As both the body count and the financial misery from the American coronavirus outbreak continue to grow, the fierce debate over whether, when and how to “reopen” the U.S. economy is starting to boil over. Many of President Trump’s allies are apparently so eager for people to return to work that they are willing to pull the plug on grandma to do it.
As it turns out, some of those same GOP coronavirus death panelists were among the Republicans who decried mythical Obamacare “death panels” which supposedly would decide whether to “pull the plug on grandma.”
Consider, for example, noted falafel enthusiast and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Claiming this week that the “far-left wants chaos and carnage so President Trump will lose re-election,” O’Reilly proclaimed, “Many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway.” Two weeks ago, his past colleague Glenn Beck offered to volunteer:
“I would rather have my children stay home and have all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working. Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country. Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”
Texas Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick echoed that sentiment on March 23. “I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me,” Patrick explained, “that what we all care about and what we all love more than anything are those children.” Asked if he would trade his survival for his grandchildren’s, Patrick said, “if that's the exchange, I'm all in.” (Brit Hume of Fox News concurred, saying “seems to me to be an entirely reasonable viewpoint.”) That message came four days after Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson tried to put the COVID-19 death toll in perspective. “it’s probably not worth shutting our economy down” over coronavirus, Johnson concluded. Why?
“Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population [and] I think probably far less.”
That is a remarkable statement for Senator Johnson to have made, and not merely for its chilling cold-bloodedness or the inconvenient truth that older voters are the beating heart of the Republican base. That’s because in 2011, Johnson marked the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act with a Wall Street Journal op-ed (“ObamaCare and Carey's Heart”) which resurrected the already debunked myth of Obamacare “death panels.” Long after Politifact branded “Death Panels” its 2009 Lie of the Year, Johnson proclaimed “my daughter probably wouldn't have survived in a system where bureaucrats stifle innovation and ration care.”