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Sunday, Feb. 25
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINION: Dear Rep. Hollingsworth, death is not a lesser evil than a GDP decrease


Tennessee Trey, it's been a while since we last heard from you. I think the last time I saw you in the news was when you voted against Hurricane Harvey relief.

You should be having an easy time in Congress. After moving from Clinton, Tennessee, to Indiana's 9th congressional district just a year before your election, all it took was $3 million of your business wealth and $1.5 million of your dad's to secure your seat — and your reputation as a carpetbagger and backbencher who has been known to literally run away from his constituents.

But then you had to speak about a pandemic.

COVID-19 has drastically altered our way of life. That's indisputable. We're grappling with the social and economic effects of self-isolation and social distancing. But instead of advocating for safety and social responsibility during this pandemic, or even just saying nothing like you usually do, you decided to spew nonsense.

You told radio station WIBC-FM that elected officials need to "put on our big boy and big girl pants” to reopen public spaces and end stay-at-home orders. You described increased deaths from the virus as the “lesser of these two evils” compared to an economic downturn.

You even used the GDP as the catch-all economic indicator in your interview. What about people's lost income? What about homelessness and eviction increases due to not being able to afford rent? What about food insecurity?

This mentality, coming from a congressman who represents the people of my university, infuriates me to my core. The fact that you spout it off so matter-of-factly as a viable opinion is irresponsible and dangerous. 

“We’ve got to get Americans back to work, back to their schools and back to their churches,” you said.

Letting people return to these activities is dangerous. Getting Americans “back to work” causes mass infections and will lead pandemic to spread even more rapidly.

Just look at South Dakota. It is one of five states left to not issue a stay-at-home order. Now it's facing one of the largest single coronavirus clusters anywhere in the United States, with more than 300 workers at a giant ­pork-processing plant catching the virus. 

What you're trying to do with this interview is use buzzwords to undermine the advice of scientists and doctors. Epidemiologists' models projecting COVID-19 infections and deaths assume that we will continue social distancing and isolation measures for at least another month. To do anything else would lead to disastrous consequences.

People are struggling without work, school and church. Heck, I'm struggling to continue my education online right now. But by inciting public outrage and not taking seriously the pleaded advice of medical and scientific professionals, you have dug into a deeply unsettling line of thinking. 

To you, the great number of innocent lives that would be lost by doing away with the shelter-in-place orders across the country are just collateral damage to sustaining an economy that greatly benefits you.

We're seeing this greed play out before our very eyes. Another multi-millionaire businessperson turned congressperson, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is embroiled in scandal because she sold more than $20 million in stock after a congressional briefing before the stock market crash caused by the coronavirus.

You sound as if you don't care how many people get killed. It's all about maintaining the economic status quo from before the coronavirus. After all, Rep. Joseph "Trey" Hollingsworth III, you have a business to worry about, don't you?

The road ahead is going to be a long and uncertain one. To prematurely call for a return to how things were while a pandemic rages on is dangerous and selfish. You may benefit from it financially, Rep. Hollingsworth, but the rest of America and the world would be in grave danger.

Maximilian Sandefer is a sophomore studying political science and Spanish at Indiana University. He is an outspoken progressive who also enjoys an occasional iced tea.

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