The View From the US Right

The View From the US Right, by Chris Talgo, of the Heartland Institute.

The U.S. economy is sinking, and some on the far left have a preposterous plan to prevent Americans from drowning in more unpaid bills and debt: Stay home and don’t worry about anything. The government will send you a check for $2,000 every month.

If only it were that easy.

Since the onslaught of shutdowns to flatten the curve and prevent the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed, more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 14.7 percent. Families throughout the United States are struggling to buy food and pay their bills because the government will not let them return to work.

To date, Congress has allocated more than $2.4 trillion in coronavirus-related economic aid. From the CARES Act to the Paycheck Protection Program, Congress has tried to keep businesses afloat and employees on payrolls. Obviously, as the most recent unemployment report shows, this stopgap strategy is not working.

Perhaps we should pause and reassess the necessity of the draconian shutdown strategy. After all, we have flattened the curve, and at this point it does not seem that health care facilities are in danger of being overrun. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to focus on how to safely reopen the economy so Americans can return to work and retain their self-reliance?

The article goes on to warn of rapidly advancing socialism — a leftist wet dream is occurring (more below). But what is interesting in the above is their assessment of where they are — and what is missing. Yes, the curve is flattened. But that’s not nearly enough. It is NOT where most of the developed world is or is headed.

There is no awareness of the possibility of crushing the curve here. It simply surrenders to the losing default scenario, where most Americans catch COVID in the next year or two. Sure, the hospital system won’t be overrun, but is your ambition so low?

So far the rulers of the US have made two grievous mistakes.

  1. Letting in the virus, by not acting quickly enough. It was clear enough from the Chinese reaction that this was not like the flu. Taiwan closed its borders early enough, Trump acted against Chinese entry by the end of January, and even this blog was calling for border closures by mid-February. It was obvious. Imagine what a good situation the US would be now in if they had closed their borders — completely, with quarantine — in mid February? So much less pain.
  2. Not immediately locking down sharply and effectively — which includes sealing off the external borders by quarantine, and introducing internal borders so regions without infection can live normally or re-open. To his credit Trump tried all these things but was shouted down by the left.

To this the US ruling class is now adding a third mistake — going for herd immunity, by default. If you don’t crush the virus, and you let it spread, then you are going for herd immunity. This drags out the economic pain and achieves almost the worse possible health outcome (it would be worse only if the hospitals were overrun). This guarantees almost maximum total pain.

Like all losers, they are telling themselves it won’t be too bad. They grasp at straws — hoping that somehow herd immunity is already close, or that COVID herd immunity is miraculously achieved at a mere 20% infected instead of 70%+ as per every other disease, or that it is even achievable (unlike the flu, rabies, HIV, ebola, Dengue fever, black plague, etc).

I checked this morning and no major country is at more than 2.1% infected. Sort by total cases per million population. 1% is 10,000 cases per million. Those are confirmed cases, so, to be generous, multiply by four to get total infections to date (including asymptomatic and low-symptom cases). Hence a 1% infection rate corresponds to 2,500 people per million. San Marino, Vatican City, Andorrra, Qater and Luxembourg have the highest rates, but are all tiny. Spain is next, at 5,756 people, or about 2.1%. The US is a few places below, on 4,256 or about 1.7%. The UK is at 3,336 or 1.3%. Sweden is at 2,700 or 1.2%. Crush-the-curve countries are much lower, e.g. Australia at 73 or 0.03%, Taiwan at 18 or 0.007%, etc.

For the US to get from the current 1.7% infected to even 70% for herd immunity is 40 times more. So maybe 40 times as many deaths —  3.2 million? So maybe 40 times as long — another 80 months (6 years)? Bear in mind that acquired immunity to most coronaviruses wears off after two to three years, so herd immunity may not even be achievable.

Some people wave their hands and write off old people or people with existing health problems. How callous. They ignore the numerous reports of neurological damage and other failures caused by COVID in recovered people. How hopeful.

But they are right: if you are resigned to most Americans catching COVID-19, then continuing lockdown is indeed pointless. The US might as well wind it back to a mild lockdown, like Sweden.

What a train wreck.

Now let’s compare the USA to China, which has a bit more experience with pandemics (cough cough). The Chinese locked down very sharply, to keep it short and minimize the pain. No one believes their figures, but apparently they are now mostly free of the virus — and are quarantining incomers. Which is where most western countries are or soon will be (yes, even Spain and Italy are crushing the curve) — with the notable exceptions of the UK, US, and Sweden. People from those countries won’t be too welcome in the rest of the West soon, until there is a biomedical solution.

As for rapidly advancing socialism, the author makes some good points:

According to prominent Democrats in Congress, instead of smartly reopening the economy, we should double-down on Keynesian economics and just print more money than ever. In other words, Americans ought to stay home and get “paid” by the U.S. government.

Oh, and the checks would be sent for up to three months after the coronavirus crisis ends. This raises an interesting point: When and how will we know the “crisis” has ended, and the payments will be stopped? This alone should raise one’s eyebrows.

American history is full of examples of government programs that were intended to be temporary yet continue to this day. In fact, several provisional measures and programs enacted during the Great Depression are still in place today. …

For years, many on the far left have advocated for monthly government programs in the form of a universal basic income (UBI). .. Moreover, the Green New Deal — a wish list for the far left — contains a UBI to provide “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” Yes, the architects of the Green New Deal want the U.S. government to pay Americans, even if they just don’t want to work.

Meanwhile the right are trying to tell Americans that they are mostly doomed to catch COVID, but that the hospitals will be ok. What a hard message to sell. The choices from left and right are both very poor this year. The US is in trouble. The Chinese are snickering. Sad.