The Atlantic’s George Packer’s prescient article illustrates what we are, a failed state led by the bastions of ineptitude. Most importantly he points out several important realities.
Packer’s article “We Are Living in a Failed State” goes into some detail of the train wreck we are now living in. And unfortunately, it continues.
America has come to the reality of how dependent we are on those people so many look down on as doing menial work. I have always said one’s garbage man is more important than one’s stockbroker. He writes,
We now have two categories of work: essential and nonessential. Who have the essential workers turned out to be? Mostly people in low-paying jobs that require their physical presence and put their health directly at risk: warehouse workers, shelf-stockers, Instacart shoppers, delivery drivers, municipal employees, hospital staffers, home health aides, long-haul truckers. Doctors and nurses are the pandemic’s combat heroes, but the supermarket cashier with her bottle of sanitizer and the UPS driver with his latex gloves are the supply and logistics troops who keep the frontline forces intact. In a smartphone economy that hides whole classes of human beings, we’re learning where our food and goods come from, who keeps us alive. An order of organic baby arugula on AmazonFresh is cheap and arrives overnight in part because the people who grow it, sort it, pack it, and deliver it have to keep working while sick. For most service workers, sick leave turns out to be an impossible luxury. It’s worth asking if we would accept a higher price and slower delivery so that they could stay home.
The pandemic has also clarified the meaning of nonessential workers. One example is Kelly Loeffler, the Republican junior senator from Georgia, whose sole qualification for the empty seat that she was given in January is her immense wealth. Less than three weeks into the job, after a dire private briefing about the virus, she got even richer from the selling-off of stocks, then she accused Democrats of exaggerating the danger and gave her constituents false assurances that may well have gotten them killed. Loeffler’s impulses in public service are those of a dangerous parasite. A body politic that would place someone like this in high office is well advanced in decay.
Packer goes into detail about all the failures of Jared Kushner while in business. That he became the point man for all of Trump’s policies were astounding. He then closes on Jared as follows.
To watch this pale, slim-suited dilettante breeze into the middle of a deadly crisis, dispensing business-school jargon to cloud the massive failure of his father-in-law’s administration, is to see the collapse of a whole approach to governing. It turns out that scientific experts and other civil servants are not traitorous members of a “deep state”—they’re essential workers, and marginalizing them in favor of ideologues and sycophants is a threat to the nation’s health.
Packer also revealed an inconvenient truth about the private sector versus the government. You see, efficiency may be good sometimes but when one attempts to create efficiency at all costs, it becomes fatal.
It turns out that “nimble” companies can’t prepare for a catastrophe or distribute lifesaving goods—only a competent federal government can do that. It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflict a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. Then came the virus and this strange defeat.
A failed state recovery depends on you
We are in a failed state. Recovery will not start from the top. Our dysfunctional government won’t change irrespective of a Joe Biden election or a Donald Trump reelection. The fact, that those are our two choices when neither supports the real policies that will save the country is probative.
We must work from the ground up. We must educate ourselves and understand that those on the top simply do not care in the aggregate. But what COVID-19 has shown is that we are the economy. While the rich, powerful, and well-connected are enriched on our backs, our worth is now apparent. We must not allow their ideologically oiled engines to reprogram us from showing them and seeing reality ourselves.