A well-established trope of modern tory governments is their stick to your guns at any cost, utterly blind adherence to their ideology. No matter what happens, the answer is always more of their ideology. Now, you might say that is true of political parties the world over, and there is some truth to that. But there is a crucial difference. Non-tory governments have the situation impact their policy while still reflecting their ideology. Tory governments, by contrast, have their ideology as the assumed truth and they apply it come-what-may. While both sides are ideological, the order there is critical. Tory governments force reality to bend to their ideology, while non-tory governments let reality influence their response, even if it is ideologically driven.
We saw a real-time demonstration of this utterly idea-free ideological purity earlier this week in the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus. Their response shows not only where their priorities lie, but also just how much of a plutocracy or an oligarchy America has become. We will see how other forms of ideological extremism have come to the fore in this situation too, whatever the reality demands.
Ideology Über Alles, Part One: Economics
The stock market reacted to the outbreak of COVID-19 by losing thousands of points in a matter of days with no end in sight. Now you might ask why we should care if a few investors lost a little money in their gambling scheme. Twenty years ago that would have been true. But we live in this Brave New World of Socialism for the Rich. The investor class has, since the crash of 2007-8, been the subject of ongoing coddling from their political clients in the government.
This coddling assumes the form of bailouts, tax cuts, subsidies, deregulation etc. The rich are the centre-piece of the economy, they tell us. If we coddle them (though they never call it that) the prosperity will trickle down to the rest of you peasants. This brief overview of the treatment of the rich provides vital context for the Trump Administration’s response to the virus: tax cuts.
You heard: tax cuts. The administration is discussing whether it should engage in what MSN called
[a] targeted tax cut package… [and] whether the White House should lean even harder on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates
This is only part one of the Administration’s response. In the next section, we will look at the ‘scientific’ and ‘medical’ responses. For now, look at what this says about where the Administration’s priorities lie. The focus is on helping the monied class, through tax cuts which are obviously for the rich. Two reasons for this. First, any long-term tax cut (without a sunset clause) is always for the rich. Second, this was in direct response to the stock market volatility.
The game is laid bare, my friends. The response of this openly plutocratic government to thousands of people dying around the world is to focus on how it affects the sacred rich. The thirteen people who have died, and the chaos created around the country? We might get to that, but be serious: rich people matter more than terrified peasants. We look after our own here in the corrupt corridors of power. Money, and those with it, matter more than a few dead serfs. When will the members of the Trump cult realise he cares not a fig for you (or the rest of the regular citizenry for that matter)?
The optics of the response need not have been this bad. Even if you wanted to respond to the economic effects, which, due to the entangled nature of commercial and investment banking, are considerable, common sense demanded that you not make that the focus.
Ignorance Personified: Trump Responds
Trump’s personal response to the virus outbreak was, as one might expect, woeful. Social media provided some commentary on the President’s ‘insights’ from an interview with Sean Hannity.
In this clip, Trump:
1. Denies WHO's coronavirus death rate based on “hunch"
2. Calls coronavirus "corona flu"
3. Suggests it's fine for people w/ Covid-19 to go to work
4. Compares coronavirus to "the regular flu," indicating he doesn't get the difference pic.twitter.com/uC9c03zX31
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 5, 2020
Remarkable, is it not? Trump is openly dismissive of the experts and the number they have announced because what he says is true because he is Donald Trump. He identifies it as ‘coronaflu’ and not a virus. My favourite part of the summary is his suggestion that people with the disease return to work. Not only is this fundamentally irresponsible from a medical perspective, it also shows a quite callous disregard for the sick. The President is effectively saying ‘GET BACK TO WORK!’. He simply lacks the empathy (like a certain Prime Minister I could name) to offer human responses. All he can see is the consequences for him and his fellow rich people. Ordinary people do not enter into the equation.
Ideology ÜBER Alles, Part Two: Religion
Prior to introducing the religious aspect of this, a section from later in the MSN piece demands attention
These ideas [from the White House] would not be designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but they would seek to arrest the economic fears spreading through the economy
A little deconstruction, if I may. The focus, you will note, is not on actually, you know, helping stem the flow of the disease. No no no. See, we do not actually care about that. The previous section offered some points on the economic bias present in the Administration’s response. But religion plays a role also. The Administration put Mike Pence in charge of the response. Pence is a well known christian extremist who, as governor of Indiana, exacerbated an HIV crisis (admittedly through delay rather than religion).
Where his religion does play a role in the coronavirus response is this photo of him and his team attempting to ‘pray away’ the virus. He also supported ‘therapy’ for ‘people wanting to change their sexual orientation’. Even if this is not explicitly ‘gay conversion therapy’ (complete with electrodes), it does not look good. Pence also openly argued in the House of Representatives for ‘intelligent design’ to be taught in schools. Yeah. A man hostile to evolution is being placed in charge of the response to a biological threat. Ideology trumps (pardon the pun) reality every time with these clowns.
Good luck, America.
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