Traverse City News and Events

Bergman, "Mission Oriented," Speaks On Virus, Economy And Response

By Luke Haase | March 18, 2020

Amidst this international health and economic crisis, The Ticker caught up with Congressman Jack Bergman, who represents northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, to hear his thoughts on what’s happening, his opinions about the responses by the president and governor, and more.
 
Ticker: Do we find you in Michigan or in Washington?
Bergman: I’m in Washington DC.
 
Ticker: Isn’t Congress in Recess?
Bergman: We’re on recess, but that doesn't mean…I’m a Marine, so I’m used to deploying to where the stuff is hitting the fan. It’s more important for me to be here at this rapidly changing rate. The Governor and all the folks in leadership in Michigan are doing their part to put all the right pieces in place there.
 
Ticker: As of this moment, it sounds like there might be an effort to combine the House-passed bill with the White House’s stimulus package into one big bill for the Senate to consider. What do you know?
Bergman: Probably no more than you know. All I can say is the House and the Senate and the White House are working to do the right things for the right reasons. I just got off the briefing with the president and the Coronavirus Task Force staff, and they updated us on what they’re doing with currency and other things. Again, for those of us who have had the honor of serving in the military, we’re used to deploying emergency responses.
 
Ticker: Some are proposing that cash be sent immediately to all Americans. Would you entertain that idea?
Bergman: The point is, I’ll entertain what’s doing right by American citizens. Think about it this way: On 9/11 – and I was a pilot, so this is personal – we had a visible enemy and shortly after it happened, we could focus on what that meant. Today, as the president has said, we have an invisible enemy, and that means everybody -- I mean everybody at any age -- you have skin in the game, and you have to show personal responsibility. And I want to give a shout-out to the people going to work, whether that’s in healthcare or truck drivers…folks who deliver goods and services every day.
 
Ticker: So you wouldn’t be opposed to sending money directly to people now?
Bergman: No. The bottom line is what every American should do is review their own fiscal responsibility, review who they owe and when. Reach out to your banker and credit union. Talk to them. They’re your partners. But the federal government is not going to put anyone at risk at this time.
 
Ticker: Any unique positives or negatives for your own district in terms of population or industry or geography?
Bergman: Number one, we have an older population. Our average age is older than the overall average. And when you think about it…this coronavirus is targeting elders and people in poor health. So in the First District, that population is older so we need to try to deliver the best healthcare. We’ve been working on the expansion of telehealth; it’s not where we need to be yet. And when you’re younger in this particular case, what you need to do is reach out to your parents and older friends and just make sure they’re okay.
 
Ticker: What are you hearing from your constituents?
Bergman: Number one, a lot of thanks. We’ve been giving regular updates, guiding people where to go. Also hearing from small businesses to modify the package we passed the other night. But most calls from our district are saying ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’
 
Ticker: The president has been widely criticized for his initial response. Your grade of the administration’s response?
Bergman: I tell you what, I’m not an armchair quarterback, but there’s a saying that when you’re a battlefield commander, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy. I grade the administration’s response an A-plus. This is not the flu. This is different. We’ve working hard, been looking globally for help, in places like Israel for genome modification and other solutions. We have the ability in this digital age to provide output quicker and better.
 
Ticker: What about Governor Whitmer?
Bergman: I think she’s doing the right thing. She’s the leader of the state of Michigan and has to make the tough decisions. We just need to look at the rationale of our decisions and how they affect business models for companies to accomplish the goal of social distancing but not accidentally hurt some too badly.
 
Ticker: So you’re not opposing the full closure of schools and restaurants and bars…
Bergman: No, I’m not. That’s her call and if she decides, so be it. We’ve got to flatten the curve. That takes having what we call immediate action items.
 
Ticker: And what’s the mood in Washington now? And will you stay there?
Bergman: It’s quiet now because most people have gone back to their districts. I might leave, it just depends. I’m mission-oriented, so wherever the best place to be is where I’m gonna go.

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