Americans have not experienced anything quite like the coronavirus-induced recession in decades, if ever. It is not simply unemployment (which is anticipated already to be in double digits) and the loss of health-care coverage. According to the latest Monmouth poll, “Four in ten (41%) have lost income due to a decrease in work (up from 35% in late March). Income loss has hit households at all income levels (42% of those earning less than $50,000 a year, 40% of those earning $50,000 to under $100,000, and 43% of those earning $100,000 or more). Just over 1 in 5 (22%) report having struggled to pay bills because of the health crisis.”

There is also a sense among many Americans that they are living in a developing country:

Just over half (52%) report there are items they need right now they cannot find in stores or online. Topping this unfulfilled shopping list is toilet paper (23%). Health and cleaning supplies are also reported as missing in action, including hand sanitizer (16%), disinfectant spray (10%), antibacterial wipes (9%), rubbing alcohol (5%), and bleach and other cleaning supplies (10%), as well as other paper products such as paper towels and tissues (11%). Face masks (10%) and other medical items (2%) are also mentioned. Some also report they cannot find certain types of fresh food (13%) or other food items (4%).

In addition to the economic deprivation, Americans are being denied the company of others in the activities, entertainment and holiday celebrations they have enjoyed in good times and bad. There are, in other words, many fewer distractions from one’s problems than there used to be.

Still, despite an extraordinary level of economic and social deprivation, Americans overwhelmingly favor a cautious approach to going back outside and to work. That is a reasonable reaction given that half of Americans are “very concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus, which is up from 38% who were very concerned just three weeks ago. Another 33% are somewhat concerned.” President Trump may care about the stock market (a barometer he seems to have tied to his reelection prospects), but Americans care about their lives and those of their loved ones.

Right-wing groups have thrown their lot in with Trump on the issue of when and how to reopen the country. Oddly, for a party that casts itself as pro-life, the primary concern seems to be money. As The Post reported on Monday: “Multiple leading conservative advocacy groups plan to announce a joint coalition to demand the reopening of the U.S. economy despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, pushing for government authorities to loosen restrictions against the warnings of leading public health experts.”

The coronavirus pandemic is too serious to let the president hold freewheeling press briefings in real time, says Post media critic Erik Wemple. (The Washington Post)

The frightful disregard for the lives of their fellow Americans is one more log on the altar of Trump’s cultism, wherein only the political survival of the leader is deemed critical. (That the Heritage Foundation, which fancies itself a think tank, should take up arms against scientific experts tells you a lot about the intellectual rot that has eaten away at the conservative movement.) It is not enough that this gang defends Trump’s unconstitutional conduct, his lies, his mishandling of the worst domestic crisis of a generation and his choices of unfit cronies to fill important jobs; now they feel compelled to join Trump in cheerleading for the economy over the lives of Americans.

The public outside Trump’s core base — especially older Americans, who tend to vote Republican in greater numbers — might be noticing this calculus. As Monmouth’s poll found: “Those aged 55 and older (56%, up from 49%) and 35 to 54 years old (52%, up from 38%) are more likely to be very concerned about this than those 18 to 34 years old (42%, up from 27%).” How will they react in November after realizing that not only Trump but much of the right-wing cares more about the Dow Jones than their physical safety?

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