It’s Not the Economy Anymore, Stupid. It’s the Virus
By Manuel E. Yepe
Exclusive for the daily POR ESTO! of Merida, Mexico.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann.
The renowned American opinion columnist and distinguished professor at New York University Graduate Center, Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in international trade and economic geography, summarizes in an article entitled “The Deadly Delusions of Mad King Donald”, published yesterday, the precarious situation in which the American nation is being talked about.
A month ago it was still possible to hope that the impulse of Donald Trump and the Trumpist governors of the Sunbelt states to relax the social distancing and reopen businesses such as restaurants and bars, even though they may not have any of the reasons to do so safely, might not have absolutely catastrophic results.
At this point, however, it is clear that everything the experts have warned of as likely to happen, is happening. The new daily cases of Covid-19 are running two and a half times longer than at the beginning of June, and are increasing rapidly. Hospitals in the early reopening states are under terrible pressure. National death totals continue to decline with the drop in deaths in the Northeast, but are increasing in the Sunbelt. And the worst is surely yet to come.
A normal president and a normal political party would be horrified by this turn of events. They would realize that they’ve done something wrong and that it’s time for a course correction. They would begin to take the health experts’ warnings seriously.
But Trump, who began his presidency with a defiant complaint about “American carnage,” doesn’t seem completely disturbed by the number of victims of a pandemic. It presages killing more Americans than have been killed over the past decade and aims to double that number by the week with the full reopening of schools in defiance of existing guidelines.
Without even calling on Americans to protect each other by wearing masks, or setting an example by wearing one himself, how can we make sense of Trump’s pathologically inept response to the coronavirus?
There is an underlying core of absolute cynicism: clearly, Trump and those around him don’t give a damn how many die or suffer lasting damage from Covid-19, as long as it works in the arena of electoral politics. But this cynicism is wrapped in multiple layers of deception.
Regardless of what one thinks of George W. Bush’s response to September 11 and how Bill Clinton faced stubbornly high unemployment, Trump inherited a nation at peace and in the midst of a long economic expansion that continued, without visible change in that trend, after he took office.
Then came Covid-19. Another president might have seen the pandemic as a crisis to be dealt with. But that thought never seems to have crossed Trump’s mind. Instead, he has spent the last five months trying to get back to where we were in February, when he was sitting on top of a moving train and pretending to drive it.
“This helps explain his strange aversion to epidemic masks: they remind people that we are in the middle of a pandemic, which is something he pretends everyone forgets. Unfortunately for him, and for the rest of the population, positive thinking will not make a virus go away.
However, that’s where the second layer of deception comes in. By now it is clear that the cynical decision to sacrifice American lives in pursuit of political advantage is failing even on its own terms. The rush to reopen produced big job gains in May and early June, but voters were not impressed; their poll still showed the worst. But this year, it’s not the economy that determines, stupid, it’s the virus.
And now the rise in infections may be causing the economic recovery to stall. In other words, the strategy of “ignoring and cursing the experts and going full steam ahead” seems silly and immoral. But Trump, far from reconsidering that he is deepening the hole he is increasingly in, just as he continues to spin the dial on racism despite the fact that it is not benefiting him politically.
Incredibly, as hospitalizations are increasing, he continues to insist that the increase in reported cases is just an illusion created by the increase in evidence.
So what can we do? You may ask Trump – who has another six months left in office if he stays on after January 20 (God save us all). And it is already clear that he will not change course, no matter how severe the pandemic. “We are all passengers at the mercy of a mad captain who is determined to destroy his ship,” Krugman concludes.
July 13, 2020
This article can be reproduced by citing the newspaper POR ESTO as the source