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Opinion: The coronavirus proves our government is unprepared
Georgia's state Capitol in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

We’ve been in a national health crisis for weeks and it is obvious that our response has been inadequate. We should have a national health system but many are determined to label such a plan as socialistic — un-American. So much for labels: now we see that having a competent, thoroughgoing health care system run by the federal government is essential to the health of the nation.

Our piecemeal health system involving thousands and thousands of independently operating hospitals, insurance companies and providers cannot possibly have the means to deliver a coherent, coordinated response to a national epidemic such as the coronavirus. Instead, what we’ve gotten over the last few weeks is mass confusion. We cannot even produce, deliver and make use of test kits for the virus. 

People do not know where to turn for assistance and cannot get straight answers when attempting to navigate the maze of American health care. And, of course, millions lack the resources to pay for health care. This lack of planning and incompetence has made this medical crisis far worse than it needs to be. 

Second, attempts to mitigate this crisis are running into the immense costs to those who will have their livelihoods affected. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a comprehensive paid medical leave policy. Now we need it and it is not there. The compromises now being made in Congress for such legislation are reprehensible. 

The conservative mantra over the last few decades that government is the problem is proving to be very shortsighted. And there seems to be a corollary that electing incapable people really does not matter, because we don’t actually want them to do anything of significance. Is more proof needed that we have created a government that is woefully unprepared for handling national emergencies? 

Once we get past this appalling, dysfunctional Trump era, perhaps the public will demand that we have a government that can effectively deal with national crises. Of course, that will involve replacing the dinosaurs in Congress with bright, energetic and capable representatives and senators. The world is far too complicated and interconnected to remain in 19th century thinking mode.

Jim Grattan