Columns

Coronavirus and the Reordering of America's Priorities

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In the midst of the madness–unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty for many of us–Americans, myself included, are finding ourselves taking a fresh look at what is truly important and what is not.  For example, many who obsess over live sports and sporting events on TV or in person are realizing that they can, in fact, live without them. The life changes demanded by these unique times are teaching us much about ourselves, it seems.

Take how people look at politics and government. A month ago, Americans were pretty much firmly in one of two corners: “MAGA” versus “Never Trump,” and ready for a fight — sometimes verbally and sometimes with actual fists. Now, not that we’ve put the gloves down entirely, but we are not able to be super obsessed with that fight. There are bigger matters at hand.

Americans are looking to government to do its job and find solutions to the biggest, scariest challenge most of us among the living have ever faced: a virus that is spreading fast with no medicine ready to treat and prevent the illness. So fast and so vast that we are running out of hospital beds, health care providers are near flameout from exhaustion, and we keep hearing it’s just going to get worse. As the global death toll rises, people are rightly spooked and demanding competent–no, extraordinary–leadership.

So yeah, issues that were such a big deal before coronavirus just days ago, really, are suddenly not all that important anymore. The fake outrage we normally see every day on social media spurred by somebody making an inappropriate joke or saying something that is not politically acceptable for another has slowed. Government regulations on the economy that made little issues into big ones seem unimportant. The media’s obsessive focus on everything Trump just looks dopey right now.

Americans need to take away two big lessons from the early response to the coronavirus. First is that we, as a nation, have to deal with the soul-crushing debt that we have accumulated. Congress is considering a massive $2 trillion (plus!) “stimulus” package to combat economic displacement caused by the coronavirus. Had we saved for this time of crisis, we would have more flexibility today to dump cash we actually have into the economy to prevent a recession or even a depression.

Our nation is in debt for about $24 trillion accumulated over our relatively brief history. The deficit for last year was just under $1 trillion. With the pending massive stimulus and lower tax revenues expected this year, because fewer people are working, the deficit for Fiscal Year 2020 is going to be astronomical. Had we mustered the discipline to save for this rainy day, our federal financial situation would be far better (Can’t lie, I’m in a bit of a glass house here because the same argument applies to my personal financial situation right now…yikes).

Further, we need to get rid of regulations and government actions that don’t actively help the economy. Partisan actions by the government simply need to be scrapped. I wrote about a great example of this right here in PJ in February. Quoting myself, “liberal lawyers at the Department of Labor are implementing policies started by the Obama Administration that have allowed liberal activists to threaten government contractors with no future contracts on the baseless claim of discrimination.” It is a situation where progressive lawyers in an obscure government agency called the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) used government-collected data from government contractors to bully them into settlements with claims of discrimination.

We are in a situation where our tech companies are rapidly developing technology to help with communications resources to fight the coronavirus and aid in testing. These companies are helping to collect data on the spread that may help stem it while helping to keep homebound Americans up to date and informed. Two of the companies targeted by OFCCP are right now working to help get Americans back to work: Google and Oracle. The Chamber of Commerce pointed out the agency’s harassment of companies was over the line and a product of ideologically-driven lawyers. Allowing the government to slow big tech companies that are trying to fight the coronavirus because some government lawyer does not like that company’s data on hiring and promotion practices makes no sense. It’s like the reports over the last few days of the FDA delaying the delivery of desperately-needed masks and other supplies to hospitals and health care professionals because of some bureaucratic reg-nonsense.

We just can’t be doing this stuff anymore, and both sides are guilty as hell of it.

We’ll learn many lessons from having weathered this crisis. May ridding ourselves of unhelpful policies and finding some way to balance the budget so we are not caught entirely flat-footed when we hit the next one be at the top of that list. That and kindness. In better times, maybe we can have a big helping of social media distancing. A boy can still dream, no?

Christian Josi is a leading communications advisor, author, and a veteran of center-right / libertarian politics and non-profit management. He is the Founder and Managing Director of C. Josi & Company, a global communications resource firm based in Virginia Beach and Washington, and Principal of SLAYMEDIA, based in same. Along with Dr. Keith Ablow, Josi is co-author of the forthcoming book “Trump Your Life.”