It’s big government that comes to the rescue in times of true crisis

All the people who warned you that big government can’t be trusted, all the politicians who got elected bashing federal bureaucrats, their voices have gone silent.

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People at O’Hare Airport, the site of long lines over the weekend because of coronavirus screenings, watch a White House briefing last Friday on federal efforts to contain the pandemic.

People at O’Hare Airport, the site of long lines over the weekend because of coronavirus screenings, watch a White House briefing last Friday on federal efforts to contain the pandemic.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Repeat after me: Big government is good.

OK, not perfect. Far from it.

But when our lives are on the line, when the plague is upon us, we all look to the federal government, the state government, our municipalities for help.

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The Centers for Disease Control is a federally funded organization. These are the folks we are now counting on to come up with a plan to minimize the COVID-19 epidemic’s impact.

We are dependent on public health organizations across the country to organize treatment.

All the people who warned you that big government can’t be trusted, all the politicians who got elected bashing federal bureaucrats, their voices have gone silent.

They promised to cut your taxes because the government always wasted your tax money.

Most of those same people today are voting to increase federal funding for the CDC.

This is the sort of response you see whenever disaster strikes this country. Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or devastating forest fires, people turn to their government for help.

Is the federal government perfect? No. The lack of lab tests for coronavirus proves that.

But who else is going to help the millions of people who are going to be out of work during this epidemic? Who else would pay for the virus tests? Who else would bring the private sector together to do what is needed, including finding a vaccine as quickly as possible?

And there is no one telling big government to stay out of this fight.

The critics realize that our tax money is needed. They realize our federal expertise is required. And they understand that the bungling politicians they always complain about must show some leadership, even those they have called unpatriotic.

I wish our leaders had stepped up sooner.

I wish we had national health care.

I wish we had more nurses and doctors and medical equipment and had poured more of our tax money into research.

Everyone knew an epidemic like this was coming. We’ve been waiting for it for three decades.

Yet, it came as a surprise.

I’m reminded of Oak Forest Hospital, a giant complex about 25 miles south of Chicago, that 100 years ago was used to house people with contagious diseases. It was a place to isolate the very ill and also a place to bury them.

About a decade ago, do-gooder liberals and conservative naysayers joined together to get the hospital closed down because it had been run as a political patronage haven by Cook County. It was a waste of money, they said. And Cook County could not afford it.

Farsighted folks might have seen it as a great asset.

But that’s not reality. Money was needed to give unions raises. Residents complained they were overtaxed. Everyone agreed the government was corrupt and didn’t work.

I have seen it all. And I still say government, big government, is worth the money.

Maybe this crisis will teach us to take the bigger view. But I doubt it.

Over the years, I have had many heated discussions with people who didn’t like the idea that illegal aliens had access to free health care.

I would tell them that without such access to health care, you could have millions of people walking around carrying infectious diseases.

Maybe now people understand that argument. Maybe now they also understand why you do not want to scare people with threats of deportation if they come in to a clinic for treatment.

In my opinion, we need a moratorium on deportations. We need to make sure everyone who is sick gets help if they need it.

Finally, we need to invest more in people and less in the stock market. You can’t really trust either of them. They will break your heart. But when there is a national crisis, it’s always the government, my government, that comes to the rescue.

philkadner@gmail.co

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