’s time for Americans to reclaim their constitutional rights. Restaurants and hospitality trade groups are suing governors in some states.

Other business owners are just standing their ground. Mac’s Public House declared itself an “autonomous zone,” mimicking extreme leftists in Seattle. Only, unlike the radicals, who were treated with kid gloves, Mac’s has already been slapped with fines and lost its liquor license.

Same for Mike Coughlin, owner of the Village Tavern and Grill in Carol Stream, Illinois. He installed plexiglass seating dividers and air purifiers and followed the rules for limiting capacity. Then, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker suddenly suspended indoor dining in early November. Coughlin’s defying the order. “I’m not going to be the guy with the boarded-up building because I follow somebody else’s science.”

It’s flimsy science at best.

Pritzker says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research found that adults with COVID-19 were twice as likely to have visited a restaurant as adults who tested negative. But the CDC found no causal relationship, only correlation, and it didn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining.

Scientists disagree on whether restaurants are culprits. Stanford researchers identified them as superspreaders based on mobile phone data from last March to May. But Johns Hopkins’ Amesh Adalja suggests most restaurants have installed more safety measures now. “If you went to a restaurant in early March, it’s a very different experience from going to a restaurant” now.

Amazingly, cities spending millions on contact tracing are failing to use the data to identify superspreading restaurants. When Suffolk County, New York, health officials discovered that infections were traceable to a restaurant there, they notified the public. That’s more scientific than shutting them all down. But in most places, officials don’t care about destroying businesses. They’re getting a paycheck no matter what.

Forcing businesses to close arbitrarily violates the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which bars the government from “taking” your property without just compensation.

Yet, Newsom is pushing nearly all of California into a lockdown, as protesters chant “no science, no data, no shutdown.” Sunday, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy announced that a shutdown “has to stay on the table.” That’s outrageous.

Thousands of health experts recently signed a declaration to alert the public that lockdowns don’t work. In Europe and several U.S. states that locked down last spring, the mental and physical health and economic costs were staggering, and the virus still returned. Germany, the poster child for strict lockdowns, is now swamped with a second wave and deaths exceeding the previous peak last April.

On the other hand, five of the six U.S. states with the lowest unemployment rates, according to the Associated Press last month, have the fewest COVID-19 restrictions.

That’s a compelling argument for ending gubernatorial rule and getting state legislators involved in pandemic decision-making. They’ll have to answer to the local constituents they force out of business. Unfortunately, in New York, Democrats who control the state legislature are MIA, content to collect their paychecks and let the governor run the show.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, state lawmakers sued to force Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers to work with the legislature. Wisconsin’s chief justice warned that “in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the Governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”

Listen up, governors. The Constitution guarantees that Americans in every state will live under representative self-government. Not under a despot.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “The Next Pandemic,” available at Amazon.com. Contact her at betsy@betsymccaughey.com or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.