I thought about outlining Trump’s regressions throughout the March 20th Press Conference, but plenty of other sources have already done so. Furthermore, the recordings from the March 20th Press Conference have been pulled from YouTube, which makes it extremely difficult to cite the irrefutable demonstrations of Trump’s ineptitude.
So instead, I’m going to highlight one quote from Trump:
I’m certainly honored by the way the American people are working, because it’s work. It’s work not to work. This is the first time this has ever happened. We’re working on a tremendous financial package for them so they don’t work. Whoever heard of this? Usually you work out a financial package to get people working. We’re asking people not to work. Social distancing, that new term that’s become probably the hottest term there is.
I want to call out this sentence in particular:
We’re asking people not to work.
At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that he simply misspoke. But, he repeated this same assertion during the March 21st Press Conference as well.
This is a very gross misrepresentation of Social Distancing. The government is not instructing people “not to work”. The government is instructing people to:
Obviously, if everybody follows these guidelines, then many businesses will be very negatively impacted. Businesses that adapt to these guidelines on moral grounds will lose out to businesses that refuse to change. In other words: the reward for “doing the right thing” is economic suicide. Consequently, many businesses chose to continue conducting their normal operations, thus creating opportunities for people to violate Social Distancing practices.
In response to this, the government mandated that certain types of businesses drastically alter their operations. For example:
This drastic restructuring of business operations meant that many existing jobs would no longer be relevant. For example, it doesn’t make sense to continue employing a wait staff if your customers are no longer dining in. As a result, these jobs were cut so that the businesses could survive.
In short, it is extremely disingenuous to suggest that the government is “asking people not to work”. What we are observing right now is the fallout of drastic restructuring across numerous industries, which is inducing massive unemployment. Trying to convey unemployment as some kind of patriotic act is fucking vile.
So why does it matter?
My brother has been working in the staffing industry for the last several years. Even as early as March 17th, he indicated that a sizable percentage of people had stopped showing up for work because of a rumor that “the government was going to pay everybody’s wages for the next 30 days”. Assuming that this was true, they decided that it would be in their own best interest to simply wait things out. I mean, why put yourself at risk when you don’t need to? This, of course, made it more difficult for my brother to provide the already-stressed industries with the temporary staff they desperately needed.
This problem was already bad enough when it was only being fueled by Facebook spam. Now we have a president who is fanning the flames by asserting that the government “is asking people not to work”. Fantastic!
I can already hear your objections. “Oh, but that’s just the way Trump talks!” and “He’s just trying to make people feel better!”
That’s exactly my point, and that’s exactly why it is dangerous to place Trump “in charge” of this crisis. If you watch Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, you will observe that they choose their words very carefully. They don’t frantically tell people “not to work”, and they don’t encourage people to place all of their faith in unproven claims. Instead, they instruct people to practice Social Distancing, and they investigate potential solutions.
Over the last several days, many people have recommended that we stop broadcasting the Coronavirus Press Conferences because of the amount of misinformation that Trump is vomiting at the podium. Sadly, I think this will only make things worse. Trump will interpret this action as “another example of the FAKENEWS-media trying to cover up the TRUTH”, and his stooges will immediately buy into this explanation. They’ll all share in Trump’s now-reinforced dementia, even if it causes millions of people to die.
Whether we like it or not, we need to continue broadcasting these Press Conferences. We need to allow Trump to remain in the room, but we also need to stop directing any questions towards him. Instead, the press should speak exclusively to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, and the other experts that are in the room. Trump will try to interject, of course, but we just need to smile and nod. He is trying to deal with this problem in the only way he knows how. Unfortunately, his tactics are counterproductive.
We have leaders that will navigate us through this crisis. Trump is not one of them.