Back during the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession, Richard Burr took the knowledge he got from being a Senator to tell his wife to pull as much money from their account as possible. He earned the nickname “Bank Run” Burr. 

Now, he’s at it again, but on a much larger scale. After Senators got a briefing on the coronavirus and its likely impact, Burr dumped $1.6 million in stock just before the market crashed. At the same time he was covering his own financial ass, he was telling the country that Trump had the situation under control. Even Tucker Carlson is calling for him to resign. 

When the dust clears, Burr will end up the face of the GOP “Greed is Good” ethos that began with Ronald Reagan. The party applauded people for exercising aggressive self-interest, putting the individual above the community. Richard Burr is a kind of John Galt of the Senate, looking out for himself and rising from lawnmower salesman to millionaire while holding a job that pays $174,000 per year.

It’s not just Burr and his greed that are on display. It’s the underlying philosophy of the free marketeers that is completely unsuited to deal with any national crisis but especially this one. As the government forces entire industries to shutter, leaving millions unemployed, the supply-side economics team of Art Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Steve Forbes urged Trump, “Don’t expand welfare and other income redistribution benefits like paid leave and unemployment benefits that will inhibit growth and discourage work.” 

Work where? It’s hard to know if these people are just clueless or callous. I suspect it’s a combination of the two. Forbes is a trust-fund baby who wouldn’t know hard work if it hit him over the head and Laffer and Moore are ideologues safely entrenched in right-wing think tanks funded by big corporations. Regardless, they are the intellectual leaders of the Reagan Revolution that still defines much of the GOP.

Now, more than any time since the Great Depression, we need to come together as a community. Self-sacrifice, not self-interest, is the order of the day. We must figure out how to support the country when we are unable to produce goods or deliver services. For at least a period of time, the free market will prove woefully inadequate to address the task at hand. We have to survive long enough until the market can work again.  

With hindsight, Burr and the family of grifters in the White House are the logical conclusion of the free market extremism that’s dominated the Republican Party since the 1980s. They’re just putting their own self-interests over the interests of society at large. After 40 years of rewarding those who look after themselves, the haves have grown so superior to the have-nots, that they’ve rigged the whole system in their favor. Who can blame Burr if he can’t tell the difference between self-interest and insider trading? Just look at the White House. Everybody’s doing it. 

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