From DC to Harrisburg, authorities is flunking disaster administration | Opinion –

By John Baer

I was struck by recent reports that 30-plus U.S. corporations have committed to creating 1 million new “family-sustaining” jobs for Black Americans, primarily those without college degrees.

The effort, run by a nonprofit startup, “OneTen,” already raised $100 million.

It comes in response to this year’s focus on racial inequality, past failures to address it and the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus on Black Americans.

Companies involved and promising to offer the jobs include heavyweights such as the pharmaceutical giant Merck, Target, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, IBM, Verizon, Comcast and Nike.

The goal is outreach and training for entry-level but upwardly-mobile jobs in health care, retail, business and finance, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing over the next 10 years.

Merck CEO Ken Frazier, who is Black, a startup cofounder, acknowledges past and present job-placement programs aimed at racial economic gaps have fallen short.

“All of us would agree that what we’re doing now isn’t working,” he told the Wall Street Journal, adding, “It’s this generation of CEOs who don’t want to pass this down to the next generation.”

Would that this generation of governing leaders in Harrisburg and Washington thought along the same lines. As in dealing with problems at their root and for the long run. And not only on issues of racial inequity, but on all issues touching everyday life.

For example: Today, right now, in the darkest-to-date part of a public health disaster draining the savings of the unemployed and creating more unemployed, where is the thinking that “what we’re doing now isn’t working?”

Can Congress believe what it’s doing is working?

Only, I guess, if the best we can ever hope for from Washington is an 11th hour, cover-your-assets paste-up job of a short-term partial fix.

For even a new coronavirus aid package comes several months late and with much less than needed. It is, as U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. put it this week, merely “an interim agreement.”

Meanwhile, such drop-by-drop delayed governance plays out as roughly 12 million Americans (400,000 in Pennsylvania) face almost certain lag times in getting renewed federal jobless benefits.

Current benefits expire Dec. 26; CNBC reports it could take weeks to get money moving again. Why let that happen?

Maybe congressional leaders have been just too busy focused on two upcoming run-off elections in Georgia (that will decide party control of the Senate) to worry about deadlines that don’t affect them.

Politics, after all, always seems to come first.

And what, pray tell, of Pennsylvania’s legislature?

Smart, timely, tackling the future? Hardly. More like stuck in the past. On the geologic scale. In the pre-vertebrate Paleozoic Era, when plants ruled the planet.

How else to explain frequent mindlessness, such as declining to aggressively act on behalf of, as Spotlight PA reports, 240,000 families who could lose their homes if a federal eviction-protection program is allowed to end Dec. 31?

Does Harrisburg think what it’s doing is working?

Gov. Tom Wolf, in September, asked the legislature to use $325 million in federal coronavirus aid to help small businesses, including restaurants and bars.

But asking isn’t doing. Or insisting. Or fighting for. So, Wolf went along when the legislature responded by using all of the money to fund state government, including, of course, its own operations, salaries and expenses.

It’s as if lawmakers in Harrisburg and D.C., those whose paychecks keep coming, whose health-care benefits continue, those unthreatened by food insecurity, don’t even see the anxiety and needs of so many fellow citizens not so well off.

Instead of responsive government in a pandemic, we get unending partisanship. We get politicization of science, masking orders and vaccines. And distracting divisiveness over the legitimacy of a presidential election.

None of this addresses the nation’s needs.

Big government isn’t big business. Corporations are supposed to make profits. Government is supposed to serve the common good.

But in this instance, government leaders could take a lesson from corporate commitment to “OneTen.” And commit themselves to doing things differently. Because what they’re doing now? It isn’t working.

John Baer may be reached at

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