Thursday, April 2, 2020

Week 30: Wasted Crisis

The quote, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” echoes in the background, as one considers politicians’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the passage of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Some reading this quote will recall that Rham Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, said this when discussing the political opportunity presented by a shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, in which six people were killed and 14 were injured. His statement was merely a riff on similar philosophies, which may be found in works, such as Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” and Niccolò Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”

It has been astonishing to observe the hyper-partisan, political gamesmanship taking place in terms of actions being proposed to address the crisis. As conceived by Machiavelli, Alinsky and Emanuel, the COVID-19 pandemic is being viewed by those in power (and by those who covet power) as an opportunity to push through their special interests or those of their benefactors (i.e., lobbyists and election contributors). While true of both parties, it appears to be a strategy particularly leveraged by Democrats. This makes sense, because they control only one half of one of the three branches of government. Furthermore, the President’s approval ratings are at the highest level of his presidency, even in the midst of this national emergency. Considering that, many on the left must be concerned about their ability to expand control of the organs of government in the upcoming election. Consequently, loading up the CARES act with pork projects and ideologically-based regulations is the only avenue available to them to further control the lives of citizens and secure their power over us.

Under normal circumstances, I would argue vociferously against huge spending bills. Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic – for decades upon decades – we have been spending more that we can afford for federal programs that essentially create government monopolies in massive sectors of the socio-economic life of the nation. These de facto monopolies, like healthcare, retirement, safety nets, etc. have resulted in higher costs for the people, appalling waste, fraud and abuse for the taxpayers, and lower quality services for those in need.

With the CARES act, I’ve been pushed into an interesting ideological corner. I actually think the government has a responsibility to provide aid and relief, because it is government, at all levels, which has forced businesses to close and people to stay at home. This very well may be the right thing to do in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Assuming it is, it seems appropriate that the government should also have the responsibility to make citizens whole. They tell many Americans that they are prohibited from engaging in activities to earning a living and support themselves. Again, they are doing this for what are likely sound reasons, but they the government should then bear the responsibility for supporting those Americans.

Unfortunately, politicians wasted this crisis in a very important way. They had the opportunity to pass a clean bill that would provide direct aid to those in need. Instead, they bickered and delayed over political topics like airline emissions and diversity standards for corporate boards. They couldn’t focus on providing immediate aid to those in need. They had to grandstand for their own political advantage. They had the opportunity in this crisis to be statesmen and stateswomen. Many, instead, chose to be power-hungry, manipulative apparatchiks of party leadership and special-interest masters.

The saving grace in all of this may be found in the character of the American people. With some exceptions, of course, We the People have not wasted this crisis. In communities across the nation, neighbors are helping one another face this situation. People are, to a large extent, staying home. In work and in personal life, the innovation of the American people is resulting in new and creative ways to stay connected and to be productive. To the extent possible, people are doing what they can to support local businesses, making sure that the mom-and-pops will still be there when this pandemic passes.

As we think about the future leaders of our nation, be they in the Presidency or in Congress, consider which candidates exemplify the lust for power of politicians and which exemplify the positive, self-reliance of the American people. Vote accordingly.

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