Some years ago, during a trip to a wilderness fishing lodge, three friends and I were attacked by a grizzly bear. Believe it or not, I actually ended up running away from the bear in a pair of LL Bean slippers. While we all survived, it was way, way too close for comfort and I don’t think I’ll ever forget my reaction when I looked back over my shoulder and saw that massive grizzly racing after me. I was seconds away from being dragged down, mauled and killed, and all I could think of was the soon-to-be inscription on my tombstone:
Here lies Todd Tanner,
the only man in history
dumb enough to try to outrun
a grizzly bear in his slippers.
For those of you who don’t know, you should never try to run away from a bear. And if for some reason you have no other choice, you’ll want to wear your running shoes.
There’s a backstory, of course. My companions and I found ourselves square in the middle of a bear/.44 magnum dispute and my fishing partner and I started jogging away from the unfolding confrontation. We had no clue we were about to be pursued by five hundred pounds of tooth and claw.
Furthermore, the events that led to us running away from the bear were, in and of themselves, relatively innocuous. It’s not like we made a single terrible decision. It was more a confluence of bad luck, unwarranted confidence and a lack of foresight.
Which, come to think of it, sounds an awful lot like the run-up to our current coronavirus pandemic. It also brings to mind our uninspired response to human-caused climate change. The United States, or at least that United States as it exists in 2020, seems incapable of preparing for the major threats on the horizon — and that’s true even when those threats are predictable and obvious.
Still, I’ve learned that when you do find yourself in serious trouble — when you’re being chased by a grizzly bear, or stalked by a mountain lion, or forced to swim across a large, icy river in the middle of winter — you have no choice but to work through things on the fly. You assess the situation as quickly and honestly as you can, then make a decision about the best way to move forward. Which brings me to America’s future stimulus bills.
We have an obvious choice in front of us right now. We can continue down the road that leads to political gridlock, cronyism, partisan bickering, and a general distrust of scientific and medical expertise — in other words, we can opt for the path to the angry grizzly bear — or we can work to get America through this crisis by supporting our families, offering real aid to small businesses, and putting stimulus money where it will do the most good.
As an angler, I favor a stimulus that tips its hat to reality, leans hard on common sense, and offers us a realistic chance of coming through this hell-scape in one piece.
What does that look like? Well, we still need to do way more for our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, and for our first responders. Let’s make absolutely sure they have the financial support they deserve and the equipment they so desperately need.
At the same time, let’s not forget about the grocery store clerks, truck drivers and other essential service workers who have been putting themselves at risk while they keep America functional.
And then there’s our families. One small check isn’t going to cut it for the 20 million Americans who are out of work. Our families should be a top priority, and that means helping them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads in these perilous times.
Finally, we need to really support our small businesses — including our family farms and ranches — and give a boost to America’s renewable energy sector, which is the source of so many new jobs. Shouldn’t bolstering our rural communities, ensuring the safety of our food supply, and locking in clean energy as we put our country back to work be a no-brainer?
One word of caution. While there are a ton of appropriate landing spots for our stimulus money, from long-term CRP contracts that inject cash into family farms, to imperiled rural hospitals, to direct investments in clean energy and infrastructure modernization, we need to keep our eye on the ball. Our families, our small businesses, and the people on the front lines of the pandemic need to come first. This is not the time for handouts to big corporations, nor is it the time to reward campaign contributors. Americans are hurting, and that’s true from sea to shining sea. Congress has to steer clear of cronyism and corruption, and do the job it was elected to do. That’s the only way we avoid this particular bear.
Contact Congress and share your thoughts on the next round of federal stimulus funding.