The Price of a Grandparent’s Life

Alan Zendell, March 24, 2020

Partisan politics is always suspended during a national emergency, isn’t it? We didn’t hear much partisan bickering on December 8, 1941 or September 12, 2001. Our nation had been attacked, and the vast majority of Americans put aside their differences. Nothing unifies us like surprise attacks that kill thousands of Americans. Until now, apparently.

The Trump administration has raised partisanship and divisiveness to an art form. It is so deeply ingrained in its DNA that it can’t be turned off even as it becomes clear that more than a million lives may lie in the balance. That’s because they see everything through the lens of preserving the wealth of billionaires and the corporations that sustain them. To be sure, there are exceptions, but all of the most divisive issues of the past three years – taxes, universal health care, immigration, to name a few – have a single common denominator: avoiding a massive transfer of wealth from the haves to the have nots.

If you wonder whether this battle knows any limits, I refer you to yesterday’s Fox News interview with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The interview occurred minutes after President Trump first publicly floated the idea of “loosening” social distancing restrictions so people can go back to work. The looks of horror on the faces of the health care professionals who stand behind him at the podium when he says these things tell us all we need to know. I was shocked, but only for a few seconds, before a light went on.

The elitist extremist faction among Trump’s advisers haven’t let up at all. For days we’d already seen the Senate locked in a partisan impasse over a two trillion dollar bailout bill. The divide was clear. Democrats wanted the bulk of the money to go directly to displaced workers and their families during the coronavirus crisis, and to assure that everyone afflicted by the virus received treatment free of charge. Republicans argued that saving employers was a higher priority because without them there would be no jobs. We’ve heard that argument repeatedly since Reagan was president.

The battle in the Senate was familiar. We’d seen it play out dozens of times since partisanship rose to its current level with the election of Barrack Obama. But Trump elevated it to an unprecedented level, one that is completely lacking in compassion and moral value. Trump is proposing to triage the lives of Americans, primarily those who are elderly or already compromised, against what he calls “saving the economy.” That is as bald-faced a lie as anything Trump has ever said.

It’s not about saving the economy. It’s about preserving the wealth of what Bernie Sanders refers to as the ruling class. This isn’t about some self-named Socialists stealing their money. It’s about whether that ruling class is willing to sacrifice millions of American lives to preserve their wealth. Trump is proposing to triage the lives of Americans against the disruptions to our economy caused by the need to stop the spread of the virus.

Trump believes human lives can be measured in how many billions of dollars of wealth can be preserved per death. That’s what the Fox interview with Dan Patrick was about. Fox News had been primed for the shift in tone from the White House. Within minutes they, through Lt. Governor Patrick, were pitching the idea that grandparents ought to be willing to sacrifice their lives to preserve the economy for their grandchildren! As if it were a binary choice.

The Great Depression didn’t destroy our economy. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t worry about whether the economy would fall apart when millions of Americans were hopeless and starving. Our economy is not the stock market. It’s farms and factories and trucks and human labor. Trump trying to convince his base that taking steps that could increase the number of virus-related deaths by millions is a fair price to pay so that corporations don’t lose money is criminal malfeasance, as vile as the holocaust in its own way.

Fox News asked Patrick what he thought of Trump’s idea. Patrick said, “if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.” Really? He thinks millions of grandparents are willing to volunteer to die of the virus, or that their families would be willing to sacrifice them?

Even without compassion, the truth is that millions of dead Americans would be far more devastating to our economy than crashing financial markets. Another truth is that Trump knows his incompetent response to the virus since January has placed his re-election in jeopardy. He has no other priority.

By the way – Trump is a grandparent, too.

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