Fifty years ago, an exasperated high school basketball fan marched into The Missoulian newsroom and directly to my desk. He plopped down three years of sports stories carrying headlines unintentionally branding his small town’s winless team as bunches of losers.
I was the sportswriter who wrote most of those headlines using words such as hapless, throttled and lowly. While they were accurate in describing the games’ outcomes and league standings, they inadvertently missed the rest of the story — something we corrected.
So, how does that apply to the coronavirus pandemic which is out of control today? Well until the COVID-19 hit America, we didn’t know the entire story and thought it won’t clobber us. Could we come together and fight this massive invasion? Could we change too?
Watching all of the political and media shenanigans, acrimony and rancor over the last few years, which was wearing thin on the American people, you had to wonder.
Until our country was suddenly blindsided by COVID-19 virus, the political and media discourse in this country was shameful. It hit rock bottom during the presidential impeachment. Something had to radically change and the coronavirus left us with no other option but to work together.
While the coronavirus scares the socks off of people around the world, there are some hopeful changes afoot.
First, before the $2 trillion federal relief legislation passed Congress last week, things hit rock bottom in our nation’s capital. There was widespread disagreement on just about everything. Yet, last week the Republican controlled U.S. Senate and the Democrat controlled House of Representatives came together to pass historic $2 trillion coronavirus relief package in record time. It cleared the Senate, 96-0, the House, 363-40.
Six weeks ago, if someone would have mentioned that Congress and President Trump would approve the largest relief bill in history, no one would believe it just as that small town basketball fan was surprised by our sports reporting alterations.
Second, unlike September 11 when federal agencies were living in their own silos and independent, today there is better government coordination and cooperation at all levels. Watching the documentary on the Sept. 11, 2001 surprise attack and realizing that President George Bush and Air Force One were stranded in midair after the attack without fighter jet protection because of confusion, it is gratifying to know governments at the federal, state and local levels are working together.
Third, business leaders from Wall Street to Main Street are working with government experts to get necessary funds and essentials (facemasks, hospital gowns and ventilators) to people treating those infected with the coronavirus. Automakers are manufacturing ventilators and the large, often maligned pharmaceutical giants, have stepped up their research to develop new medicines to fight COVID-19.
Fourth, the government funds are being appropriated to airlines, hotels, local restaurants and pubs, small business and cruise ships who have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits and loans and grants hopefully will stave off, bankruptcies, permanent closures and massive long-term layoffs.
Finally, the President brought the nation’s top health experts together. National, state and local government officials are implementing tough stay-at-home restrictions of the type we have not seen.
Federal Reserve Chief Neel Kashkari, a veteran of the 2008 Great Recession, summarized it best. A dozen years ago the federal government didn’t act quickly enough to prevent a prolonged economic downturn. Government leaders have been quicker and their responses much more encompassing and effective.
The goal is to stem the contagion, find cures, get people back to work and businesses reopened. Hopefully, Americans can make this new found political cooperation and collaboration the blueprint for the future.
Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.