With new Covid-19 restrictions being placed on Louisiana residents, the impact on the state’s business community will be devastating. Already, the state’s economy is teetering from the four-month lockdown. Our major industries, such as hospitality and tourism, have been destroyed. Few patrons are gambling, so the riverboat casinos have announced major layoffs.
Could we possibly have a worse leader during the greatest national crises in modern American history than we do right now with President Donald Trump?
I’m serious. I only wish he would take the Coronavirus seriously, more than he takes his own political campaign and personal future.
For one, the economy is in complete shambles.
New Orleans is a city that has a 65% majority African American population. In addition, the two most important positions in the city are held by African Americans: Mayor and Police Chief. There are also African Americans in powerful positions throughout the city administration, the city council, the school board, the business community, and other influential organizations.
President Donald Trump loves twitter. Every day he takes it upon himself, despite his so-very busy schedule to share his thoughts with America. An hour rarely goes by, now-a-days, without the President telling us what's on top of his mind.
While his wife Melania claims she wants everybody to “Be Best” online, her husband obviously views social media a teensy-weensy different. Whether one loves his real-time thoughts (or not), there is plenty of “raw meat” within each of the 280-characters in his Tweetdom.
I believe Donald Trump is the most selfish President in my lifetime. He's the most selfish person I have ever known. Selfishness is acceptable when it does not involve others. That possibility does not exist for the President of the United States.
A big dividing line in our country today is whether to wear a face mask or not. For Memorial Day services, former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill wore masks. In contrast, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump paid their respects on Memorial Day without masks.
In many cities and states across the nation, the number of Covid-19 cases is going down, yet the masking requirements are becoming more stringent. In New Orleans, residents are always supposed to wear a mask, even when outdoors. For businesses, both employees and customers must wear masks. These are more stringent requirements than the State of Louisiana which just recommends mask-wearing.
Today, if the weather prevails, America will hit two milestones. The first is our return to space with the first launch in nearly ten years of a US man-occupied spacecraft. The second did not take a decade. Nor did it take ten months. Within less than three months, this country has witnessed the most destructive population genocide in American history, thanks to Covid-19. On leap year day, the first corona-virus death was recorded. The virus which we were told would suddenly disappear has resulted in the morbid and jaw-dropping disappearance of 100,000 loved ones.
Is the New Orleans area and Louisiana, as a state, entering a new phase of coronavirus protections and risks, too quickly? Are we emphasizing our health and safety needs more than we should? Are we abandoning the very real risks of the aged, the unhealthy and those prone to get sick or worse, die? Or, shouldn’t we recognize the irreparable harm to our institutions, our economy and our way of life?
A few days ago, I discussed these general issues with Arnie Fielkow during a Facebook Live event. I looked forward to the interview because it is not everybody who has held the positions of President of the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans City Council, the National Basketball Retired Players Association and now, the Greater New Orleans Jewish Federation. I thought he would bring an articulate, divergent and interesting perspective to the controversy. After all, looking at the issue from the vantage point of an NFL team executive would be different from the perspective of a top public servant or a head of a major not-profit organization.
Who could have ever imagined that our lives would so dramatically change by a virus that just a few months ago was dismissed by our leaders as a minor problem that really would not affect our lives that much? A little social distancing and we will all be back to normal in no time. How wrong they were.
I turned 80 years old this month. It seemed like my life had peaked, but I was ready for the long and relaxing ride back down. I looked forward to enjoying my later years and be on this side of troubled waters. But now, I’m not so sure.
Most of us are aware that our democracy is not the perfect form of government. But we still believe that few other countries come close to our freedoms, benefits, and opportunities. Our country is special, and we take pride in being prepared for whatever difficulties we face. America cannot and should not have to rely on any other country for help in the time of a major crisis. Churchill said it well back in 1934.
“We cannot afford to confide the safety of our country
To the passions or the panic of any foreign nation which may
Be facing some desperate crisis. We must be independent.
We must be free. We must preserve our full latitude and
Discretion of choice.”
I don’t think the blame game helps, but the fact remains that our country needs better preparation for future epidemics. But it often comes down to tax dollars. Current financial needs often are given priority over long-range planning for future catastrophes. I made the same arguments for a major federal response to a Katrina-like catastrophe when I proposed and testified in Congress for the immediate need of a National Disaster Relief program back in 1995. A similar proposal was part of my detailed Brown Papers where I outlined such a need in my race for governor back in 1987. Such suggestions were put on the back burner and never revived.
And what about all these food pantry lines? Millions of people across the country wait for hours to get a box of canned goods. Yet while so many Americans go hungry, farmers are plowing up ripe fruits and vegetables, and milk is being dumped in waste pits. There are congressional proposals for a major distribution program through the Department of Agriculture.
Why not eliminate all the bureaucracy, help our grocery stores, and just enlarge the food stamp program that is built around a private business structure already set up to distribute food? Let those in need just go to their local grocery stores. Why not let those who qualify and need food use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to buy groceries even online if necessary. Why abandon a workable program that makes use of the private sector?
This current pandemic is not going away soon. I know that many people are fed up with what they feel are draconian stay-at-home restrictions. But we are being naive if there is a feeling that life will return to the old normal in the not too distant future. There could well be a second wave of the virus, and a vaccine is most likely many months away.
We need to balance such caution with the realization that our economy is stuck in an induced coma, and needs to rebound so people can get back to work. And our kids need an education. Finding the right balance is the single biggest challenge facing our political leaders in Washington.
There’s a new normal yet to be determined. Many folks might not like it, but guess what? The coronavirus doesn’t give a darn. We are just going to have to face this fact.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears in numerous newspapers throughout the state and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.