• Virginia Tolles

The Outcome is Up to Us!

Engin Akyurt / Unsplash

An article on the potential economic impact of "that virus" paints a very gloomy picture.(1) It made a suggestion: mobilize the National Guard to deliver medical equipment where it is needed.

A thought crossed my mind: Why not bring our soldiers back from the Middle East and let them help in this regard? They could also help the first responders transport patients to the hospital. I know. I know. The active duty forces are not social workers, etc., so forth, and so on. Still, a war against disease and economic devastation seems more important than a war against people who think differently than we do.

Under the Constitution, the federal government exists to do very little beyond “provide for the common defense.” Traditionally, we have taken those words to mean “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!”(2) And, yet, shouldn’t “provide for the common defense” also mean protect the country from such invaders as viruses and the havoc they can wreak? After all, as we send our workers home to practice social distancing, we close down our industries, which, in turn, closes down our economy.

Since Ronald Reagan’s day, people have insisted that trickle-down economics is senseless. Yet, trickle down is exactly what happens when one sector of the economy falters. Consider the airline industry. Intending to close the borders to keep the nasty virus out of the country, the airlines cancelled nearly all of their international flights and many of their domestic ones. Suddenly, the aircraft on the runways were not taking off or landing, but parked. Their crews were sent home. Then, the ground crew was sent home; after all, they had no planes to service. Then, the ticket agents were sent home, because no one bought tickets for flights that didn’t take off. Then, the barista who sold coffee at the airport was sent home, because the coffee shop didn’t have enough business to pay her salary. And the janitor was sent home, because no one was there to fill the trash cans and track up the floor.

So, where is the janitor supposed to get another job? The office buildings are closed; everyone’s at home, social distancing. Where is the barista supposed to get another job? Not at the golden arches; they’ve laid off their counter staff and are operating only with the drive-in window cashiers and the cooks. Where are the aircraft crews supposed to get other jobs? Every other airline has aircraft crews looking for other jobs, too! Finally, how are the aircraft manufacturers supposed to stay afloat when a vast surplus of aircraft is parked with nowhere to go. Economically speaking, commercial aviation has reverted to its status ninety years ago. The circumstances are different, but the effect is the same.

Washington talks about spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to shore up the economy. After all, that’s how Mr. Roosevelt worked to correct the ills of the Great Depression in the 1930s. There is one big difference, however. In that economic downturn, most of the country’s money rested in the hands of the government. Today, the government is operating seriously in the red. Washington simply doesn’t have the money to help families get through, not with $1500 checks and not with newfound Civilian Conservation Corps-style jobs.

Critics of these closing doors point out how different things were when World War II broke out. People didn’t hide fearfully in bomb shelters. No, the men went to war, and the women went to work, taking over the manufacturing jobs their husbands had left behind. Yes, word was coming home that their husbands, fathers, and sons were missing or killed in action, but they did not dress in black and retire to a corner rocking chair, like Whistler’s Mother. Instead, they buckled down, more determined than ever to defeat the Axis powers – and the scourge of their day, polio. Many took their strength from Edgar Albert Guest’s poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” (Read it here: They “buckled right in . . . and they did it.”

That is what we need to be doing today. No more sitting around, waiting for the experts from afar to tell us who is really in danger of getting sick; after all, as with every disease, some will contract it, while others will not. No more sitting around, waiting for the Feds to pay our bills for us; after all, the government needs to focus on paying its own bills.

So, don your mask. If you work closely with others, suit up like an astronaut. Protect yourself. Then, go forth and do what needs to be done to hold this country – and, indeed, the world – together.


(1) Kotilkoff, Laurence. A Coronavirus End Game that Avoids a Depression. Forbes. March 21, 2020.

(2) Farragut, David Glasgow. Command issued to the US naval forces under his command at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War. August 1864.

Copyright © 2020, Virginia Tolles. All rights reserved.

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