Too many industries in the defense industrial base that are critical to national security are in need of massive assistance. The private sector cannot stand back up without liability protection. The collision with China puts a new focus on Big Tech. And if state and local governments are going to receive more aid than the billions already sent their way, it is clear there should be strings requiring reforms attached.
For conservatives, there should be four main priorities in the next big deal:
First, money and incentives must be provided to the three sectors that need to respond not just to the coronavirus crisis but also to the government whose negligence visited it on the world: the Chinese Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China.
Vast outlays and authority are needed to (1) recapitalize the defense industrial base and provide funds for critical weapons platforms aimed at deterring any prospect of conflict with the CCP; (2) revive the manufacture of key pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment; and (3) resurrect the nuclear power industry — uranium mining, processing, enrichment and a new generation of nuclear plant design and construction.
Second, private industry needs new federal laws to preempt all state tort law concerning liability for coronavirus-related claims of negligence and intentional injury. Indeed, the national economy, so badly wounded, cannot any longer afford the patchwork quilt of 50 state standards on product and workplace liability. Defective products and dangerous workplaces cannot be tolerated, and injuries that could be foreseen and prevented must be compensated via fair trials if they occur, but the roulette of 50 different tort systems is an immense burden on interstate commerce and has to end. The deaths and injuries occasioned by the virus do not justify legal action against U.S. pharmaceutical and medical device makers rushing to find therapeutics and vaccines.
Third, the nature of the challenge to American freedoms presented by the CCP is clear. So should be the obligations of Big Tech companies to side forthrightly and finally with the American republic that created the free markets and free minds that birthed these companies. Every boardroom and technology at the intersection of the United States’ relationship with the CCP must be an open book to U.S. intelligence, defense and law enforcement communities. There aren’t any neutrals anymore. Both sides of the fence cannot be played.
Finally, almost all state and local government finances are shattered by the disappearance of tax revenue. Some states are crippled. The Senate is lucky to have senators who have been governors, such as Florida’s Rick Scott, Utah’s Mitt Romney, New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen and North Dakota’s John Hoeven. They should be consulted on what strings might reasonably be attached to additional aid to encourage long-overdue restructuring requirements in state governments, and possible bankruptcy reorganization solutions for cities and counties.
That’s the short list of what conservatives want.
Democrats will have their own wish list. That’s why “Phase Four” is shaping up to be a “law of a legislative lifetime.” The best legislators will be listening, thinking and open to the same sort of big deal that the Founders worked out in the “room where it happens” so long ago. That deal got Alexander Hamilton his national bank while powerful Virginians got the District of Columbia. We need another such legislative miracle from political leaders determined to win big arguments but aware of the other side’s and the country’s need for the same. There is no time to spare.