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Joe Payne: Who’s to blame for the mess we’re in?
Guest Commentary

Joe Payne: Who’s to blame for the mess we’re in?

In his May 17 commentary, (“The Keystone Cops vs. the coronavirus”) local conservative radio show host Andy Caldwell takes a whack at Gov. Gavin Newsom and the ongoing stay-at-home orders that have helped abate the infection rate and death toll from the coronavirus in California.

You can’t blame Caldwell, he’s been a local mouthpiece for the Republican Party for years, and is onboard with their efforts to play hide-the-ball for President Donald Trump and his administration’s massive failure in protecting our national security by preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus into our communities, which has killed tens of thousands of Americans.

So Caldwell, like many Republicans, blamed Gov. Newsom for actually governing in the face of this crisis, criticizing every step of our state government to protect human life beyond bad faith, to the point of hysterics. From baseless conspiracy theories “to take people out of their home” to asserting the governor “has no intention of restoring our freedoms,” Caldwell demonstrates a childishly reactionary streak. Within days of these pearl-clutching pronouncements, Gov. Newsom had relaxed several of the strictures counties must meet to reopen safely.

The economic toll of this crisis is nothing to downplay — millions of Californians are out of work and in need of support. And our state has responded, expanding benefits for workers, property owners, and businesses affected by the fallout. Businesses are preparing to reopen, but it must be done safely to protect the health of the working class. Many workplaces have remained functional, but adapted with teleconferencing and work-from-home.

Just ask Andy — he’s producing his radio show despite the lockdown, railing against the will of California voters, talking up fracking and increased oil extraction, and even organizing lockdown protests across the district he hopes to represent in Congress.

Can you think of anything more irresponsible than trying to convince people to amass in large groups during a pandemic, against all the warnings of public health officials and medical experts?

I can.

How about destroying the National Security Council’s pandemic task force, as the Trump Administration did in 2018? Or massively cutting the amount of funding and staff for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) office in China? Or tossing multiple pandemic playbooks in the trash, as Trump and his administration have done?

The Republican Party, from it’s most intelligent luminaries to its current brand of ineptitude, has been at war with the very idea of governance for decades. They’ve decried “big government” all while they continually lowered taxes on the wealthy, ran up massive deficits, cut services, and deregulated predatory and polluting industries all in the name of getting the government “off our backs.” They’ve continually shot our government in the knees and blamed it for not being able to run a marathon.

When Trump first took office, his far-right extremist chief strategist Steve Bannon declared the “deconstruction of the administrative state” was a top priority of this administration. That means many agencies including the EPA, the FDA, but also the CDC, the very department that Trump ignored again and again as they warned of the impending crisis that is COVID-19.

So here we are again, a second historic economic downturn since the millenia began thanks to a Republican administration run amok with anti-governance ideology and incompetence. If Mr. Caldwell was able to make the career leap from local lobbyist to representative in Congress, I have very little faith he would act or vote any differently than members of the party who plunged us into this dystopian disaster.

Joe Payne is a lifelong journalist and Santa Marian who shares news, analysis, and commentary online at


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