Economist Paul Krugman: The coronavirus outlook is ‘grim’ in the US — and will only ‘get worse’ thanks to Trump and his sycophants

Economist Paul Krugman: The coronavirus outlook is ‘grim’ in the US — and will only ‘get worse’ thanks to Trump and his sycophants
CNA YouTube screenshot

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has not hesitated to lambast President Donald Trump and his sycophants for their response to the coronavirus pandemic — a response that, according to Krugman, has made the crisis much worse than it has to be in the United States. And in his July 13 column, Krugman points to recent GOP “opposition research” against Dr. Anthony Fauci as a prime example of the type of insanity that is making the U.S. #1 in COVID-19 infections.

Krugman opens his column by offering a “brief history of the past four months in America.” While health experts like Fauci have warned, “Don’t rush to reopen, this isn’t over,” Trump’s message has been “LIBERATE!” — and the response of COVID-19 is “Wheee!” And the boneheaded mentality of Trump officials, according to Krugman, has been “Here’s our opposition research on Anthony Fauci.”

“None of this had to happen,” Krugman laments. “Other countries stuck with their lockdowns long enough to reduce infections to rates much lower than those prevailing here; COVID-19 death rates per capita in the European Union are only a tenth those in the United States — and falling — while ours are rising fast. As a result, they’re in a position to reopen schools fairly safely.”

Krugman notes that the closest the U.S. has come to a Europe-like result with coronavirus has been in the Northeastern Corridor.

“The experience of the Northeast, the first major epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, shows that we could have achieved something similar here,” Krugman explains. “Death rates are way down, although still higher than in Europe; on Saturday, for the first time since March, New York City reported zero COVID-19 deaths.”

But Krugman adds that because some states reopened prematurely — with Trump’s encouragement — those states are now seeing a surge in new coronavirus infections.

“Many states not only rushed to reopen, they reopened stupidly,” Krugman writes. “Instead of being treated as a cheap, effective way to fight contagion, face masks became a front in the Culture War. Activities that posed an obvious risk of feeding the pandemic went unchecked: large gatherings were permitted, bars reopened.”

Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are trying to pressure school districts around the U.S. to reopen in the fall — even though health officials are warning that doing so would be dangerous given the recent increase in infections. And Krugman asserts that schools would be in a better position to reopen if Republicans took social distancing seriously.

“We now have overwhelming confirmation of something we already suspected: for many — perhaps most — students, there is no substitute for actually being in a classroom,” Krugman writes. “But rooms full of students are potential Petri dishes, even if the young are less likely to die from COVID-19 than the old.”

According to Krugman, “At this point, there are probably as many infected Americans as there were in March…. We don’t have the kind of leaders we need. Instead, we have the likes of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor — politicians who refuse to listen to experts and never admit having been wrong.”

Krugman ends his column on a somber note, warning that COVID-19 will inflict a lot more damage in the United States in the months to come.

“The main response we’re seeing to colossal policy failure is a hysterical attempt to shift the blame,” Krugman writes. “Some officials are trying to blacken Dr. Fauci’s reputation; others are diving into unhinged conspiracy theories. As a result, the outlook is grim. This pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better, and the nation will suffer permanent damage.”

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