Today we concentrate on those who have the authority to better conditions for all citizens, but they do not. In normal times they create enough problems. In emergency situations such as COVID-19 their actions result in devastating consequences. I used to call these individuals leaders, but that’s a misnomer. Now I just say they have power. They are, of course, in executive and legislative positions in national and state governments.
We have seen incompetence in national leadership that has allowed a terrible threat to become a horrible one. Depending on the state, we have seen governors of both parties lead with strength or twiddle their thumbs. In my state, our governor needed approval from his master in Washington in order to act.
The authorities in my state and many states have governed for years in a manner that ignores and degrades the poor and vulnerable of our population. This type of control has emboldened the basest and most selfish segments of our society.
What they have done is abhorrent to any thinking individual with a modicum of conscience. But gerrymandering, support of a significant portion of the population, and indifference from many of the rest of us let them get away with it.
Now the coronavirus has exposed the flaws of their past actions. Here are a few.
- My state, Florida, rarely rates high in any category. However, in the matter of unemployment insurance it is among the top in having the worst benefits. An individual who has lost his job can expect a massive $275 each week for a total of 13 weeks. Those would be the lucky ones, the ones whose jobless claim could be processed—and was not denied. The current crisis has exposed the state’s unemployment system for what it is: an expensive underdeveloped platform set up to not deliver. We can thank many people, but much credit is due our former governor and current state senator. He hates the unemployed and worked hard to gut the unemployment compensation system while he was governor. Recently he expressed contempt for the $600 weekly payment in the national payout bill because he didn’t want someone out of work to make more than when working! I guess it helps such thinking to be a multimillionaire.
- For years Florida has had a fund mandated by statute to be used for affordable housing. For years prior to the current one Florida legislators have robbed most of those funds to provide important state initiatives such as tax breaks for big businesses. The devastation caused by the virus has put more and more people out of work and the money for help with housing is woefully inadequate.
- My state has proudly declined to participate in the expansion of Medicare allowed by the Affordable Care Act, even though the federal government would pay most of the cost. That has worked out well in the current crisis, hasn’t it? Those not covered who seek help will have their care paid locally one way or the other. Those who refuse to ask for medical assistance because of lack of insurance will become sicker, resulting in even more local costs.
- The experts tell us individuals confined to their homes for extended periods are more likely to become depressed. One can expect suicides, already a major problem, to increase. One of the most effective methods is gunshot. No problem obtaining firearms in my state. The legislators love ‘em and pass laws to encourage their availability and use. Gun stores have been doing a roaring business, considered “essential” in the current crisis.
- The second of our state senators wants to get the economy rolling again, soon, and we are starting. I understand the need. It’s a terrible dilemma, especially with so many out of work. I’m glad I don’t have to make the call balancing the risks of lifting sanctions against not lifting them. I do sympathize with those in that position. But I do not accept the insensitive statement by the senator that, yes, people will die, but it’s the price for opening the economy. Another action with consequences!
The mean spiritedness of so many of our legislators and executives is hard to comprehend.
How can they live with themselves?