As the corona virus is spreading exponentially through Nebraska, one hot spot popping up after another, the rest of America is wondering why our governor is lifting our light social distancing restrictions instead of strengthening them. The answer is that he does not want his loyal corporate class to feel any pain when he can inflict that pain where he chooses later–namely, on poor people and shared resources.
Imagine you are a governor and you have two options before you:
1. Shut down non-essential businesses. Implement strong safety measures in essential businesses. Efficiently distribute unemployment and other safety nets so everyday people can pay the bills. Invest in widespread testing and contact tracing.
2. Allow your donors’ businesses to stay open so they can reap the profits of people shopping with their federal relief checks. Spotlight CEOs in your daily press briefings. Blame immigrants for the spread of the virus and align yourself with Trump.
Most of you, being non-sociopaths, would choose Option 1 and are baffled by Nebraska pursuing Option 2. But that’s because you are not thinking like a Pete Ricketts.
Option 1 shoulders private industry with a big burden. It requires you to tell your donors that they have to lose a lot of money. Not just the money of normal business, but also the sweet, sweet promise of shoppers impulse-buying new Coach purses with stimulus money. And what do you get out of it? Only healthier serfs.
Option 2 allows your Fox News base to continue as-is while the virus burns through meatpacking plants. But the best part is that the cost of clean-up is a feature, not a bug. Rather than requiring donors to foot some of this pain like everyone else, the cost to overburdened hospitals and families bankrupted by medical bills and dead breadwinners puts power in your hands later. When faced with how to pay for this mess and help desperate people, you can grant or withhold resources as you wish. (See also Medicaid, Refusal to Expand.) Best of all, you can claim that the financial exigency requires you to siphon cleanup funds from other public resources. For someone who has been wanting to defund public K-12 and public universities for years, this must be a tantalizing prospect. Imagine that: paying for or not paying for the damage to the poor and middle class by gutting higher ed and other resources, rather than asking for upfront sacrifice from the Memorial Stadium skybox crowd.
Isn’t it as simple as that? Prevention means private business and megadonors are required to sacrifice like everyone else. “Cure” means donors can continue to make money, and the cost of all this death, bankruptcy, eviction, and suffering can just be sucked out of resources like public education, which has been an existential threat to his intellectually and morally bankrupt way of governing anyway.