Opinion: Executive orders gut small-town business
Shelley and Ken Mangus knew they were violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order when they launched their motorized boat into Devil’s Lake to fish on April 11.
A cancer survivor, Shelley Mangus said she relies on fishing and hunting for protein sources without chemicals found in processed meats, which upset her stomach. She and her husband have hunted and fished for most of the meat they’ve consumed throughout their 37 year-marriage. On their return from a two-hour fishing trip, a group of Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Lenawee County Sheriff officers confronted the couple and threatened to fine them $1,000 if they didn’t leave.
Mangus, owner of Hillsdale Craft Supply, also knew she was violating the executive order by keeping her store open.
“I don’t want to break the law and risk anyone’s life, but if I don’t break the law, it’s my life we’re talking about,” Mangus said.
As of May 5, there were 122 cases of the coronavirus in Hillsdale County, and 17 deaths.
Almost two weeks after Mangus’ encounter with the fuzz, Whitmer removed the ban on fishing and boating and picking up non-essential orders. But the governor’s broad executive orders, intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, have disproportionately hurt small-town folk like Mangus, who says she worries about the state of her business and her family’s finances, as they “poured every penny” they had into the store.
“My store is all we have,” Mangus says. “I either have to keep open now, or stay closed forever.”
This certainly is the case for small businesses across not only Michigan, but the entire country. David Winkler, a lawyer who works with technology, hospitality and other startups and small businesses in Minneapolis, said many small businesses across the United States will feel the repercussions of the economic shutdown for months and years to come.
“It doesn’t just slow down the economy now; it slows down the economy in the future,” Winkler said.
Though Winkler said that most of the businesses he works with will not have to close their doors now, the economic destruction could be greater than the coronavirus crisis if the shutdown continues for another six to 10 weeks — even with recent stimulus spending.
While the Payment Protection Program can help alleviate some pain in the short run, the economic downturn will disincentivize new businesses and startups in the present, meaning less production and fewer jobs in the future.
Though many people have been spared their health and even their lives from staying at home, we are just beginning to see the costs of a sharp economic downturn, which will only cause more suffering.
At this point, reopening now or in the near future might not be enough to save many businesses. And economists project a 16% national unemployment rate for April — surpassing the highest rate of unemployment during the Great Recession by 6%.
Heavy-handed state and federal government regulation — made even under the best of intentions — cannot properly address communities like Hillsdale, or care for the needs of every businesses or individual.
Local governments know the needs of their communities better than state or national governments and should be allowed to create solutions specified to the needs for their people.
Alex Nester will graduate from Hillsdale College this spring with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She is a member of The Public Interest Fellowship’s 2020 cohort.