We’re committed to keeping our readers informed.
We’ve removed our paywall from essential coronavirus news stories. Become a subscriber to support our journalists. Subscribe now.
On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its best day since 1933, growing over 11 percent as the market anticipated a coronavirus stimulus deal to emerge from Congress. Also on Tuesday, the United States suffered the second of what will be many days in which at least 100 people died from the virus — 61 of whom resided in New York City.
Of the two numbers, the president — pushing for a return to economic normalcy despite the increased exposure and infections that would bring — appeared far more concerned with the nice one on the market than the bad one for the people. In a virtual town hall on Fox News hosted in the Rose Garden, Trump said that he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” Though it sounds like a social-distancing nightmare, he wanted a return to relative normalcy by the holy deadline of April 12 because “you’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time, and it’s just about the timeline that I think is right.”
While public-health experts think that Trump’s timeline falls grossly short of the mark, some of his allies are offering quite explicitly to fall on the sword of potential coronavirus exposure so that businesses can remain open. On Monday, Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick said he was speaking for “lots of grandparents” who were “willing to take a chance on [their] survival in exchange for keeping” the economy roaring. On Tuesday, Glenn Beck joined the death drive, suggesting that there is an audience for Trump’s misleading immediate growth-or-bust message: To hell with the coronavirus, and to heaven with a significant number of America’s workforce over 60.
I sincerely hope that we are not at a place as Americans to where we are going to let the Democrats jam down the Green New Deal because we’re at home panicked. I want to have a frank conversation with you and ask you where you stand. I mean I’m in the danger zone. I’m right at the edge, I’m 56. In Italy, they’re saying if you’re sick and you’re 60, don’t even come in. So I’m in the danger zone. I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working even if we all get sick. I’d rather die than kill the country. ’Cause it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.
As New York’s Eric Levitz argues, the talking point willfully ignores the facts that Americans will not return to the normal rhythms of consumerism while a pandemic is on; Trump does not have the full authority to rescind state-level shutdowns; and voters, so far, approve of Trump’s decision to slow the spread of the coronavirus by halting the economy. (It also overlooks the fact that young Americans are being hospitalized at alarming rates with severe coronavirus symptoms.) “It is unclear what basis [there is] for believing that relaxing social-distancing protocols — before we’ve expanded the capacity of our hospitals to safely treat large numbers of COVID-19 patients, or the ability of our public-health agencies to test and monitor the infected — would redound to the economy’s benefit,” Levitz writes.
Just as the lieutenant governor of Texas would be unlikely to face a coronavirus hospital stay in the Lone Star State without access to a ventilator, Beck’s leadership by example does not result in the pundit venturing into the physical “danger zone.” As is clear from his broadcast, he can work from home. And Beck’s noble offer of sacrifice at 56 is a serious tonal shift from his time at Fox News. “We care about the elderly,” he said in 2009. “We value life in this country and when you start devaluing life, then you’re in trouble.” Eleven years later, the argument he’s endorsing values the elderly more as an expendable front line to stave off another crash in the market.
This post has been updated.