The Progressive Bloc is an opinion column by Contributing Writer Quinton Bradley that discusses politics, society and culture from an unapologetically left-wing perspective.
Despite being in the midst of a global health pandemic, the profit motive reigns supreme.
As Americans deal with the onslaught of the coronavirus crisis that has claimed thousands of lives throughout the nation through self quarantines and social distancing, Republicans, conservative pundits and the wealthy have begun shifting the narrative toward “saving the economy.” All while hospitals and healthcare professionals warn of shortages in supplies, beds and ventilators.
Fox News, one of the usual suspects guilty of trumpeting the economy over people via its hosts, rotating cast of CEOs, financiers and arch-conservative billionaires that regularly make guest appearances to wax poetically about the wonders of the free market, has been a key offender during these troubling times as a recent guest proposed that perhaps older Americans (who, ironically, comprise the overwhelming majority of Fox’s viewership) should sacrifice their health and go back to work to stabilize the markets.
In an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson on Monday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R-Texas) voiced that he didn’t want “the whole country to be sacrificed” economy-wise as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Rather than quarantining and remaining with loved ones as a virus that poses a serious threat to seniors (and young adults, as we’ve now recently learned) rages on, Patrick suggested that we “get back to work” and “get back to living.”
On Wednesday, political author and ardent President Trump defender Dinesh D’Souza spoke as if he had some damning line of critique for Democrats during his appearance on Fox News. Speaking to Fox’s Laura Ingram in a snarky, almost cheeky tone, D’Souza said that the Covid-19 outbreaks are mainly happening in “blue states” (i.e. Democratic-controlled) and implied that their respective mayors and governors are hypocrites for having an “outstretched hand” in calling for Trump to do more to blunt this crisis due to their past criticisms of his leadership.
Rather than turn to the commander-in-chief, D’Souza suggested that the same Dems who have accused Trump of being a “racist and a fascist” over the past three years shouldn’t expect him to come to their aid.
Because, you know, during a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands around the world in just a few short weeks, mayors, governors, senators and other elected officials across the country shouldn’t expect help from the president of the United States if they’ve been critical of him in the past.
Some Republican politicians have chosen to basically ignore the crisis altogether. Govs. Ron DeSantis and Tate Reeves of Florida and Mississippi, respectively, have refused orders to shut down their states, opting to essentially gamble with the lives of the citizens they were elected to represent.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis’s refusal to shut down Florida may be due to his recent conversations with several powerful business groups that have been advising him to not take “drastic measures” in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. These same groups are known for donating millions to Republican candidates in the Sunshine State. Rather than act on his own, DeSantis has chosen to let cities and counties throughout Florida decide how to face the crisis themselves, allowing the pleas he’s gotten from public health officials to fall on deaf ears.
On Tuesday, Gov. Reeves, in a move that will no doubt have a disastrous effect on Mississippi residents, overruled all previous coronavirus responses in the state by issuing an executive order that designates businesses such as department stores, gun stores and real estate offices as “essential.” According to Business Insider, the order also reverses the carry-out only measure for restaurants and bars that was implemented previously on the condition that the businesses allow no more than ten patrons inside at a time and that social distancing is enforced.
With the total number of cases in Mississippi currently at 927 including twenty deaths, we can only expect these numbers to grow thanks to Tate’s reversal. On Monday, as he addressed citizens during a Facebook Live stream, Tate stated that Mississippi’s “Never going to be China” in response to a question a viewer posed regarding the state’s handling of the outbreak compared to China, who had enforced a full-on lock down shortly after the virus spread.
Not to be outdone by their ideological compatriots, the crème de la crème of the conservative pundit world voiced their concerns as well. As the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet trended on Twitter over the weekend, Ben Shapiro, podcast host and Editor-in-Chief of right-wing click-bait site The Daily Wire tweeted about the possibility of “reopening” the economy as soon as possible.
The privileged, Sherman Oaks-raised, Harvard-educated neo-conservative attack dog insisted that he was simply posing a question of vital importance and not at all being dismissive of the millions of people who may be forced to go back to work in the middle of a pandemic while in the same breath dismissing the #NotDying4WallStreet hashtag as “bulls***.”
Fellow Daily Wire writer Matt Walsh echoed a similar sentiment in a piece he wrote earlier this week. The staunch religious conservative fear-mongered about the potential “looting” and “rioting” that may take place if Trump’s proposed deadline for ending mass shutdowns of businesses and services were to expand beyond its two-week threshold. Outright saying that shutting down the country for longer would be “lunacy.”
After Trump’s anticipated Easter-time removal of business restrictions, Walsh proposed in his article that the country do six things immediately afterwards to “preserve our civilization.” Among standard advice like increased testing for infection and quarantining nursing homes, the theme of prioritizing the economy over human lives arises once more straight away as his very first line of advice states, “Open the economy back up. Let young and healthy people work and feed their families.”
The fact that young and healthy people are succumbing to the coronavirus seems to have either not been presented to Walsh or has been simply ignored altogether. What’s particularly poignant is his final suggestion of “Provide financial relief to at-risk people who cannot work.” Note the key part of his plan: at risk people who cannot work. Seeing as how casualties in New York are rising to the point that hospitals have begun constructing makeshift morgues outside the buildings by using tents, every single man, woman and child in this country is “at risk” by simply leaving their homes.
But, alas, a creed is being murmured among right-wing circles. Some messengers have been opaque, others more candid. The message is simple: The economy comes first.
Yes, you may die from respiratory failure as you are forced to go back to work, but “the market” demands that you be willing to make that sacrifice. Ignore the fact that the president downplayed the seriousness of the virus and stalled for weeks as two members of the GOP who were made aware of the economic downturn coming in private briefings hurriedly sold millions of dollars of stock so they could cash out while 3.3 million Americans have currently filed for unemployment in the past week.
Despite the wealthy people in this country who have and will continue to receive faster and more efficient healthcare as they ride out this epidemic holed up in their mansions and condos, the market demands that the working class gets ready to return to their jobs. Jobs that their health insurance is dependent on. Which will put them at greater risk. Which will result in them not being able to work anyway. For the good of the economy. And because Trump said that we “can’t let the cure become worse than the disease” as Democrats learned that the earlier version of the $2 trillion stimulus bill proposal would have possibly seen Trump’s own casinos benefitting from the $500 billion scheduled to be set aside for corporations.
As the days wear on, the lyrics to the song “Kill the Poor” by The Dead Kennedys are beginning to read less like a satirical screed against wealthy elites and more like a warning sign of things to come.
Stay safe everyone.