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Auchter's Art: We have the best experts -- and ignore them

John Auchter
Michigan Radio

I was listening to the Smartless podcast episode with author Michael Lewis as the guest. Lewis wrote Moneyball, The Big Short, and many other books that have been made into movies. He is known for his thorough research and ability to uncover compelling, important stories that others just don't see.

Lewis was talking about doing research on a more recent project about the COVID-19 pandemic and noted just how poor the response was by the United States, despite the fact that seven or eight years ago we were widely regarded as being the country best prepared for one (the best plan, the best resources). What happened? We didn't follow our plan, and we didn't use our resources effectively. Why? That's what Americans do. As Lewis put it, "We have the best experts — we just don't listen to them."

If ever there was a statement that reveals who we've become, it's that. We invest time and money into education, into programs, into research and development. And then... I don't know what. We just drop the ball.

The rippling effects are equally as bad. Bridge Michigan had a story last week about a program in West Michigan to create 500 new nurses. A legitimate question is, what's the point? Is anybody going to listen to them anyway? Because one of the reasons we need so many new ones is that many of the existing nurses have become disillusioned and quit.

One more recent input that may help explain all this: The Atlantic has an article titled, "Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid." It's worth a read for yourself but their short answer is:

"Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three."

John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganPublic.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com.
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