One of the most grotesque things about our current political moment is how blatantly subservient Donald Trump has been to the whims of the market.
If Trump ever had any genuine concern for public health, it seems to have gone out the window almost as soon as he realized the disastrous effects the coronavirus would have on the economy. When Trump began talking about putting people back to work and “opening the U.S. back up by Easter,” conservative commentator Stuart Varney implied that the market was welcoming the offering of flesh and blood from Trump and other recurring dumbasses of the far-right, as well as Wall Street fundamentalists like Lloyd Blankfein and the Koch-aligned Americans for Prosperity, were apparently willing to make.
On Sunday, Trump finally relented and extended social distancing measures through the end of April instead of Easter, the date he plucked out of thin air because the man loves a good narrative. But it’s not just Trump and his assortment of sycophants and begrudged allies in the War on Libs that you have to worry about.
On Friday, North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, lagging behind Democratic colleagues in other states, finally issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state which goes into effect Monday night. Hospitals and public health officials had been imploring Cooper to do this for days, but the state Chamber of Commerce didn’t agree. In a letter published on March 21, the state Chamber called shelter-in-place orders a “drastic step,” one which can only be a “last resort.“
“While times of crisis are by nature uncertain, North Carolina must continue to do what it does best: remain calm and act with a smart and disciplined approach. A true North Carolina approach,” chamber president Gary Salamido, a member of Cooper’s coronavirus task force, wrote. “Acting on decades of experience and avoiding a shelter-in-place will position us to rise from this crisis and begin to rebuild once it has passed. And it will.”
Given what we know about the coronavirus (while understanding there’s a lot more to learn), it appears to be infecting working poor and working class communities in New York at a higher rate than in more well-off communities. COVID-19 itself doesn’t discriminate, as we’ve been told, but once it comes into contact with our discriminatory healthcare system, that hardly matters.
It’s easy (and correct) to say that the Koch/Blankfein/Salamido position is the logical endpoint of capitalism: Given the choice between maintaining an economic structure that’s produced lucrative profits and saving frontline workers and vulnerable patients, it’s hardly a contest.
Yet it still takes a massive amount of gall to describe an approach which prioritizes economic prosperity for a choice few over human life for everyone else as the careful, responsible one.
The ironic thing, of course, is that this approach promises not just the maximum body count, but a slow-moving economic disaster as more and more people with “essential” jobs get sick and can’t work, grinding hospitals and the supply chain to a halt until we get a vaccine a year to eighteen months from now.
North Carolina already has over a thousand confirmed cases of coronavirus, along with an indeterminate number of cases we’ll never know about due to a lack of tests. In the weeks and months to come, we’re looking at tens of thousands of cases, if not more. So imagine this, multiplied, if businesses and gatherings were allowed to proceed as normal.
As we’ve seen so many times over the past few years, Trump might be more transparent about his priorities than the less publicly-vulgar billionaires and those who aspire to be them. That does not mean their priorities are different.
Image: Dorry Samuels/Public Citizen/Creative Commons