Tuesday Reads: Living In A Failed StatePosted: April 21, 2020
More than 40,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, but the so-called “president” is doing nothing to stop the carnage. He refuses to help states with desperately need medical equipment and tests to identify carriers. He has made it abundantly clear that we are on our own. Money and supplies are being doled out selectively–red states get the most and blue states the least. He is using FEMA and the FBI to try to stop shipments of equipment to hospitals in blue states. It actually looks like Trump is hoping those of us who did not and won’t vote for him just get sick and die.
The U.S. is no longer the country I grew up in. We are looking more like post-Soviet Russia. George Packer describes the situation we find ourselves in: We Are Living in a Failed State. The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.
The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.
Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.
Donald Trump saw the crisis almost entirely in personal and political terms. Fearing for his reelection, he declared the coronavirus pandemic a war, and himself a wartime president. But the leader he brings to mind is Marshal Philippe Pétain, the French general who, in 1940, signed an armistice with Germany after its rout of French defenses, then formed the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. Like Pétain, Trump collaborated with the invader and abandoned his country to a prolonged disaster. And, like France in 1940, America in 2020 has stunned itself with a collapse that’s larger and deeper than one miserable leader. Some future autopsy of the pandemic might be called Strange Defeat, after the historian and Resistance fighter Marc Bloch’s contemporaneous study of the fall of France. Despite countless examples around the U.S. of individual courage and sacrifice, the failure is national. And it should force a question that most Americans have never had to ask: Do we trust our leaders and one another enough to summon a collective response to a mortal threat? Are we still capable of self-government?
Head on over to The Atlantic to read the rest.
What’s next for this country? Can we survive the ravages of this pandemic? Over the weekend, The New York Times published an important piece by Donald G. McNeil Jr.: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.
In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?
Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.
Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.
“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.
He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer. They worried that a vaccine would initially elude scientists, that weary citizens would abandon restrictions despite the risks, that the virus would be with us from now on.
“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University medical school. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”
Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain.
Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us.
Read more about what the experts had to say at the NYT link.
Jonathan Chait on Trump’s abandonment of the states: Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe.
President Trump’s current pandemic strategy — emphasize current; like the cliché about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few hours — is a baffling knot of contradictions. He is hurling all responsibility to state governments, leaving it to them to devise effective tests and to decide when to relax social distancing.
At the same time, he is starving them of the resources to handle the job. And even as Trump hides behind a policy of deference to governors, he is goading right-wing protesters to force their hand. Trump is “saying things that seem contradictory,” as the New York Times puts it, “like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to ‘liberate’ their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.”
Yet there does appear to be a strategy here. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has “asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for successes while offering enough flexibility to assign fault for any failures to others.” Trump’s seemingly paradoxical stance is an attempt to hoard credit and shirk risk, straddling the demands of his business allies with the pleas of his public-health advisers. On the surface, he is deferring responsibility and blame to the governors. Just below the surface, he is coercing them to resume economic activity as fast as possible, regardless of what public-health officials say.
Trump’s plan to coerce the states into reopening has at least three discernible elements. The first is, or was, the formation of a task force to reopen the country. The purpose of the council was to give Trump cover. The council would prod governors to reopen businesses, and because it would be seen as coming from the business community, Trump himself would not bear the blame for future outbreaks that might result. As the Washington Post reported last week, “Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.” (In part because its purpose was so naked, the task force seems to have collapsed.)
The second element is the mobilization of protests. The appearance of flag-waving and sometimes gun-toting demonstrators in a handful of state capitols this weekend seems to have come as a shock to the news media, but Trump’s allies signaled this was coming. Last Monday, Stephen Moore, a right-wing pseudo-economist and close Trump ally who has spent weeks pushing back on public-health guidelines, was quoted in the press saying, “In the next two weeks, you’ll see protests in the streets of conservatives; you’ll see a big pushback against the lockdown in some states.”
Click the link to read the rest at New York Magazine.
At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman on Trump’s “war against the states”:
President Trump and congressional Republicans are going to war with the states.
It’s bizarre, it’s self-defeating, it will do enormous harm to Americans in every corner of the country, and it can be fully explained only by understanding the president’s pettiest and most narcissistic motives. In other words, it’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect in the Trump era.
Last week, the $349 billion allotted for small businesses in the CARES Act rescue package ran out, with only a portion of the American businesses that have suffered in this pandemic-driven recession getting the help they need. While everyone seemed ready to provide more money, we found ourselves in a familiar situation, with Democrats saying we need to be swift and aggressive in saving Americans suffering from this economic catastrophe, and Republicans saying that we shouldn’t spend too much or help too many people.
When negotiations began, Republicans wanted to add about $250 billion to the small business fund — and do nothing else. Now it appears that Democrats have pressured them into accepting a package that sends $370 billion to small businesses, gives $75 billion to hospitals, and spends $25 billion to beef up coronavirus testing.
What isn’t included in the package, however, is the desperately needed aid to states and cities Democrats sought. Republicans absolutely refused to even consider it.
Why? The need is urgent. State and local budgets are suddenly facing all kinds of new costs related to the pandemic, while at the same time tax revenues have fallen off a cliff. If they don’t get help, they’ll have to start laying people off and slashing state services, which will only make the recession deeper and longer. By some estimates, states and cities will need $500 billion in federal aid to make up the shortfall.
Read more at the WaPo.
So far Trump’s strategy isn’t convincing most Americans. The Washington Post: Most rate Trump’s coronavirus response negatively and expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, Post-U. Md. poll finds.
Most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly. A majority say it could be June or later before it will be safe for larger gatherings to take place again, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
Most Americans — 54 percent — give the president negative marks for his handling of the outbreak in this country and offer mixed reviews for the federal government as a whole. By contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively.
Partisan allegiances shape perceptions of when it will be safe to have gatherings of 10 or more people and of the president’s performance during the pandemic. But governors win praise across the political spectrum for their leadership, which has sometimes put them sharply at odds with Trump and his administration.
Personal health concerns are widespread, with 57 percent saying they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus, including at least 40 percent of people in every major demographic and political group. For those most concerned, the fear was enough to override partisanship when it comes to the safety of public gatherings, particularly for Republicans.
Today we face another day in the time of coronavirus. There will be more reports of deaths and infections, more horror stories, and more lies and propaganda from the Trump gang, and another insane
briefing airing of grievances by Trump. We have to steel ourselves to protect ourselves from the virus and save our sanity in these crazy times.
Have courage Sky Dancers! What’s on your mind today?