Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, made an interesting comment during an interview earlier this week.

Olson, a New Market resident, told our reporter Steve Bohnel that there is often a “clash of rights” in situations like we find ourselves with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Olson’s opinion, it’s clear that, despite a claim by Del. Dan Cox, Gov. Larry Hogan has the authority to take steps such as requiring some businesses to close and having everyone wear a facial covering while going to the store.

“You can make a moral argument, I ought to have these rights, the government ought to recognize these rights,” Olson said. “Go ahead and make that argument. What you can’t argue is the constitution has been violated, you can’t argue that the founders would be turning over in their graves if they knew what was happening.”

So, for the moment, let’s put aside the weak constitutional argument. Most, even President Trump reluctantly, have conceded that states can decide these matters and, at least in Maryland’s case, Title 14 of the state’s Constitution gives the governor broad power during emergencies such as a pandemic.

Instead, let’s consider the first part of Olson’s comment of making the “moral argument.” This is the tricky part, not only for all of us to agree on but one for Hogan to balance.

There is logic to the reasoning that we should be looking for ways to reopen parts of society, and the economy in particular. While there are many of us able to work from home, there are scores more who can’t. When unemployment figures are released later today, we expect that many more will be added to the millions who were out of work when stats were released April 16.

So, in terms of the recent protests in Annapolis to reopen business, we can appreciate some of the sentiment expressed.

But that moral argument has two sides.

There is still overwhelming evidence that community spread — the transmission of the coronavirus through direct contact with others — is now a leading cause for transmission of the disease. There’s also significant evidence that social distancing and the wearing of masks or other facial protection is slowing down the impact of the virus. People are still dying every day, though not at the rate we once thought possible a few weeks ago before we put some of these safety measures in place.

Morally, protecting those from the virus has to be, as it has been, the governor’s top job.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was warning protesters as recently as Tuesday that reopening society too soon could cause even more harm. His comments came the same day Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) told the Washington Post that a second, and even more devastating, wave of the coronavirus could come this fall.

There is potentially a middle ground, however, one that takes into account the moral arguments of the medical experts and the business community. We’re confident that we’re going to get to that point soon, but now’s not that time. We can’t get to that middle ground until we’ve hit some safety milestones.

Hogan has said that he’s open to a gradual phase-in but only after the number of hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths related to the virus have continually declined over a two-week period. It’s a far more reasonable approach than what’s happening in Georgia, for instance, where deaths continue to mount and yet its governor is going ahead with plans for a more aggressive opening starting Friday. People from both sides of the political aisle are critical.

Hogan is expected to release his roadmap to reopening this Friday. We expect the governor to keep his focus on the health and safety of Marylanders while acknowledging that rebooting the economy needs to follow closely.

It continues to be a balancing act for Hogan and we’re not envious of the job ahead of him. But, so far we think he’s doing fine.

(15) comments


Only a fool would "re-open" ANY state in this country right now. Sure, people are getting upset because of a lack of income and social interaction. But both can kill you. Because Coronavirus. So, be dumb and go back to business as usual and see what happens.


I've long wondered what this country would do in the event of devastating pandemonium whether it be from hydrogen bombs, drought and famine or pestilence... Well, thanks to Covid 19 the picture is coming more clear now than ever before, nobody knows what to do. Worse, we don't even have anybody with enough smarts in government to attempt a solution favorable to all of us, nobody, It brings to mind the old "Pogo" lament; "We have meet the enemy and he is us"..... God have mercy on our first responder's and healthcare providers, they seem to know what to do and are doing their part.


Without a business community, there is no medical community. Pretty much that simple. Regardless of what the virus does, the shutdown cannot continue. Just ask Johns Hopkins, the largest employer in the state, how much longer they can hold out.


Don't be stupid.

Greg F

X2 jloo....don’t be stupid.


Not envious of the job before him. Amen! Think of the enormity and complexity of the task at the Federal Level. McConnell is now supporting the idea that States can declare bankruptcy and that the Federal Government should not be on the hook to bail out State Pension funds or budgets in the red. That has got to be an added burden for Hogan as local governments are proposing budgets that do not reflect reality.

One thing for certain. Workers who are getting paid during this, even though they may not be working have a different perspective on balancing start up vs isolation, then the people struggling to survive.


Jim, you support McConnell;s irresponsible statements on states going bankrupt? “Mitch McConnell probably regrets saying that,” Hogan said. “If he doesn’t regret it yet, I think he will regret it. . . . The last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis is to have states all filing bankruptcy all across America and not able to provide services to people who desperately need them.” "Governors on Sunday criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for saying last week that he would prefer states to be able to declare bankruptcy rather than provide hundreds of billions in relief as state and local government revenue dries up.McConnell's comments came as state and local governments pressed for funding in the latest coronavirus aid package — funding that ultimately was not included. However, President Donald Trump has indicated that emergency funding for state and local governments would be on the table for the next round of COVID-19 legislation.McConnell said any debate over state and local funding would not take place until the Senate is back in session, likely at the start of next month, and he said it's time to start considering the impact the emergency spending will have on the national debt. Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, McConnell said he "would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.""It saves some cities," he continued. "And there's no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don't have to do that. That's not something I'm going to be in favor of."


One of McConnell's reasons for not supporting aid to states is state pensions. Republicans already face some deep problems caused by Trump. If McConnell is smart, he will rethink this.

"In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed calls for federal aid to states, saying states’ financial troubles are closely related to reckless decisions about public employee pension benefits and other matters, and that if states need relief from promises they’ve made but can’t keep, they should be allowed to go bankrupt instead of coming to the federal government for a bailout." There are two problems with this idea. One, which I’ll get to in a moment, is that permitting states to declare bankruptcy would cause a variety of problems in financial markets, hurting the economy and raising the cost for even financially healthy states to borrow. But the other is that, even if we did allow states to declare bankruptcy, it wouldn’t be an applicable tool for the fiscal crisis state governments are just starting to find themselves in. Bankruptcy is for insolvent entities. And while states’ finances will be gravely impaired by the drops in tax revenue we are about to experience, it is unlikely any of them will be made insolvent by it. States’ ability to tax is a very powerful thing, and states will be able to pay their debts even if the federal government provides them no additional aid. The problem is what steps states will have to take to pay those debts, and what negative economic and social effects those steps will cause."


Stay inside unless you are essential or have to work to pay bills. It is better to live than die for economic reasons.


Dick, what's wrong with taking a walk outdoors? I do so just about every day.

Greg F

Nothing so long as you don’t need helicopter rescue like the moron at Chimney Rock.




bosco, did I say there is anything wrong with a walk outside?


I was referring to work and other and need to work for essentials, but there is nothing wrong with walking outdoors nor did I mean to have you interpret it that way.


What about if you want to work and can't pay bills, but Larry tells you that you have to starve and lose your home because he says so? Pretty soon many people won't have a home to stay in.

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