Won’t You Be My Neighbor??

Popular Economics Weekly

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The maxim that we are our brothers’ keeper has always been one of Christ’s teachings that Christians should follow, just as Mr. Rogers asked his TV viewers to be his good neighbor, and Martin Luther King, Jr. asked that all people be treated with equality in his many speeches and actions.

And now in the age of epidemics; such as Ebola, Zika, SARs, and now the coronavirus; can Americans follow such teachings embodied in all world religions—to care for each other in dangerous times that include not just epidemics, but global warming, an overcrowded planet, and growing authoritarian governments that exclude and exploit those they rule, rather than include?

There is news today that some American cities and states are even refusing to allow any of the 14 American coronavirus victims transported home on a commercial flight to be housed in their quarantine facilities. The Los Angeles Times reports today that citizens and officials in Orange County, California and Alabama are resisting efforts to house any of the victims in their facilities; or even at nearby military bases with such facilities.

This is happening when Trump Republicans want to “Make America Great Again”; a racial trope meant to separate the white from brown or black skins, a world of Haves and Have-nots where laws are ignored or manipulated by the powerful over the powerless.

News outlets report that since then, the virus has spread outside of China, across Asia and into Europe. More than 81,000 people have been infected world-wide and the death toll has risen above 2,750.

France has reported three new infections on Wednesday and the death of a 60-year old man among them, according to the Associated Press. Spain also reported new cases linked to travel to northern Italy, where the number of infected reached 322 and deaths rose to 11.

And it may now have traveled to South America, where Brazil just reported the case of a man who spent two weeks in Italy and returned home to spend time with his family, which means that the flight passengers and his family may have also been exposed to the virus.

So will the Trump administration be in any position to deal with this new outbreak, when they have gutted or closed outright Obama administration programs that were set up to fight the last outbreaks?

Laurie Garrett is a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer writes in Foreign Policy that in 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure.

“In May 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down,” said Ms. Garrett, “calling for reassignment of Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer and dissolution of his team inside the agency. The month before, then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton pressured Ziemer’s DHS counterpart, Tom Bossert, to resign along with his team. Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced.

“The global health section of the CDC was so drastically cut in 2018 that much of its staff was laid off and the number of countries it was working in was reduced from 49 to merely 10. Meanwhile, throughout 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development and its director, Mark Green, came repeatedly under fire from both the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“And though Congress has so far managed to block Trump administration plans to cut the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps by 40 percent, the disease-fighting cadres have steadily eroded as retiring officers go unreplaced.”

Is this any way to love thy neighbor, Mr. Trump?

Harlan Green © 2020

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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