It’s Time for the Truth

We’re sick of talking about COVID-19.

But let’s talk about it, anyway.

Because we can’t NOT talk about it. Cases nationally are surging – only two states, Missouri and Vermont, saw a decrease in new cases this week. Here in Lebanon County infections are going up too. We’ve now topped our new cases number. Hospitalizations, likewise, are going back up. Deaths, as we all know, will follow.

There are enough data available to us, and experts who are willing to offer guidance, to support the following guidance.

Individuals should:

😷 Wear a mask (properly)

😷 Wash their hands frequently

😷 Watch their distance

The government should:

💉Ensure widespread rapid-results testing

💉Establish contact-tracing

💉Enable quarantining for positive cases and contacts

Right now, estimates of mask-wearing indicate about 50% of people are doing it. But experts say we need that number to be near 80% for it to be truly effective. Plus, it only works in conjunction with the rest of these steps. No single step alone is enough. For example, the White House relied primarily on rapid-results testing. We all saw how that turned out.

Here in the 102, Representative Diamond continues to push the narrative that masks are ineffective at best, dangerous at worst. The sources he cites are misrepresentations of the science, and can only lead one to conclude that either (a) he is scientifically illiterate or (b) he is politicizing his response in order to garner attention/support. Ultimately the reason doesn’t matter, but the results do – and the results are more cases in Lebanon County, more hospitalizations, and more damage to our health and our businesses.

If you’re a career politician, then making this a political matter may be useful. It may result in more votes, or greater personal popularity. For me, it’s more important that I tell you the truth and do what I can to make our community safe – even if it’s not popular with some of the voters in the 102. Public health and safety should always trump politics.

Here’s the truth: it IS entirely up to you whether you wear a mask or not. But we need to stop allowing people to pretend that we don’t know whether it’s effective or not. We need to stop pretending that masks may be harmful to wear. We need to stop acting like the leaders who are encouraging mask wearing – including Republicans like Mike DeWine and now Chris Christie, and Democrats like Tom Wolf and Joe Biden – are doing so as part of some hoax or conspiracy to deprive you of your rights. The best data we have available right now, along with many global case studies, indicate that these are the things to keep our community healthy and allow our economy to resume business.

And we need leaders who will tell us the truth and listen to the experts.

Things Aren’t Always Black and White

Since January, when I decided to run for Pennsylvania House District 102, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to people in the district about what is important to them. 

Politicians often frame things as being a stark black-and-white contrast: a binary choice between A or B, with no in-between. But my goal is to create a community where we can have in-depth discussions, despite our disagreements, and hopefully arrive at a solution that is agreeable to all – or at least most – of the constituents in the 102.

One example right now is the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re presented with two options: stay in your homes and never leave, or resume normal life with no precautions. Asking people to stay home is unsustainable for any extended length of time. But opening up with no safeguards damages businesses as well. People are more reluctant to go out when they feel their health is at risk. 

But this pandemic isn’t an either/or situation. We can take commonsense personal actions (wearing a mask, washing our hands, and watching our distance) and combine those with community actions (testing, quarantining, contact tracing) to achieve the best of both worlds: protecting our community health while businesses resume their activities with some modifications.

Many Pennsylvanians are also concerned about school property taxes. Again, this issue gets framed as either (a) complete elimination or (b) taxes that continually spiral upwards. If elimination were an easy solution, it would have been done by now. But what if we could reduce the local school property tax burden, providing some relief to property owners, while still leaving some local control over our schools? 

To do this, we need to increase the state’s share of education costs. One solution: tax income from wages and interest at a rate of 2.8% (lower than the current rate of 3.07%) and all other income, such as capital gains, at a rate of 6.5%. This would generate at least $2 billion of additional revenue that could be used for education. Likewise, closing the Delaware loophole so that corporations operating in Pennsylvania pay their fair share could raise $600 million in new revenue. Many local school districts are currently paying 60% or more of their educational costs. More funding from the state could reduce the local taxes, while still providing high quality public education to our students.

These are just two examples from the conversations I’ve had with people in the 102. Some of you will agree with me, some will disagree. Others may want more details, or fewer. But if we can start to have discussions about innovative approaches to our common problems, we may actually accomplish something to help Lebanon County.

There is one choice that definitely is an either/or, though: who will represent you in the PA House for District 102. I hope you’ll consider me.