Sometime this week, maybe Wednesday or Thursday, the United States will pass 60,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. As I write these words on Sunday morning we’re at 54,265. Over the last seven days, we’ve averaged 2,132 deaths per day, with no slowdown yet in sight.
That threshold matters because after the initial and possibly panicked estimates of two million or more dead, the calmer statistical models put the toll at 60,000, and Donald Trump of course seized on that, proclaiming that it proved a) how unfair the libs and the fake newsers are and b) what a perfect job he’s done responding to the crisis.
He said on Monday, April 21, when the death count was at 41,000, that, “Now we’re going toward 50—I’m hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many. I always say it… But we would have had millions of deaths instead of—it looks like we’ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of.”
Well, Mr. Stable Genius, wrong again. We’re about to blast through 60,000. And remember, we don’t even know the real number, because of the mystery surrounding nursing homes and people dying at home.
As for where we may be headed, Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert who’s been warning about pandemics for more than a decade, told CNN’s Peter Bergen that he thinks the ultimate tally in the United States over the next 18 months or so will be around 800,000. You’re thinking, “Ah, no way”? Go read his reasoning and see what you think then.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office released a report last week making a few predictions on the economy. CBO sees a real GDP of -39.6 percent in the second quarter of this year (April, May, and June). Then it forecasts a good rebound, 23.5 percent in Q3 and 10.5 percent in Q4, but that still leaves us at -5.6 percent for the year. At the worst of the Great Recession, in 2009, it was -2.5 percent. Unemployment will be above 15 percent into the fall and above 10 percent all of this year—and next.
We’re in deep trouble, and the idiot President of the United States is telling people to drink Lysol, and idiot politicians like Brian Kemp and other governors are trying to make sure that Osterholm becomes a prophet, and idiot protesters are out there acting like common-sense public safety is a conspiracy against liberty, and idiot reactionaries like the Dorr brothers of Iowa are financing these protests because, well, you know, the libs suck. These Dorrs have launched Facebook pages in at least five states that abcnews.com calls a “hotbed of misinformation.”
It’s idiocy top to bottom, but it’s more than that, and it’s important that we understand this and never lose sight of this. It’s ideology.
Right-wingers have made an industry out of accusing the left of embracing a moral relativism in which there are no longer any objective truths, just different points of view that reflect society’s power relationships. And I’ll readily concede that with respect to certain quarters of the academy, there is something to these accusations.
But the most relativist college humanities prof in the country isn’t in the same ZIP code as your average Republican politician when it comes to contempt for the truth. With a few laudable exceptions, Republicans lie about virtually everything. They have to—to advance their goals, which are both insanely unpopular (more tax cuts for rich people!) and completely fantastical (those tax cuts will lift all boats), they have to try to create a reality that is the opposite of real reality and then spend billions getting people to believe it.
They’ve been doing it for decades. That’s why Trump isn’t some accident. It was inevitable that eventually they’d nominate and fawn over someone who lies every time he opens his mouth.
With Trump, though, it’s gotten to a scale I never thought we’d see in the United States. Trumpism is an ideology in which the only thing that matters, the only thing that is true, is what the leader believes and says at any given moment. Which is surreal, of course, because virtually everything he says is untrue. But objective truth is a lib trap. And the vast majority of Republicans endorse this.
If these sentences are starting to ring some historical bells, well, they should. It’s mini-Stalinism. Now, I know, Trump can’t throw people in the gulag, arrest family members of enemies of the revolution, or purge scientists. Well, uh, actually, on that last one, he can, and he has, just last week. But because we still retain what’s left of our Constitution, Trump can’t act like Stalin. He can, however, think like him. And he does. And his party thinks like apparatchiks.
Last Thursday evening, as I was watching Trump dispense that madness about disinfectants, I found myself thinking for some reason of Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s favorite “scientist.” In short, he was a madman who thought genetics was a bourgeois plot, much as today’s reopen protesters think the virus is a lib plot; his agricultural theories, which Stalin embraced, helped starve tens of millions of people. But it fit the ideology.
It was such a shocking scandal that it gave the world a concept and a name: “Lysenkoism” is the privileging of ideology over science in such a way that mass death results. And today in the United States, instead of Lysenkoism, we have Lysol-enkoism.
It’s tragic to think that in this country, thousands of people are dying because the president is a vain and fragile imbecile who won’t read a study and who cares more about his polls than public health statistics, and because the Republican Party has become such a Kool-Aid Society that protecting the leader’s ego matters more than life itself.
So as the death count passes 60,000 this week—exceeding American casualties in the Vietnam War—I’ll be thinking about how different things would be if we’d had a president, and a political party supporting her, who took facts seriously and read papers and acted on the advice of experts. How many of the dead would still be alive?