Does the GOP care more about money or whether you die?

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Is it greed or just flat out stupidity?

When you have to hope it is the latter, but have a sense it is the former, you get a pit in your stomach at the realization.

A fundamental premise of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is this: “Making money is more important than saving lives.” As long as their corporate overlords are served (and those campaign donations keep rolling in), they’ll be sending “thoughts and prayers” if some of you serfs get sick and die from COVID-19.

A subset of these “Live free or die” — emphasis on the latter — people plan to rally/riot in Harrisburg Monday to waive their Confederate & Trump flags and whine about how mean Gov. Tom Wolf is for trying to keep his residents alive — with President Donald J. Trump using social media Friday to encourage protests of shutdowns in states with Democratic governors.

Aside from the fact that a lot of what we’re dealing with now is largely Trump’s fault — suggesting in February that COVID-19 will magically disappear like a “miracle” worked less well than had he focused on getting tests, personal protective equipment and other needed supplies ready (which he is still failing at doing) like a grown up president would have done.

But, understand, it’s not just the president — it is most of a party that worships the all mighty dollar (and campaign donations) and, frankly, doesn’t care if you die as long as they keep getting reelected.


Republicans — including State Rep. John Lawrence (R-13), State Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-26), Steve Barrar (R-160) and state Sen. Tom Killion (R-9) — voted this week to overrule Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to shut down non-essential businesses. The bill, SB-613, would reopen a number of allegedly “essential” businesses such as car dealers, construction — and enshrines a permanent ban on closing gun shops.

Short form: Wolf vetoed it — and there aren’t enough votes in either chamber to override it. So it won’t happen — but votes like this are why Killion is a political dead man walking, Hennessey is likely to get picked off (let’s not forget how well he did during the last fiscal meltdown in 2008, nearly losing to Fern Kaufman) and yes, I’m going to say it: Lawrence is in real trouble in the southeast portion of the county.

Folks in Chester County may have a lot of different ideologies, but they know who is trying to protect them and who is literally selling them out.

Is Wolf’s shut down perfect?


But it is working. Pennsylvania should have been hit a lot harder by COVID-19 (Friday’s spike in numbers were a scary reminder that we’re not out of the woods at all yet) — in particular, Philadelphia. Wolf slammed the door shut early and hard and it saved lives. Probably a lot of lives, maybe mine, maybe yours.

Yeah, there were mistakes, some real head scratchers.

Closing the liquor stores has created all sort of problems in neighboring states — just this week, Ohio restricted alcohol sales in six border counties to folks with Ohio ID. Earlier, Delaware basically closed its border. Shutting the stores — and the epic fail of online sales — has folks spreading themselves (and likely the virus) beyond the state’s border. This was an error, the motivations were right, but there was no forethought about the impact.

The governor announced a fix of sorts Saturday night, opening a number of state stores for call-ahead, curbside pick up as of Monday. Maybe not perfect, but a big improvement.

I’m at a bit of a loss over the pissing match between the state Department of Health (DOH) and Chester County’s health department over antibody testing — keep in mind that Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved most of these antibody tests and in the field their accuracy has been all over the place. There may be more behind this, from the state side, than we know. Also, as Chesco Health appears to be vastly underreporting deaths in the county — according to the Coroner, Christina VandePol — there’s a credibility issue there, too.

The one move that no one can understand: the irregular waiver for work to continue on the Mariner East II pipeline. There’s literally no reason for this waiver. Work needs to stop now. Now.

So, beyond those three issues (and keep in mind, he might be right on the testing issue), Wolf has made decisions that saved lives — especially in light of the complete failure of the federal government to respond to the virus.

And while there is criticism about Wolf’s reopening plan — mostly that it lacks a time line — it is fair to say the virus don’t need no stinkin’ timeline: the surge in cases late last week shows us we don’t have it remotely under control. Until we do, a timeline is pointless.

It comes back to all of the abject failures on the part of the Trump Administration: not remotely enough testing, no stockpiling of PPE (and yes, selling a big batch to China in February) and essential medical supplies; no plan; no leadership beyond “I decide everything, but if it goes wrong, it’s your fault.”

And while those Trump Administration’s epic failures are the reason we can’t reopen the economy — no widespread testing or contact tracing to control (despite months to prepare those tests and develop a plan as other nations did), isolate and manage the outbreak — the PA GOP wants to throw the doors wide open, especially in the T, the middle of the state where cases are fewer.

For now.

Let me clue you in on this: if we open up, without testing, without contact tracing, COVID-19 will burn through the T like a prairie fire, killing thousands and quickly overwhelming local health care resources, while bleeding back into areas like ours that have fought long and hard to contain the virus. Businesses that reopen and order workers back — who then get sick — will be on the hook for legal costs (assume insurers will not be paying out liability claims in these cases). It looks like Florida is going to be a test case — having reopened beaches on Friday.

And, oh yeah, people will die — more than the 39,000 dead already since March — but that number will be dwarfed if we get stupid.

Look, I hate the lock down. I hate how much it is hurting the economy. But without containment, COVID-19 will flare back up (we’re seeing it in other countries already that have relaxed) and kill more people. It’s not a joke. It’s not a hoax. 39,000 people have died in five weeks.

It’s hard to have an economy when some of your customers are dead and the rest are afraid to leave home — waves of opening and closing down will do lasting damage to the economy. If we suck it up and do this right, it will be one awful hit and then a long period of recovery.

Again, had the Trump Administration taken this seriously and planned for it, ordered the tests, the personal protection equipment and infrastructure, we might not have had to shut down as fully and for as long.

Frankly, even today, three months in, we’re hardly more ready than we were Jan. 15. That’s on Trump and the GOP.

So, no, this is not the time to reopen.

Unless of course, short term money is more important than saving lives.

You know where the GOP stands.


If you own a small business, you’ve probably tried to jump through all the hoops for the Paycheck Protection Plan loan/grant program that ran out of money last week.

You’re probably also pretty angry that a number of large companies, hedge funds and the like jump in front of the line and get cash, while the small businesses that need it got shut out. And while Republicans are screaming bloody murder about the Democrats stalling new funds for the program, the Democrats are right to insist on more stringent rules to make sure the money goes to small business, not corporate America.

And yes, wanting to add money for the states and hospitals is a good idea.

But it won’t matter if the grossly incompetent Treasury Department can’t get it’s act together. Under Steve Mnuchin — whose career highlight before entering government was managing to lose bundles of money on a superhero movie he produced — Treasury constantly changed the rules, kept banks in the dark and made it impossible for smaller community banks and credit unions to participate.

It was chaos.

They similarly screwed up the unemployment booster — with states unclear almost to the last minute how and where the money was coming from.

As a result, a lot of small businesses in Chester County will go under.


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