March 4, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Letter: Coronavirus & Competence

As we watch, the world is responding to a global pandemic. Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus, which means it is a new strain. It is spreading in Minnesota right now. Governments, health care organizations, and public health offices are working hard to protect us. 

This is one of the most important jobs of government — to protect us. Taking early action gives organizations more time to prepare. We will need to work together to “flatten the curve”. We want to avoid a large and early spike in the number of sick people who need medical care to avoid overwhelming our health-care system. 

Unfortunately, the U.S. response to this pandemic has been woefully incompetent. This is expected. The well-known author, Michael Lewis, in his book, The Fifth Risk, documented the transition of the Trump Administration into power. Lewis visited the Department of Energy (protects nuclear waste), Department of Agriculture (protects food safety), and Department of Commerce (provides accurate weather data). The big risk he describes is the failure to value “program management.” This is the “risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.”

Does the government have problems? Yes. Is it too bloated in some areas? Yes. Does a complex industrial society like ours require expertise in many fields to function well? Absolutely! 

So, what happened during the transition? Did Trump’s new administrators show up eager to take briefings from outgoing staff  and prepare for their new roles. They did not. 

In 2018, Trump’s administration fired the entire pandemic response chain-of-command. Trump pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs. He proposed cuts to the Center for Disease Control and other health agencies. 

In the US, we are scrambling to get virus test kits. Keep in mind that South Korea is testing about 20,000 people a day. And, Trump’s big prime-time speech rattled the markets and provided inaccurate information during a prepared speech. We are now in a bear market.

Secretary Azar ignored CDC protocols with quarantined cruise ship passengers at Travis Air Force Base, helping spread the virus. In short, expertise and competence matter – in leadership and government. And, Trump is no leader. 

This virus will reveal even more about our national health. And, working-class families will be left picking up the pieces. Millions of American don’t have health care, and many people will wait until they are really sick to get help. And, if they need to take time off  of work, many Americans have no sick-leave. Once schools shut down, lots of families will have few childcare options. If people don’t work, they won’t be able to pay mortgages, student loans, car payments, and medical debt. And we wonder why Millenials are asking for some level of basic security, like health-care insurance, sick-leave, $15 per hour, labor rights, and support for childcare and education.

As icing on the cake, the GOP platform even calls for ending Social Security for young people. Of course, we do know who will be taken care of. Trump passed tax cuts that went largely to the top 1% and drove our deficit over $1 trillion dollars per year. Remember, the Tea Party? Even in Minnesota, Republicans have been more focused on giving out tax breaks than preparing for this pandemic. Why would you spend a surplus when a pandemic threatens our state? If we keep electing people that think government is the problem, we will get a problematic government. Let’s try something different.

Troy Goodnough