Crises provide an opportunity to reflect on their causes looking back and cures moving forward. The current coronavirus pandemic lays bare many instances where lessons learned from similar outbreaks were “put back on the shelf” or neglected  in favor of more popular political themes such as “investing in the economy” primarily for political purposes.

Republicans and Democrats are divided into distinct schools of thought regarding government and governing. Republicans want less government control and regulation in the economy so capitalism can thrive unconstrained by safeguards to human conditions. Democrats are accused of wanting big government and responsible regulations and enforcement promoting the common good. Both have their point but it is political irresponsibility to let the differences just lay there to prevent legislative movement to address the enormous issues and promise future generations must contend with. We should be able to agree on “right size” government and focus on achieving a balance that serves all sides and the country.

Since the 1980s,  Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals) have shown their priorities in dealing with crises of nature-made disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic  Their respective approaches to “problem solving” in general are in full view.

Conservative Republican ideology basically says “it’s not a problem for the government, let the private sector and individual initiative solve it or simply say it isn’t a problem so we don’t have to deal with it.' Good examples are climate change, pollution of air, land, and water, health care, education/training for everyone and so forth. Doesn’t cost anything up front to deny a problem’s existence, and if something bad happens, we’ll deal with it then.

Other examples are allowing people choice to have health insurance by peeling back the requirement in Obamacare to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. That’s like buying car insurance after you had an accident or health insurance when you get sick or have a serious accident. Personal choice over common good rules the day.

More recent example is cutting back funding for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and their Pandemic Response Team (PRT), both considered essential by previous administrations for fast response to unpredictable outbreaks.

Democrats, on the other hand, deal with problems by “up front” analysis and planning for future occurrences, then investing in “by the people for the people” solutions. This requires closely coordinated actions by  government layers in cooperation with the private sector.

Responsibility for execution is relegated from federal to state to county to city down to the last entity in the government chain. Federal  control and investment  for the “common good” extends to everyone in the country. State control and investment for the “common good” of everyone in the state and on down through the remainder of geographical boundaries.

These government investments have long term benefits payable with combinations of taxes, bonds, tolls, fees, licenses, and the more innovative and less intrusive ones like — a dollar or more on every commercial transaction using the internet or a special tax for every commercial system using GPS. They are legitimate paybacks since the government paid for both and put them out there for businesses to take advantage of.

Just a couple examples of how many other major technological advances funded by the federal government are integrated into our economic fabric. They build it. You use it. You help pay for it. Return on investment — too much to calculate over their useful life cycles.

We must keep these differences in mind during this election cycle. Do we wait until disaster strikes, then respond or do we identify potential problems and take action to avoid disasters or be ready to handle them when they occur. The Puerto Rico hurricane and the coronavirus pandemic clearly shows the cost of neglect in human misery and economic impact, many times the up front costs to mitigate the damage.

Your choice when going to the polls in November.

Lee Purrier

Park Rapids


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