‘Is fearr an tsláinte ná na táinte’ – health is better than wealth, the Irish seanfhocal tells us. That would seem so obvious, it’s a wonder we have to frame it in sayings like this. But it’s not obvious. Again and again we have to pull up short, ask ourselves if the effort we’re putting into our work to make as much money as possible is worth it. I don’t know anybody who, when they balance the two items – health and wealth – wouldn’t come out in favour of health.
Except there is at least one such. His name is Dan Patrick (yes probably, Virginia) and he’s the lieutenant governor of Texas. He’s reported as saying he’d rather die than see public health measures damage the US economy.
“My message: let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and htose who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.” Patrick is a 69-soon-to-be-70-year old Republican.
This is just the kind of talk Donald Trump wants to hear. In the early weeks he denounced the coronavirus as a scare story, fake news; then he assured people that it would disappear after a few weeks; now he’s telling people that the restrictions imposed in fighting the virus will last for a very short time. His master plan involves fifteen days of restrictions, and after that it’ll be tickety-boo.
Trump is desperate to get the United States humming again – get that unemployment figure down really low, get that stock market soaring again. He wants that because he knows that, without that return to jobs and prosperity, his chances of re-election in November are looking slim.
It’s almost admirable, this determination by Patrick and Trump to stare down the virus, to push on regardless. But for the thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people in the US who will die, it’s a long, long way from admirable. Trump says that “people get tremendous anxiety and depression and you have suicide over things like this, when you have a terrible economy, you have death, definitely….in far greater numbers than we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”
Economic collapse does indeed raise the suicide level in societies – but nowhere near the ravages that the coronavirus will make, in the US and elsewhere. There’s no good in forcing a patient to walk again, if they’ve got two broken feet.
Trump is an unscrupulous ass. Patrick is a dumb-ass. Both men should have ‘Is fear an tsláinte ná na táinte’ forcibly tattooed across their buttocks.