By David Webb, MD
In his May Day report to constituents, Congressman James Hagedorn wrote that he was “grateful to President Trump and Vice President Pence for their leadership throughout the pandemic.” It makes one wonder what he must be smoking.
Thanks largely to the disingenuous, self-serving, and utterly inept response of the President to the unfolding crisis, there have now been 67,000 confirmed American deaths from COVID-19 – and counting. To put that number in perspective, that’s 16,000 times the number of Americans killed by insurgents during the 2012 Benghazi debacle on the Obama/Hillary Clinton watch for which she was vilified by many Republicans, 17 times the number of Americans killed during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Bush/Cheney watch, and several thousand more Americans killed than during the entire Vietnam war on Kennedy’s, Johnson’s, and Nixon’s watches. That’s also more in just three months than the annual death toll from influenza in any year since the pandemic of 1918-1919. Even more worrisome, as of today, only 14% of the confirmed cases in the U.S. have recovered, suggesting that we’re just getting started.
Can anyone seriously doubt that a timely, comprehensive, science-based, and humane governmental response could have averted catastrophe? Consider the case of Taiwan, a nation of 23.5 million, with a population density 20 times greater than the U.S., just 110 miles from mainland China, and at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak having daily flights between Wuhan and Taipei. From the get-go, the democratically elected government implemented appropriate containment and mitigation measures, with the result that to date, there have been only six confirmed COVID-19 related fatalities in Taiwan. Or take New Zealand – zero fatalities. And now Hagedorn, the President, and Representatives Emmer and Stauber are keen to keep open/reopen giant meatpacking plants that have become the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country, regardless of the workers not having the sanitizing supplies, personal protective equipment, or the testing that they need and were promised.
When Congress passed the Defense Production Act, it certainly did not have in mind that the President would have the power or the right to put workers’ lives and health at risk – and not just the workers’, but also their spouses’, their children’s, their extended families’, their neighbors’. The act was really about marshaling production for a state of war. If one perceives that we’re in a war now, the weapons we need are not hot dogs and pork chops. The weapons we actually need are testing equipment, ventilators, and particularly personal protective equipment for our brave health care providers, sanitation workers, fire fighters, transport workers, and others on the front lines.
As Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, put it, “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork, and poultry products.” The same, I guess, goes for Representative Hagedorn.