Monday, April 06, 2020

We Voted For Inaction

Many have claimed the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been inept due to a collapse of leadership. Critics write about this collapse as though it were a failure.

The problem with that view, however, is that it ignores how, for years, Americans have been supporting leaders who've promised to hobble the Federal government.

A lack of Federal leadership is what many Americans have been demanding, and during this crisis, Trump's decision to leave all the difficult decisions to the states is a victory for those voters.

There is a large block of Americans who believe the following:

  • Most government services are inefficient
  • Most government spending is wasteful
  • Most government workers are incompetent
  • Most elected officials are corrupt
  • The government stands in the way of freedom
  • The smaller our government gets the better our nation will become

Voters who hold those beliefs fueled the rise of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, the Tea Party, debt ceiling shutdowns, the House Freedom Caucus, and President Trump - among others.

These voters have a core belief that informs their choices: The only acceptable role for our government is to support the growth of private industry - the real power in America.

Because these voters do not believe the government is able to effectively respond to anything, they will seek to strip it of the power to respond to everything. Trump has been happy to contribute to that effort, branding any of his policy critics from within the government as "deep state operatives." 

So, to cite one example, no one should be surprised that in 2018 this administration disbanded a National Security Unit focused on pandemic response despite repeated warnings of the risk a pandemic posed. After all, the administration was acting on its promise to streamline the government. When this move resulted in the departure of Thomas P. Bossert and Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, leading experts in pandemic response, this was more evidence that the administration was shrinking the government. The departure of pandemic experts was a victory.

To provide another example, people should not be baffled that the Administration has still not enacted the Defense Production Act despite A) the clear need for increased production of ventilators and B) the need for a powerful purchaser capable ending bidding wars that result in an unnecessary spike in prices for care during a crisis.

This Administration does not believe in wielding the power of our government for anything other than supporting the growth of private industry. This belief gives them the right to deny responsibility for the American people. 
Voters sought out leaders who do not believe the government is responsible for the safety and security of its people. We found those people and put them in charge. 

So, we need to stop acting surprised at the non-response we're getting from the White House, and we have got to start discussing what the role of government should be as we prepare for new leadership.  

The group behind Trump's rise does not value public education, publicly-funded scientific research, environmental protections, consumer protection programs, privacy protections, publicly-funded efforts to empower marginalized groups, safety regulations, advancements in infrastructure, or publicly-funded arts.

Attempts to appeal to them on any of these issues will go nowhere.
Those policies either directly impede efforts to support the growth of private industry or they complete for the resources required for such support.

The good news is most Americans don't share the beliefs that inform this Administration. As we struggle through this crisis without a leader, let's use this time to reexamine what we expect from our government when the opportunity to select real leader arrises.

What do you expect from our government?

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