We don’t have enough tests for Covid-19 in the U.S. President Donald Trump spent weeks minimizing the threat and still makes comments that undermine his own administration’s public-health efforts. Congress has not supplied sufficient funding for relief efforts, and left town without making provision to vote remotely if needed. Some politicians have shown culpable ignorance about the epidemic, while others have overreacted in self-defeating ways.
Americans have a lot of legitimate complaints about the response to the coronavirus.
The complaints are worth voicing.
Criticism of mistakes can lead to fixing them, or at least preventing their recurrence. (Granted, an opinion columnist has a vested interest in saying that.)
But our justified discontents should not obscure everything for which we should be grateful. In some quarters, there is a mood of bitter disappointment in America.
The journalist Julia Ioffe took it as an indictment of our country when we took the lead in confirmed coronavirus cases. Anne Applebaum drew an unflattering contrast between our shutdown of international flights and China’s sending aid to Italy: "Who is the superpower?" George Packer wrote an essay in the Atlantic claiming that the epidemic reveals that the U.S. is "a failed state."
All of this is overwrought. International comparisons of confirmed cases tell us little, considering that they don’t account for population size, lying governments or discrepancies in detection. The Chinese regime charged suffering European countries high rates for faulty test kits and protective masks, and it bears a lot of the responsibility for the epidemic’s having started in the first place.
Its standing in Europe has fallen, not risen. Packer dwells so long on the deficiencies of Trump and the Republican Party as to make it sound as though all it will take for us to stop being a failed state is for a few people in the Midwest to vote differently this fall than they did in 2016.
The truth is that for all our mistakes, we are not handling the epidemic in markedly worse fashion than other developed countries. The U.K., France, Italy and Spain all seem to have higher mortality rates.
The U.S. population has adapted quickly to radically changed circumstances, albeit of course not perfectly or uniformly.
Even federal, state and local governments, deeply flawed as they are, deserve some credit.
After early stumbles made lockdowns an unfortunate necessity, one sector of American life after another accepted that logic in short order.
Washington overcame partisan divisions to pass two large rescue packages.
One can quibble with their provisions, but the main components, including a large increase in unemployment benefits and forgivable loans for small businesses, are the right ones.
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates and expanded lending facilities, moving, like Congress, faster than it had during the financial crisis of a dozen years ago.
Scores of federal and state regulations that impeded the response have been waived. A political system that often seems sclerotic has moved pretty rapidly under difficult circumstances.
The best hope for a breakthrough that vanquishes the coronavirus, such as a vaccine, comes from the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry. A lot of American money and brains, aided by a supportive American public-policy environment, are in a very real sense working for the betterment of the world right now.
We have made serious mistakes, which is not uncommon during a crisis, and even now there are things we could be doing better. To imagine that everything would be going smoothly if only we had better leaders, or different institutions, or our own pet policies in place: That’s to replace constructive criticism with self-indulgent fantasy.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a senior editor of National Review and the author of "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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