Texas' lieutenant governor has suggested that older Americans have a duty to, essentially, sacrifice themselves so America can ease up on social-distancing measures and repair the economy. A California lawyer has taken it a step further to suggest that the main victims of the coronavirus are "not productive" and so should be cut loose like ballast and left to die.
These sentiments have shocked Americans — and should continue to shock them. Remember Republican outrage during the debates over Obamacare about phony 'death panels'? That's effectively what these Republicans are now calling for.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been rightly excoriated for his recent comments on (where else?) Fox News suggesting that grandparents, himself included, should be willing to fall on the coronavirus sword so Americans can resume their regularly scheduled economy.
"No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance for your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?" Patrick said. But "if that's the exchange, I'm all in."
He added: "I don't want the whole country to be sacrificed." No — just grandparents.
As unlikely as it seemed that anyone could make a more awful contribution to our national dialogue on this pandemic, Scott McMillan managed.
The 56-year-old attorney from La Mesa, California — responding to President Donald Trump's comment that we can't let "the cure be worse than the problem" — took that irresponsible riff to its extreme conclusion. "The fundamental problem," McMillan tweeted, "is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive."
The answer to this is so obvious it's astounding that it needs to be said: Nobody should be sacrificed to an illness that kills by essentially suffocating its victims. Or that kills in any other way, for that matter.
Such suggestions are not only putrid but factually questionable. U.S. doctors say they aren't seeing here what's been reported from other countries about the most severe illnesses being confined to the elderly and infirm. Many serious coronavirus patients here are younger than 50 — and some have been in their 20s. Theories about this discrepancy include the fact that Americans tend to be heavier than the global average (obesity is an underlying health issue) or that the overseas data is incomplete.
In any case, the sentiments of Patrick and McMillan would be indefensible even if there wasn't a single victim under 80. Societies are always judged by how they treat their most vulnerable citizens. In that sense, the economic pain America is enduring today is an expression of compassion and patriotism. Most Americans, thankfully, understand that — even if a couple of callous blowhards don't.
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