Remember When The Government Could Do Things? That’s Back, Baby!

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

This last Saturday, I went down to the Wolstein center to get my vaccination, and it made me remember what I loved about government.

Because the Wolstein center is now processing 6,000+ vaccinations a day, and it is starkly functional. They’ve taken over a basketball arena and converted it into an emergency center, where all the details are taken care of for you – you get texts telling you when you’re ready, there’s spaced lines with rows of soldiers and cops cheerfully guiding you to your spot, there’s translation centers for people who don’t speak English and transport available for folks who can’t work the distance.

There’s no out-of-pocket expense; the parking is free, they didn’t ask me what insurance I had. I waited in my seat, six feet apart, and they brought me water if I was thirsty.

I wasn’t thirsty for water.

I was thirsty for functional goddamned government, and I was slurping from this beautiful fountain of competency.

I have been so tired of Republican commentary that the government is invariably inept, hilariously bad, so corrupt and outmoded that it is incapable. And yes, the government is often inept, hilariously bad, corrupt, and outmoded, but:

a) That’s often not worse than capitalism, which when it tries to help large masses of people decides “Eh, there’s no profit there” and lets them rot (also see: getting high-speed internet service out to the sticks), and:

b) It often (though not always) happens because bad-faith actors (like many Republicans) are sabotaging the damn thing (also see: the post office).

Look, the government has to solve complex problems – if they were simple, they’d be fixed. I’ve likened those issues to legacy code – everyone thinks large problems are easy to solve until you look at all the edge cases the old and terrible solutions are actually handling.

And while capitalism solves some problems very well, it falls flat on its face when you expect it to fix issues that a) don’t make a lot of money but are necessary services, or b) the fixes harmful side effects that can be “solved” by dumping waste out into the public space.

And I’ve been told for years that our government not only DOESN’T do anything, but it SHOULDN’T do anything. Kids are being shot up in schools? Well, that happens. Cops are murdering minorities for no good reason? Can’t expect cops to fix the problems. A deadly pandemic spreading across the country? We can’t ask businesses to shut down or pay people to stay home, that’s not what we do.

Slowly, I’ve watched the concept of government get reduced to “We bomb people and prop up bankers,” and I am livid.

If your government can’t protect its own children, it does not deserve to be a government.

So when I went down to the Wolstein center and saw our army being used to protect us and our cops keeping traffic flowing and our federal government’s guidelines being used to figure out how to distribute the vaccine properly – because Trump’s plan of “back a dump truck full of vaccines up to your door and drop them on your front lawn” was not actually a “plan” so much as “a hope” – I was moved.

Here was a man from the government, and he was here to help. And fuck Reagan in his cold, dead corpse; it wasn’t scary, it was good.

Government can be helpful if we hold it to task. There’s always boondoggles and waste, but that happens in corporations too – nobody ever talks about the time Uber wasted 2/3rds of their ad budget on fake ads, because we don’t discuss or disclose corporate waste. You make anything big enough, it’s gonna hemorrhage a little cash somewhere.

But I think it starts with saying, “The government can do some things that capitalism can’t.” Which is a terrifying idea, to the capitalists, because they hoover up a lot of money by convincing everyone that they alone can fix the problems.

I wasn’t a fan of Biden. But I think – I hope – that he can make the case to America that there’s some things that government is necessary for. Not all things; I like a little capitalism bringing me PS5s (or not, oops).

But some things go better with government help. My vaccination was one of ’em. And I’m sure it’ll turn out that there were operational problems in the vaccine rollout, and that’s good, because we hold our government to task in a way that we don’t hold most corporations responsible. It’s our money we’re paying.

And if we’re gonna pay it, I’d rather it go to feeding the poor and promoting public health instead of drone-bombings. Call me crazy.

(ALERT: As is usually the case, I have a policy of not allowing people to promote right-wing talking points in my threads. Dissent is allowed, but if you’re gonna be spouting bullshit like “Don’t forget Trump got you that vaccine!” when Moderna started working on a vaccine months before Trump rolled out Operation Warp Speed, and then Trump passed on buying additional vaccine dosages – then y’all are gonna get booted.)

1 Comment

  1. Eric A. Meyer
    Mar 26, 2021

    By chance, I happened to be there the first day the city of Cleveland was doing mass vaccinations. And there definitely were operational problems—nothing catastrophic, but many confusions and inefficiencies.

    But also by chance, I happened to be there at the end of the day, and saw them sit everyone down in a socially-distanced manner and analyze what had worked, and what hadn’t, that day. They brainstormed ways to address those problems. And when I was back at the same site a few weeks later, things were a lot better.

    It’s not that government can’t do things well. It’s that too often, it it’s underfunded to the point that it’s nearly impossible to do things well, or is actively blocked from doing things well. (As you observed.)

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