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Leadership lessons unlearned by those we elect

U.S. senator John McCain looks on during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. McCain and several other U.S. senators said they've warned the Afghan President Hamid Karzai that a failure to sign a key Afghan-U.S. security deal would pose a threat to the country and the region. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

U.S. senator John McCain looks on during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.  (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

Everything is just fine…really? We are speeding around the corner… Seriously? It’s time to let

our guard down…what?

Let’s examine and update. Nationwide more than 61 million Americans have filed jobless claims since March 15, and as our country has passed the grim (actually very grim) milestone of 210,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, more than 25 million of our fellow citizens are still struggling with lost income.

At one point, Arizona was the world’s hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak. Over one million in the state lost work and over 500,000 Arizonans are still out of work, struggling to make ends meet on $240 a week. And while it is difficult for some to embrace the truth, more than 5,000

Arizonans, disproportionately the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, have lost their lives.

Acknowledge it or not, this overview and considerable other information and data underscore a failure of leadership, unless you’re totally dismissive of the truth. We must keep reality in mind as we cast our ballots.

Let’s take COVID relief for instance. The federal government (taxpayer money) in March provided an extra $600 a week for those losing their jobs because of the coronavirus. That kept many, many families afloat as more than one million Arizonans lost their jobs. That also made a palpable difference in Arizona, which infamously claims the second-lowest unemployment payments in the country.

However, “leadership” in the U.S. Senate spent months blocking bills to extend that $600 weekly payment and let it expire at the end of July. But the demand to provide those out of work with more relief has not gone away. It has actually only grown as bills, rents and mortgages come due.

In addition, mayors across the state have been passionately asking for more funding to address budget shortages caused by the pandemic. Fewer people working means that local revenues shrink, which in turn means that school, public safety and public health are placed on the chopping block.

So, what did the president do, himself suffering from COVID? He pulled the plug on negotiations for additional relief. (Maybe he will replug and unplug several more times.) His top aide, Larry Kudlow, said that with so few weeks left on the calendar this year, our government (our taxpayer funds) should turn their attention to confirming a Supreme Court nominee instead. There is a history lesson here. In a not dissimilar situation, the revered Abraham Lincoln chose to postpone the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. The United States Senate should do the same and instead focus on constructing the relief package for the American people. Recent polling suggests that 74% of voters want (and need) more economic relief before even considering the Supreme Court’s future. Evidently President Lincoln’s leadership is a lesson unlearned by some of those we elect (and pay) to look out for the wellbeing of the USA citizenry.

Given the written comments and stance on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of the current nominee for the Supreme Court and the reality that the Supreme Court will hear arguments with respect to the ACA repeal lawsuit on November 10, just one week after Election

Day, I believe it is fair to say the timing and the best interest of America’s citizens are worthy of thoughtfulness. That thoughtfulness should be directed to the urgent need of We the People and not a political move which President Lincoln would have had us dismiss.

If it wasn’t for the late Sen. John McCain, the U.S. Senate would have succeeded in repealing the ACA and all of its protections three years ago. McCain knew what it meant to put the interests of constituents before the interests of party. We desperately need that kind of leader now. I remain hopeful.

Reginald “Reg” M. Ballantyne III is former chairman of the American Hospital Association and commissioner of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

 

 

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