If you’ve been wondering how a president can fail so miserably during a crisis, look no further than the adopted mantra of the Republican Party. Laissez-faire Government is the crux of libertarian governance and no one has adopted it more apathetically than the Trump Administration.
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem. It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” If you’re young and don’t recognize this quote, don’t attribute it to Trump. It’s far too well written for him to utter the words in a coherent tone.
They are of course the words of Republican Prophet Ronald Reagan during his inaugural address in 1981. Meant as a boast that only private industry and a hands-off government approach could fix the ailing problems in America, the popular little phrase became the go to playbook of Republicans for decades to come. Nothing has been the same since.
Laissez-faire economics or trickle-down economics as it is also referred (also nicknamed Reaganomics) quickly gave way to huge tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations. Deregulation of industries and corporate consolidation became common place. The middle-class shrank, unions disappeared, and wealth inequality would eventually reach record levels.
Unfortunately, both major political parties embraced the economic side of Reagan’s ideology. President Clinton declared “the era of big government is over” in 1996. Shortly before destroying welfare as we know it and deregulating Wall-Street.
During the days of the Reagan/Clinton era, government regulation of the economy may have been a no-no, but the government never shied away from protecting it’s people. Whether we wanted help or not. Protecting the Ozone Layer, banning assault weapons and (eventually) the AIDS epidemic were important government measures. More idiotic things like protecting us from “harmful” music and premarital sex were not.
Fast-forward a good 25 years. As the governing alignment has shifted further and further right, we find ourselves with an administration so extreme that laissez-faire government has taken on a new meaning.
The Republican Party’s unwavering support for Trump came as he followed in Reagan’s footsteps. Tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of industry and the environment, etc. It has gone so far that, what was once considered laissez-faire economics, can now be described as socialism for the rich and corporate elite.
But what about protecting people from (non-economic) disaster? If you ask even the most hardened libertarians, most will agree that the government has a major role in protecting it’s citizens. It also falls into the category of common sense from a political perspective.
Trump, being the Reagan worshiper that he is, has taken the full extent of his quote and put it into practice. Trump now interprets it as “do nothing, own the libs.” That, in essence, has become his Covid-19 response.
And do nothing he has. After downplaying the virus for months, and finally compelled by advisors to something, he decided to get “serious” and invited dozens of high-profile CEOs from big business to the White House to help. From the very beginning, Trump pawned off the response to Covid-19 to private industry and state governors. He never looked back.
A month or so of campaign type press conferences was all the doctor ordered. That and an unaccountable corporate bailout. As the virus got under control in New York and New Jersey, Trump told the country to reopen to disastrous results. Now as the Coronavirus rages out of control across the country, Trump could care less, he’s too busy owning the libs.
Every speech he makes is now laced with lies and insults toward his opposition. He now calls liberal protesters far-left fascists, as if that is even possible. Trump is in attack mode 24/7 because that’s all he has. His perverted Reagan ideology prevents him from doing anything else.
Fox News is now floating a narrative that Americans are just going to have to live with the virus. That “Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day.” It looks like laissez-faire government will remain the order of the day.
It’s unfortunate that by doing nothing, Trump is giving credence to Reagan’s words. That government is the problem. This time around however, as people get sick and die, people on both sides of the political aisle are realizing the important role government is suppose to have. Let’s see how long that lasts.