Friday, June 19, 2020


I understand why plutocrats want the economy reopened even as the coronavirus rages: They hope people will earn and spend money on the products and services they sell, and if large numbers of those people get sick and die, well, that's just a cost of doing business. The plutocrats assume that their own pandemic experience will be safety and security -- they have nice houses on nice grounds where they can hunker down; they never have to work on contaminated shop floors or in virus-filled warehouses. There's a crisis in America, but they're largely exempt from it. They've set up their lives so they won't get sick; we have to rearrange our lives so they'll continue to make money.

And we're doing that. In America, we always make policy decisions to ensure that the rich don't suffer bad consequences.

Rich people are accustomed to having life organized to guarantee that they never suffer. Donald Trump is one of those rich people -- he was nearly a billion dollars in debt once, but he never stopped living a gold-plated life, and now he continues to live that life and he's president. The rich really get used to the idea that nothing terrible can ever happen to them. Our system all but guarantees that.

But this perspective is challenged by a deadly virus. Donald Trump may think he's bulletproof, and he's probably right: He'll never miss a meal, he'll never be homeless, he probably won't spend a day in prison despite the fact that he's committed many crimes. He probably won't contract the coronavirus because literally every person who comes in close contact with him is tested daily.

But, narcissist that he is, he acts as if his voters are protected by a similar shield. That's why he's holding an indoor rally this weekend, to be followed, undoubtedly, by dozens more. Trump is so used to thinking he's at zero risk, and he's so used to hanging out with people in similar circumstances, that he can't imagine the risks for rally attendees.

There's a lot of this going around. Here's an example in Nebraska:
$125 billion dollars of COVID-19 relief funds are in the states control, but Governor Pete Ricketts says if counties don't follow certain requirements they won't see any of that money....

If a county requires visitors to wear a mask into county buildings, the governor says they won't be eligible for the funds.

"If they don't want to follow the guidelines they won't be eligible for the CARES Act money,” said Governor Pete Ricketts, “But that's certainly their prerogative to do that."
Ricketts is a son of the founder of TD Ameritrade; Forbes reported a few years back that the Ricketts family was worth $4.5 billion, and the governor himself says his net worth is $50 million. Why should he worry about risk to people who have to enter government buildings in Tulsa or Omaha?

Fox News, overseen by Rupert Murdoch (the billionaire son of a media mogul) and one of his superprivileged children, is back to telling its viewers that the pandemic is a hoax.
Fox prime-time host and sometime presidential coronavirus adviser Laura Ingraham says that Democratic leaders facing increasing COVID counts would only reinstitute stricter social distancing measures in order to torpedo the economy and hurt Trump’s reelection chances, and the federal government should punish any state that does so.

“The left is really panicked about the economy coming back,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “Ruins their narrative. Expect more calls to shutdown states again citing supposed COVID concerns. No tax dollars to states that refuse to open.”

On her Fox program on Monday, Ingraham suggested that the “hyperventilation over a second wave of COVID cases” is simply an effort by journalists and the left to hamper the president’s campaigning. She also included Fauci in that conspiracy theory.

“The medical deep state strikes again,” Ingraham said of his statement over the weekend that normality won’t return this fall or winter....

Her colleague Tucker Carlson last week attacked journalists who “were acting as press agents for power-drunk Democratic politicians” by “lying to us about the coronavirus and our response to it,” claiming that “we can say conclusively the lockdowns were not necessary.”
In the George W. Bush years, I concluded that the president failed spectacularly because, as a rich man's son, he'd never really learned that failure can have serious consequences -- he'd been a failure for the first forty years of his life, and how much harm did it really cause him?

The rich don't understand risk. They don't grasp the risk to American society from increasing inequality or climate change or the know-nothing populism of Fox News and Donald Trump. They just assume that they'll be exempt from whatever harm there is. With the virus, they're coming to the same conclusion.

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