Trump’s Disastrous COVID-19 Response Exposes Libertarianism As A Complete Lie
Republicans have told us for decades that government was the problem and now we’re all paying the price for their arrogance.
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by Justin Rosario
Until the MAGA mob and Bernie Bros started competing for “World’s Most Annoying Group of Entitled White Men,” the hands down undisputed champions were libertarians.
The perfect intersection of arrogance and ignorance, libertarians smugly proclaim the superiority of their ideology from on top the mountains of privilege their skin color, gender, and happenstance of socioeconomic birth handed to them. They imagine having scaled these heights themselves, fully embracing the myth of the self-made whatever, without mentioning their paid for college tuition and cushy job at the law firm courtesy of a “family friend”.
This is why it’s rare to find minority, female, or poor libertarians. These groups don’t live in a world designed to give them every possible advantage while assuring them they earned everything all on their own. But libertarians are oblivious to this reality and will wax on for hours about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and how the federal government only exists to steal your wages and your freedom.
For the last 60 years, the entire right wing has been steadily overtaken by this libertarian anti-government ideology and we now see what it looks like in practice.
To say it’s an absolute failure would be an understatement.
The Free Market Fails Catastrophically
This will not be an attack on capitalism per se. The coronavirus currently ravaging the planet does not care if your country is rich, poor, communist, or capitalist. All are being impacted and no one is getting through this unscathed.
That being said, we have discovered here in America that the free market will not, in fact, save us from a virus. Libertarians have been telling us for decades that the federal government is useless and that the magic of the market will tend to all society’s ailments.
Turns out that they were completely full of crap. Who could have possibly guessed that, except anyone paying attention to history?
The moment Trump was sworn in he began dismantling the United States government. This was both practical and ideological from Trump’s point of view. He was partly following the direction of his “guru” Steve Bannon who wanted to “destroy all of today's establishment”, but also doing the bidding of the Russian government by hiring Vladimir Putin stooge Rex Tillerson to facilitate the rapid annihilation the State Department and America’s foreign policy capabilities.
But a good chunk of the reason Trump continues to dismantle the government is because he has bought into the libertarian myth that we don’t need the government to do things. Like many privileged white men Trump has lived a life chafing at any and all constraints on his behavior.
He wants something? He bribes, bullies, harasses, and cheats until he gets it. He wants money? He just steals it from his workers or cons people out of millions. He wants a woman? “Grab’em by the pussy.”
Trump’s loathing of government is what makes him the perfect embodiment of Republicanism. It’s also why the country is in such dire straits.
As the coronavirus rapidly spread beyond the borders of China, Trump refused to take any kind of action. When he was finally goaded into it, he followed his xenophobic instincts and shut down travel to China but far too late.
As the virus spread throughout the country, Trump continued to refuse to do anything, hoping the problem would take care of itself. When it finally became apparent that Covid-19 would not disappear “like a miracle,” Trump fully abdicated the federal government’s role in fighting the first global pandemic in a century to America’s governors.
It is the libertarian wet dream. Finally, we would see that America did not actually need a Big Brother federal government. We would see how the magic of the free market would be the most efficient means to get medical equipment exactly where it needed to go while companies voluntarily filled the increase in demand. It would be amazing! It would be capitalism at its finest!
It has been an absolute disaster on every conceivable level.
Last week, it occurred to me that states would be forced into a bidding war with each other and I was completely wrong. It’s not just states, it’s also individual cities that are fighting for resources. From Click2Houston:
Houston is facing a shortage of N95 masks and turning to the private market, Turner said.
The city has placed multiple bids with private companies for healthcare supplies.
After one deal fell to a higher bidder, Turner said the city placed a $2 million bid for N95 masks. Each mask is priced at $5, while it usually costs 50 cents.
But don’t worry! States are also getting slapped around by the invisible hand. From Boston.com:
[Massachusetts Governor Charlie] Baker says his administration followed that advice, putting in their own orders for “millions” of masks and swabs — only to watch them get scooped away by the federal government.
“I stand here as someone who has had confirmed orders for millions of pieces of gear evaporate in front of us, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is,” the Massachusetts governor said Thursday.
This is the least efficient system imaginable short of having each state and city build their own ventilators. But it was an entirely predictable outcome. You’d have to be willfully blind or exceptionally stupid to be an “expert” and not have seen it.
Government By People Who Hate Government
Over the coming months, a lot of people are going to die because Trump and his regime of buffoons refused to act. Four months after being told that a pandemic was coming, Trump just used his authority under the Defense Production Act to order GM to produce desperately needed ventilators. But only after talks broke down and Trump, the great dealmaker, failed yet again to make the simplest deal in the world: Pay a company to produce ventilators as quickly as possible with the vast resources of the federal government.
And even then, it’s unlikely Trump will have the government ensure the ventilators get where they need to go. Reported Politico:
“Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work,” Trump said. “The Federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”
But that’s exactly the role only the federal government can play. No other entity has the resources or authority to coordinate something on this scale and the ability to pressure/pay/force corporations to do what needs to be done.
The entire reason the Defense Production Act exists is because the “free market” was rife with corruption and waste, and corporations had little interest in working for the public good. The fact that companies are price gouging cities and states for masks to keep doctors alive and saving patients makes it clear that the “free market” libertarians are always babbling about does not increase efficiency in a crisis. Rather, it impedes everything.
Without the government acting as a “shipping clerk,” the extra ventilators GM is producing will not go where they are most needed. Instead, they will go where the money is. That will kind of work for a little while because the hardest hit places right now are big cities with the resources to pay. But once the virus starts slamming smaller cities and more rural areas without resources, they’re going to be mightily screwed.
Later, at some point, the larger cities will pass their peak and won’t need as many ventilators. But where to send them then? Who is going to keep track of all the hot spots and determine the best place to allocate resources? States don’t have access to all of the information the federal government does.
In all of this chaos, the number of people dying when they should have lived will number in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. All in service to an anti-government ideology that has already proven a total failure.
This is what happens when you elect people who hate the very idea of government to run the government. It’s great for corporations and the rich who get massive tax cuts and all the deregulations and lack of oversight that money can buy but when a crisis occurs and actual leadership is required, Republicans are simply no longer capable of it. They’ve bred the ability to govern on a national level out of their collective DNA and all that’s left is the ability to set fire to everything and blame everyone else for their shortsighted stupidity.
(image via: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)