It’s hard to believe how quickly the coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our lives and is shaping a “new normal” of public interaction. We continue to be grateful for the first responders across the country who have cared for the sick, the leaders who face unprecedented challenges balancing the health of individuals and the financial well-being of their communities, and the businesses owners and everyday citizens who are making sacrifices and taking precautions to help keep people healthy, in lockdown and as states begin to open up again.
With all of this uncertainty, The Policy Circle team realized that policy matters now, perhaps more than ever. At this critical juncture in our country’s history, we remain steadfast in our commitment to inform, inspire and develop civic leaders.
Our programs provide reliable information, build leadership and critical thinking skills, which are imperative for our country to move forward with hope and a plan. With a focus on the economic impact of policy and responding to the needs of Policy Circle members, The Policy Circle has developed a series of virtual programs called Move the Needle Virtual Experiences. These events provide an opportunity for our members and partners to connect, and cover timely topics with special guests, experts and policy leaders.
During these Move the Needle Experiences, participants had unique access to hear directly from a Governor and two members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the unprecedented legislation and implementation of policies to combat the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic fallout. We also had the opportunity to discuss what leadership and federalism look like in a crisis, and encouraged attendees to take action. Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement.
Below are the recaps and video recordings of each virtual discussion.
MOVE THE NEEDLE VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES
Poverty in America with Christopher F. Rufo – July 29, 2020
Chris Rufo, who’s film, America Lost, dives deeper into the human crisis of poverty, joined The Policy Circle for an engaging and enlightening virtual discussion on Poverty in America. The film was a perfect primer for the latest virtual discussion, and allowed Policy Circle members to hear Rufo’s first-hand account of poverty in three communities across the U.S.
Historically, America has taken care of its poor by helping them improve their circumstances, allowing them to rise out of poverty. Government assistance to the poor was never meant to keep people trapped in poverty, yet many of today’s programs do just that. So if current policy is not working, what needs to happen to increase opportunity and upward mobility for all?
Rufo noted that what’s at stake for people in poverty isn’t policy or economics-driven. He touched on the importance of family structure and social capital as a way to achieve mobility from all backgrounds. It’s the human aspect that’s being impacted the most, and lost in many communities. Rufo also explored three areas of poverty:
- The system we have today to address poverty isn’t working.
- People themselves are the greatest source of hope.
- Bureaucratic systems are a complex and difficult to navigate hinderance to getting people out of poverty.
Safeguarding America’s Critical Infrastructure with Leslee Belluchie, JoAnna Sohovich and Frank Cilluffo
Leslee Belluchie, JoAnna Sohovich, and Frank Cilluffo joined The Policy Circle to broaden our understanding of the connections and components of critical infrastructure and share the importance of addressing its internal and external vulnerabilities for the health and safety of our nation. The Department of Homeland Security organizes the essential services that comprise the backbone of our nation’s economy, society, and health into 16 critical infrastructure sectors. These systems and networks, from emergency response and transportation systems to financial services and the food supply chain, are vital to our national security and the daily functioning of our lives.
The State of American Agriculture and the Food Supply Chain with Senator Joni Ernst – May 27, 2020
Agriculture is a constant presence in our daily lives at the local, national, and international levels – a vital piece of our critical infrastructure. But most Americans don’t dive deeper into the food supply chain details on a regular basis. Because of the direct impact on our everyday lives, Americans see and feel vulnerabilities in the system in the form of worker shortages, limits on buying certain foods and unstocked grocery shelves. This can happen anytime – with farmland impacted by natural disasters like floods, tornados and hurricanes.
The coronavirus, says Senator Ernst, has sparked “a new awakening” of interest in food security and sourcing. Americans want to know: Who is handling our food? Where is our food coming from? What are the safety measures in place? Senator Ernst walked attendees through the answers to these questions, the policies that impact our agriculture system the most, and reminded each of us that being involved and making a difference is possible.
Public-Private Partnerships in the Age of COVID-19 with Betsy Atkins, Elaine Duke and Karla Jones – May 13, 2020
During a crisis, the roles of the federal government, state’s and private corporations come to the forefront. While it may seem overwhelming how much of our lives and how many sectors have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it also means that there are many people, businesses and entities united around a single mission. The Policy Circle was lucky enough to be joined by Betsy Atkins, Elaine Duke, and Karla Jones for some ideas on how partnerships between the public and private sectors can bring about the best solutions – with the right balance of oversight and governance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed the National Response Framework, which aligns key roles and responsibilities across varying U.S. resources and departments during a time of crisis like coronavirus. The framework also outlines responses that are federally supported, state-managed, locally executed, and engaged with the private sector. As states of emergency wear on, continued support for local economies and communities is necessary to help the nation recover. In coordination with local governments, private sector organizations play an important role by re-establishing economic activity and restoring community services.
Communication and planning between the public and private sector will be key as we look to the future. While Atkins and Duke gave examples that show the strength of these partnerships, they can be made even stronger. Panelists agreed that plans should ensure such partnerships are not formed in the moment of need, but rather are already in place with the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders well-established. Read the full recap here.
Opportunity in Crisis: America’s Healthcare System with Sally Pipes and Gloria Sachdev – May 1, 2020
For many Americans, the extent to which government decisions impact our lives has become more and more evident. None more evident than in the debate over healthcare. In fact, during the 2018 midterm elections, a majority of voters ranked health care as the most important issue. Now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many are asking: how will this change the healthcare system? For some ideas on where health care policy debate stands and what the future holds, The Policy Circle spoke with Sally Pipes, President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith, Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute, and Gloria Sachdev, President and CEO of the Employers’ Forum of Indiana.
The key issues Pipes and Sachdev outlined surrounding the healthcare debate center on access to care, improving patient care while also reducing costs, and innovations in the industry that are helping meet current challenges. We also may be able to find opportunity in crisis, and focus on coronavirus-induced measures that can lead to permanent, positive changes. For example, telehealth has allowed patients to access healthcare while still respecting stay-at-home orders, but Sally Pipes believes this can be a long-term solution by allowing patients to more quickly and easily access the services of specialists without the imposition of travel. Read the full recap here.
Economic Dominance, U.S. China Relations and Playing the Long [Policy] Game, featuring Heather Nauert – April 15, 2020
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. foreign policy in the Asia Pacific region had vital national security, diplomatic, and economic implications. On April 15th, Heather Nauert, Hudson Institute fellow and former Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department, joined The Policy Circle to gather the pieces of the puzzle to understand how we got to where we are today, and where we are going in our relationship with China.
The first step to understanding China, Nauert points out, is understanding that China operates very differently than the United States does. This is the nature of the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party and the Politburo, two bodies that set the tone and make almost all decisions regarding leadership and the law. The rest of our knowledge is limited by China’s secrecy and the lack of freedom of the press, which prevents our access to further information. What we do know about China is its long term strategies to achieve its goal of global economic dominance. Read the full recap here.
What does leadership look like in a crisis? Featuring Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts – March 31, 2020
A recent Wall Street Journal article “Federalism and the Coronavirus Lockdown” notes that “lockdown and closure orders were issued by state governments” and that the federal government “has no general authority to dictate to state governments.” We’re seeing this right now as state and local leaders are at the forefront of the crisis in terms of implementing solutions.
What is it like to be one of these state and local leaders? We were fortunate to have Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts describe what leadership is like in uncertain times. For Governor Ricketts, it’s rather like leadership in certain times: making sure there is a strategy, having the right people on your team, and holding those people accountable. Read the full recap here.
Controlling the Narrative vs Igniting Responsibility and Innovation featuring the Lincoln Network’s Aaron Ginn – March 26, 2020
“Be easy on people, hard on ideals,” says Aaron Ginn, co-founder and president of the Lincoln Network who joined The Policy Circle’s first Move the Needle Virtual Discussion. Remember that conversation is transformative and truth and details matter. With all the information floating around and potentially being misconstrued, it’s important to remember you don’t need credentials to be taken seriously: you can always speak up, ask a question, and share an idea. Feel confident that you do have a voice. While we have voices to express our thoughts freely, it’s also our job to be well-cited and do our research. We can encourage our leaders and public officials to do the same, and to have a scientific mindset when discussing and communicating important numbers, details, and data to the public. A good place to start, Ginn said, is to: “Never trust a lonely number” – always put data in context, such as providing a point of comparison Ask what the goal is – why does this data matter? What exactly are we measuring? Read the full recap here.
STATE-WIDE VIRTUAL DISCUSSIONS
Michigan Virtual Discussion with Congressman Bill Huizenga: The Road to Normalcy – Establishing a Goal Post to Get the Economy Running Again
The coronavirus pandemic has become a case study in federalism as each state across the country takes precautions to balance flattening the curve while also ensuring the economy is still functioning. As more counties and states wade into the choppy waters of re-opening businesses and establishing trust, what are next steps for re-opening the economy? On April 17, The Policy Circle engaged in a virtual discussion on this topic with Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga. More than 30 participants gathered to discuss Michigan’s response to this crisis and what the economic landscape will look like going forward.
Much like there is no one-size-fits-all response for the entire U.S., different types of responses may be necessary across the state, which means regionalization can be a possibility in reopening industries that have been shut down to address the virus. How can local governments balance the economic hardship caused by lockdowns with the real possibility of a second wave of the virus? How can public officials work with private enterprises to get the economy back online? Read the full recap here.
Florida Virtual Discussion: Civic Duty, Women Leaders and National Security featuring U.S. Representative Mike Waltz (FL-6) – April 8, 2020
As we stay in our homes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s still important for us to remember to turn our attention outwards. For Congressman Mike Waltz (FL-6), the first Green Beret to serve in Congress, a special forces officer in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Middle East, and a former defense policy advisor, balancing domestic and international challenges is a part of daily life. He shared with us what challenges small businesses and communities face in Florida and across the U.S. right now.
Florida has the fourth largest economy in the U.S. (which is heavily reliant upon tourism), is a global hub for imports and exports, and has the second largest population of adults ages 65 and older (20.5%). This all means the coronavirus is hitting Florida hard, which is why Congressman Waltz believes communication between himself and his constituents is more important than ever. And yet even with all these challenges at home to attend to, there are still reasons to look beyond our borders. The coronavirus is very much a challenge for the international intelligence community, as many of our Policy Circle women with backgrounds in national security and intelligence shared with us. Read the full recap here.
Texas Virtual Discussion: Federalism, the Coronavirus and Civic Duty featuring U.S. Representative Chip Roy (TX-6) and Ellen Troxclair- April1, 2020
The government is not exactly known for its speed; on the contrary, the government’s tendency is to be notoriously slow. But the past few weeks have seen unprecedented speed in the passage of legislation and in implementation of policies to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fall out. What is it like to be on the back end of this legislation?
We were joined by Texas Congressman Chip Roy, who gave us some insight on his thought processes when bills make their way to his desk in the midst of unknowns and urgency. Congressman Roy takes a few things into consideration, including hearing directly from constituents. Hearing from constituents one of the most important parts of the process, for Congressman Roy and his fellow representatives and other local leaders across the country. Read the full recap here.
Indiana Virtual Discussion: Supporting Small Business, and Testing Capacity featuring U.S. Representative Susan Brooks – March 27, 2020
In Indiana, The Policy Circle members had the opportunity to hear from Congresswoman Susan Brooks just before she spoke on the CARES Act on the U.S. House of Representatives floor. The Congresswoman noted that Members were maintaining social distancing recommendations while in the Capitol, and that the mood was tense but hope filled. She detailed on a high-level the aspects of the historic CARES Act legislation that she thought would be most impactful.
The magnitude of impact that some industries have seen eclipses the others, a point Martha Hoover of Patachou Inc put into perspective while discussing how brick and mortar business have been impacted with The Policy Circle Co-Founder Kathy Hubbard. On testing, there are still many questions about who should get tested, when and the capacity for tests currently in the U.S. Rob Metcalf from Eli Lilly spoke on the unique skills the company tapped into in order to quickly ramp up testing facilities and capacity in the state. Read the full recap here.
Wisconsin Virtual Discussion: Re-establishing Trust and a Return to Normalcy featuring the American Enterprise Institute Fellow Tim Carney – March 25, 2020
During a financial crisis, trust may not be the first thing on most people’s minds. But AEI’s Tim Carney and communities across the U.S. know that when it comes to the good of the neighborhood, trust is a key component. The degree to which communities can trust each other is what allows them to better handle adversity, and what staves off loneliness, vulnerability, and in extreme cases, deaths of despair. As small businesses and religious institutions shut their doors and local restaurants struggle to stay afloat, we realize just how key these establishments are to forming and maintaining social connections and trust in our communities. Read the full recap here.
Illinois Virtual Discussion: Supporting Our Communities During Social Distancing – March 20, 2020
What’s the current outlook of social distancing and how do we stay connected while following the guidelines set out? Zoom, like how this meeting was hosted, is one way to connect with larger groups. To inform our discussion, we selected the Policy Circle Brief “Stitching The Fabric of Neighborhoods.” The goal of that brief is to get us to think about the pieces that hold a thriving community together. Co-founder Sylvie Legere started the discussion, giving her perspective on her own community and friends and family who have been impacted economically – local businesses owners. Throughout the virtual discussion, the concept that was top of mind was that we must maintain a sense of normalcy, and we must get back to that sense of normalcy as soon as possible in order for our free market economy to get back on its feet. In getting back to a sense of normalcy, what are the measures we need to take to get back to this? Visit The Policy Circle’s Resource page for more on how to take action. Read the full recap here.
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