Monday, 11 May 2020 22:06

Reopening TX Just a Little Bit Isn’t Really a Big Boon for the Economy

Written by Ross Ramsey, The Texas Tribune


Really opening Texas would require the governor and like-minded officials to actually put businesses in a situation where they could operate and make money.

That’s not what is happening in Texas. The reopening of the state, so far, is more of an experiment about how open the state can get without giving the pandemic an opening of its own.


Gov. Greg Abbott is allowing certain kinds of businesses to open in constricted ways. That’s no way to make money. A restaurant with 25% of its seats full is a failing proposition. A hair salon that can only use two of its six chairs is not a going concern. A movie that attracts audiences sparse enough to leave 75 of every 100 seats empty is a flop on its way to streaming.


But if those businesses show small signs of life, Texans might consider the possibilities of moderating their recent habits by going out for dinner or a little shopping. They might relax, even in a pandemic.


Abbott’s openings and his decision to open more businesses more quickly than he first planned also release some of the building tension that has made Texas politicians---with their natural sensitivity to public attention---so nervous.


They could practically smell some of the same pent-up demand we’ve all been feeling. They want to set you free. They want to keep everyone safe, sure, but who wants to be the government meanie who’s making all of us huddle at home?


Abbott’s announcements let him have it both ways. His earlier restrictions, along with the local restrictions he’s preempting, appear to be easing. But these reopenings aren’t likely to jump-start a comatose economy; you can’t keep businesses rolling for long at 25% of their capacity.


And it’s still unclear whether you can keep people safe if you open any faster than that.


The governor has chosen to take responsibility for what happens next. After weeks of shifting accountability at the government level, with the federal government passing the buck to the state, which was passing the buck to local governments, Abbott is establishing ownership of the issue. The rules are his, and so will be whatever credit or blame that results from those rules. Ask not where the buck stops; now that he’s asserted control, it stops with the governor.


The confusion, too.

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