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Jim Crawford: It is not too late to act

Here is a secret we all know — we need more from the federal government, more help managing the novel coronavirus, more help stabilizing the economic impact of the virus and more help managing the pending food shortages.

The problem is, so far there is little indication the government is up to these tasks.

New polling by USA Today/Suffolk reports that, by 50 to 11 percent, people feel the government is doing too little to manage the coronavirus. The same poll finds, 45 to 10 percent, people feel the government is doing too little to support the economic crisis. Food shortages were not addressed in the poll.

We have realized we cannot look to the president for help, he is far beyond his capabilities here.

But the administration is far more than a president, its agencies capable of acting on behalf of all Americans. And the Congress must overcome its aversion to meeting from a distance and get to work filling the gaps that are hurting us all.

This is America, where solving problems has been built into our fiber; where facing impossible challenges has resulted in unimaginable successes.

Yet, today, we are failing to solve problems that are so basic their continued existence defies reason.

We are still short of gowns and gloves and masks and disinfectant.

How can that be?

Being short of necessary supplies has become the new normal. We have failed to gear up to the millions of tests we need to detect the coronavirus, trailing other nations in identifying carriers of the virus.

We need the federal government to direct the manufacturing and distribution of all these basic safety needs, yet the failure to do so continues with no end in sight. This failure is getting health care workers, meat workers, grocery store clerks and many others killed.

Congress passed a rushed series of economic measures that managed to so badly distribute the funds that the small businesses targeted were ignored entirely while corporate giants like AutoNation received $95 million in funding it did not need.

Now the Senate is being ordered back in session, not to address the continuing economic needs the country faces, but to vote on Mitch McConnell’s federal judge selections. We need more competency from this Congress, and more class-free attention to our needs.

The FDA and the department of Agriculture continue to sit on their hands watching farmers dump their crops in the fields and pour their milk down the drains while food banks are stretched beyond their capacity and Americans go hungry. We need these agencies to coordinate a program that re-distributes farm goods from the closed restaurants and schools to the food banks and churches.

It is not too late, we can still address our problems, we can still rise to the occasion and act to address each problem we face. But several things need to happen.

We need leadership at the federal level, and it is clearly absent. Polling shows the president is not trusted by most Americans to give useful information related to the virus. A new Navigator Research poll finds majorities see Trump as uncontrolled, erratic and self-absorbed. The longer Trump leads the federal communication, the lower his ratings fall, the less effective a leader he is, the less confident Americans are that our problems are being solved.

For now, we need expert topical communicators to lead from Washington and to have the government respond to their knowledge and experience with support and policy. Our goals must be foremost, to protect the health and safety of Americans. That means not sending unprotected doctors and nurses into the crisis. It means not demanding meat factory workers be forced to risk their lives at a presidential directive. It means not letting lines at food banks stretch for blocks or miles.

We also need a long-term recovery plan that addresses the myriad of social imbalances exposed by the coronavirus, like jobs lost forever, inequality in health care access and the upcoming financial crisis facing state governments.

We are America, we can do this, but we need to act now.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.