Paul Krugman: GOP’s "cult of selfishness" informed its destructive response to coronavirus pandemic

"What the coronavirus has revealed is the power of America’s cult of selfishness. And this cult is killing us"

Published July 28, 2020 7:14PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump (Win McNamee/Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Salon)
Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump (Win McNamee/Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Salon)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has reported a COVID-19 death count of more than 148,000 for the United States, which has become the world's coronavirus hotspot. Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column, argues that the United States' high number of coronavirus-related deaths and infections underscores the failures of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. But Krugman also stresses that the problem goes way beyond Trump's ineptness and exemplifies "America's cult of selfishness."

"Premature reopening led to a surge in infections: adjusted for population, Americans are currently dying from COVID-19 at around 15 times the rate in the European Union or Canada," Krugman laments. "Yet the 'rocket ship' recovery Donald Trump promised has crashed and burned: job growth appears to have stalled or reversed, especially in states that were most aggressive about lifting social distancing mandates, and early indications are that the U.S. economy is lagging behind the economies of major European nations."

Krugman notes that "Trump and allies were so eager to see big jobs numbers that they ignored both infection risks and the way a resurgent pandemic would undermine the economy." But he goes on to say that "there's a deeper explanation of the profoundly self-destructive behavior of Trump and his allies: they were all members of America's cult of selfishness."

The economist explains, "You see, the modern U.S. right is committed to the proposition that greed is good, that we're all better off when individuals engage in the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest. In their vision, unrestricted profit maximization by businesses and unregulated consumer choice is the recipe for a good society."

Republicans who are consumed with selfishness, according to Krugman, have a hard time looking at the big picture.

"I've long been struck by the intensity of right-wing anger against relatively trivial regulations, like bans on phosphates in detergent and efficiency standards for lightbulbs," Krugman writes. "It's the principle of the thing: many on the right are enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other people's welfare into account."

According to Krugman, far-right Republicans equate irresponsibility with "freedom."

"This rage is sometimes portrayed as love of freedom," Krugman observes. "But people who insist on the right to pollute are notably unbothered by, say, federal agents teargassing peaceful protesters. What they call 'freedom' is actually absence of responsibility."

Krugman concludes his column by warning that during the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have "sacralized selfishness" with deadly results.

"What the coronavirus has revealed is the power of America's cult of selfishness," Krugman argues. "And this cult is killing us."

By Alex Henderson

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Coronavirus Covid-19 Donald Trump Paul Krugman Politics Republicans