By Marvin Ross
I had hoped that the one benefit to come out of this pandemic would be the demise of the Donald. I fear that I am wrong. According to a recent poll conducted by ABC News and Ipsos 54% of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the outbreak. Just last month, he claimed there was no problem and that covid-19 would be curtailed. It was, after all, a hoax and reports suggest that he ignored the warnings from his own intelligence officers. Now, he is defying science and proclaiming a cure in an untested medication for malaria.
Of course, the experts have debunked this idea and suggested that the evidence is “thin to nonexistent”. Public health is limited in the US and the office for pandemic services had been scrapped or severely curtailed by Trump when he came into office along with funding for the CDC..
I think the best description of Trump in this time of crisis was written on the blog Respectful Insolence penned by a surgical oncologist in Detroit. He said:
Meanwhile, under the “leadership” of an arrogant incompetent orange ignoramus with a massive ego that requires constant sycophancy and stroking, who spouts misinformation on an hourly basis and will never, ever try to relieve his black hole density ignorance with actual information that experts have been desperately trying to dangle in front of him to get his interest by coupling it with “Dear Leader”-style overblown praise of his awesomeness, the COVID-19 pandemic appears, by every measure, ready to explode out of control.
This is a golden opportunity, the doctor states, for quackery and outlined many of the absurd suggestions being made by the natural remedy proponents. That is not something unique to the US as we, in Canada, have our own scammers and nutbars. This is an example:
Testing in the US is limited and even some politicians who have been symptomatic have refused to self isolate. Georgia Senator, Brandon Beach turned up at the office with symptoms before getting a positive test result and now the entire Georgia Senate is in quarantine as a result.
Despite the dangers of this virus, the value of a vaccine has not dented the thinking of the anti-vaxxers. The candidate for Governor of Vermont, David Zuckerman, is an active anti-vaxxer and opposed to mandated vaccinations. He is upset that his political opponents are using his opposition to vaccines to score political points during this crisis. Meanwhile, Texas anti-vaxxers are preparing to actively oppose any covid-19 vaccination. The Texas group is one of the largest in the US. One member suggested they hide their kids from forced vaccinations by hiding them under the floor boards like Jews were hidden under Nazi occupation.
With support for Trump increasing and the anti-science and anti-socialism attitude of so many Americans, I see little hope for them surviving this epidemic. When I say anti-socialism, I mean anti such things as a good safety net like universal health care. Projections are that if the US does not smarten up, there is the potential for up to 2.2 million of its citizens dying. What I feared is that Trump would use this disaster to consolidate his authoritarian powers and it is being attempted. There are reports that the Department of Justice is working on a plan to suspend the US Constitution along with Habeus Corpus.
Thus far, Canada is faring better despite right wing governments like that of Ontario’s Doug Ford who tried to reduce funding for public health. As of today, Tuesday, the infection rate in Canada is 55 per million people while in the US, the rate is 139 per million. The silver lining might just be waking Americans up to the dangers of Trump and the value of health care that is not based on making money but on serving its people. And for Canadian politicians to pay more attention to health care and public health.
The other potential might just be an increased awareness of the need for a minimum income for all. Most people live from check to check and the Canadian government is pouring billions into enhancing unemployment insurance for those laid off and other measures to help workers and small businesses. People are being encouraged to work at home where that is feasible which will help the environment and some grocery chains have raised wages for their staffs to reward them for the danger they are facing.
The concept of a guaranteed income has been proposed for years but is resisted by right wing politicians. Despite promising not to cancel the minimum income pilot project in Ontario if he won the election, Dough Ford did that as soon as he got in. He also reinstated the requirement for workers to have a doctor’s note if off sick but, because of the current crisis, he has rescinded that.
A guaranteed minimum income would ensure that everyone had an income above the poverty level and would wipe out the need for an unemployment insurance bureaucracy, and a welfare and disability support system. Given the shift to the gig economy, it would be very valuable. If you work, the amount of the minimum income is clawed back but if you lose your job because of times like this, you are still guaranteed a certain amount. The reduction in bureaucracy would partially pay for this.
Out of desperate times come innovations so let us hope that some positive innovations will come out of this..