A Misstatement of the Case

Gerald Seib opened his Monday Wall Street Journal piece with this bit:

…Americans have learned they can’t really count on Washington to deal with this crisis for them. Local leaders, businesses, churches, sports leagues—all have taken up the task, and done so more effectively than the political leadership in Washington.

That’s as it should be. Responsibility is individual, personal; we cannot wish any of that off onto others, much less government. All government can do—and it should do this much—is help us satisfy our own obligations.

That help, also, needs to come from the bottom up, with the Federal government’s help coming last. That top tier of our American government hierarchy has national responsibilities, and even with the present COVID-19 situation, conditions on the ground vary widely from locale to locale, State to State. Responses need to be similarly local or unique to each State.

The Federal government can spur development of medical treatments—the public-private partnerships with medical enterprises, for instance—and short-term (I’ll repeat that: short-term, with sunset clauses built in to guarantee shortness) economic measures to mitigate the stresses on our businesses, small and large. It can deploy military mobile hospitals and shelters to particular hot spots, and it can take other such temporary nation-wide steps to mitigate the situation.

Necessary mitigation, even control, of the situation, though, must begin with us as individuals. That mitigation begins with stopping our panic-buying and hoarding of necessary supplies. They continue with looking out for our most vulnerable neighbors: the elderly, the less or non-mobile, the poor among us.  They go further: avoiding large gatherings for the duration (which is not the same as not going out at all, not giving our custom to the mom and pop businesses in our neighborhoods and city regions), seeing to the welfare of neighbors with early grade school-aged children whose schools have been closed for the duration, checking on the older kids.

We need, also, to consider a mantra from a war we fought four generations ago: Is this trip really necessary? (And yes, it is, within the context of continuing to do at least occasional business with those mom and pops.)

In the end, we must revive and live by the words a man spoke some 60 years ago (which I’ll rephrase here): Ask not what your government can do for you. Ask what you can do for yourself and your neighbor.

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