I’ve been thinking the same thing as the writer of this commentary, but I’m not as much inclined to see Trump’s leadership in response to coronavirus as something new and different. Watching the daily task force news briefings, I’m more reminded of how we used to do things in this country, primarily by enlisting the private sector and private citizens to respond to big needs. It is the way Trump is attempting to do them now and it is almost instinctually familiar.
I’ll bet there are many of my generation who, like me, can sing the entire Buckle Up for Safety jingle (available on YouTube), or Virginia’s own Right Turn on Red song. Sure, those were public service announcements, but they were also government and media talking to us more that at us, a quality that current events increasingly remind me of.
I’m also struck by how much the task force briefings have focused on repealing or suspending sclerotic regulatory practices. The message I hear is, “We’re turning off government to solve problems.” It makes me wonder, if we’re turning off government, what were we thinking when we turned it on in the first place?
Which brings me to something else I’ve been thinking about: the almost infinite value of knowledge. Yesterday, one of the regulatory burdens the administration removed involved FDA’s approval of a process to disinfect N95 masks. Had FDA approved the process more than a year ago when it first came up, hospitals would have already been recycling their N95 masks up to 20 times each. That is to say, they would have had experience (information) that would have changed their approach to forecasting potential mask demand and shortages (knowledge).
In a sense, it is not the disinfectant process itself that matters, but what we learn and then know because of it. I expect there will be many such lessons learned by the time coronavirus is over.
But what do I know? I’m just a racoon (and my name is Rita).