A Plague On the Land — Not COVID-19; this is something worse

March 13th 2020

After Trump had his presser in the Rose Garden today, praising big companies and claiming all the massive screwups over the past month never happened (cheering nobody but Wall Street), Pelosi announced that she and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s surrogate, had reached an accord on the “Families First” legislation. The bill offers two weeks’ paid sick leave and up to three months family leave, allocating funds for SNAP, Meals on Wheels and other programs designed to keep people from starving so they can deal with the plague, and a temporary broadening of Medicare to care for everyone who needs care during the course of the pandemic.

Now normally that would be good news. The two sides coming together to face a shared threat to the people of their country.

But Trump has a long and inglorious history of reneging on agreements he or his surrogates have made, and Mitch McConnell feels that after five years of doing nothing, the Senate deserves a break, and they are skipping out on recess, and will deal with the survivors later.

Trump could have contained the threat two months ago when it was clear to any sane person that coronavirus was going to be a threat. But instead, he classified information relating to the disease, and said such things to the public as, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine!” (Jan 22nd) and “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” (Feb 2nd( and “A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in.” (Feb 10th).

It’s impossible to tell if Trump ever, at any point, gave a rat’s ass about the harm it was doing people around the country. But the markets started to tank as traders realized the implications of a pandemic, and since then have lost nearly a third of their value. That carnage isn’t over yet, either.

Trump’s reactions have been characteristically grotesque. Instead of reassuring the people and promising swift, decisive response to contain the threat and assist those affect by this disease, he told blatant and stupid lies, and if he was sincere about anything, it was his promised efforts to stabilize the markets. He encouraged the Fed to act, and they did, as best they could. They dropped interest rates, already artificially low because the economic pump needs constant priming to overcome insane Republican policies and misadventures, and the market promptly dropped 500 points. The Fed since has infused $1.5 trillion in quantitative easing, the practice of taking the national wealth and using it to prevent billionaires from becoming millionaires at our expense. That stopped the plunge temporarily, but Wall Street is just now realizing that without workers and consumers, you don’t have an economy.

Trump’s only response to ease the panic has been to suggest that payroll taxes be suspended for a couple of months. Those are the deductions on your paycheck for Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, and Medicare. For people still working, it’s a minor increase in pay, not nearly enough to cover the prospect of being out sick for six weeks, or having to care for sick family members. And of course, if you aren’t getting a paycheck, those deductions are of zero benefit to you. But it does promote the long-held Republican dream of destroying the social safety net, thus keeping Americans utterly dependent on their employers for everything, docile and frightened the way good Americans ought to be.

But Trump isn’t the problem; he’s a symptom. Republican response has been equally bad. A bill that Pelosi rammed through to allocate $8.3 billion for testing kits and first response (“Far more than I wanted”, Trump grumbled) was held up briefly in the Senate when members of the Blob Squad (the “pro-lifers”) threatened to hold up the legislation until some Hyde Amendment language further curtailing abortion rights. That quickly collapsed when word got out and the outrage was instantaneous. People, it seemed, weren’t amused at the idea that thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of lives should be put at unnecessary risk just because some demented bible floggers think every sperm is sacred and want to impose that on everyone, no matter how many developed zygotes like us die in the process.

Pelosi had to deal with the reptilian Steve Mnuchin because Trump, butt-hurt over their previous encounters, was afraid to deal with her again. True to type, he wanted to know why the taxpayers should have to subsidize free testing, and felt that if people really cared about their families and friends, they would be happy to shell out $600 for a test. Of course, the tests barely exist, even now, six weeks after they should have appeared in the millions. A Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, has pledged to donate 500,000 coronavirus test kits and 1 million face masks to the United States. Yes, under Republican rule, the US has become an object of pity and concern in the rest of the world. In California, America would be declared 5150—a potential danger to itself and others. It’s not clear if the US, desperately flailing, will accept the aid, since Trump has been loudly blatting that China “inflicted the coronavirus on America.” Tom Cotton (R-Pencil Necked Geeks) wants to attack China for that ‘infliction.” Responsible, more mature nations, Mexico and Canada in particular, wait to see if their screaming neighbor with all the guns settles down and goes back inside to beat the wife and kids.

America has a massive problem and it’s not just Trump: he’s just a symptom. The country suffers from a vicious alliance of capitalistic fascists, petit authoritarians (most of which were on display in Trump’s last presser, where they all effusively praised the Glorious Leader for his wisdom and competence, a grotesque example of petit authoritarians ability to strut and snivel at the same time) and a sad parade of religious nut jobs.

That is the greater plague afflicting America. All coronavirus did was put it on display.

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