by Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-1)
Not since World War II have American companies and citizens banded together so quickly to produce essential equipment to combat the coronavirus. It is this, the great American spirit of innovation, that will propel our Nation to new heights.
The vast coronavirus stimulus packages authorized by Congress surpass both the 2008 recession package and Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” A vast problem justifies a vast response, and coronavirus has been vast indeed: more Americans have died from COVID-19 than either the Vietnam or Korean wars.
This is a pivotal moment in American history. Our response will shape our political landscape for decades to come.
CHINA RELIANCE MUST END.
We can only bounce back if we analyze the critical issues COVID-19 has revealed, including America’s dependency on China, China’s misguided priorities, and the bureaucratic lenses through which we have for too long viewed health policy.
Our dependence on China goes beyond what Americans find in their closets.
Chinese firms supply more than 90 percent of U.S. antibiotics and nearly 80 percent of all basic ingredients in U.S. drugs. It is not only absurd but dangerous that we rely so heavily on the Communist Chinese regime for our fundamental health needs. Would we have relied on the Soviet Union like this, before, during, or after the Cold War? No.
We must repatriate our supply chains, rein in foreign agents operating domestically, and focus with renewed vigor on enhancing America’s domestic production. The pandemic has shown the fragility of supply chains, and the dangers of depending too heavily on any one nation. Particularly China.
International politics should stay out of hospitals.
The world health community embraced this principle when battling AIDS, SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. But something changed with the CCP virus.
The Chinese Communist Party’s outsized influence on World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision-making, coupled with China’s deliberate and dangerous lack of transparency, helped turn “impartial” organizations like the WHO into petri dishes of misinformation and inaction. With the number of worldwide cases just shy of four million, such an unwelcome transformation has cost the world dearly.
While I applaud President Trump’s efforts to redirect WHO funds to our domestic efforts to fight the virus, we can do more.
HEALTH AS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE.
Health policy is an issue of national security. But due to increased global travel, urbanization, agricultural intensification, and greater exploitation of the environment, viral threats will continue to appear.
A new strategy for fighting disease outbreaks is crucial.
Fighting invisible enemies demands a new battle plan. Our soldiers in this fight are our healthcare workers and disease specialists; our frontlines are our hospitals and labs. Most importantly, our states — each one, a laboratory of democracy — will be able to approach public health differently, based on their unique geographic and demographic needs.
Consider Florida. Our expeditious response to COVID-19, under the bold leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis, was able to identify vulnerable populations quickly, taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of these communities was prioritized.
We knew, from analyzing transportation data, which areas were most likely to develop into the next “hot spots,” and took dramatic action to lessen our state’s risk factors. Limiting travel from high-risk areas like New York helped keep Florida safe — and lessened the risk for airline employees, TSA agents, hospital workers, and travelers alike.
Florida’s response was successful because it was specific to Florida. No amount of “central planning” from Washington would have been anywhere near as effective.
This is not to say there is no need for federal level planning. There is.
REBUILD AND REPLENISH.
The mobilization of industry and the passing of relief legislation are two very legitimate uses of federal authority. So too is re-stocking our national strategic stockpile, cruelly depleted under President Obama, and never replenished. Unlike Obama, whose “not my presidency, not my problem” approach left us desperately short on much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE), the Trump administration will leave America better-equipped to handle future health scares.
One of the most consequential effects of any crisis is that, if unchecked, the government is afforded expansive new emergency powers.
After 9/11, Congress voted the Patriot Act into law, an unprecedented expansion of the government’s ability to conduct warrantless searches, wiretaps, and other means of spying. Nineteen years later, the world is more connected than ever.
As several countries have embraced draconian policies in the name of “public health,” we must remain vigilant not to let our fear of the virus be used as an excuse to curtail our liberties. The better we prepare for future crises, the more we will be able to respond to them without trampling on American citizens’ rights, lives, and livelihoods.
As we mourn our losses and begin to rebuild, we have to strategize for the next viral threat. I have no doubt that America will make it through this era of uncertainty, and will prevail. If we can re-domesticate our supply chains, de-politicize global health, and listen to the wisdom of our states, America’s next Golden Age will soon be upon us.