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Wednesday, March 18. 2020
Some things to consider in the Covid-19 panic. I've always known Covid is real, and that it's slightly more dangerous than the flu. I'm quite aware of how the mortality rate is considerably higher than some other viral outbreaks, especially with the elderly and those suffering health conditions. I've been less than convinced there is anything we could have done to stop it, short of shutting the nation down completely in January and keeping it shut down for about 2 months....which seems to be where we've gone anyway. That said, even extreme measures are unlikely to stop the spread. I've always supported an abundance of caution. But now that we're here with extreme measures, let's think calmly about HOW we got here.
Fear. Just fear. Yes, many of us would've gotten sick. Yes, some people would die. We can talk all we want about flattening the curve to keep hospital facilities from being overrun...while ignoring how herd immunity is being compromised. Furthermore, in shutting down in the manner we did, we basically sent people on 5 days of panic shopping whereby anyone infected and shopping was busy spreading the virus. It seems to me, the 'cure' is just as bad as letting it run its course. By increasing fear and panic, and even potentially the spread.
What's really concerning to me, however, is less the health issue and more the socio-political issue. This is the largest non-partisan event of our lifetime, and it's been heavily politicized. To that point, consider this - Democrats, who only a week ago complained that President Trump was abusing power, now are complaining that he isn't using enough power to 'fix' this.
I'm not commenting on whether Trump is a good or bad president. I'm no fan, but this isn't about him at all. I won't even blame the Democrats, because political activities in this situation have been generally bipartisan. However, despite it sounding partisan, I will comment on hyperbole. As both Democratic politicians and journalists rip the President's response, the level of absurdity they reach for in their complaints is very high. They fail to see the irony of contradictory positions or hypocrisy. They may have complained that Trump is abusing power a month ago, but have no qualms abusing it as long as it's in their interest of increasing centralized power (which, naturally, is YOUR interest, even when it isn't really).
This is not a comment on the fact that Republicans do the same thing (they do when they have the chance). Maybe, just maybe, they need to stop freaking out and overly politicizing (which is just home-teaming points of view) events (like a health issue) that shouldn't be cut along partisan lines.
No, I don't think having people stay home is a good idea. No, I don't think the news cycle is doing a good job by promoting panic every second of every day. Yes, I do agree with being careful, avoiding large crowds, and limiting large events within reason. But I'm far from convinced this is the grand disaster we're being sold on and I don't like being told every day by various commentators how awful Trump has been. After all, even Governor Cuomo said he's had great conversations with Trump and the president has been very cooperative with him (even as he, on the side, makes comments about how this is the president's fault).
Ultimately, my view comes down to a few unanswerable questions. First, after taking these extreme measures, if the numbers are not excessive and we really 'flatten the curve', how will we know we flattened the curve? What are we comparing to? Italy? South Korea? China? What about all the other nations not taking extreme measures and seeing no substantial increases? There are significant differences between our society and our health care, as well as our general health, than there are with China, Italy or South Korea. Point is, proof of 'flattening the curve' will only be knowable based on modeling. But we've modeled other outbreaks very poorly. SARS, MERS, H1N1 - all the final outcomes were vastly different than the models and the warnings we got. No, I don't think we "learned from past mistakes" as one friend suggested. I think we panicked.
Secondly, what if we take these extreme measures and millions die anyway? Do we say "we failed and this didn't work" or "we didn't do it fast enough"? Which will be the correct answer? I certainly don't know, and nobody else can know, either.
Basically, we're engaged in a massive, uncontrolled and possibly unnecessary, experiment. The only outcome can be that we tank the economy and increase political divisions over 'who caused this' - and the answer is nobody caused it. This was a natural event. What isn't natural, and what can be blamed, is the uncontrolled experiment which is completely political in nature and will yield no good answers. It may save lives. But we'll never really know.
Stay safe, stay healthy, but we'll come out stronger from all this, if that's in the nature of our nation. I've always believed it is. Our Constitution is still in effect and that is what we should continue to look to as a guide in the future after the health fears have subsided.
A View From the Sideline
Not too long ago, I shared my views on Covid-19 and the lockdown. I still stand by my (often misunderstood) position and I feel that after this is over, I'll still stand as having a well-developed viewpoint. Meanwhile, as we sit in the midst o
Weblog: Maggie's Farm
Tracked: Apr 02, 18:31
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In the UK one cannot get a home delivery of groceries before April 5 (today is March 18).
I think we are panicking badly too.
How about better border security and screening at airports and other entry points.?
I believe it was Dostoevsky who said there are two kinds of people: 1) those who wish to live in a zoo; and 2) those who wish to live in the jungle. The former (zoo) are fed three times a day, are protected from others, have their health taken care of, etc. But they live in a cage. The latter (jungle) might get eaten, fall ill and die, go hungry, etc. But they are free. The earliest Americans (colonists) and up to the early 1900s preferred freedom with all the risks attendant thereto. Now, I believe, many Americans, especially young people, kind of like the idea of living in a zoo. China doesn't look all that bad to them. Nor Russia. (I've had some interesting debates with my daughters and their husbands as well as other young people. e.g., my son-in-law has a sister and husband who support Bernie Sanders and AOC). We are slipping into socialism and all socialist systems eventually turn to communism. Fukuyama was wrong. Communism has not gone away and may be rebounding in places where it would not have even been considered 20 years ago.
The experiment is the USA. And after a couple of hundred years, it may be failing.
That was most excellent Bulldog. Thanks for writing it and posting it. I've been a fan of President Trump for a long time, but I'm really having to grit my teeth as he pushes for a massive increase in the welfare state paid for by printing even more fiat money. Do we really need half-a-billion dollars for the school lunch program while most schools are closed? Is this the right time for "Nutrition Programs for American Samoa"? I read the summary of the FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT and not mentioned anywhere is where the billions of dollars are coming from. Congress and the President don't even care any more, apparently.
100% agree with all of that, Bulldog, and thank you for taking a stand on this. Especially this: “Basically, we're engaged in a massive, uncontrolled and possibly unnecessary, experiment. The only outcome can be that we tank the economy...”
We traded a vague and unquantifiable virus risk for the certainty of destroying wealth and jobs, and thereby inviting extra health risks with people who survive paycheck-to-paycheck suddenly out of work and in financial straits, and possibly not helping reduce the virus risk much if at all. A lot more than that really, those are just the “highlights”.
This looks to me like terrible risk management. Don’t any of these experts have any imagination at all? It’s just not that hard to project some of these scenarios.
BTW this is very sobering from Karl Denninger: http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=238518
You are begging the question. All of this; the economic hit, was already happening. Anyone who has ever flown or been on a cruise knows that you are essentially stuck in a petri dish with everyone else for hors to days. If the guy sitting next to you is sick after your six hour flight you will be sick too. Ditto for restaurants. Before the government began to ask them to shutter their business the employees were already asking for time off so they wouldn't be closely encountering 100 or so customers. The hit to the economy was coming anyway.
As to the question of the federal government handing out money. Maybe you would prefer another great depression. In 1929-1941 the government failed to act decisively and if WW II had not happened we would have never ended the great depression. What the "experts" are trying to do is prevent a economic collapse. This is a big deal, a collapse is eminent and a big influx of money can put it off until the economy is better. THAT is what is at stake. Lazzie fair is not going to fix this problem, in fact it would be incredibly irresponsible. There is simply no other option but to use a large traunches of money to fix this (well WW III would do it too but...).
The government acted decisively on a regular basis from 1929-1941. They (FDR) micromanaged a regular recession into a depression that lasted more than a decade.
I am of the opinion that this is media started vis the jobs report of Feb was 275k jobs created.The economy is humming along the media has a visceral hate of trump and want to see him fail the only way to do that is slow down or stop the economy and tank wall street put people out of work close business cause panic with the citizens and boost that Biden for president clown who has alzheimers and cant remember who his wife is
We're about to drop a trillion dollars and kill our economy based on very patchy unreliable data. Considering the Italian experience, I dont know if we have a choice. But short of some effective therapeutics or a sigificant expansion in herd immunity, we're spinning our wheels.
I sure hope chloroquine is as effective as some of the reports. Think how disappointed some folks will be.
Great post ... hits it exactly. An experiment, and a very expensive one that, it looks like, can't be falsified.
A very good post Bulldog. A big thumbs up.
I am very concerned we are losing more than we are gaining by holding the economy's head under water. I don't believe our ruling masters have any idea of the danger they are creating by trying to smother our economy. I also wonder why people on the right, who would never believe any proclamations made by lefties suddenly find the coronavirus propaganda so believable?
But it's the economy I really worry about. The virus will burn itself out sooner or later. The question is, will we have an economy when the danger of the virus is decreed to be ended?
I am really worried.
COVID Chaos: What’s More Dangerous, the Virus or Our Reaction?
I worry when (and I know you used this in a tongue-in-cheek manner) people use a term like "our ruling masters".
It's not the first time I've heard someone use the term "ruler" or "rulers" for our political leaders. I prefer to use "public servant" because they are our servants, and not our leaders.
I can't think of the last time, because it was so long ago, that I looked to a politician to lead me. Part of the reason I don't freak out over Trump every day is because I don't pay attention to his tweets or everyday comments. He is not me, he is not my ruler, he is not my guide to life. He is only my president, and his job is, or should be, relatively confined to managing the affairs of state.
We have, sadly, expanded the roles of our federal and state officials to a point that people really do look to them for more than just managing the government. Because we've allowed the government to do things it's not designed to do:
1. manage our lives
2. promise us 'safety' (really - the government can't provide safety, but it's a great selling point)
3. provide us a wage. Not all of us, but such a large % now, it's expected that this is what government is designed to do. Too many people believe government creates value, simply because fiat currency creation is reserved as a government function. But little green scraps of paper are not value, and creating too many of them undermines value.
Now is the time for us to push back hard against this kind of thinking, or when this is all over, we most certainly will slip in to a socialist mindset.
NativeTexan is correct about Dostoevsky (though I can't find the exact quote). Many people prefer to live in a zoo.
I've never seen such a reaction to a crisis before as this and I'm puzzled as to where the panic and the hysteria are coming from. As far as I can tell, this coronavirus thing isn't the return of the Black Death, nowhere even close, so it's not like this is the greatest threat Mankind has ever faced. The media is going to hype the story, of course, it's what they do to sell papers, doubly so if it's something they can use to make Trump look bad. But why are Trump and the GOP going along with the panic? Has Trump been broken and desperate for media approval? Has he finally run into a situation where he knows he doesn't know what he's doing and turned to the advice of "the experts" who have unfailingly been wrong about most everything? Are Americans really grown so soft and weak and unable to think and do for themselves that they'll turn to anybody who'll promise to change their diapers and keep them safe from the bogeyman?
I don't know what's going on, but tanking the entire economy over the mere threat of a not-particularly-deadly virus just seems so obviously wrong to me. The idea that it's not so crazy to so many others has me afraid I must be getting old and no longer able to recognize this new world we're living in, so different than the one I grew up in. I'm afraid I'm sounding like my grandparents the first time they saw an airplane or my parents the first time they saw MTV. Are we all communists now and I just didn't get the fax announcing the change? Nobody sends me the faxes any more.
Am I being too judgmental in believing that the Corona virus pan(dem)ic has its roots in the same soil as the demand for "safe spaces" among certain of our population? According to this novel way of thinking, nobody should be offended or catch a virus. We all deserve to live a life of utter safety, security and bliss, untroubled by certain hard realities.
Two thumbs up, Jerryskids. And funny too! The “faxes” thing, that’s gold.
I have to agree with you that this is no big deal. 500 people from Italy have faxed their agreement with you. Opps ! Sorry that was a mistype, they died from this no big deal disease before they could power up the fax machine. But it's no big deal, right?
Not to minimize 500 deaths in Italy, or 10,000 worldwide, but 1.7mm people died in Italy during the plague in the first half of the 1700s.
I'm having a hard time seeing where 500 and 1.7mm correlate.
The only response you have is "to the people who lost someone, the loss is 100%". Yes, that's true.
But consider this. Italy is the OLDEST POPULATION in Europe. It's the second oldest in the world, after Japan. 23% over the age of 64. The US has 16% over 64.
The mortality rate in Italy seems to match a few things well. Overburdened hospitals? Yes. But they were overburdened easily. Italy had more beds per capita than the US by 10%. However, they have more people over the age of 65 by a factor of 43%.
This doesn't mean our hospitals can't or won't be overrun.
But let the numbers speak for themselves.
I'd argue that the care here is better, and the people generally healthier. To wit, the mortality rate here is still only 1.4%, and it's probably lower when you consider the number of people who have had the virus, or have it now, and haven't been tested is fairly significant.
If, by chance, I'm wrong about having had the virus, and if by chance I wind up on a respirator or dying, I'm not blaming anyone nor would I feel I did anything wrong. Viral outbreaks don't follow many rules. We like to believe they do, and we like to believe we can manage them effectively with things like "social distancing". Except we give up many things by doing that, too. Some of those things are economic - and we've seen that. But other things are dangerous, like herd immunity.
Pray for a vaccine if this is going to be as bad as you think it is. Because it's you're only hope.
I hope for you that the hospitals in your area aren't going to stop admitting people over 60 or anyone with chronic conditions, leaving them to die in their homes, because they're overflowing and can't cope.
As is happening in Italy and is going to happen very soon in several other countries.
I hope for mankind that people who're now claiming we should just let everyone get sick at once and get it over with, or that it's "just a cold" and a conspiracy to take our rights away ARE going to be denied access to hospitals and left to die at home as that's going to make mankind as a whole stronger and better capable of dealing with things like this in the future.
I find your argument compelling, and it's why I'm holed up self-isolating. But there's another side to it I can't ignore: the people who will die because we're doing this much damage to the economy. The diabetics who will get into trouble because they can't get insulin, or can't find room to be treated in a hospital before their crisis gets too bad. Ditto for people who need hospital care for all kinds of other reasons, not to mention the excess mortality among people who live paycheck to paycheck and are seeing every member of the household go jobless all at once. I'm retired; I can stay home without hurting the economy. Not everyone can.
It's not a question of what I hope for or what I believe.
I'm interested to see you wishing death upon people you disagree with. I certainly would never do that. Mighty humane of you.
I understand the POTENTIAL of this. It's impossible to not understand it without being a complete half-wit.
But you're ignoring many very salient points that counter your argument. Not the least of which Texan99 raised.
Another is the great fear I have, now that we've successfully destroyed an entire quarter's GDP growth, that I'm going to be laid off...and THAT will last VERY long if there's a (very likely) recession. THAT will leave me, and hundreds of thousands of others much, much worse off.
If it's really bad, many may starve. So what's worse? Starving or dying of this?
The flip side is that this 'works' and we don't generate herd immunity. That has been discussed by all the professionals as well. 'Flatten the curve' doesn't help when, after you've flattened it, you lack herd immunity and BOOM suddenly you've got a massive outbreak a month after you told everyone 'you're safe now'.
If we finish this, and we're told we're safe, and nothing big happens - then NOTHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. That's the part where all this does smack of a huge hoax.
As I pointed out, I'm not saying "go out and have a great time". I was VERY CLEAR that you engage an abundance of caution. I have not visited my parents, they are over 84 and they are self-isolating and have been doing so for over 4 weeks, in preparation for this. We, unlike many others, are not sheep. Nor are we ignorant. We have been practicing good hygiene, good behaviors, etc.
But life has to go on. The cost/benefit analysis of this does not add up to "destroy the economy to save a few lives". Every life is precious, I'll agree on that point. But in the realm of government mandate, you have to make trade-offs.
Tell me the trade-offs you've made and let's compare - I guarantee you have no idea what I've done. I'm also fairly certain I've had this already, as are several of my friends. We'll never know. We weren't tested. But we were all sick, and it wasn't the flu.