Ron Johnson on pandemic: let’s not go overboard

By: - March 30, 2020 5:12 pm
Sen. Ron Johnson with a U.S. coast guard cap in front of a drug-seizing boat

Sen. Ron Johnson via Facebook

“Death is an unavoidable part of life” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) wrote In an opinion piece for USA Today on Monday, doubling down on the controversial c’est la vie attitude he has expressed in recent comments about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Encouraging Americans to “put things in perspective,” Johnson offered mortality statistics from causes other than coronavirus:

“Each year, approximately 48,000 Americans commit suicide and an estimated 67,000 die of a drug overdose,” he wrote. “That level of individual despair has occurred in a strong economy with near-record low levels of unemployment in virtually every demographic.”

Johnson follows this up implying that Americans will be more likely to kill themselves or OD during the recession that is sure to follow a total economic shutdown.

But the Senator has a cure for that: Instead of closing all but essential businesses, Johnson suggests, the government should identify non-essential businesses that are likely to spread the virus, and only close those businesses down. (He doesn’t offer any details about how to identify virus-spreading versus non-virus-spreading non-essential businesses.)

While he supports social distancing policies, Johnson also notes that the 2017-18 flu season was particularly bad, killing 61,000 people: “Can you imagine the panic if those mortality statistics were attributed to a new virus and reported nonstop?” he asks.

“As we learn more about coronavirus, try to put things into perspective,” Johnson suggests in the headline on his piece.

USA Today interjects its own headline just below the lead, which seems, in context, like a corrective to Johnson’s approach — “Our View: This is no time to relax the coronavirus guidelines”

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.