The Proper Context for Blame

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Let me give you the tl;dr on this piece below — Democrats say the President didn’t take the virus seriously back in January. Well, they had distracted him by impeachment. I was in the camp that said we should just let the election sort this out and not distract the nation at the time with serious things happening. I was thinking about Iran, etc. No one saw the virus coming. To the extent the Democrats were blasting the President about the virus in January, they were livid he was taking extraordinary action to shut down travel with China.

It is no wonder the President was looking at the virus in January as just another partisan media attack against him because that is exactly how the Democrats and media were treating it while impeaching them man. When President Trump took action that inarguably bought us time, they screamed at him for doing that.

Now you can read the whole below, which is the basis of my syndicated news column this week.

The Proper Context of Blame

On Monday, March 16, 2020, President Trump took to the podium in the White House press room and began to make the case to the American people that the underlying operations of the country must change to stop the growth of the Wuhan coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the United States.

The President wants Americans to end discretionary travel; shelter in place for fifteen days; limit gatherings to no more than ten people; avoid eating at restaurants and bars; and avoid gyms and other recreational spots if the virus is spreading in the community. 

For several weeks, Democrats and the media blasted the President.  At the end of January, the President imposed a travel ban on China.  The very media now blasting the President for not taking the matter seriously attacked the President then.  According to experts, the President’s ban on travel with China would make fighting the virus more difficult.  In hindsight, the experts now agree it was the right decision.

The media continues to attack the President and his administration for daring to use the phrases “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” to describe COVID-19, because it is supposedly racist.  Ebola, Zika, and West Nile come from regions in Africa.  No one claimed those were racist.  But the communist Chinese are screaming and in full denial that the virus originated in Wuhan.  The American media and progressive activists are helpfully defending the communist Chinese, just as they did when the National Basketball Association refused to take a stand for human rights in Hong Kong.

To really get the proper context for what is going on, however, we need to step back.  On January 19, 2020, a thirty-five year old man with a four day old cough went to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington.  He had traveled back from Wuhan, China and was the first diagnosed COVID-19 patient in the United States.

Chinese health authorities who now insist the Wuhan virus did not come from China were actually quite helpful on December 31, 2019, when they reported a pneumonia outbreak at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.  On January 7, 2020, the Chinese confirmed there was person to person spread of a novel coronavirus in Wuhan.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Democrats were impeaching the President.  Though the President had just allowed the American military to take out Qasem Soleimani, the major general overseeing Iran’s terrorist operations, and then witnessed media screams that the President had triggered World War III, Democrats and their press allies plowed ahead foolishly with impeachment.

It became an existential threat to and distraction for the President.  All the President’s attention turned to impeachment.  The press turned to silliness with aggressively hostile and partisan coverage of the President.  The republic had arrived at partisan warfare with the press taking the Democrats’ side.  In fairness, however, the press had been on the Democrats’ side since the election.

Into this, the press and Democrats began screaming about a man in Washington State who had come back from China.  But, when the President took direct action in the middle of his impeachment trial to stop travel with China, the press and Democrats attacked him for that too.

There are reasons to be critical of some of the President’s statements and tweets regarding the virus.  In seeking to avoid a panic and in seeking to calm people, he did arguably go too far to dismiss concerns.  But a fair-minded person does need to read the President’s actions through the process of a distracting impeachment with a partisan press and Democrats coming up with every imaginable excuse to savage the President.

The American press, humorously, spent that entire period referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” or “Wuhan coronavirus.”  While calling it that, they attacked the President for doing too much to stop the virus.  Now they call the President a racist for using their own words and attack him for doing too little.

One can hardly blame the President for treating the worry over the spread of the Wuhan virus as a partisan tool of the Democrats.  The press and Democrats treated it that way too.

What About a Jubilee?

A friend points out, accurately, that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama tried to throw money at economic problems during their administrations. In particular, they made cash payments to American citizens. It did not really have the stimulative effect they had hoped.

I am very sympathetic to that argument and honestly, I do not think any stimulus will do any good so long as Americans are too afraid to come out of their stockpiles of toilet paper. Concurrent to that, I do think this situation is different from those situations and there are a lot of Americans suddenly unemployed who just last week were in stable jobs. They need some help.

I don’t think we need to go with the Italian model of government take over, but I do wonder if we need to assurances at the state level, dependent on the states, that people are not going to get tossed from their houses for a failure to pay their mortgages or rent. I also wonder if it would be better to have a sort of Biblical jubilee and just say no rent or mortgage or car payments will be due in the next three months, but they pay off dates will be adjusted by three months. I realize the Jubilee was full debt forgiveness, but can we not just have full debt deferral and we all reset in three months?

The government can prop up the banks, which they are going to do anyway, but otherwise we just enter into a period of interest-free deferrals on all loans and housing payments.

What would do a person more good? Getting $1000.00 from the government or knowing their $600 mortgage and $400 car payment don’t have to be met so they can use that money for something else. This would also have the effect of dealing with cost of living matters. $1000 in Atlanta will get you less than $1000 in Baton Rouge, LA. But if we are deferring rent and mortgages, etc. we would be balancing out costs of living.

That is totally spitballing ideas and I am not an economics expert at all. But what I do know is that the financial and lending institutions are going to get bailed out and right now a lot of Americans don’t need bailouts. They just need help getting through the next few months. That would help more than $1000 and would free up already budgeted expenses for things like toilet paper.

The Actual Bailout

What I know for certain is this — forcing small businesses to provide paid leave is going to put a lot of them out of business. I know Democrats in Congress are not really concerned with small businesses and Republicans care way more about big business, but we need to be thinking of the little guy.

What is going to happen is a bunch of small and mid-sized businesses are going to have massive layoffs just to stay afloat. They have no revenue and no reserves to pay their employees to stay home. They just don’t. Telling them to pay now and the government will help them later through tax filings, etc. is stupid.

This really is a bad idea and both the White House and Congress should have some sense of shame about it. They are essentially ensuring a massive spike in unemployment or a massive spike in the collapse of small businesses by forcing paid leave on these businesses.

Congress needs to stop treating tax credits and tax deductions as a cure-all. A global pandemic sweeping through our nation with the potential death toll of a million people is orders of magnitude more serious than the 2008 financial crisis and will leave a bigger death toll with more economic devastation than 9/11. Pulling out the playbooks of previous economic stimulus plans that had questionable results probably isn’t the best way forward. But Washington is out of ideas and both parties are all about throwing money at problems.

Our House in Order

Relatedly, our national debt is over $23 trillion and skyrocketing. I agree with the President that now is not really the time to say we can’t do anything because of the debt and deficit. Congress needs to act and I am in the camp that thinks the Congress that does the least does the best. But they need to act.

We do have serious financial problems and we have less leverage to act with the national debt that we have.

Republicans need to take the debt and deficit seriously. What we are already seeing is a bunch of Democrats claim if we can write blank checks during this crisis than it means we can do the same to pay for garbage policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

Washington needs to get our fiscal house in order, even if it first must help Americans get their fiscal houses in order.