Mr. President, we ARE scared, and you aren’t helping

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention.

COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, we see massive shortages of medical equipment and testing and a federal government paralyzed by a cult of personality, ignorance and lies. Thankfully, most of our state governors — including our Tom Wolf — have stepped up to partially fill the void of leadership.

So, yes, we’re scared.

When NBC’s Peter Alexander — a well-respected journalist — asked President Donald Trump the other day “what do you say to Americans who are scared?”

Trump answered: “I say you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say.”

How heartless, self absorbed and juvenile do you have to be to answer that way to what was, in journalism parlance, a softball question?

44 out of 45 presidents would have said something to this effect:

“I understand, it is hard not to be scared. We face a difficult crisis and the days ahead will be difficult. Many of us will probably lose people we love in the coming weeks and see our lives changed — maybe forever. But the American people have always been able to pull together and rise to the challenge and I’m sure we will this time, too. We will get through this, we must lift each other up and be a true community of caring.”

If a slug like me can know what to say, why can’t this president?

For the same reason he argues with health experts — actual medical doctors — about whether a medicine is effective in treating COVID-19. For the same reason he claimed initially it was a hoax. He, according to a new report in The Washington Post, ignored strong warnings from the intelligence community. He refused to use existing tests from the World Health Organization. He refused to mobilize and prepare. Instead, he held rallies, wrote nasty Tweets and tried to shift the blame to China.

Due to his arrogance, constant lying and incompetence, southeast Pennsylvania is suffering in the grip of rapidly growing numbers of infections — and the needed shutdown of millions of jobs and thousands of businesses.

This was not Force Majeure or an act of God. It was an Act (or lack) of Trump.

We are hurting and scared and Donald Trump cares only for his ego and reelection prospects.

That is a terrible, awful truth. Undoubtedly, Trump cult members will howl in righteous indignation of how “unfair” it is to say this in a time of crisis.

But it is the truth, a truth that will become more and more evident to most folks as time passes.

Eventually, there will be a reckoning.

Until then, we can only pray and be thankful for our state and local officials who have answered the call.


So the era of the business shut down is here.

While I had my reservations about the entire plan — which I’ll get to in a minute — it looked for a day or two to have one glaring exception, because, well, of course.

The Mariner East II Pipeline, that giant pipe bomb of love, continued under construction until Gov. Wolf shut it down, Friday.

Thank God.

If you look up “non life-sustaining,”  in the dictionary there’s a picture of three or four Texan pipeline workers, cheek to jowl, yukking it up, while tearing up backyards in East Goshen.

Let’s set aside the fact that MEII is poorly designed, poorly built and wildly dangerous to life and limb of the people living around it (I know, a big thing to set aside).

Explain to me where, exactly, the demand is for petrochemicals coming from Western Pennsylvania fracking.

Sure, we get the benefits of groundwater contamination, radon exposure and rogue earthquakes, but as fracking a barrel of oil is a money loser when the oil market is below $50 a barrel, how “life sustaining” is it when oil is at $20 a barrel and dropping. Between the Russian and Saudi pissing match on oil prices — rumor has it now that Saudi oil company Aramco will soon have to pay people to take oil off its hands because the cost of storage is higher than the market price — and the hazards, fracking literally has no reason to continue to exist.

Hopefully, MEII construction will never be restarted — sorry union guys who sold your souls for a few hundred jobs (and corrupted too many in the Democratic Party in the process).

Okay, now, onto the business shut down.

Initially, I was worried this might be an overreaction — the economic hit from this move is going to be massive with mortality implications of its own. Then I watched the numbers nationally and statewide grow alarmingly quickly.

So, it stinks, but call me a convert. We need to do this.

A couple of things I would like to see, though.

First, we need to reopen the state liquor stores — at least with limited hours (and understand they will get cleaned out in rapid order). As noted above, people are scared and no small number need a drink or two to help calm their nerves — as noted above, we are scared. Many other states are keeping their private liquor stores open for this reason and I think Pennsylvania should follow suit.

Second, we need Pennsylvania to step in as other states have done and declare a 90-day period of forbearance on mortgages — tied to some sort of rent holiday for renters. Regardless of what the federal government does, this will provide some measure of stability and comfort for the many who are losing their jobs daily — as many as 200,000 just last week in Pennsylvania alone according to credible reports.

The banks will whine — but with Prime interest rates at basically zero, the financial hit will be minimal (and let’s not forget how much federal money they got in the 2009 bailout — they owe us) and property owners will get a break on mortgages (and for those who have paid off their rental properties, some sort of compensation/tax holiday can make them whole).

These are hard times that require hard decisions. While Wolf has largely made good ones, we need a few adjustments in the coming days.

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands.

We will get through this, together.

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