From the first days that the coronavirus was reported to be spreading throughout the world, including in the United States, Donald Trump has sought to minimize the risks and the potential that it could escalate into a full blown pandemic. He has understated the infection rate and the number of fatalities. And he has focused his attention on the economic impact, rather than the cost of human lives.
On Thursday evening Trump appeared on Fox News for a town hall meeting. it was his second Fox News interview in as many days (the first being a suck up phone-in with Sean Hannity). The Fox News town hall was rife with the sort of lies and disinformation that is the hallmark of both Trump and Fox. For instance, Trump claimed that he would protect Social Security, even as he explicitly said he would be cutting entitlements. He also promised to provide “great healthcare,” despite never having offered any proposals, and actively fighting in court to kill Obamacare.
With regard to the coronavirus, which is currently the most pressing issue on the table, Trump continued his efforts to trivialize the very real vulnerabilities the nation faces. “I think we’re in great shape,” he lied, and “I think we made a great move. We closed it down. We stopped it.” Of course, he has not come close to stopping the coronavirus. It has actually spread to twenty-one states with over 225 cases in the U.S. And its containment is far from certain because we don’t even have enough test kits to identify those infected.
However, perhaps the most troubling remarks Trump made were in connection to how the virus might impact the U.S. economy. He presented his deranged viewpoint that there is a fiscal silver lining to the suffering and death that the virus has already caused. Surely the families of the victims will be pleased to hear this (video below):
“A lot of people are staying here. They’re going to be doing their business here. They’re going to be traveling here. They’ll be going to resorts here. And, you know, we have a great place … we’re going to have Americans staying home.”
Virtually everything in that comment is patently false and without even a hint of factual basis. First of all, there is no evidence that Americans are traveling more within the U.S. To the contrary, more people are avoiding all travel, even domestically. Airlines are canceling flights due to the absence of bookings. As for doing more business, that too is unsupported by any data. Many Americans are staying home rather than risk exposure in public places like restaurants and theaters. Businesses themselves are canceling participation in conferences and trade shows, and they are limiting their employees’ travel.
What’s more, even if there were some sliver of truth to Trump’s bizarrely rosy scenario, it wouldn’t provide an economic benefit for the country. That’s because the U.S. makes more money from the spending by tourists coming here than it would lose from Americans going overseas. So there would be a net loss of revenue if Americans spend at home, while foreigners decline to visit.
There is also something notable about the alleged revenue that Trump falsely claimed would be realized by a virus-driven quarantine of travelers. Virtually all of it would come from businesses that Trump himself operates (hotels, resorts, etc.). How convenient! But the fact that the stock market has declined sharply indicates that most investors believe that the broader American business landscape is going to be hurt severely by the repercussions of this budding pandemic.
The impact on the economy by the coronavirus is really the only thing that Trump cares about. And even that isn’t because he’s concerned about people’s financial welfare. He’s only worried about how it will affect his prospects for reelection. Consequently, he needs to lie about both the inherent dangers the virus portends for human life, as well as how it influences the direction of the market. And anyone dumb enough to believe Trump’s self-serving blather is going to end up much sicker and poorer.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
TRUMP on economic hit of coronavirus: "A lot of people are staying here. They're going to be doing their business here. They're going to be traveling here. They'll be going to resorts here. And, you know, we have a great place … we're going to have Americans staying home." pic.twitter.com/dqxWFnwklB
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 6, 2020