For a leader in power, there is too much risk to spend and plan for an event that may not happen. If our elected leaders planned and budgeted for a response to the COVID-19 crisis in early January and there was no fallout, then they would be blamed for money misspent and time wasted.
Do you recall all the times when there were plans and shutdowns for hurricanes or snowstorms that never occurred? Politicians were ridiculed and blamed for millions lost in productivity.
It is just safer for a politician to wait for the crisis to hit, then have photo opportunities with their sleeves rolled up handing out relief packages and holding crying victims.
Under the current political climate, politicians have turned from ditherers to opportunists. Every crisis, regardless of the objectivity of the cause and effect, can be turned political. Wearing a mask to block the spread of a contagion?
Now a political issue. Per the famous quote in the series Game of Thrones, “Chaos is a ladder.” Politicians see a crisis coming and they plan for how the crisis can keep them in power or elevate their status.
When the news about the possible spread of COVID-19 first started to be reported in January, the president, our governor, and our mayor all had the same reaction. It will have little or no effect to our citizens.
This is the “no risk taken” tactic. Then in March when the outbreak was inevitable, then came the ladder tactic using the greatest tool for any politician in power – fear.
Close down, shutdown, and stay at home, because otherwise you or a loved one will die. There was never a plan, just a reaction to a crisis to keep their jobs.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate hit a historic high. Children and young adults are stuck at home all day with pent-up energy. Fear turns into anger quickly, especially if people do not have a positive outlet to use that energy. This is the gun powder.
Then came the video of George Floyd, a black man, gasping for air under the knee of a white police officer in Minnesota. The match.
Within a week, protests, riots, and looting took place across the country. All that fear, all that energy within people who have no idea whether they have a future, unleashed like a wild fire onto the structures of our society.
Police stations burned down. Retail stores looted. Random acts of violence.
This is what your elected officials have wrought upon us by their dithering and opportunist personalities. Now, we do not need politicians, we need leaders.
Leaders that will make unpopular decisions for the time and plan for a crisis. Leaders that will not obscure the facts of a terrible situation, but tell us the truth that sometimes there are no good options in a crisis.
More importantly, we need leaders that will treat us like adults to make our own decisions. By ordering us to stay at home and threatening to arrest us for not social distancing, it is like parents instituting a curfew on their children.
Tell us the facts and consequences, then as adults in a mature democracy we can weigh the risks. How many businesses could have stayed operational and employed their staff by making a decision to have the staff wear masks and come in on alternate days, rather than just shut down for an indefinite period of time?
The city is entering a period of depression which can only be stopped if we elect leaders that are proactive and place trust in the business and medical communities to act responsibly.
The situation is uncertain and scary. However, New Yorkers are bold and willing to take mitigated risks to move forward.
Mike Arcati is chair of the Libertarian Party of Queens and a practicing attorney in Forest Hills.