The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Death's Doorstep

It's hardly surprising, and really sad, that the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media, have decided to politicize the COVID-19 outbreak. The Dems have started doing what they've been doing for the past three years: blame Trump for just about everything including the COVID-19 outbreak. Their narrative began with testing, moved to ventilators, then moved to hospitals and now has become "blood on his hands." All of this by the same crowd that cried "racist" (their goto pejorative term) when Trump banned flights from China in January, thereby reducing the number of virus vectors and avoiding more rapid spread. I'm certain that Joe Biden, cognitively challenged though he may be, would have done things perfectly beginning in October (after all, the Dems are all-knowing) and the virus would have disappeared without any deaths or infections.

The trained hamsters in the media continue their despicable fear-uncertainty-and-doubt crusade, driving far too many Americans to near-hysteria. They update their death scoreboards hourly, avoid any context that might allow people to better understand what few statistics they present; cherry pick "experts" who are certain to drive hysteria to new heights, ban any dissenting expert voices (there are MANY), and generally use inflammatory language in almost every report. Their press conference questions for Trump are all about 'gotcha,' rarely about substantive issues.

That's not to say that Donald Trump's policies are perfect. James Freeman comments:
President Donald Trump unfortunately continues to present our anti-viral options as doing nothing or a massive government response which disrupts American society and sends federal debt surging. This is especially concerning because the infectious-disease experts on whom he is relying for advice cannot reasonably be expected to also forecast the economic results of their policies.

A poll out today from Grinnell College is consistent with other surveys of people and businesses. It finds both a major economic impact on people as a result of the virus battle and also significant voluntary changes in personal habits to prevent the spread of infection. Fighting the virus does not necessarily have to mean broad government prohibitions on vast categories of human activity. (As this column has noted previously, shutdowns are primarily the work of mayors and governors. But the President can either encourage or discourage the economic health that is necessary for public health.)

The Grinnell poll finds overwhelming majorities who have adopted frequent hand-washing and various distancing measures to help flatten the curve. It also finds, consistent with other data, that many already bear an acute financial burden.

A full 28% of respondents say that the virus has already caused them to lose wages or other personal income and another 16% expect this to happen soon. The survey also finds that 16% of respondents report being laid off or furloughed due to the virus and another 12% expect this to occur soon. Yes, the government is borrowing trillions of dollars to engineer stimulus measures and some of this money will make its way to people who need help. But there’s no guarantee their jobs will be restored.
I have expressed concern (e.g., here, here, and here) about a policy that is destined to wreck our economy, all in an effort to save thousands (mostly elderly and infirm) while allowing tens of millions to endure long term suffering. I have also noted that our decision-making need not be binary. The most vulnerable should shelter in place, middle-aged people should maintain social distancing but return to the workplace if they so desire, and the young can implement recommended health practices but otherwise move on with their lives. Most businesses should re-open in a sequenced fashion with COVID-19 hot-spots coming on-line last once the crisis passes. Very large sports and entertainment events can remain shut down for a time, but they must reopen sooner rather than later, with a stern warning that the vulnerable stay away. Treatment therapies are now in place, think Hydroxychloroquine (Trump was right and the media was wrong), albeit, not double-blind tested (as if we have the luxury). Other, including a vaccine are in the pipeline. These recommendations are hardly irresponsible, having been made by literally dozens of medical experts (who have been banned from network television and mainstream media in general).

And then, there's the numbers, used as a context-free bludgeon to foster hysteria. Here's a number worth pondering. According to the CDC, 160,201 people died of lower respiratory disease in 2017. Let's assume that number remains unchanged for 2020. It's highly likely that a significant percentage of the elderly and others who will die this year due to COVID-19 complications are among the 160,201 people who would have died this year anyway. The actual number of deaths due solely to COVID-19 should be reduced by the percentage of people whose death may have been accelerated by 3 or 6 or 9 months, but was destined in any event.

Sure, that calculus is unpleasant, but before you get all sanctimonious and begin talking about "saving lives at all cost," consider the ramifications of an indefinite economic shutdown, as blithely proposed by almost every Democrat and a preponderance of the media. Tens of millions—mostly lower and middle class people) will suffer, lose their homes, their jobs, and their dignity. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses will close, wiping out the hard work of many years. The country will go deeply into trillions of dollars of debt, but the suffering will not magically disappear.

For those who advocate an indefinite shutdown, spare me the virtue signaling. What your position tells me is that you care little for the suffering that your proposed policy will precipitate. You are justified in empathizing with the old and sick, but your empathy does not extend in an equal or greater amount to those who may suffer for years all because you want to extend the lives of those already on death's doorstep.