Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas and the Elderly

On Tucker last night, Patrick made an odd appeal (to be kind).

As the seeming result of Trump’s desire to reopen the economy, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of Texas made a bizarre appeal (in my estimation) last night on Tucker Carlson’s FNC program. Here is the salient clip:

When I first saw the summary by Lawrence, I thought it might be an exaggeration. It isn’t.

Here is what he said, as transcribed by Axios:

“No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said on air.

“I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that’s what we all care about. … And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see,” he added.

Patrick is, for the record, 69 and will be 70 next month.

The implication seems to be that he is all for stopping social distancing even if that means substantial exposure of the vulnerable senior population to the virus.

This is remarkable.

First, even if it is possible to simply turn economic activity back on, the isolation of senior citizens will still have an economic impact.

Second, such a move will accelerate the illness of those citizens, leading to strains on hospitals, which will have their own economic impacts. Plus, overrun hospitals will not be a good thing for any non-Covid-19 patients who need care.

Third, what effect does Patrick thing a large number of deaths of elderly Americans will have on the economy?

To listen to Patrick and others talk about this makes it sound like they think it will be like a Thanos snap and some percentage of the old people will blow away in the wind.

The lack of thinking this though is maddening and the implications are extremely troubling.

Italy would appear to provide a cautionary tale (WaPo, Italy’s coronavirus deaths are staggering. They may be more preview than anomaly):

The disaster in Italy does not stem from gross government negligence. Rather, analysts say it is partly a consequence of the weeks between the emergence of the outbreak and the government decision to absolutely lock down the population. And though many in Italy now argue that their government waited too long, democracies across the West have been mulling the same decisions — and in some cases have acted less decisively.

Neither is the crisis in Italy a product of an especially feeble health system. Italy has fewer acute-care beds relative to its population than South Korea or Germany, but more than Britain or the United States. The death toll is being intensified by breakdowns at hospitals, but the strains are the same as could happen anywhere in the developed world that sees such a surge in coronavirus cases.

And many seem to be ignoring the length of time needed to really know where we are in this process:

Even if Italy’s death count is heightened by its elderly population, doctors say there is another reason other Western countries haven’t yet seen a comparable toll: The virus may have been spreading in Italy for longer, and it kills slowly.

The people with the most severe coronavirus cases can remain in intensive-care beds for weeks before dying. That triggers a cascade of problems during a large-scale outbreak, as has been playing out now in northern Italy, where patients have been arriving at hospitals — struggling to breathe — only to find that there are no beds or ventilators.

So, maybe we should be a bit more cautious in declaring that it is time to sacrifice the grandparents in the hopes of keeping the economy on track.

Along those lines, a couple of more clips. The focus on “investors” and “the market” is just irresponsible myopia.

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said on air.

    Well then, get your ass down to Dallas Presbyterian and start emptying bed pans, stripping sheets, etc etc in the Covid wards. With out PPE, masks, etc etc. I mean, that’s an exchange you are qualified for.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Via John Cole, A song:

    Let’s let all the old people die
    Grandma and grandpa had long happy lives
    Now let’s let them sacrifice
    Themselves to the stock market

    This is America, land of the free
    Mightiest, greatest, best country
    Where you work a lifetime to the bone
    And then we just let you die

    Everybody sing along now!

  3. Scott F. says:

    To listen to Patrick and others talk about this makes it sound like they think it will be like a Thanos snap and some percentage of the old people will blow away in the wind.

    It’s worse than that. The Thanos Snap disappeared people at random. Patrick is suggesting that the elderly can choose to sacrifice themselves in order for more economically viable members of society to become immune… as if you could specifically target who gets sick and who doesn’t.

  4. EddieInCA says:

    Dr. Taylor –

    On another thread, you were surprised at how many of us were…. okay with Rand Paul dying. It bothered you.

    I come at the whole issue with clarity. People like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have lost sight of their humanity. The world will be a better place without him unless he repents in some major way, which I don’t see happening. I’m clear on my feelings for him and his words.

    I love my 85 year old mother, who has done more for me than I can EVER repay, and if he thinks sacficing her for the good of his 401K is valid, he can go fvck himself.

    I will celebrate his death.

  5. Pete S says:

    The thing is, if say Saturday Night Live presented this as a made up quote it would be considered over the top and offensive. But Republicans are saying it for real!

  6. Kit says:

    The lack of thinking this though is maddening and the implications are extremely troubling.

    Thinking this through is a chimera. A shaky understanding of the health risks is battling against a shaky understanding of the economic risks. People are so damn sure of their opinions because they are afraid, not because they have thought it through. A couple of years from now, that one voice who called it just right will be famous. In the meantime, we are left to fight an enemy we hardly know, in conditions that are rapidly taking us where we have never been. The sad fact is that absolutely no one knows what to do, but we must act. Strong leadership is crucial in the short term. Luck is crucial in the medium term, because I don’t think we are strong enough as a society to survive any of the worst-case scenarios.

  7. mattbernius says:

    A slightly different version of a comment I made earlier today:

    I guess it’s ok, in the abstract, to think about grandparents being willing to lay down their lives for the good of their grandchildren.

    However, I think when people start discovering that they are literally laying down *their* lives (or their family members lives) for *other people’s* grandchildren things will change for a lot of people very rapidly.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Pete S: Seems like I’ve been reminded of this about once a week for the last few years.

    Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize. – Tom Lehrer

  9. MarkedMan says:

    There are always a non-trivial segment of the population that are essentially pre-teens mentally, unable to completely think things through or understand the consequences of their decisions, coupled with the a melodramatic vision of themselves as hero (they will all be sad when I am dead and they realize how selfless I am!) These people are everywhere but in the last few decades have found themselves disproportionately attracted to the Republican Party.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    I am intensely frustrated by the mainstream media’s inability or unwillingness (I’m not sure which it is) to present to the public exactly what the various scenarios being discussed would look like.

    In the situation where everyone goes about their business in order to save Wall Street, there are two variations:
    1. People with COVID-19 get medical treatment
    2. People with COVID-19 are denied medical treatment

    The latter situation, if people who have sworn a Hippocratic oath were willing to go along with it, would result in a few million painful deaths, disproportionately but not exclusively among the elderly. The rest of society could carry on with the business of making money for GOP donors, once they had buried their friends and relatives. It is not yet known how many would survive crippled. The rich would be disproportionately able to self-isolate and hire private physicians; workers would bear the brunt of the pandemic.

    The former situation would result in the total collapse of our healthcare system. Millions would still die, though not as many as in scenario 2, but in addition a significant fraction of healthcare providers would be infected. Thousands (or more) of them would die. In addition, no advanced medical services would be available for anyone, for anything, for months, once things collapsed. Infant mortality would skyrocket; deaths from auto accidents and heart attacks and slips in the bathtub would go up by an order of magnitude. The US would become a third world country, from a medical point of view.

    Which of those, exactly, is Dan Patrick advocating? Is this what the President thinks success looks like?

  11. gVOR08 says:

    The lack of thinking this though is maddening and the implications are extremely troubling.

    I have in these threads noted George Lakoff’s view that conservatives, although able to think through complex causation, default to looking at things through a framing of simple morality.

    Obviously many of the commenters at OTB, as well as the front pagers, are well educated and have read widely. Many also have an aptitude for math and a level of education. Some of us, I suspect, a lot of math education. Dr. T, for instance, I would assume is well grounded in statistical analysis. We have at least a basic understanding of biology and how bacteria and viruses work. And for us a population of 330 million is a number, something we can compare to other numbers and do arithmetic with. Exponential growth means at a rate proportional to the current value, like compound interest. I don’t think we realize that for a lot of people 330 million just means “a lot” and exponential means “fast”, or “??”.

    Lt. Guv Patrick likely lacks the basic mental toolkit to think about this. I saw someone yesterday refer to DKE-19, the Dunning-Kruger Effect associated with COVID-19. It’s bad enough that Patrick, or Trump, doesn’t understand, the killer is that they don’t understand that they don’t understand. They want to apply their common sense, and if you try to explain they’ll dismiss you as an arrogant elitist.

  12. Kathy says:


    Exponential growth means at a rate proportional to the current value, like compound interest. I don’t think we realize that for a lot of people 330 million just means “a lot” and exponential means “fast”, or “??”.

    Baaaack in elementary school, one of the best lessons ever in math took place in Spanish class. The teacher read a story about a peasant in India who does something, I forget what, for which the king offers him any reward he wants. He takes out a chess board and asks for two grains of wheat for the first square, four for the second, eight for the third, and so on.

    The last square would be worth 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 grains, which is about 18 quintillion grains. The story did say what the sum of all the squares was, again I forget, but it was more wheat that existed in the world at the time.

    And that’s exponential growth.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Exactly! Even if it was possible for the Lt. Gov. and like minded seniors (and I really wonder who these people are BTW) to make that sacrifice, there’s no guarantee that they’re the only one’s who would get sick. It’s not like their sickness will guarantee that everyone else stays well.

    I wonder if he’s an Evangelical and confusing seniors getting SARS Co V-2 with substitutionary atonement in some way. Weird!

  14. EddieInCA says:

    Add Brit Hume to Glenn Beck and Lt. Gov Patrick

    On Fox News Tuesday, commentator Brit Hume leaned into the idea suggested by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that the elderly should be willing to sacrifice themselves to coronavirus so younger people can go work and boost the stock market, telling host Tucker Carlson that such an idea was an “entirely reasonable viewpoint.”

  15. An Interested Party says:

    @EddieInCA: Next thing you know, these ghouls will be suggesting the Soylent Green solution for food shortages…”Hey, if there’s no more bread on the shelves, have no fear, your grandparents are here!”

  16. gVOR08 says:

    Speaking, as I was above, about the innumerate, apparently this idiot is both a leading light in conservative legal theory and having a lot of influence in the WH. He argued that if we ignore lock down restrictions we’ll only see 500 dead over the course of the epidemic. A number we hit within a week of his prediction. What part of “exponential” do these people not understand?

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08: I took another look at the idiots paper and thought I would have to write an apology for quoting bad info, until I got to the end and found:

    Correction & Addendum, added March 24, 2020:
    That estimate is ten times greater than the 500 number I erroneously put in the initial draft of the essay, and it, too, could prove somewhat optimistic. But any possible error rate in this revised projection should be kept in perspective. The current U.S. death toll stands at 592 as of noon on March 24, 2020, out of about 47,000 cases. So my adjusted figure, however tweaked, remains both far lower, and I believe far more accurate, than the common claim that there could be a million dead in the U.S. from well over 150 million coronavirus cases before the epidemic runs its course.

    ‘Oh, my first ridiculous number didn’t make it a week, so here’s another ridiculous number.’ DKE-19. Do we still have that Picard facepalm graphic?
    Trump’s minions are using this to justify return to normal by Easter. We’ll have his 5,000 dead by Easter (hope to be wrong). Think they’ll change their minds?

  18. Teve says:

    @EddieInCA: there is a bull on Wall Street that they can literally go worship. It’s kind of like a calf.

  19. Teve says:

    @gVOR08: i literally just came from the Johns Hopkins site and the US is up to 800 covid deaths already.

    This guy’s hypothesis is working about as well as trickle down economics.

  20. Teve says:

    @gVOR08: At the current rate of increase in deaths in the United States, by Easter we could have 30 to 40,000 deaths. Ceteris paribus and whatnot.

  21. EddieInCA says:


    My old apartment in Battery Park City was three blocks from that bull statue. I miss that apartment.

  22. DrDaveT says:


    At the current rate of increase in deaths in the United States, by Easter we could have 30 to 40,000 deaths. Ceteris paribus and whatnot.

    Was that a calculation, or a really excellent guess? If you extrapolate the growth rate over the past 2 weeks to stay constant, by April 12 there would be about 32,000 deaths — with 7,000 more the next day. Where we stand relative to that number will say a lot about how effective social distancing and lockdowns are being.


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