COVID-19 – lessons to be learned? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

Worrying about those, including close friends and relatives, suffering from the pandemic virus itself,  fretting about its economic fallout and spending up to eight hours a day in assorted Zoom meetings, I have lacked the focus to write  a single-theme blog but wanted to share some concerns and invite your reactions.

I am struck by the symbolism of tomorrow, April 30, the 45th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. It took 20 years, from 1955 to 1975, for the United States to lose 58,220 men and women — 47,434 in combat — in the Vietnam war. In less than four months, more Americans have died from the Covid-19 pandemic, 59,256  according to  today’s probably underestimated total body count.  What should be today’s equivalent chant to “ Hey, Hey LBJ…?”

As Fox Butterfield wrote yesterday in the NY Times, both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon chose to ignore expert advice and bend facts to fit their world views. Today, each COVID-19 death report represents a sorrowful story that will ripple forward in time,  first with immediate friends and family of the deceased, later in the resolve of others to deconstruct what we have been through. To lay bare what could and should have been done earlier, what still can be done now and in days to come to save lives.   One need look no further than the rise in case numbers of Singapore and Germany to understand why we can’t open up our economy too fast. I worry that we will not learn from this cataclysmic plague and fail to take transformational action across society to ameliorate suffering and make this a better world for our children and grandchildren.

Now is the time to put in place the framework for an independent  non-partisan “after action” investigation and report, akin to the 9/11 Commission. Let’s also re-envision and transform health care, education, worker and workplace safety protections, social safety nets, domestic production capabilities, supply chains and globalization and more. Which of  the assorted areas, large and small,  is a priority for you?

States and cities desperately need flexible federal support to respond to unprecedented expenses. Trump consigliere, Treasury Secretary  Steve Mnuchin, wants to severely restrict where federal dollars can be used. Trump insists on restricting federal dollars to Sanctuary Cities. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has walked back from his justly- pilloried advice to states to go into bankruptcy, now proposes aid be tied to liability protections for companies that put their workers and customers at great risk and even cause serious harm. These narrow-minded ideas could be merely opening negotiating gambits or, more seriously,  poison pills designed to delay, dilute and block needed federal  action.

To what extent have any of you or those close to you  eligible  for the stimulus payments still not received the promised checks? Who has not even gotten written confirmation that their small business loan applications under the Paycheck Protection Program have been approved? Think Trump will criticize any of his administration officials with the venom he spewed after implementation problems bollixed the Affordable Care roll out? How much better will transparency and oversight of spending be this time than in 2008?