From the very start of the pandemic, Donald Trump has prioritized the health of the stock markets over the health of the American people. His strategy for re-election has been to downplay the coronavirus threat, disparage preventive measures like masks and social distancing, push for immediate re-opening of schools and the economy, and hope that the illusion of economic well-being lasts until the votes are cast.
Trump claimed for months that he did not know how deadly or highly contagious the coronavirus was. On Sept. 9 these claims were exposed as lies by reporter Bob Woodward, who produced tape recordings to back up his report that Trump was briefed on the deadly threat of the coronavirus by national security adviser Robert O’Brian on Jan. 28. Trump has deliberately played down the virus threat from that time to the present.
Trump said he played down the danger of the coronavirus so as not “to create a panic,” even though he has tried to create panic among voters on a range of other issues — immigration, crime, Black lives, socialism, you name it. As I pointed out in a March column, Trump’s sole concern was about creating panic in the financial markets, which might endanger his chances of re-election.
Trump failed to take simple measures to protect public health and save lives — universal masking, distancing, robust testing, tracing — as a deliberate strategy to keep from spooking the stock markets. That deliberate strategy has cost tens of thousands of American lives.
America’s COVID-19 death toll is the highest of any country on Earth. We have lost 205,000 precious souls to the virus. With 4.2% of the world population, the U.S. has suffered 22% of the deaths. About 70%-99% of those deaths could have been prevented by the simple protective measures implemented by almost every other country on the globe. Had Trump taken action as soon as he learned of the deadly nature of the virus, at least 143,500 Americans might still be alive. Trump sacrificed those lives for the benefit of his re-election effort and many more will needlessly die as we approach the election.
Trump has continually demanded that businesses and schools fully reopen, regardless of the risks. He has consistently downplayed the risk of sending kids back to their classrooms, going so far as to try to subvert the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for schools.
Trump’s campaign rallies pack maskless people together in close proximity, putting them in danger of infection. He has downplayed the need for robust testing and tracing. At his ABC town hall on Sept. 14, Trump made the outlandish claim that, “If we wouldn’t do testing, you wouldn’t have cases.” Trump has denigrated his scientific advisers, tried to politicize the advice given out by federal agencies, pedaled fake cures for the virus and generally caused chaos in the pandemic response.
Despite Trump’s repeated claims that we have “turned the corner” on the pandemic and that the virus will just disappear, the CDC tells us that the pandemic is far from over. Despite that expert assessment, Trump plans to take $300 million from the CDC, which desperately needs the money for the pandemic fight, to run feel-good ads in an attempt to mask his wretched pandemic response.
If Trump had taken immediate steps to combat the virus, he could have saved tens of thousands of American lives, while causing much less economic devastation in the country. Olivia Troye, Vice President Mike Pence’s former COVID-19 task force adviser, summed it up this way: Trump displayed “flat out disregard for human life” in task force meetings because his “main concern was the economy and his re-election.”
The question is: How many more Americans will forfeit their lives for his re-election?