Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the line during the program’s second hour by Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield.)
During the second hour, Roberts expressed his dismay for small businesses that have been shut down due to federal mandates’ requests for “non-essential” businesses to close because of the coronavirus. He agreed with many of his constituents’ who were worried and upset about the unfairness by the government to be able to make decisions about who stays in business and who goes out.
Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend, all-star panelist, and State Senator Kerry Roberts. Good morning Kerry. Are you sheltering safely at home?
Roberts: (Laughs) Yes, apparently I am.
Leahy: I asked earlier Kerry about our audience about when they are going to return to normal specifically when do you think you’ll feel comfortable enough to go out and get a haircut? One of our listeners said probably June 1. And I said even though I’m getting a little bit shaggy myself it probably will be June 1 till I go out and get a haircut. How are you doing hair-wise Kerry?
Roberts: Every barbershop in Tennessee is closed and probably being put out of business as we speak. My wife cuts my hair so my barbershop is still open. In fact, In fact, I will get a hair cut this morning.
Leahy: You will actually be sartorial splendid when this all ends. I’ll be a shaggy dog. (Chuckles)
Roberts: Michael, not only will I have a haircut but also not being able to go out to eat all the time I’m actually losing some weight too. I might be able to fit in some clothes that have been hanging in my closet for some time.
Leahy: I probably lost over a four year period of time I probably lost about 30 pounds. In the past four weeks, I think I gained it all back. (Laughs)
Roberts: Oh, just the opposite for you. How about that?
Leahy: Because I’m old and lazy my workout routine had been to go to the gym where I’d follow a routine and have an instructor and it would be great. So I did two things. I was going to a great hot yoga studio in Brentwood, Tennessee. The Hot Room which I haven’t been to in about two months because of the coronavirus! Then I decided I’m really going to do better and try Orange Theory Fitness that opened up in Spring Hill. And I went there for a month before the coronavirus! I was doing the diet and the whole thing. Now I’m just hold up in the house except for when I come in here to the studio. All I do is work, eat, and now I have actually now started the routine of taking about a one-mile walk around the neighborhood. That’s about it, man. I envy your discipline. You are not eating a lot apparently?
Roberts: When we eat at home we just tend to eat healthier than we do when we go out. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: No macaroni cheese? (Giggles) No mash potatoes?
Roberts: More fruits and vegetables.
Leahy: Vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sundae?
Roberts: Nope. I don’t do any of that stuff at home so it works out pretty well. You are bringing up a really interesting point about the barbershops. One of the complaints that I receive as part of being a state senator is that you kind of become the complaint department for things that are going on in government.
Leahy: Let me just say, this is why I’m delighted that you have that job and I have this job. This is the problem with being an elected official. Anyone who is your consistent has the right to show up and say, “Hey Kerry!” And give you a complaint. As a radio host guess what I get to do? I get to complain. (Laughs) Life is unfair.
Roberts: Most of the complaints or the most serious complaints are about the federal government. We really try to avoid saying that’s not our problem. Instead, we try to find a point of contact that can help someone. We often say well that’s a federal issue but let us help connect you to the right person. Many of the times with the state you can help solve somebody’s problem. The complaint that we are receiving which is tough right now. Somebody texted me last week and said this whole thing isn’t fair. You all are picking who stays in business and who goes out of business.
Leahy: A very good point.
Roberts: Yeah. She said your list is ridiculous. So last Friday…
Leahy: Let’s be fair. It’s not your list its Gov. Lee’s list.
Roberts: True. (Leahy laughs) So last Friday we had some errands to run and I had to restock on food. I live in a rural community. We have several food shopping options and the option of choice on Friday was Walmart which I hate going to Walmart. No offense to Walmart.
Leahy: The crowds are too big perhaps? It’s inexperience, right?
Roberts: I was a long time brick and motor who was adversely affected by Walmart. So I remember in the 80s.
Leahy: You had a bike shop. You had a series of bike shops right?
Roberts: Walmart put a lot of main street USA out of business. I’m not running a campaign against it and I’ll go there but I prefer not to. On Friday that is where I went. Michael, it was Friday. COVID-19. Mandatory stay at home. The parking lot was full. It looked like a busy Saturday. By the time we got done at Walmart.
Leahy: But Walmart is an essential business under the governor?
Roberts: Well you know what? A lot of what is sold in Walmart is not an essential business. When you look at the shopping carts you can see that people are shopping for just about everything. So then we stopped at Lowes.
Roberts: Lowes parking lot was full. It looked like a spring Saturday. Of course, Friday was beautiful. Then I had to stop at Tractor Supply. The parking lot was full. People were in the store just like any other day. Then I had to stop to get gas and had to wait at the pump. At some point I turned to my wife and said, this mandatory stay at home thing is obviously not on. Everybody has just said whatever. I turned to her and said that it just goes to prove a point that you can’t tell American’s to stay at home.
Leahy: But they weren’t violating those mandatory orders if they were there for essential business.
Roberts: I’m just saying the intent of it though is completely disregarded. And this person’s point was extremely well made. She said people aren’t in any certain proximity then what you have to be as what you see at Walmart. And that’s true.
They sit there and they put the x’s on the floor so you stay six feet away from the people in front of you. But it doesn’t work. And you see mom or dad with three or four kids in there. And you are just like, you know? You wouldn’t have any idea other than the fact that you had yellow tape that you had to walk through and had to go through a labyrinth.
Here’s a great outcome. You didn’t have to look for a shopping cart. They were all sanitized and they were all lined up neatly for you to grab one and go. That was the greatest benefit that the way you had to enter the store. Your shopping carts were sanitized and ready for you to grab and go. It’s frustrating for a lot of people. I don’t have a good answer for that one. On the other side of this, despite all the Small Business Association (SBA) loan help there’s going to be a lot of people that don’t make it.
Leahy: Well there’s no question about that.
Roberts: Small business. I’m talking about small businesses.
Leahy: I don’t know how you shut down some essential businesses and define them as non-essential. That’s going to be a problem.
Roberts: I think if I could wave my magic wand and we could do it all over, it would be a strong recommendation from the beginning. We’re not going to tell you what to do but here’s what we think is wise. A week ago when we were on the show Michael, if we looked at what was being projected last week it was 5,000 some deaths in Tennessee on Monday and today its 587.
Leahy: Gee what happened?
Roberts: The same thing I’ve been saying all along. I’m not trying to say I told you so here but there are people who have built their models on some very incomplete assumptions and they don’t have good denominators. When you look at the data.
Listen to the full second hour:
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