Government is the problem.”
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language:
‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
What we are learning every day that we are under siege by the coronavirus is just the opposite: The only place we can turn for relief from this massive scourge is government. There is no other entity that can possibly help to the extent needed during an existential crisis. Only government can combat the greatest health calamity to strike us in a hundred years. Only government is the answer to the most dire economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. No other establishment can marshal the trillions of dollars needed in order for businesses and individuals to survive.
Set aside for the moment that the current composition of our government is mired in the chaos and controversy that informs every day of the Trump administration. That does not detract from the fundamental fact that we have never needed government as much as we do now.
For 40 years Republicans have disparaged and decimated the federal government at every opportunity. Now that wrongheaded, self-destructive policy has come home to roost and Americans in droves are getting sick and dying as a consequence while the survivors watch their jobs and savings disappear. This is the harvest we glean from four decades of ruinous assaults on the institutions established to keep us safe.
The combination of knee-jerk anti-intellectualism, hostility to science, disdain for knowledge and expertise, penchant for fake news and denial of reality that are the other linchpins of the corruption of traditional conservatism that Republicans have hammered us with, has now put us in a terrible place. Whether we can emerge from this black hole is not guaranteed, given the Trump administration’s inability and even reluctance to get its ducks in order.
Despite having all of the levers of government in their hands, Donald Trump, the apotheosis of the Reagan Revolution, and his woeful administration and congressional allies cannot figure out how to pull them to make the machinery of government work at a time when the need to do so is desperate. This is what you get after decades of dismantling the very vehicle you are now attempting to drive.
In the absence of competent federal leadership, many state governors have moved into the breach and acquitted themselves well. It is worth noting that those who have not—at this writing five defiantly refuse to order their citizens to stay-at-home and self-isolate—are all Republicans. This is no accident. They spent their formative years and adult lives drinking the Reagan Kool-Aid.
It is remarkable that in a time when it is essential to set aside ideology in favor of practicality, Republicans cannot do what is demanded. Even though panic prompted the GOP’s congressional cohort to enact the most massive stimulus bill in history, they and the Trump administration cannot bring themselves to stop filtering relief through the now-discredited Reagan thesis. It is the current citizens of the United States who are paying for these 40 years of blind ignorance and unwarranted assaults on the very institutions established to safeguard our health and economic security.
These guardrails should never again be brought down in the service of ideological narrowmindedness. The Reagan Revolution must die with the demise of the coronavirus.
April 17, 2020