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How ‘Conservatism’ Could Kill Us All
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How ‘Conservatism’ Could Kill Us All

Republicans and Their Beloved Private Sector Can’t Cope with a Problem Like the Developing Coronavirus Pandemic

Joe Conason

Nothing confirms the human need for strong, honest and competent government like a looming pandemic.

The possibility that thousands, even millions, could die from a randomly transmitted virus reminds us of our vulnerability. It shows why society cannot exist without institutions that can protect us from staggering existential threats.

Only government can:

  • impose quarantines and precautions when necessary;
  • trace contacts, control transportation and monitor communities;
  • ensure that drugs, medical devices and care will be adequately distributed; and,
  • see that sufficient resources will be directed toward production of a vaccine as soon as possible, without regard to profit.

When Trump put on a stunning display of ignorance at a press conference meant to reassure us about the coronavirus, it was because he is capable of nothing more.

It suddenly is clear that every problem—indeed, the most pressing—cannot and will not be solved by the private sector.

If that seems blazingly obvious, please inform the Republicans. They constantly tell us they want to “shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Those old jeers from the right sound utterly mindless.

That outlook is precisely what undermined our social defenses against a global pandemic. Years of informed warnings have been ignored. Donald Trump personifies the impulse to ignore the peril. He insists on prejudice rather than science. It is exactly the posture that he and his enablers take toward climate change. When he put on a stunning display of ignorance at a press conference meant to reassure us about the coronavirus, it was because he is capable of nothing more.

It’s Nihilism

Trump alone isn’t responsible for undermining our response to the pandemic danger. What passes for conservatism now is more akin to nihilism. Attacks on government and spending were promoted. It didn’t matter what they protected or served. Only the military, that mammoth of unconscionable waste, has been exempt from right-wing dogma. In the service of tax cuts for the ultra-rich, no vital program can be assured of adequate funding.

So the Trump budget actually aims to reduce funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just before the coronavirus arrived, that idiotic proposal was released. The timing was perfect. And, in fact, Trump and his minions have repeatedly vandalized the nation’s bulwarks against pandemic disease.

Exactly two years ago, the money budgeted by the Obama administration to deal with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 began to run out. The Trump White House allowed that, even though it meant reducing efforts to prevent a pandemic in the countries we should be watching.

Investment in Public Health

The aim of that program was to stop any disease outbreak at the source, rather than allow it to leap oceans into our homeland. Among the 39 hotspot countries that saw this program eliminated were Congo, Pakistan, Rwanda and China. Remember that the next time you hear a Republican politician barking about wasteful foreign aid. The simple truth is that a minimal investment in global health could have provided substantial insurance against the menace we confront.

The politicians who hate government also tend to be remarkably incapable of executing the most important government functions. Obviously, this is true of Trump and his gang. They have left an extraordinary number of posts vacant simply because they don’t understand why it is necessary to fill them. In other instances, their empty-headed disregard for the purposes of government has led to the abolition of indispensable agencies and offices. Most notable is the National Security Council global health security division.

For the past three years, Trump and the Republicans have busied themselves with attacks on our government:

  • intelligence capabilities;
  • health systems; and,
  • insurance coverage that would enable Americans to cope with a pandemic.


  • railed against “the deep state”;
  • sabotaged fundamental services;
  • behaved as if society needs no sentinels or guard posts.

Now they pretend to be able to protect us.

If America escapes tragedy this time, it must never again entrust the future to these numbskulls.

Featured image: Medical workers move a patient suspected of contracting the coronavirus in Daegu, South Korea. (AP)



March 2, 2020