Museum of America in the Pandemic Year, 2020

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Sep 25: Over the course of September, Midwest states experienced a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. South Dakota alone suffered a 166% increase, and 10 other states report record single-day increases. President Trump announces he will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett is a conservative from the midwest and a part of the People of Praise—an ecumenical charismatic group headquartered in South Bend, Indiana. RBG becomes the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine looks promising in its Phase 3 trials. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announces that Florida will fully reopen one day after reporting most coronavirus deaths in U.S. Violence is expected in Portland as right-wing group, the Proud Boys, arrives in the city to confront left-wing protesters.

Sep 26:  The CDC ends a federal coronavirus survey this week after public health workers, who went door-to-door across 180 neighborhoods to gain a better understanding of how the virus was spreading and offer free virus and antibody testing, experienced verbal abuse, intimidation, and racism. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases spike in the Midwest. 

Sep 27:  President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in the year he was elected, The New York Times reports. Trump also paid $750 in his first year in the White House, and nothing in 10 of the previous 15 years. Trump calls the Times‘ report “totally fake news.”

From the Cutting Room Floor...

There is no room to be scandalized in our world anymore, and it seems to be a fair bet that this news that Trump has paid almost no taxes in the last decade will not shake Trump’s followers or change the political landscape. We have become inured to scandal, collectively agreeing that power and platform matter more than character and conviction. “Tax evasion is different than tax avoidance,” Ryan Ellis at the Center for a Free Economy announces, “and tax avoidance is smart.”[1] Thank you, Ryan. Lesson learned.

The truth is that Trump’s tax returns are not exceptional. As the podcast Trump, Inc. has shown, the current White House occupant is a part of a much wider network of people and transnational corporations that protect a small group of the world’s wealthiest.[2] They have used those positions to enrich themselves, their families, and their personal connections—the very behavior against which decades of American legislation and norms were supposed to defend.

The pandemic has has exacerbated the great divide that now exists between the very-wealthy few and everyone else. While six million people filed for unemployment this year, the nation’s billionaires saw their net worth jump by over $500 billion.[4] Ironically, $500 billion of the COVID bailouts went to corporate recipients whose names the Trump administration refuses to divulge.[5]

Only in the world of food processing has the Department of Justice seemed to take an interest. The same food processers who were ordered to shut down in March to clean their facilities and protect their workers have been making record profits, as we know. This incongruous behavior drew attention from the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, who have already indicted Jayson Penn, CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, Roger Austin, a former Pilgrim’s vice president, Mikell Fries, president of Claxton Poultry, and Scott Brady, a vice president at Claxton (Claxton supplies Chik-Fil-A) for price-fixing going all the way back to 2008.[6] The government is going after “big beef” as well, looking at Tyson, Cargill, and JBS, who seem to be artificially keeping grocery prices high while paying bottom dollar for livestock.[7]

Even in the food world, however, this is only a small pushback to the overall trend of profits-before-all-else. Processing plants have been increasing the speed of their lines and stripping back worker employment and safety protections.[9] Workers for Smithfield or Tyson or any of the others still receive a sub-optimal wage. Whether “kleptocracy” is the correct designation for what is happening hardly matters. It sure appears like—whether it’s meat producers colluding or pharmaceutical companies charging more for life-saving drugs that have been out of patent for decades or states offering massive tax breaks to every company that says they’ll create jobs (whether or not they actually do) or a federal pandemic response that seems not to care about its at-risk citizens—those at the top of the heap are using their positions to take and take from the rest of us, all while making sure that their hair is just-so.




[1] Ryan Ellis, “New York Times’ Trump Tax Return ‘Bombshell’ Is A Joke,” The Federalist, September 28, 2020,

[2] ProPublica, “Trump’s Taxes, Finally,” Trump, Inc., 09-28-2020, ProPublica,

[4] Rachel Augustine Potter, “How Trump Uses a Crisis: Repeal Rules While Nobody Is Looking,” Washington Post, June 9, 2020,

[5] Jessica Corbett, “‘Speaking of Looting…’: Trump Admin. Refuses to Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion in Coronavirus Bailout Funds,” Common Dreams, June 11, 2020,

[6] Susan Heavey, Tom Polansek, and Diane Bartz, “Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Indicted over Alleged U.S. Chicken Price-Fixing,” Reuters, June 4, 2020,

[7] Jacob Bunge and Brent Kendall, “Justice Department Issues Subpoenas to Beef-Processing Giants,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2020,

[9] Jerald Brooks and Lakesha Bailey, “Opinion | We’re Feeding America, but We’re Sacrificing Ourselves,” The New York Times, June 15, 2020, sec. Opinion,

Read more

“President Trump announces Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court,” The Hill, September 26, 2020,

“Trump celebrates Amy Coney Barrett announcement at top of rally,” The Hill, September 26, 2020,

 Amy Coney Barrett, “Hesburgh Lecture 2016: Professor Amy Barrett at the JU Public Policy Institute,” Notre Dame Club, Jacksonville University, November 3, 2020,

Trevor Noah, “Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett to Replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” The Daily Social Distancing Show, Comedy Central, September 26, 2020,

Ellis, Ryan. “New York Times’ Trump Tax Return ‘Bombshell’ Is A Joke.” The Federalist, September 28, 2020.
Samarajiva, Indi. “The Overwhelming Racism Of COVID Coverage.” Medium, September 27, 2020.
Potter, Rachel Augustine. “How Trump Uses a Crisis: Repeal Rules While Nobody Is Looking.” Washington Post, June 9, 2020.
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