Big government versus small government is always a good debate topic. Patty once had a T-shirt that said, “Everyone must decide for himself what is right.” The late Keith Blackmore of the Freeport Audubon objected. “We can’t have everyone deciding what’s right,” he said. “We need laws.”
Now we are faced with a real crisis. The U.S. already has more coronavirus cases than any other country. Illinois, at this writing, has over 15,000 infected and over 450 deaths. President Trump has compared the situation to a war.
In wartime, presidents are often given extraordinary powers. Some presidents, even Abraham Lincoln, were criticized for acting dictatorial. Of course, we need to trust our leader, and many of us do not really trust Donald Trump.
At one point Trump dismissed the complaints of mayors and governors who said they weren’t getting the medical equipment they needed. A day later, after criticism, he authorized the government “to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act” to obtain supplies.
He is playing politics, favoring states whose governors “appreciate” him. Florida, with a Trump ally for governor, received 100% of its order from the Strategic National Stockpile within three days. Maine received only 5%.
And now he’s touting a drug that hasn’t been properly tested.
A long article in The Washington Post (April 4) details the failures of the administration. “It may never be known how many thousands of deaths, or millions of infections, might have been prevented with a response that was more coherent, urgent and effective. But even now, there are many indications that the administration’s handling of the crisis had potentially devastating consequences.”
The U.S. passed the largest relief package in history: $2 trillion. But is a $1,200 dollar check really going to save the millions of people who are now unemployed? Maybe we should do what Denmark is doing: They have nationalized payrolls, covering 75 to 90% of all worker salaries over the next three months, provided that companies refrain from layoffs.
Again, to many this is too much control by the government. But these are extraordinary times, and small measures won’t do the job.
Some are complaining about hoarding. Scott Reeder wants stores to keep control: charge a normal price for a first purchase, but raise it for a second purchase.
But this would allow the rich to buy whatever they want, and Reeder’s solution of “a safety net of churches, food pantries and government services” isn’t enough. As Keith would’ve said, “We need laws.”
The New York Times had a story about some guy who bought over 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer so he could sell them at a profit. OK, no law against such a selfish action. But should there be a law against selling them for more than they’re worth? We think so, just as many states have laws against scalping tickets. And these supplies are more important than a concert.
(Amazon finally banned the guy from selling the sanitizer, and faced with a lawsuit, he donated them).
We must do several things. We must pressure the president to do what is necessary; public outcry does have an effect on a narcissist. We must insist our representatives and senators do the right thing and stop bickering politically. We must help the lower wage earners and not concentrate just on helping corporations, unless they are going to pass gains on to their employees.
And yes, when the crisis is over, we must make sure the government does not continue to use extraordinary powers to limit our liberties.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.