Trump's populism is 'fundamentally fraudulent' -- and here's the deadly proof: columnist
President Donald J. Trump, White House photo by Shealah Craighead

Meatpacking companies knew early on in the pandemic that their facilities were hot spots for the coronavirus, but rather than take safeguards to protect their workers, they instead pushed the Trump administration to limit local health requirements and insulate themselves from legal accountability.

A congressional select committee recently issued a report on COVID outbreaks in the meatpacking industry, and their investigation found that industry lobbyists ginned up bogus fears of meat shortages to keep their plants open and force workers back onto the job, despite the health risks, reported MSNBC.

“Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!” one lobbyist told a Koch Foods executive, according to the report.

The companies probably could have kept their facilities open without turning them into COVID factories, according to MSNBC columnist Ryan Cooper, but rather than take countervailing steps to improve ventilation or provide masks to workers, the industry successfully lobbied the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to overrule local regulations and shield companies from legal liability for worker deaths.

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"Sure enough," Cooper wrote, "meatpacking facilities, where workers are commonly immigrants and about 69 percent are nonwhite, have been some of the deadliest places during the pandemic, and workers also spread the virus around their communities. One study found that the presence of a meatpacking plant increased case numbers in U.S. counties by about 160 percent."

Some of the protective measures might have been difficult to implement, although grocery store chains successfully pulled them off, but Cooper said the episode shows that American executives view their workers as "lazy rabble" who must be coerced into work and then discarded, and "pseudo-populists" like Trump help them get away with it.

"It’s an illustration of the fundamentally fraudulent nature of Trump-style 'populism,'" Cooper wrote. "He and his party might rail against 'globalist' bankers, corporate fat cats or slanted trade deals and occasionally might even make some token policy gesture in that direction. But when corporate profits — or capitalists’ control of their workforces, especially diverse ones — are on the line, then Donald Trump and his goons have their backs, always."