Commentary

Your strong feelings didn’t stop the virus. If only there was some other way.

August 1, 2021 5:46 am

The CDC classified COVID-19 as a “Class A inadmissible condition,” alongside other diseases preventable through vaccination like tuberculosis and syphilis. (Getty Images illustration)

Vaccine hesitancy can be sincere. There are people who have concerns, which in turn are being stoked by misinformation (have you heard the one about how the vaccine makes you magnetic?). Still, lately some of those people have determined that getting the shot is the right thing to do for themselves, their families, and their communities after all. Hopefully their example will inspire others who are still on the fence.

But this isn’t about them.

This is about the people who are actively hostile to the vaccine because they view their anti-vaxxism as part of an ideological crusade against radical liberal socialism or whatever.  They can be eager distributors of misinformation, perhaps because they find it compelling but also because it is ammunition to be gleefully discharged into yet another culture war battlefront. It might be the most asinine popular collective endeavor embarked upon by people since the end of World War II.

In the U.S., many of these people are the same sort of folks who have spent the last few years proudly sporting pro-Trump t-shirts and bumper stickers that say “Fuck your feelings.” They giggle over rote invocations of the phrase “liberal snowflakes,” and marinate in Schadenfreude whenever Trump does or says something intended to “own the libs.”

Ever since Trump rode down his escalator, a strain of commentary and mainstream news coverage has operated on the premise that everyone should tip-toe ever so lightly around his faithful legions. That sentiment is on display now in the form of hoping calm and reason and politeness – maybe even cash and prizes! – will coax the vaccine-hostile to change their minds, roll up their sleeves, and get a shot.

Yeah, it’s a dopey idea.

If people want to go to work at a job that puts them in a room with other people, they should have to get vaccinated. They should also have to get vaccinated if they want to go to lots of other places, including but not limited to a football game, a show or a concert, a college classroom, an airport…even (gasp!) a casino. The sooner we move further in that direction, the sooner this insidious virus gets behind us.

More and more companies and government agencies or departments are adopting vaccine mandates, typically accompanied with an alternative where workers must pay for weekly tests out of their own pockets. That no doubt especially hurts the hair-trigger feelings of those who are ideologically and politically hostile to the vaccine, and who have no higher priority than sticking it to the libs. Tough. They’ve done more than anyone to make vaccine mandates necessary.

Besides, the virus has never cared about their feelings, or those of the “liberal snowflakes,” for that matter, and never will.

***

Happy Birthday Medicare and Medicaid. On July 30, 1965, LBJ signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. Today’s Democrats are pushing to expand both programs, including having Medicare cover dental, vision & hearing. Democrats are also re-upping their long-standing call to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices directly with pharma.

All those reforms are sensible and overdue.

Another reform on the table is one supported by Steven Horsford, Dina Titus, and 158 other House Democrats to lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 (covering an additional 23 million people), or better yet, 55 (covering an additional 40 million people).

Lowering the eligibility age would provide tens of millions of people (and, by extension, their families) relief from poor or spotty or costly coverage on offer from an all too often predatory yet infuriating, inefficient and cumbersome for-profit insurance industry. So there’s that.

As you may have noticed, the window for substantial policy reforms and achievements in Washington can be very, very short. Democrats could lose control of Congress next year. They could lose the presidency in 2024. If the eligibility age isn’t lowered in the reconciliation bill, how long will it be until another window of opportunity presents itself? Besides, one of the best ways Democrats can assure they retain control of Congress in 2022 might be, you know, opening Medicare up to people – voters – who are younger than 65. Who doesn’t want to watch Republicans vow to repeal that on the campaign trail next year?

***

Speaking of big (but not that big) government… And just like that, this week the internal improvements – or “infrastructure” – bill got more than the 60 votes needed to proceed under abhorrent U.S. Senate rules, and the Senate started working it over this weekend. So it looks like something is actually going to get enacted. 

Preliminary indications are that Republicans, with the reliable assistance of Joe Manchin & Kyrsten Sinema, presumably, whittled this thing down pretty good. I don’t think I care. Pass it. Let everyone who is so inclined (oh hi Jacky Rosen and Susie Lee) make soothing, cooing sounds about holy sacred bipartisanship amen. And then pass the much larger reconciliation bill, which is where the action is.

***

You can’t eat GDP (an occasional reminder). On the one hand, second quarter GDP growth fell short of predictions, so IMPEACH, obviously. On the other hand, inflation-adjusted GDP has reached and exceeded its pre-pandemic level, so zip-a-dee-doo-dah.

The recovery, for lack of a better word, of GDP illustrates how crucial federal relief spending is and has been to the economy (and will be going forward). And yet despite the warnings of the inflation hawks, all that darned government spending apparently is not “overheating” the economy.

Juxtaposed with the plight of people who live and work in said economy, the GDP growth rate also illustrates yet again the disconnect between GDP (which is always the object of far too much obsession from far too many white guys in ties) and, you know, humans.

***

Long-time area branding guru and narrative crafter Billy Vassiliadis, sharing some deep thoughts with the Review-Journal about the resort industry and the covid the other day, suggested other popular destinations are every bit as morally and ethically bankrupt as Las Vegas, so by extension and ipso facto, Las Vegas must not be morally and ethically bankrupt after all. Except Billy phrases it differently.

(Except for the first item, the above are excerpts, some lightly massaged, others more heavily, of material published over the past week in the Daily Current newsletter, the editor’s opinionated morning news roundup.)

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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