CNN  — 

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made a political career on his unapologetic conservatism and willingness to, well, just say stuff that other politicians won’t.

He was at it again on Monday night in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. On the heels of President Donald Trump beginning to suggest that the time for lessening social distancing and other restrictive measures to slow the spread of coronavirus may have arrived, Patrick took things a step further. Here’s what he said (Bold is mine):

“I am living smart, listening to the President, the CDC guidelines like all people should, but I am not living in fear of Covid-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country. And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.

“And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that, I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country, like me, I have six grandchildren, that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And, I want to, you know, live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see. I’ve talked to hundreds of people, Tucker, and just in the last week, and making calls all the time and everyone says pretty much the same thing, that we can’t lose our whole country. We are having an economic collapse. I’m also a small businessman — I understand it, and I talk with business people all the time, Tucker, and my heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the President say, because we can do more than one thing at a time. We can do two things. So, my message is that, let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70 plus, we will take care of ourselves but don’t sacrifice the country. Don’t do that. Don’t ruin this great American dream.”

Now, let’s not mince words here: What Patrick is saying is that people over 70 would rather die (or greatly increase the odds they might) in order for the economy to get up and running again. That America’s economy is worth more than the lives that would be lost.

Which is a slightly more blunt way of saying what the President has been saying over the past 48 hours.


On Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!”

It’s also in keeping with the decision by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent Trump ally, to invite students to return to campus this week after spring break and for faculty to do the same.

The argument is simple: The economy is likely headed into a recession. Unemployment claims are expected to soar. Small businesses are being crushed by “shelter in place” orders around the country. If things continue like this, the economy may totally collapse – no matter what Congress passes (or doesn’t pass) in terms of economic stimulus. And we can’t let that happen. So, we need to start getting back to “normal” – even if that means a few more people get sick with the coronavirus and, yes, some die.

Like many supposedly simple arguments, this one only makes sense if you ignore some known facts.

First and foremost, to agree with Patrick, you have to be willing to put a price on human life. How many more deaths that would be caused by abandoning our current policies of social distancing – even in lower-risk communities – would be worth the economy beginning to hum again? 100? 1,000? 10,000? And does that equation change if it’s your parent or your grandparent? Or maybe even you?

“My mother is not expendable,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in his press briefing Tuesday. “And your mother is not expendable. And our brothers and sisters are not expendable. We’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable. We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.”

Here’s what we know about coronavirus. It’s a very good spreader. For every person who gets it, they pass it to two other people. Do a little bit of math and you see that exponential growth from just a single infected person. It’s why we have seen both the number of positive tests and the number of cases grow so rapidly since just earlier this month. According to figures tabulated by CNN’s Ryan Struyk, there were 89 cases of coronavirus in the US on March 1 and 42,663 as of Monday. On March 1, two Americans had died. On Monday that number was 541.

What Patrick (and Trump) are advocating would almost certainly lead to a significant increase in the already surging number of coronavirus cases. And that would mean, given coronavirus’ mortality rate, that many more people would die.

Second, the idea that if Trump – or any governor of a state – simply said that Americans (or some subset of low-risk Americans) should go back to work, then everything would return to normal is outlandish. There would be even more strain on the health care system than there already is (due to a larger number of coronavirus cases) and widespread worry/anxiety about whether it was actually safe to be returning to the workplace. That’s especially true since there are precious few medical professionals who have endorsed the idea that now is the time to begin to ease off on social distancing restrictions. (If anything, experts have said those requirements need to be made stiffer.)

So, when you dig even a little bit into Patrick’s idea, you see it is deeply flawed.