Ranking Economic Benefits Over Human Life is Offensive


The death toll is getting to Phil Murphy.

On Friday, the governor ordered flags across the state to be flown at half-mast in honor of the more than 800 New Jerseyans who have died because of the coronavirus.

And today – when he announced 200 more deaths – he called for a moment of silence. And he offered the observation that the death toll from the virus now exceeds the number of state residents killed during the 9/11 attacks.

The governor’s reaction over the last two days is commendable and totally beyond politics.

Then again, nothing is really beyond politics.

So much happens every day in this crisis that it is easy to forget things occurring just 10 days ago. That’s when the president talked about “opening” the country by Easter. That idea was quickly abandoned
as the virus continued to spread, but there are signs the debate may kick up again.

There are rumblings by some on the right – think Fox News and Rush Limbaugh – that the shutdown is doing more harm than good.

Apart from the national media, a letter to the editor the other day in the Star Ledger caught my attention. The writer said lowering the speed limit to 20 mph would save lives, but as a practical matter,
such a thing  would be ridiculous.

You can see the overall point here.

Staying at home and “sheltering in place” does save lives, but at what cost?

In other words, if the country “opens up” it’s likely more people will get the virus and die. But that also would mean more people would be working, making money and living a more normal life.

There are some who think that would be a reasonable tradeoff. And don’t be surprised if advocates of that view become louder in the weeks ahead.

There is some cold-hearted logic here, but the idea of callously ranking economic benefits over human life should strike sensible people as offensive.

The governor and many others call what’s going on a war. And in a war, there are casualties. Stlll, even in war, the idea is to keep casualties to a minimum. no?

That’s what stay at home and other government edicts mean to do.

So, the governor is right to talk every day about losing “blessed souls” and “precious lives.”

And if he needs bipartisan encouragement in the weeks ahead for continuing to stress humanity over more mercenary concerns, he can look to his predecessor.

That’s right, Chris Christie.

Many probably consider his response to Superstorm Sandy as Christie’s shining moment as governor.

But I point to his outspoken advocacy to combat drug addiction and to support those in recovery. Recall his partnership with Jim McGreevey to help addicts recovering in jail.

More than once, Christie talked about not throwing away any life.

That made sense then and it makes sense now.

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