Student Opinion: Restaurants Shutter from COVID-19 as Congress Stalls Stimulus

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(Tommy Ly)

By Jacob Vito

Whether it be for the pizza, tacos, a sandwich or something else entirely, everyone has a favorite local restaurant. However, due to the pressures of COVID-19, those favorites may not have much more time left, if any at all. 

Over 10,000 restaurants have closed in the last three months due to COVID-19, according to a CNN report. Such a mass closure accounts for 17 percent of the entire industry, with an additional 37 percent saying they would likely not survive the next six months.

This report comes at a critical juncture for the United States’ COVID-19 response. Over the last few months, much of the given aid is close to or already expired. Additionally, the push for a new aid package continues to stall in the Senate.  

Undoubtedly, the legislature’s continued lack of action would be catastrophic to small businesses and those that run them in America today. Yet, for as many times as they claim that “small business is the backbone of the economy,” they still are dragging their feet on assisting. 

It already appears, as noted by CNBC, that many of the most helpful aspects of earlier aid packages, including the $1,200 stimulus checks received by most Americans, have been gutted from any future bills. Instead, the discussions around the current package largely focus on funding for the upcoming vaccine.

However, with even the fastest plans for a vaccine rollout taking at least a year, according to the LA Times, there may not be much of an American economy left to save if something immediate does not happen soon. Any potential future without one of the worst and longest recessions ever will require aid. 

So, why the indecisiveness from Congress? Why wait when almost half of an entire sector of the economy could collapse by the end of next year? Is it that hard to see what is going on?

Instead, it seems that the back and forth over the contents of past and future aid packages, and the actions not taken by the federal government over the last nine months seem to communicate a larger message. There is a reluctance in the U.S. government to understand what its purpose is.

In reality, such analysis should not be that hard. The government is ultimately an aspect of society and the people around it, so its goal is the same as most other social structures: self-preservation. 

However, there are two different axes of preservation. The first is the preservation of the government itself, which the U.S. has already done very well. This is the motivation behind the excess army, counterintelligence and even local police forces.

There is a second part of preservation, though, the preservation of the people a government controls. Whether they like it or not, governments require citizens. So taking good enough care of one’s population to not be entirely delegitimized is necessary. 

It is as close to a fact as anything in politics;  governments require at least some support from their citizens. Because of this, most states will usually offer some level of consideration for people’s needs. Thus exists public transportation, public utilities, and in other countries, public healthcare. 

Such logic would extend to the pandemic’s dire time, with the need to recognize a stable and functioning society and emphasizing necessary aid distribution. However, the legislative and executive branches seem not to have come to such a conclusion. 

So, why have senators and representatives continued to stall while people suffer? Because, either knowingly or unknowingly, they’ve learned they can get away with not caring. 

The American population, graced with many things compared to the world, does not exhibit empathy for their neighbors as one of those graces. In recent decades, a steadily growing emphasis on “personal responsibility” and extreme individualism has been found in the U.S. Thereby, leading to a culture that has a hard time thinking about those outside their field of vision.

Many politicians have come to recognize how prominent that mindset has become and have capitalized on it, hoping for reelection by promising to cut welfare, dismantle unions and damage a formerly stable social safety net. That aesthetic of personal responsibility has led to direct attacks against anything perceived as “cultivating dependence.”

However, the concept of personal responsibility doesn’t do much in the face of a worldwide plague. All of a sudden, that rhetoric is harming in a far more visible and dangerous way by encouraging people to actively work against public health in the name of their freedom.

Today, the challenge is that though one could recognize such messages and ideas as a danger to the public, decades of such prominent thinking has left people still susceptible to them. It doesn’t take much work to find someone who would stand to benefit from COVID-19 aid and knows it but dismisses the government-led effort doing it. 

In short, Americans have spent so many years enthralled in the made-up fight against “big government” that they forgot how to function in a society under pressure. As politicians have capitalized on that, they’ve seen that they don’t need to meet the same aid standards for their citizens by leaning into that same narrative. 

Because of this, there probably won’t be enough federal aid given to the dying restaurants and small businesses to save them. This is the grave that America has been digging. And unless newly elected officials enter office, who don’t believe in narratives of extreme personal responsibility, we may soon find ourselves lying in it.

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26 thoughts on “Student Opinion: Restaurants Shutter from COVID-19 as Congress Stalls Stimulus”

  1. Alan Miller

    I started out agreeing with the author about the plight of small businesses.  However, the solution given focused on aid from the federal government and ignored the harm the state government has done, and added some rather disconcerting platitudes.

    The feds have a lot of money, but it is not boundless.  I believe we have grown up in an ever-increasing spiral of over-spending by the fed that we actually have come to believe the printing of money is endless and we can spend until everyone is well off.  This ignores what an economy is and how money works, and is a downright dangerous belief.

    I’m not against relief, but it has to make sense.  Clearly the first round did not, with giant companies that can fend for themselves, companies owned by prominent politicians benefiting, and large companies able to hire people to find out how to scam in funds, where small businesses could not.

    The state is a good part of what is destroying restaurants and other small businesses.  I had said back in spring the worst thing we could do to businesses is open them up over the summer and then shut them back down — because it takes so much investment in re-hiring, insurance, perishable stock, outdoor seating and tents, and then heaters for winter — because they’d blow their cash and then if put in a state of vastly reduced revenue, wouldn’t have the ability to open up again.  This is exactly the pattern that occurred, and it’s going to kill so many our our “favorite spots”.  I’ve already lost some.  This is partially on the feds, but the policies are state – and we were told months ago the Covid-19 would likely return with a vengeance come the colder weather.

    It’s also on the people.  We are told to dine only with our households, and we dine with many.  We are told to go to the grocery store with one representative from the family, and the whole family goes.  We are told to where a mask over our face and only where it over our chin.  We see a friend and don’t want them to think we think they are infected, so we give them a big hug.  We get drunk and forget about social distancing – cuz that’s what alcohol does.  The government can’t control any of this.

    I think the author is misunderstanding the conservative values of personal responsibility and independence.  If one focuses on the extremists, just as on the left, you can always find a reason to oppose.  Let me site an example of the value of conservative values:  I was at the funeral of a man from Davis known as a conservative – had an American flag over his business, etc.  Yet had many long conversations with him and never heard him speak ill of anyone by category.  At his funeral, they talked about all the money he had donated to local causes and even programs he had started and supported.  Many of these involved disadvantaged youth, people of color, food programs.  I never once heard him mention any of this when he was alive as he didn’t flaunt it.  I was a bit surprised but not shocked.  The fact is, because he had amassed some wealth in his life, he was able to give to others.  That’s a conservative value I treasure – and that’s a value in personal responsibility.

    I’m not defending the many selfish and racist people or the many blunders by the feds.  But ignoring the other factors and making this a one-sided political argument does a disservice.

  2. Keith Olsen

    Pelosi didn’t want a new stimulus bill because Trump was still president.  She refused to budge and demanded a much higher package that she knew would never pass until now that Biden has won.   She’s now willing to take a much lower package, surprise, surprise.  One of the major holdups is the GOP holding out for laws against people suing companies for contacting COVID, which I agree with.   If we have people filing lawsuits against businesses for catching COVID it will be almost impossible to move forward.

    1. Eric Gelber

      Pelosi didn’t want a new stimulus bill because Trump was still president.

      Conjecture.

      If we have people filing lawsuits against businesses for catching COVID it will be almost impossible to move forward.

      More conjecture. Moreover, businesses aren’t held liable merely because a patron or employee catches COVID. They are liable if they fail to exercise reasonable care or are grossly negligent. It’s a very high bar to establish causality in such cases, and extensive litigation hasn’t been shown to be a major problem in this area. Why would you want to deny any relief in those instances where a business is shown to have been derelict in its duty of care—e.g., in the case of COVID deaths in long-term care facilities resulting from management’s failure to use reasonable standards of care?

      1. Alan Miller

        Part of the reason is to cap insurance rates.  If insurance companies see small restaurants as too risky to insure or raise rates to un-payable levels, the only places we’ll all be eating out is Appleby’s, Denny’s and Starbucks.  The rest will be gone.  But it won’t just be restaurants . . . many businesses across the board, large and small.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Since most business liability policies apparently already cover losses due to infection by viruses, expanded liability immunity would be more of a boon to insurance companies  than to small businesses. Also, expanded liability immunity ignores the deterrent effect of potential lawsuits, particularly in this area where CDC and other standards are guidelines, not enforceable mandates.

          Perhaps this is an issue that should be left to the states rather than the federal government.

        2. Keith Olsen

          “Some of the nation’s biggest law firmsare bringing together attorneys specializing in different areas to create new coronavirus practice groups, task forces, and resource centers.”

          This is despicable. These law firms are bloodthirsty vultures. They should not be allowed to seek profit from pain caused by an international force of nature. At the very least, they should be blocked from all attempts to secure “punitive damages” and strictly limited on “pain and suffering” awards.

          https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/stop-the-lawsuits-related-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic

          1. Don Shor

            caused by an international force of nature.

            Look at the rates of infection in some industries and you will see that workplace exposure, based on how the companies are run, is a factor above and beyond the “force of nature.”

        3. Eric Gelber

          This is despicable. These law firms are bloodthirsty vultures.

          Tell us what you really think.

          They should not be allowed to seek profit from pain caused by an international force of nature. At the very least, they should be blocked from all attempts to secure “punitive damages” and strictly limited on “pain and suffering” awards.

          Again, liability is for harm resulting from negligence or gross negligence, not from a force of nature. Are you also opposed to medical malpractice lawsuits for the same reason? Should injured parties be prevented from recovering resulting medical expenses?

  3. Bill Marshall

    Re:  Keith O’s 7:02 post… your cite ‘ranks’ right up there with conservativebusinessjournal.com…

    John di Lemme is an interesting individual… makes Keith look like a freaking liberal-leaning-moderate…

    1. Alan Miller

      your cite ‘ranks’ right up there with conservativebusinessjournal.com…

      My cite every time I comment here is left to the Davis Vanguard, so what’s you point?

      1. Bill Marshall

        None… just being a troll… as I’m accused, by some, might as well do the crime…

        Seriously… have an in-law who gave up even on Fox News as being ‘fake’ (too liberal), and has turned to the likes of John Di Lemma for “truth”… my bad… was emoting… feel free to report the previous, and this comment…

  4. Ron Glick

    “Pelosi didn’t want a new stimulus bill because Trump was still president.”

    Partisan revisionist nonsense. The house passed a bill in the spring. McConell didn’t even try to take one up until the fall and then lowballed it and loaded it down with non-starters like tort immunity. If McConell was serious he would have worked with Senate Dems to come up with a bill that could garner 60 votes but that would have meant negotiating with the opposition in good faith.

      1. Ron Glick

        Really? The best response you can muster is an I’m rubber and your glue, what you say is what you are statement.

        Did I say something factually incorrect?

        1. Alan Miller

          Long before there was MSNBC or Fox News (or CNN or that new right channel) was the saying:

          “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”
          ― Mark Twain

        2. Ron Oertel

          “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”― Mark Twain

          Wow – never heard that before.  What a great quote!

          But, is “fake news” a logical extension of that? Just kidding, sort of. 😉

          Maybe it’s just a “hoax”. 😉

    1. Richard McCann

      I suggest reading “Hamilton” and “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” to see what a truly partisan press looked like. Come back after you’ve read those with appropriate citations.

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