The intense tribalism that has almost entirely consumed American politics has had the disturbing effect of dehumanizing our fellow citizens to the point that we forget they’re our fellow Americans entirely.
Spending battles become a tug-of-war over whose voters and whose constituencies deserve to be allocated desperately needed resources, and in a time of insurmountable nationwide crisis, those struggles can and have become deadly as medical equipment and supplies are turned into political pawns.
Nobody has exacerbated the political divide in the United States more than President Donald Trump himself, who has spent the past three years telling his supporters that Democrats, “the Left” and the people in Blue States are trying to destroy America and our way of life despite having been voted into office to represent all Americans, not just the white ones who voted for him.
But since his first day in office, Trump has made it appallingly clear that he cares very little for those that don’t support him and is perfectly willing to let the citizens of states whose governors he considers to be “unfriendly” die from lack of medical equipment, supplies, or (as in the case of Puerto Rico) hurricane relief.
It appears he’s also willing to let them go bankrupt. On Monday morning, the President publicly asked why American taxpayers should be “bailing out” Democrat-run and managed states and cities like Illinois.
Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 27, 2020
This argument is an echo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statements last week, in which he made it clear he would prefer it if states facing huge budget deficits from the coronavirus crisis went bankrupt rather than spend a dime in federal money to help them.
The pandemic is projected to blow a half-trillion-dollar hole in the budgets of America’s 50 states. If the states are not bailed out, the shortfall is likely to trigger crushing austerity, massive job losses, and an abrupt end to critical public services that could push our economy into years of recession or even a great depression to rival the 1929 crash.
It is deeply ironic that this is being portrayed as a one-sided partisan battle by the President and Majority Leader, because years of economic recession would hurt the whole nation equally, especially America’s working-class families, regardless of whether they vote red or blue.
The idea that federal funding and services should be distributed as a reward for political allegiance, as opposed to every citizen deserving the same standard of living, public services, and protections by nature of their citizenship itself, is utterly reprehensible.
For the second time in two decades, we are seeing irresponsible Republicans gut the nation and leave the next president an economic catastrophe to clean up as suffering rains down on America’s most vulnerable families — and now they’re publicly debating deliberately making it worse out of sheer spite.
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Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.