Opinion: We need an honest discussion about balancing safety and economy

Written by Matt Lehman

Let me be crystal clear, my intention is not political toward any party, nor am I pointing blame for any past decisions. I believe an open, honest, and transparent discussion is in order from all levels of government to the American people relating to the economic impacts of the state, national, and global shutdowns.

Let me share some items most of us have never seen in our lifetimes, truly precedent-setting economic realities:

  1. Crude oil prices drop to negative $35
  2. Unemployment higher than the 1930s Great Depression
  3. Bipartisan support for $1,200 per person economic impact payment
  4. National debt exceeding GDP
  5. National Defense Authorization Act (for production)
  6. Extended state/national/global shutdowns
  7. Federal emergency spending up to $8 trillion, 33% of the current $24 trillion national debt
  8. Federal interest rates between 0 to 0.25%

I am not minimizing the Covid-19 virus, and every life is important. Much has been learned over the past few months. We have learned that six feet or more of separation, hand washing, covering cough/sneeze, disinfecting common touch points, masks when separation cannot be maintained, and staying home when sick are critical to everybody’s safety.

We have learned that those with underlying conditions and the elderly may be at additional risk and must be further protected through additional screenings and procedures.

I don’t believe it to be fiscally possible for government to pay all the losses of all businesses until a vaccine is found, nor do I believe it possible for government to pay its citizens to stay home until a vaccine is found without massive economic consequences.

I do not think people with grave concern or those at heightened risk should be forced into society, nor should large groups gather without the basic, reasonable safety precautions of six feet or more spacing, washing hands, covering cough/sneeze and disinfecting common touch points. The facts show many can carry and shed this virus with few or no symptoms; we can and should protect the vulnerable by practicing these reasonable safety precautions.

We have learned much over the months about the virus, but we have yet to have an honest, transparent discussion concerning the economic impacts of these shutdowns on households, businesses, and our states and country.

I am calling on our government at all levels, our economic experts, our business leaders, and of course our citizens to have an honest, transparent and public discussion on the economic impact expectations. In just over a month, Minnesota has gone from a surplus of $1.5 billion to a deficit of $2.5 billion. The Federal government has authorized up to $8 trillion in emergency spending, and counties and cities are taking revenue losses. This is not sustainable and ultimately will be funded by taxpayers, further harming our economic situation.

I think we are fast approaching a point where not reviving our economy will have grave negative impacts for years to come on households, businesses, states, the country at large, and all its citizens.

The country’s future and lives are at stake from both Covid and economic impacts. We can and must find solutions before it is too late. We are a great nation; we can and must meet the challenges.

Matt Lehman is a lifelong Shakopee resident and local business owner. He has served on the Shakopee City Council since 2002. This article represents his personal opinion and was not written on behalf of the City Council.

Articles submitted for consideration to the Viewpoints section are fact-checked by The Shakopean. Opinions do not reflect those of The Shakopean.

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