No matter how you look at it, the United States and the world are in dire straits. People are scared, with supply shortages, sub-par healthcare, and death rates rising by the day.
How we got here is not a mystery. When hurricanes are predicted, nations prepare and hunker down. But in the case of this invisible, silent killer, there was little preparation and cooperation facing a threat that knows no borders. In short, the world was ill-prepared.
In a globalized world, escalating tariffs led to economic fissures, nations became more nationalistic and increasingly divided with little cooperation and abundant recrimination. Healthcare supplies were not stockpiled for a predictable global pandemic.
When the virus hit, some governments lied about the rate of infection, hoping that it would quietly disappear. Most were in self-denial, refusing to take the necessary steps to limit the spread. The United States, one of the wealthiest countries with an enviable scientific infrastructure, was no exception.
Historians will analyze where the U.S. and the world faltered, but for now, we must do all we can to limit the damage and adopt initiatives that will strengthen the nation and insulate it from future crises.
What could President Donald Trump do to limit the fallout? What could he do for the country and the world to come out stronger on the other side? And yes, how would putting the national interest ahead of his personal interest impact his chances for re-election?
I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
The president should start by addressing the obvious and leveling with the American people to establish his national credibility. No more pitting one group against another. No more favoring one state over another. No more attacking the press for hard questions or governors for crying out for help. No more bullying allies and foes into submission. He must put science ahead of his “hunches” and “gut feelings.” And yes, sidelining the perceived impact of his policies on his re-election. Lives are on the line.
Mending Broken Relations
For a start, Trump should immediately mend damaged relations with China and Europe and improve America’s global image. The United States is no longer ascendant and is at best at a plateau. America needs the rest of the world for its health, prosperity, and security, and the world needs a reliable partner in the United States.
We live in a globalized world with global supply chains. America’s manufacturing capabilities have declined while its service economy has surged. Cooperation would increase the availability of much-needed supplies, enhance the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and enable the U.S. and the world to fight threats that know no borders such as pandemics and environmental disasters.
Lifting of tariffs, which hamper global prosperity and endanger healthcare needs, should be an immediate step. Erasing tariffs on Chinese goods would begin mending relations with Beijing, a country that is now the world’s principal provider of manufactured goods. Besides going the extra mile to supply us with ventilators and other urgently-needed medical supplies, China could even provide medical personnel already experienced with treating COVID-19 patients.
To be truly enlightened, the president could be humble and say that the pandemic has opened his eyes to the fragile nature of our interdependent world with invisible dangers around the corner. To that end, the United States could even join the Paris Climate Accord and help make it even stronger.
COVID-19 has shown the glaring weaknesses in the American economy because frequent crises requiring rapid bailouts do little to address the underlying problem. This may be the best time to address them.
Trump could take this opportunity to propose bold initiatives that might be harder to advance in good times. A large segment of the American population lives paycheck to paycheck. When there is a mass layoff, demand collapses, increasing the likelihood of a recession or even depression. The economy needs better shock absorbers.
Now is the time to double the federal minimum wage and significantly increase unemployment benefits, in both amount and duration. The pandemic has exposed the dire state of America’s healthcare coverage and infrastructure; there is an urgent need to upgrade hospitals and to train more medical personnel.
Additionally, this is the time for proposal towards universal healthcare that strengthens the Affordable Care Act or some other variant in recognition of the fact that our individual good health requires healthcare for all.
To further strengthen the underbelly of the American economy, the country’s tax structure needs a serious overhaul to enable the average American to save. A more just system would impose a much higher burden on the corporations and the 1 percent in favor of a reduction of taxes for the 99 percent.
National Interest Over Personal Interest
The president can appeal to our better instincts and even say that the adoption of these initiatives is much more important than his re-election. If he were to adopt such a reversal of his partisan policies, he would not only win in a landslide, but history would forget his past missteps and treat him well.
For the longer run, we need to look even further afield. The pandemic has bared America’s fault lines. The Constitution is not as robust as we like to think. It relies on a large degree of human decency and cooperation between political parties and the three branches of government. There is no rail guard for putting the national interest ahead of partisan and personal interest.
The corona crisis has uncovered America’s tribal undercurrent as never before at a time when cooperation is of paramount importance. Viruses know no state borders and political parties.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.