Thursday, September 13, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said that roughly 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico were lies made up to hurt him politically.

This morning, with Florence bearing down on the North Carolina coast, Trump was focused on shifting the blame for the catastrophic effects of last year's Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico:
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000 . . . This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.

The official government death toll is 2,975, which is the midpoint estimate of a nonpartisan and independent study by George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. The study did not count individuals, whether they died of "old age" or other causes. Instead, it measured the excess deaths due to factors related to the complete failure of Puerto Rico's infrastructure. 

Lack of electricity, clean water, access to routine medical care, surgical facilities, cancer treatment and dialysis, infectious and waterborne disease outbreaks, and exposure over the six-month period covered by the study all contributed to the thousands of deaths that would otherwise not have occurred in that period. (The six month cutoff is arbitrary and more preventable deaths certainly happened past that date.)

In essence, Trump is saying that only the handful of deaths that nobody is really blaming him for--people killed by wind and floods during the storm itself--actually "count," and that it was not his job to help prevent American deaths afterwards.

Trump may feel he has no choice but to tell this lie, since he had already declared victory during his four-hour visit to the least damaged part of the island. While there, he complained in a "joke" that recovery efforts would cost too much. He later said that the Americans living in Puerto Rico "want everything done for them."

Trump "raised" no money for Puerto Rico. Recovery funds were appropriated by Congress. However, that money does not appear to have been well spent. Trump's own Governmental Accountability Office found in a report that while FEMA's response to hurricanes in Texas and Florida was adequate, Puerto Rico was "obviously... a much, much different story." Independent investigations confirmed an enormous double standard in the response.

Why does this matter?

  • Even by Trump standards, this is a pretty ugly lie.
  • Thousands of Americans are dead who don't need to be.