Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, told Fox News‘ disproportionately older audience Monday night that he and other American seniors would be willing to risk dying from the coronavirus in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t slide into a serious recession.
“If that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said of the choice between risking infection and protecting the economy by returning people to work. “I’ve talked to hundreds of people… making calls all the time, and everyone says pretty much the same thing: That we can’t lose our whole country, we’re having an economic collapse.”
“My message is: Let’s get back to work,” said Patrick, who emphasized that he is a grandparent. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. Don’t do that. Don’t ruin this great American dream.”
“You’re basically saying that this disease could take your life, but that’s not the scariest thing to you,” replied Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “There’s something that would be worse than dying.”
“Yeah,” said Patrick.
Texas lawmakers and other observers reacted with alarm to Patrick’s remarks, which directly contradicted the warnings of public health officials and—if acted upon—could put lives in danger, given that the elderly are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
“This crisis is really laying bare the extent to which we are ruled by completely craven psychopaths,” tweeted Micah Uetricht, managing editor at Jacobin magazine.
Democratic Texas state Rep. Donna Howard, a grandparent herself, told Dallas Morning News that “the idea that the only option is for us to sacrifice ourselves is really incredulous to me.”
“I mean, there are definitely other routes we can take that make much more sense,” said Howard.
Texas state Rep. Gene Wu also ripped Patrick’s remarks in a tweet late Monday.
“If you asked my kids if they would rather have more stuff or have their Grandpa and Nanna, they would choose their grandparents with no hesitation,” said Wu, a Democrat. “This statement is repulsive and unfortunately reflective of the attitude many Texas [Republicans] have regarding people and money.”
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