The current Corona crisis presents a rare opportunity to have a very public discussion about how to formulate public policy. It also gives us a chance to critically look at our political systems and leaders and ask if they are best serving our ideas for what our public policy should be prioritizing.
The art of public policy is balancing the needs and wants of the different sectors of society. When done by politicians, it will always have an eye on their reelection and political future. When public policy is set by technocrats, it runs the risk of overly prioritizing the one sector of interests that they are responsible for, while neglecting many other important interests. This leads us to our current health crisis. The current public policy here in Israel is mainly being lead by the director of the Health Ministry. His main focus, as it should be, is purely the physical health of the citizens of Israel. From his perspective, a total lockdown is the absolute correct approach. Based purely on health he would be right, except there are many other factors that need to be accounted for while making public policy, such as the economy. I am not referring to personal wealth, but to the overall economy. We are dependent today on a reliable and stable business environment to provide both for our personal sustenance and our overall progress. The freedom to do medical research (just one example) is provided by our ability to easily access food we didn’t produce, the shelter we didn’t create, and any other service at a fair price.
By focusing our entire public policy only around prioritizing health, we have severely endangered our entire economic structure. We are hurting our ability to deal with our next great challenge in order to minimize some of the damage from this challenge. By jeopardizing our economic health, we may be placing ourselves in a situation where a smaller challenge, like a war, comes along and whose effect and damage will be far greater than if we accepted a different approach to our current corona crisis.
Solutions – better public policy
Our current public policy response to the corona should balance the economic health of the country while protecting and saving as many lives as possible. Shutting down the economy and closing our borders as an initial measure was the absolute right response (in my humble opinion). It is how in the army you trained to asses the situation before responding to an incident. By this point, public policy should be drastically shifting now to a clear plan to move past the health crisis and restart the economy before irreversible damage is caused.
A parallel health system to treat the mild cases of Corona should be established and greatly expanded, as previously stated. This will keep the pressure off our already overtaxed health system, while at the same time providing care for those in need. As we have seen, testing should be greatly expanded in order to help prevent unknowing carriers spread the virus to people who would be at greater risk of a severe reaction. We should have a national campaign to push wearing face masks covering both nose and mouth at all times in public. Their purpose is not to prevent the wearer from inhaling the virus but to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus through coughing sneezing, ect. Lastly, elderly and at-risk populations should be encouraged to self-quarantine until a reliable treatment or vaccine can be developed.
Of course, we cannot go back to business as usual for the general population. Until reliable treatments or vaccines are developed the entire way our economy functions will need to change but must be allowed to keep functioning. Business should be allowed to reopen with new social distancing measures in place. Distance between employees, encouraging online instead of in-store purchases and the like. Schools should be reopened immediately with mandatory Corona testing for any student wishing to return and mandatory vaccines once a safe and reliable one has been developed.
In order to help alleviate the tremendous financial damage that has been caused already and huge expense to taxpayers of an additional 800,000 unemployed, a few simple steps need to be taken. All work permits for PA residents should be canceled and their jobs offered to Israeli citizens. If they don’t want the jobs that is fine but unemployment benefits should not be paid to them either then. All businesses closed due to quarantine should have all Arnona for the entire period plus 6 months canceled, not differed. Banks should be forced to cancel business loan payments for the period of shuttered businesses, once again not differed but canceled. While I am generally against government interference in the private sector, in this instance it is necessary. The same is true with mortgage payments and rents linked to mortgage payments.
While businesses of all sizes are suffering, the greatest economic destruction has befallen their employees. The men and women who make our economy function and provide the taxable goods and services have been hit the hardest. Once again, there are a few quick and easy steps our government can take to help alleviate this suffering. First, massive cuts in government spending while transferring those funds to the new expenses created by the virus. Culture and sport would be a good place to start alongside senior employee salary cuts. Secondly, cancellation of most personal taxation up to a set benchmark, which includes income tax, national insurance payments, tuition payments, property taxes, and more. Instead of taking our hard-earned resources through taxation and then handing it back to us as a handout, how about we just keep it to begin with?
The solution to the current Corona crisis does not have to destroy our economy. It is possible to balance the health crisis and maintain a functioning economy. It only takes leadership with vision who cares more about our country than their personal re-election to step forward.