Are you expendable?

The final Trump/Biden “debate,” October 22, 2020. In the context of managing the COVID Crisis, and safely reopening restaurants, President Donald Trump said, “Putting up plexiglas is unbelievably expensive. And it’s not the answer. You’re going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic? These are businesses that are dying, Joe. You can’t do that to people.”

It’s all right there.  That one quote. Every, rotten, Trumpian attitude toward the people of this country.

“Putting up Plexiglas is unbelievably expensive.” Compared to what? 225,000 dead, headed toward half a million before the end of 2020, and higher beyond that? Millions of job losses? Billions in assistance to businesses and individuals? Bankruptcies? Evictions?  The inevitable recession that will be triggered?

“You’re going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around with plastic?” God forbid one’s aesthetic dining experience is affected by attempting to prevent the spread of a global pandemic. This is the same ethic behind Trump’s refusal to wear a mask because the appearance makes him appear weak, in his eyes.

“These are businesses that are dying, Joe.” Ah, the crux.  Literally.  The balancing point for Trumpian decision making:  How many inconsequential people can we afford to lose, if it means we save a business? With a nudge and a wink to “essential workers” we now know this means “expendable.”

He extended this argument later when he repeated a line he’s been saying since March of this year:

 “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Mr. Trump tweeted 

When I heard him repeat this line in last night’s debate, I was reminded of the second I knew unequivocally that I could never be a Republican.

It came shortly after the July 14, 1999 “Big Blue Crane” construction accident at Miller Park, in Milwaukee, WI. A manager with performance incentives in the balance, chose to loft a 400-ton segment of the new roof, in winds above the safe limits established by OSHA and the project team.  The crane collapsed, killing three construction workers in the process.

Three dead, so that a deadline wouldn’t be missed.

At dinner with a couple a few weeks later, the husband cavalierly remarked, “Well, that’s the cost of getting things built.”

I knew then that there were people who had no compunction over trading away the lives of laborers to achieve their dreams. (This “gentleman” went on to become an executive within Wells Fargo Bank. I guess opening fake bank accounts for over a million customers and charging them is the cost of banking?)

This ethos, this entitlement — that there are men who get to decide how many will live or die, and anyone attempting to forestall or limit the body count is inconveniencing the John Galt’s of the world – oozes from Trump’s comments and actions.

Consider his executive order in April, aiming to keep meat packing plants running, or the political interference at the CDC to soften the remediation plan for COVID outbreaks in a Smithfield plant. Keeping the business running took priority over workers’ lives.

“These are businesses dying, Joe. You can’t do that to people.” That’s the final sentence of the debate excerpt. I could read a convoluted conversion of businesses to people here, reinforcing recent Supreme Court rulings giving corporations “personhood” and religious exercise rights. 

But more importantly Trump is suggesting Biden can’t impose limits that affect the people Trump wants to protect, but Trump can impose his negligent mismanagement of all aspects of the COVID crisis on as many workers as he unilaterally decides can die.

If you don’t happen to be in Trump’s rifle sights, maybe you don’t care about this attitude and its implications. Lucky you. May you die on a ventilator if you think this trade-off – open businesses and Plexiglas free dining on Smithfield pork, char-grilled over the obituaries of COVID19 victims — is acceptable to you, even if it means hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.

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