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As a former political appointee under the Obama Administration, I find myself compelled to respond to the April 9 column by Matthew Gagnon. As former state executive director of the Farm Service Agency and chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s State Emergency Board, I have firsthand knowledge and experience as to how seriously the Obama Administration took its responsibility when it came to national emergencies, including potential pandemics.
The current administration was warned of the potential pandemic exactly like we are experiencing now. This pandemic has been predicted for years by the health professionals in this country and around the world including the World Health Organization (WHO).
That is why under former President Barack Obama, the National Security Council created a playbook on how to address pandemic threats to this country. This pandemic playbook could have helped divert or at least reduce the impact of the current crisis had it not been ignored by President Donald Trump and the Republican party leadership.
Anticipating, planning and preparing not only mitigates the effects of a crisis situation but also saves millions of dollars in the long run. This is a concept that the Republican leadership has never seemed to grasp, but is actually absolutely necessary for effective governance.
If the Trump administration was not proposing devastating cuts to CDC and had not fired the pandemic crisis group in the White House, our government could have been in a better position to respond much more quickly and efficiently to this crisis.
Gagnon wants to blame big government and implies that the private sector is our salvation. I could not disagree more.
To a large extent we are in this mess because private industry has transferred the production of many of the items such as the reagents, testing equipment, many of our drugs and other medical supplies to China, for the sake of profits without regard to our national security. I agree we now need the private sector to assist in fighting this crisis but let’s not do so without proper government oversight.
The government regulates the production of drugs and drug testing to protect the American people from the scams and snake oil tactics Gagnon mentioned. Some of us have learned from the past that when private industry is not regulated, bad things happen to our environment and economic security. To claim that federal regulations helped spread COVID-19 is ludicrous and is simply a diversionary tactic to take attention away from where responsibility belongs — at the presidential level.
We rely on our federal government to respond in times of crisis. This president and the Republican leadership have failed us.
Over time, I am sure the majority of Americans will realize who was responsible for the inept response to this national crisis. At this time the government’s primary focus should be on protecting the American people.
Donovan Todd of Etna is former state executive director of the Farm Service Agency and former chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s State Emergency Board.