Only 13 States Have Recovered From the Lockdown (Guess What Almost All of Them Have in Common)

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

The unnecessary COVID-19 lockdowns wiped out millions of jobs and now, two years after they began, only 13 states have fully recovered those jobs.

Two of our biggest states, New York and California, lag far behind.

Eleven of them are run by Republican governors, and the 12th — North Carolina* — has a Democrat governor held in check by a heavily GOP legislature.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bryan Mena reports that “Texas has gained the most jobs since Feb. 2020 followed by Florida.”

It’s no surprise that Texas has led the way. It’s the second-largest state, so it had a lot of jobs to gain back. Meanwhile, the largest state, Gavin Newsom’s California, remains stuck in a swamp of various COVID rules and regulations — plus nasty job-killing measures like AB5, which (barely) predates the lockdowns. The only way Republican Gov. Greg Abbott wouldn’t have led the pack in job gains is if he’d been a Democrat.

There’s also no surprise in Florida — the third-largest state — being close behind Texas. Florida didn’t lose as many jobs, due to both size and a gentler lockdown response. Also, Gov. Ron DeSantis was ahead of almost every other governor in removing pandemic restrictions.

Gov. Kristi Noem’s South Dakota never locked down at all, and the worst thing they suffered was having to recover from a national economy ruined by the other states.

Colorado is an interesting exception to the GOP recovery rule.

There hasn’t been a Republican elected to statewide office since 2014 — the year we instituted 100% mail-in balloting — and the state legislature is dominated by Democrats, too.

The question you might be asking yourself is: Are Colorado’s elected Democrats somehow more sensible than those in stinkholes like California and New York?

As a longtime resident of this once-sensible state, let me tell you with complete assurance: No. No, they are not.

Colorado is looking at an explosion of state spending, hobbled only by my state’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). Passed as an amendment to the state constitution in 1992 — back when we still trended red — TABOR limits the ability of state and local governments to raise taxes and spending. Taxes can’t be raised without voter approval, and governments can’t spend revenues collected under existing tax laws in excess of inflation and population growth. When there’s a TABOR surplus, by constitutional law it’s refunded to the taxpayers.

Imagine being a Democrat officeholder trying to work under those horrid conditions.

They’ve beat and bent TABOR here and there, called taxes “fees,” etc. But despite big Democratic majorities, TABOR has mostly held firm.

That doesn’t have anything to do with the COVID lockdowns, but the Democrats’ constant efforts to undo TABOR so they can really jack up taxes and spending, plus the state government’s war on domestic energy production in rural Weld County just go to show you that Colorado’s elected Democrats are pretty much like Democrats anywhere else.

So why didn’t we get locked down as badly as the other Democrat-run states?

There’s no good answer to that one, since we’ll never be able to see inside the mind of Gov. Jared Polis. But as I noted throughout most of 2020, Polis was often to be found on both sides of the lockdown debate. While Colorado’s recovery has lagged behind GOP-run states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, it’s also running far ahead of most Democrat-run states.

If I had to guess why Polis lifted restrictions sooner here than in other Democrat-super-majority places, it would come down to one word: Embarrassment.

The Deep Blue Denver-Boulder Axis might run the state government, but they don’t run the state. Here in southern Colorado, local businesses were “enforcing” masks mandates and social distancing with a wink and a nod. A local barber had a hand-printed sign on the cash register reminding customers that if they had a medical condition that would prevent them from masking up, federal law prevented the barbershop from asking about it.

In my experience, that wasn’t atypical for the huge swathes of Colorado that still lean libertarian-conservative.

It’s my belief that Polis opened Colorado because the blue places that wanted to remain masked up and locked down would do so, and the rest of us had long stopped paying any heed to Denver’s writ.

Also worth remembering is this: with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and a high elevation, Coloradans have very little trouble with Vitamin D deficiency. In terms of obesity, Colorado is one of the three healthiest states in the Union. Those two factors, more than any lockdowns or mask mandates, contributed to our ability to deal with the pandemic.

*Corrected — thanks for the heads up, everybody.

Polis might try to take the credit for my state’s better-than-average recovery, but it would be like the rooster crediting his own crow for the sunrise.

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