A while back I wrote a piece here about politicians from around the World who have been not helping things with some of their words. In a time when we need a lot of empathy and compassion for others, we’ve seen some elected people spreading dangerous and morally questionable ideas that seem to either try to wish away the crisis we’re facing or worse, try to exploit it for their own benefit.
Now that we’re a month plus into this, you’d think that many of these folks would have learned this lesson and would be looking to be constructive. But that hasn’t been the case at all, as sadly I’ve got more examples to share from the past few days. Up first are two different cases, from Canada and the United States, of elected people continuing to parrot very morbid and morally lacking ideas about what really matters right now:
Yes folks, meet Marc Dalton, rookie Conservative MP representing the BC riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, and Trey Hollingsworth, Republican Congressman from Indiana. Both of these cases came within a few days of each other, but both were spouting a morally dubious idea that others have put out there; “Well these seniors are going to die anyway, why keep our economy shut down over it?” It’s another ghoulish take on the ignorant take of some that “the cure is worse than the disease”, and basically suggests that we should let more and more people die because it would be better for the economy.
It’s cold, uncaring, and completely tone deaf to those people out there who are vulnerable to this disease and to those families who have already lost loved ones. In the United States, as of writing this over 26,000 Americans have died from this disease. That’s 26,000 families who have lost loved ones before their time. That’s people grieving the loss of so much, not just the people they love deeply. In some cases, it’s part of their household incomes as we see healthcare workers, grocery clerks, transit workers and others die because of their exposure to this disease while doing their part to help. It seems that neither Mr. Dalton nor Mr. Hollingsworth have given that much thought, if any at all.
Many folks are suffering economically because of this pandemic and that is not to be ignored or downplayed either, but most people understand that living comes before that. We’re seeing polling information here in Canada that bares this out, that Canadians are willing to keep the economy on pause to ensure we get this right on the pandemic. So not only are the likes of Mr. Dalton and Mr. Hollingsworth offside morally, they are offside with public opinion. We’ll see if these two officials will eventually figure that out, but folks won’t forget those words in these moments of desperate need. And speaking of things that people will remember, last night another story broke from the United States that would be shocking at any time, let alone during a global pandemic:
Folks, I cannot under-estimate how craven, how selfish, and how inappropriate this news from the US is. As the story points out, the name of Donald Trump will be printed on the economic stimulus checks that will be distributed by the Internal Revenue Service to people that need help during this pandemic. It should be noted that this has never been done before and this will be the first time a president’s name will appear on a payment from the IRS. There are a couple good reasons why this has never happened before. The first reason is factual; it’s not the President who pays it out. Normally it’s the signature of the official who is responsible for the payment of government funds. In Canada, that’s typically the President of the Treasury Board who has their signatures on the checks, not that of the Prime Minister. The second reason is an ethical one, especially in an election year. When you put the signature of a political leader on the check, it makes it look like they are the ones directly giving it to people. It’s basically using government means towards partisan goals, which is ethically just wrong. It also politicizes the function of the government civil service, another thing that’s wrong.
Finally there is an awful practical issue created by this move by the Trump administration, one that makes this move such so selfish as Hell. Because of this order by the US Treasury Department, the delivery of paper checks will be further delayed by several days extra, on top of the long time it will already take to get them. So in this moment when the length of time it takes to get money into people’s hands is the most important factor, those paper checks have been slowed down simply to further the attempted partisan political goals of the current President. That’s galling and so amazingly selfish, making people wait longer than needed to get some of the funds they desperately need, all to take an unprecedented step to try to help this Presidents’ political future.
What all these stories have in common, their selfishness and disregard for the people they serve aside, is how it shows where their collective focuses are. They aren’t focused on the healthcare crisis the world is face. They aren’t worried about people dying before their time and the effect that might have on others. They aren’t even worried about the safety of those workers who they seemingly deem to be expendable, as they want to try to get back to “normal” and expose those workers to the risks that come with that in this moment.
No, they are thinking mostly of themselves, their futures, their political needs, and everything else is secondary. Some might view that approach as appropriate in normal times (I would disagree) but it’s surely not in times of a global crisis like this. In this moment we are expecting our politicians to be about “we”, not “me”, because that’s how we will get through this the best way we can. History will not forget those, like the ones above, who spoke and acted so directly against the best outcomes for all or in selfish ways. People and voters will also not forget them either, a thing which you would think that given their actions they’d be more concerned about. Those memories will not be kind and when the time comes to talk about those who didn’t help out the team in this moment, people will act accordingly. I have faith in that and given everything I’ve seen so far that faith does not feel the least bit misplaced.