An illustrated bank check reads 'I'm going up for reelection' at the bottom

Opinion columnist Jeffrey Birch argues that in the midst of a global pandemic and times of uncertainty and anxiety, world leaders need to keep their egos in check and focus on the larger situation at hand. 

Opinion

Currently, the nation and the world sit on the edge. The majority of the population is social distancing, and the health care system is desperately trying to treat and contain the active cases. In the midst of this, people have been scared and worried and desperately looking for any piece of news or information that might provide hope or at the very least some clarity into what the future holds. However, for some leaders, ego is getting in the way of desperately needed policies and programs.

In the initial draft of this article, I was discussing a retweet from President Donald Trump that featured the hashtag “FireFauci,” Fauci of course being Anthony Fauci, M.D. — one of the leading voices on the president’s COVID-19 task force. However, after digging past the initial gut reaction, it appears Trump was more focused on agreeing with the original tweet’s claim that the media was twisting Fauci’s statement about how the administration had responded to imply that they had actively failed to listen to Fauci. 

The next day after the tweet and the accompanying media storm had hit the news cycle, both the president and Fauci gave statements clarifying the situation. Trump first made it abundantly clear he had no intention of firing Fauci. And on the other hand, Fauci got in front of reporters and made it clear that his statement — when he said that lives could have been saved had the United States started mitigating earlier — was not in any way condemning the administration’s actions. He further clarified he was merely stating a fact, that earlier mitigation would have saved lives, but also made it clear that every time he recommended measures, he was listened to and had seen the measures implemented. 

So what had initially appeared to be a classic case of Trump’s ego endangering pandemic response turned out to be a simple misinterpretation.

And yet, just a day later, the president delayed pandemic response in a completely separate incident. Trump told the Treasury Department he wanted to have his signature on the stimulus checks that are being sent out to the lowest income Americans over the next week.

This is unusual for a couple of reasons. First of all, a sitting president has never had his name appear on an IRS disbursement. Secondly, the president doesn’t actually have the authority to sign the checks. According to the Treasury Department, his name will appear on the memo line of the checks.

The largest concern with this change was the possibility that the checks could be delayed. This is especially concerning because the checks are being sent out in order of income, with the lowest income taxpayers, and therefore the ones that need the checks the most, getting them first. For people who were already living paycheck to paycheck and might have lost their jobs, a few days can make a world of difference.

Luckily, the Treasury Department has been able to positively say that the checks will be distributed on time.

There’s another thorny issue associated with the president’s name being put on the checks, though, because there does need to be a signature on the disbursements, same as any other check. The standard practice for disbursements is to have civil statements sign the checks, specifically so the money coming from the government is bipartisan.

If a single individual was seen to be giving out money from the government, it creates an unrealistic perception about where the money is coming from. The stimulus package was bipartisan and didn’t originate from the president. With an election around the corner, however, every little bit, even a much needed check with his name on it, counts.

That’s the ultimate reasoning behind this. It’s a pure ego move to maybe garner some votes in November. It’s potentially delaying much needed policies, but he doesn’t care. Even if it costs everyone in the end. 

Jeffrey Birch is a senior from Wichita studying accounting.