Donald Trump and his posse are clearly eager to “re-open” the economy – soon! “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump declares. "America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon.”
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said in an interview with Fox News “The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.”
The New York Times reports that “Trump finds himself pulled in opposite directions on what to do next. The bankers, corporate executives and industrialists plead with him to reopen the country as soon as possible, while the medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus.”
Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas has done the GOP and its billionaire patrons a favor by framing "The Trade Off" in moral terms. Patrick told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’… If that is the exchange, I’m all in!” Patrick continued: “That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me. I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children.”
Ah! Yes. The children. Of course. Who is thinking of the children?! Thank goodness for the Texas GOP.
Let us note here that every economist (and every essentially clear-headed human being) understands that there is no simple public health/economic growth trade off. Economic life as we knew it a few months ago is impossible while a deadly contagious disease is on the loose.
But let’s play along with Patrick et al. What is the “difficult trade-off” of which Trump, Kudlow Sean Hannity, Dan Patrick and others speak? It seems to be this: Should powerful, prosperous old white men be allowed sacrifice their lives so that our children and grandchildren may have a better life?
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Really? Umm... not really. Whatever tradeoffs “we” might be facing, this is not among them.
Dan Patrick, Trump, Hannity, Mike Pence, Charles Koch, “the bankers, corporate executives and industrialists” and the CEOs of Walmart, Walgreens, Chick-fil-A, and My Pillow are not planning or willing to die to benefit anyone. And, frankly, I don’t think they care all that much about anyone’s grandchildren. Here is what Trump and the GOP’s rapacious, billionaire patrons really mean: If we re-open the economy, we can resume accumulating capital, amassing profits, and getting richer. Will people get sick? Will people die? Maybe. Probably. But we don’t care.
Indeed, the accumulation of capital kills people every day – industrial accidents, black lung, brown lung, cancer, inadequate health insurance. Capitalism has been working people to death forever. “Accumulate, accumulate. That is Moses and the Prophets!” An essential part of the capitalist story has always been the “willingness” of capitalists and their enablers to “endure” the maiming, poisoning, and death of their workers, their customers, their neighbors, and their slaves in order to make a profit. M-C-M’.
If we “re-open” the economy too soon or without ample regard for the public health risks, the price will be paid by millions of workers and elderly people—disproportionately people of color, undocumented residents and other vulnerable, disempowered people.
But there are trade-offs! And this is a price that Big Capital is willing to pay in order to re-inflate the stock market, their profit margins, and their portfolios. M-C-M'
Dan Patrick's declaration on Tucker Carlson's show provoked a discussion about how much "we" value a human life. That's fine ...But in this context the point is this: Trump, Charles Koch and all those who are concerned only with profits and stock prices do not value one bit the lives of those they exploit for profit. And they do not value one bit our elderly parents and grandparents who are put at risk by their recklessness. They are collateral damage. In the grand cost/benefit analysis, one more fatally ill low wage worker of color doesn't count. Zero. That’s a price that Trump and his capitalist buddies are willing to pay.