With Covid-19, Policy Can't Replace Personal Responsibility
(AP Foto/Susan Walsh)
With Covid-19, Policy Can't Replace Personal Responsibility
(AP Foto/Susan Walsh)
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One year ago this month I started running again, something I hadn’t done since the 2013 Rock ‘N Roll Marathon.  I also started treating my high blood pressure, the existence of which perplexed me since I still ate well and climbed the stairs at work. 

The timing was fortuitous since the coronavirus takes aim not only at our parents and grandparents, but also at those with underlying conditions, including those we can control.

That last bit seems to have been cast aside in governments’ rush to callously strip away people’s livelihoods and ability to support their families. 

Nevertheless, folks like Sean Vina of Texas A&M – San Antonio feel these perpetrators of the shutdowns should be the ones to take responsibility for addressing health inequality.

Unfortunately, abdicating accountability for ourselves, and failing to hold each other to the same, is as big of a crisis as any.  It’s regrettably been with us for years, and it would be wise to reverse course.

Emblematic of this lapse is the belief, espoused by Mr. Vina, that staying healthy requires coercing employers to pay above market value for labor via a so-called “living wage” of $15 an hour.

Some of my healthiest years were when I lived off less than $1000 per month (about $1800 in today’s dollars).  Tuna, eggs, fruit, lunchmeat, PBJs and pasta did the trick for me.  I chose to spend what little I had lef tover on a gym membership.

My diet improved over time by jettisoning white bread and noodles in favor of whole wheat, among other changes.  Ditching the gym for the sidewalk drove the cost down further.

Waiting for a cue from City Council, for which Mr. Vina pleads, was unnecessary. 

Why would I rely on an entity whose big brother (pardon the pun) in Washington D.C. allows for ANYmanufactured foods/sugars in a healthy diet via its food pyramid? 

As one who has tripped and rolled before, maintaining smooth sidewalks is certainly beneficial.  But scapegoating something like an Amazon fulfillment center for such inequality is misguided. 

One of Mr. Vina’s dizzying array of assertions is bemoaning competitors “drowned out” by it merely taking up residence here in the Alamo City.  At the risk of stating the obvious, some competitors win, and some lose. 

But in a dynamic economy, it’s not a zero-sum game.  Some rivals learn before they’re vanquished, while new ones enter the market.  What tends to stifle this is just what Mr. Vina wants; more public “policy.”

Another is the notion that restaurants would be amongst the aforementioned competitors swept away.  It’s not going out on a limb to assume Amazon employees eat, sometimes even dining out.

Ironically enough though, as we’ve seen over the last year, it’s “policy,” in the name of health no less, that has pushed many of these small businesses under.

Making it harder to conduct commerce only compounds our community’s problems.  We need to look in the mirror and address our own first and foremost. 

We need to be smarter about our diet.  We need to take our vitamin D, among others.  We need to get up and move around. 

COVID-19 has affected us all, some in the worst kind of way with the loss of a loved one.  There has been too much needless collateral damage however, because we’ve lost sight of the big picture. 

Government has overreacted rather than being the cooler head to prevail.  There is no excuse for restricting people’s freedom of association because of an ailment with a mortality rate arguably less than .2%.

That’s the worst example of passing the buck.

Christopher E. Baecker manages fixed assets at Pioneer Energy Services, teaches economics at Northwest Vista College, is a board member of the Institute of Objective Policy Assessment, and is a member of the San Antonio Business & Economics Society.  He can be reached via email or Facebook

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