‘The next generation never learns anything from the previous one until it’s brought home with a hammer. I’ve wondered why the next generation can’t profit from the generation before, but they never do until they get knocked in the head by experience.” –Harry Truman
As we shelter in place, cover our coughs, and maintain social distance and stay at home to ward off Covid-19, it seems like our Commander in Chief can’t profit from the lessons of history even as they are hitting him on the head like a hammer. Experience with the exponential growth of the virus has caused him to mobilize some response to the hot spots in the U.S.—New York, California and the state of Washington. But he is still relying on the private sector to meet the challenge of producing enough masks, ventilators, and protective gear for our health care workers. He has brought forth the war powers act that would grant him authority over private business to ramp up production of needed items but says he doesn’t want to nationalize industry because he doesn’t want to be Venezuela. He says he’s not a shipping clerk, and besides, being president has cost him billions of dollars. Who cares?
In the meantime, Congress is trying to get an emergency relief act passed that would release a trillion or more into the economy to offset a certain recession. However, they can’t agree on the details—like having a no strings attached 500 billion to corporations who could, and maybe would, buy back stock and raise executive pay like they did the last time. The prez says he would be unhappy if that happened. But he also says we need to bail out vital businesses like the cruise line industry who charter their boats out of Liberia and pay little or no U.S. taxes. In the meantime, our senators and congresspersons have their undies in a bunch trying to come to some compromise to get money out the door to workers. The economy is grinding to a halt, the stock market is tanking, and some are predicting up to 30% unemployment. As Charlie Brown would say: Good grief.
The hammer of experience deals a harsh blow. Those who deny reality, and those who deny history, as they say, are condemned to repeat it. Will we mobilize like we did in WWII, or deny and minimize as we did in 1918 and at the beginning of the Great Depression? Again, as they say, time will tell. In the meantime, we have plenty of time on our hands while we stay at home.
Snow has come to Minnesota in late March. Nothing unusual, just a light coating. Spring will come, someday. The question is, will we still be inside when the grass turns green? Odds say, probably. That’s a tough reality to hammer home.