The Senate is supposed to reach agreement today on some sort of Coronavirus financial package. There are fundamental disagreements over whether we let families die and slide into even deeper financial ruin while we bail out the travel, hotel, airline, and financial industries; whether we let Trump and Mnuchin access a half trillion dollar slush fund; and what kinds of strings should be attached to corporate bailouts. Both sides have offered their own rescue plans. The Democrat version alone is 1400 pages.
Whether we end up calling it a rescue plan, a stimulus package, a bailout, a lifeline, or a disgrace depends on what we learn later today. Don’t get your hopes up. We live in a county that has always valued the almighty dollar more than human life. Now, this week, today, some are going to face that bitter truth for the first time.
We certainly know what the Republican administration and its Fox News cabinet think. People, at least of the expendable variety, must sacrifice themselve (or have it done to them) through inadequate testing, an absence of virus protection, lack of testing, and privatized healthcare that currently excludes them — just to keep the economy running for the owners.
Three months after the virus was first identified (it’s called COVID-19 because it was discovered in 2019) Americans still have insufficient ventilators, no masks, and almost no testing kits. And there is still no national plan to lock down people at home to minimize fatalities and to keep them financially solvent as the crisis unfolds.
The administration has shown us graphs showing that social distancing may help reduce pressure on hospital admissions. But they haven’t shown us their spreadsheet showing the cost in human lives in one column, and the cost to the economy in another.
But Republican priorities are pretty clear. What are a few million deaths if casinos can be kept open? Just ask Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who told FOX News’ Tucker Carlson he’d sacrifice himself and others of his generation if it saved business — which he confuses for a nation of human beings:
“So, I’m going to be smart, I think all of my fellow grandparents out there are going to be smart. We all wanna live, we wanna live with our grandchildren for as long as we can,” he added. “But the point is, our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country.”
Naturally, the President agrees. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”
No, the United States is an all-day-all-night casino in one of Trump’s hotels.
An effective lockdown could go on for months. The Wuhan lockdown lasted seven weeks, and during the 1918 Spanish Flu public gatherings in the United States were banned in some places for as long as six months. When Hong Kong temporarily suspended its lockdown after a few weeks, it experienced a spike in new infections and was forced to lock down citizens again. So we know that keeping people sheltered in place must go on much longer than just two weeks.
But Trump knows better than the scientists. Appearing to confuse the disease’s incubation period with its duration, Trump thinks everything will be over in a couple of weeks. “America will again, and soon, be open for business.” Anthony Fauci, who is the only person in the entire Trump administration with the guts to disagree with his boss publicly, thinks lockdown measures should be of much longer duration. Trump has acknowledged Fauci’s disagreement, but the very stable genius has decided he knows better than the world’s epidemiologists.
This is the sort of cynical, callous, and criminal disregard for human life we have come to expect from Trump and his bobble-headed sycophants in the new Republican Party — the same people who told Americans with a straight face that a national healthcare plan would create Death Panels to determine who gets life-saving health care, and who must, regretfully of course, die. But now Republicans have outed themselves as the ultimate Death Panel. Money talks, and if protecting the public costs too much, then money says: the public is expendable.
By the end of the day we’ll know if Congress votes for preservation of millions of human lives — or the preservation of Capitalism for a second time in just twelve years.