Donald Trump is continuing his push to kill a lot of Americans by calling off social distancing guidelines and calling for businesses to reopen. Trump’s basic theory is that he’s choosing the economy over public health, but that dangers to public health are exaggerated anyway. But, if the dangers to public health aren’t exaggerated, what he’s failing to understand is that having a whole lot of people get sick and die will also be very bad for the economy, even if businesses are technically open.
“America will again and soon be open for business—very soon,” Trump said Monday, echoing his Sunday evening tweet. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” He’s a little in love with that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself” framing, but “the problem” is a million or more projected deaths. How many cures are substantially worse than that? And in these United States of America, even many of the people who recover from coronavirus will end up with major medical debt, and having lost their jobs and possibly their homes while they were sick, so, again, it’s not like he can just decide it’s worth trading a million deaths—even of patriotic grandparents embracing death, as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would have it—for a thriving economy and do that. The spread of the disease will hurt the economy, too.
Sen. Lindsey Graham actually gets it, calling it “a major mistake” to scale back containment efforts because “You can’t have a functioning economy if you have hospitals overflowing.” But Trump is surrounded by people who support his “let the old people and people with asthma and people with diabetes and immune-compromised people die as long as the markets rebound” views and are encouraging him to put them in place.
Trump is getting this message from conservative economists Stephen Moore and Arthur Laffer, Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and Wall Street types like Lloyd Blankfein. The push only appears to be strengthening even though The Washington Post reports that many of the pushers have been circulating an article predicting that the U.S. was on track for just 500 coronavirus deaths.
The U.S. has now already had 500 coronavirus deaths.
As Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tweeted Monday as Trump’s push to abandon social distancing drew attention, “Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that. COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.” But Republicans would rather pretend for now that that won’t happen than make the changes needed to confront the pandemic as best we can.
Republicans are looking to increase not just the number of deaths but the speed with which they mount, and the economic benefits being promised in exchange are seriously exaggerated. Coronavirus means we will not have the economy that we had six weeks ago, even if we say “just let them die.”