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Rosen: The political and economic fallout of coronavirus

What we think we know and what we don’t know about COVID-19, now, will be far different from what we will know about in the future. Then, we’ll be able to analyze what we did right and wrong leading up to the pandemic and during it. That includes public policy under-reactions and over-reactions. The lessons learned should help us make preparations and contingency plans to do better when the next plague comes along, which will certainly happen.

Given the rational fears of massive illness and death throughout the population, over-reaction was predictable, understandable and appropriate. It’s also extremely costly and some of it unnecessary — but that can only be known in retrospect.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has done exemplary work as President Trump’s lead medical expert on the pandemic and as the principle scientific spokesman during the daily public briefings. On several occasions he has frankly stated that he’s neither qualified nor tasked to deal with the economic fallout and its remedies. So his narrow focus on public health is as it should be.

But that doesn’t mean the horrific economic consequences of this crisis should be ignored. In fact, they’re every bit as serious, in their own way, as the disease itself. The magnitude of damage to the U.S. economy and the world’s hasn’t been this devastating since the Great Depression of the 1930s. President Trump, who is leading the movement for re-opening the economy as soon as possible, is obliged to take a broader perspective, encompassing both the medical and economic health of our country.

The pessimistic view of some medical experts is that the virus might return with a fury in the fall. That’s possible. But we know for certain that the very survival of many big corporations, entire industry sectors, millions of small businesses (along with the life savings of their proprietors) and the welfare of all American workers is at peril if we don’t accelerate the re-opening of the economy.

The political goal of Democrats and the multitude of media liberals is to exploit the pandemic as their latest strategy to defeat Trump in the November election. Their contrived narrative is that he dawdled while the disease mushroomed and that thousands of lives could have been saved if he had acted more quickly. This is Monday morning quarterbacking of the worst kind with the luxury of hindsight.

On January 21, the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. was detected in Washington State. It wasn’t until January 30 that the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency. The very next day, Trump banned travel from China to the U.S, an act instantly criticized in The New York Times under a headline blaring: “Who Says it’s Not Safe to Travel to China?” followed by this subhead: “The coronavirus travel ban is unjust and doesn’t work anyway.” How stupid does that look in hindsight?

In Colorado, the first positive case of COVID-19 wasn’t diagnosed until March 5. It’s absurd to imagine that the president or state governments would have done anything much before that date like the kind of draconian measures that later closed down businesses, restaurants, movie theaters, Disneyland, hobbled the airlines, suspended sports seasons, forced mass layoffs of employees and confined the American public to house detention. It wasn’t until March 26 that Congresses got around to passing its $2.2 trillion rescue bill.

Extraordinary crises have given American presidents the opportunity to rise to the occasion and demonstrate their leadership, earning them public acclaim and historical stature. That was the case with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Ronald Reagan’s steadfastness in the Cold War leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall; and even New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Trump has taken advantage of his televised daily pressers to put himself front and center before the American public and act presidential, overshadowing Joe Biden stuck at home during this election campaign. Arguably, he has overdone it, as is his nature. But so has Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York during his daily TV appearances, elevating him as a possible replacement for the faltering Biden on the Democratic ticket. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is playing the same game in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for vice president, which appears to be reserved for a woman.

Is anyone really surprised that COVID-19 is steeped in politics?

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com. 

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