Lying About a Pandemic – a U.S. Government Tradition

For nearly three months, President Trump denied that the coronavirus was a real threat to the American people. It’s not the first time the U.S. government has lied about an epidemic with horrible consequences. 

A worldwide influenza epidemic hit the U.S. just as World War I was ending. Even though, unlike today, doctors 100 year ago had little scientific understanding of the disease, public health officials at that time knew that stopping its spread required shutting down all but essential business. But it didn’t happen; in fact, just like today, in 1918-1919 the U.S. government for as long as possible suppressed the truth about the spread of the disease and its consequences. Studies of that pandemic estimate that, if the government had made stopping the epidemic the priority, 45 percent of 675,000 deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented. 

In both cases, the government put profits before people. At the end of World War I, the government and big businessmen wanted to keep the profit boom from war production going as long as possible. Similarly, Trump hoped that, if he bluffed about the coronavirus pandemic, he could keep the stock market going up. All his lying accomplished was to make both the economic crash and the pandemic more severe. History shows that lying about the danger of a pandemic is a longstanding tradition for this government that has only ever represented the wealthy elite and its interests, while we suffer the consequences.

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