Economist Paul Krugman: Republicans are playing politics with American lives as COVID ravages the unvaccinated

Economist Paul Krugman: Republicans are playing politics with American lives as COVID ravages the unvaccinated

The highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 has been raging in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis — much to the chagrin of health experts — has issued an executive order barring school districts from imposing mask mandates. But Florida isn't the only state where far-right MAGA Republicans have implemented policies that promote the spread of COVID-19. And liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his August 2 column for the New York Times, slams DeSantis and other Republicans whose anti-science policies are making the COVID-19 pandemic worse than it has to be in the United States.

"Since the pandemic began, many conservatives have insisted that actions to limit the death toll — social distancing, wearing a mask and now, getting vaccinated — should be matters of personal choice," Krugman writes. "Does that position make any sense? Well, driving drunk is also a personal choice. But almost everyone understands that it's a personal choice that endangers others."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five new COVID-19 infections is occurring in Florida — where, Krugman argues, DeSantis is undermining public health in order to score political points with his far-right base.

"Florida is in the grip of a COVID surge worse than it experienced before the vaccines," Krugman explains. "More than 10,000 Floridians are hospitalized, around ten times the number in New York, which has about as many residents; an average of 58 Florida residents are dying each day, compared with six in New York. And the Florida hospital system is under extreme stress."

Krugman continues, "There's no mystery about why this has happened. At every stage of the pandemic, DeSantis has effectively acted as an ally of the coronavirus — for example, by issuing orders blocking businesses from requiring that their patrons show proof of vaccination and schools from requiring masks."

Given how "highly effective" COVID-19 vaccines are and the fact that they are "freely available" in the U.S., Krugman argues, there is "no good reason" why Florida and other states "should still be suffering severely from this pandemic."

"Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, isn't stupid," Krugman writes. "He is, however, ambitious and supremely cynical. So, when he says things that sound stupid, it's worth asking why. And his recent statements on COVID-19 help us understand why so many Americans are still dying or getting severely ill from the disease."

DeSantis, Krugman observes, "has been playing the liberal-conspiracy-theory card, with fundraising letters declaring that the 'radical left' is 'coming for your freedom.'"

Krugman writes, "So, let's talk about what the right means when it talks about 'freedom.' When people on the right talk about 'freedom,' what they actually mean is closer to 'defense of privilege' — specifically, the right of certain people, generally white male Christians, to do whatever they want…. As you watch DeSantis invoke 'freedom' to escape responsibility for his COVID catastrophe, remember, when he says it, that word does not mean what you think it means."

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