Jared Kushner, his father-in-law, and state TV pundits are declaring the COVID-19 response a success. In real life, we face a possible depression and 170,000+ deaths from it this year. The Administration’s management has been disastrous. But it makes sense from a cynically cutthroat perspective. Below is a list of party priorities and policies that hurt all but a few of us, likely by design.
FIRST RULE: REPRESENT YOUR FUNDERS
Put yourself in Mitch McConnell’s shell. He and other Republican politicians must protect the interests of their biggest donors by maximizing corporate profits. That means cutting taxes for the top 1% and corporations plus protecting loopholes and use of offshore tax havens. And while certain Democratic politicians deserve to be held accountable for similarly selling out, here we’ll prioritize our most corrupt “leaders.” Other GOP methods with immediate relevance:
Paying workers as little as possible and minimizing regulations on worker safety. Most Americans prefer working for a livable wage without being put in immediate danger. For now Mitch McConnell refuses to pass another relief package. His demand: protection for companies against lawsuits from employees forced to return to work in unsafe conditions. Notably only 31% of Americans making under $10.80 per hour have paid sick leave.
Rubber stamping outsourcing of manufacturing to countries where workers make even less. This allows cutting corners on environmental and human rights. It has also created PPE scarcity and test material supply chain issues. After four months most states still haven’t been able to procure enough tests to meet basic benchmarks for reopening responsibly.
Shrinking unprofitable parts of government. Pandemic preparedness like testing and contact tracing abilities seems important. Congressional Republicans and neoliberals have repeatedly cut CDC funding, and the federal pandemic response team was disbanded in 2018. We also like having a Postal Service. The POTUS is currently withholding disaster aid from it. These are parts of government Grover Norquist has long sought to cut in order to be able to “drown it in the bathtub.”
Using public-funded industry bail-outs in bad times (a.k.a. socializing costs). The airline industry received $50 billion in the CARES Act. We similarly bailed out big financial institutions like Bank of America in 2009 with a Democratic administration.
Privatizing healthcare, infrastructure, war, education, etc. In social democracies like Denmark, taxpayers fund the healthcare system and in return get guaranteed care. In a pandemic universal access to quality care makes us all safer. In the U.S. millions of laid-off workers and others currently lack it, since our system is mostly private and linked to employment. In addition, the Trump Administration has joined Republican-led states in a suit that has reached the Supreme Court to “invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act.” If successful and absent miraculously better alternative legislation, that would further reduce coverage.
SECOND RULE: STAY IN POWER BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY
It’s no small feat to win elections without representing the needs of most voters. Ways to do that include:
Promoting disillusionment in government as a whole. Lack of leadership to foster international cooperation during a pandemic is myopic. Botching both preparation and reaction to the virus, including by lying about test availability and mismanaging PPE supplies, is treasonous. On the other hand, competent management and leadership would have increased faith in government action. A failed response spun properly could increase disillusionment in government, depressing voter turn-out. And low overall turn-outs tend to favor the GOP in presidential elections.
Confusing voters through lack of transparency and false or misleading information. We don’t know why FEMA has been seizing shipments of PPE to hospitals. And Fox News viewers aren’t learning about our lack of preparation in February compared to countries like South Korea (which used testing and contact tracing to have 5 deaths per million citizens compared to our 243+). At least most of us haven’t tried to inject bleach?
Reducing voting in Democratic-leaning areas. In 1776 we fought a war over lack of representation. The GOP just committed $20 million to block vote-by-mail measures in court. They’ve also systematically used gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics to leave a majority of voters underrepresented, especially in mid-sized states.
Scapegoating to escape being held accountable for incompetence or corruption. Voters might demand accountability from the POTUS for lives or jobs lost due to pandemic mismanagement. But not if they blame China. Or Obama. Or the co-morbidities. Or the fear-mongering media. Or baby-killing Democrats who want lockdowns to last for years or maybe engineered this whole thing.
Providing small amounts of relief only when necessary to avoid revolts. Dear ‘merica: Something’s fishy, but that stink’s definitely not the head rotting. Be grateful to the guy whose signature is in the memo section of your $1200 check.
Right now Republican governors are re-opening their states’ economies without having met basic benchmarks. The POTUS won’t wear a mask and is encouraging protests against proven measures for controlling virus transmission. These aren’t coincidental. The GOP’s “best”/most cynical move is to downplay the virus and force working class people back to work. As long as voters stay confused or home, a bunch of Americans dying hurts Democrats more. That is if big cities and communities of color continue being disproportionately affected. Compare this to Ramsey Bolton ordering his archers to rain arrows on infantry from both armies (evil tactic but best GOT episode ever).
If voters recognize this massive betrayal of American values and human decency, the GOP will get crushed in the next election. Then it will have to choose between adopting less exclusive policies or greater forms of violence. For now, Wall Street numbers are up. The donor class apparently expects to survive with property intact. #somuchwinning
Republican or Libertarian friends: if this portrayal of national GOP priorities seems off, explain the Administration’s response and the ongoing debate in D.C. Better yet, prove me wrong by not enabling this insanity to continue.