Wednesday, March 25, 2020

We're NOT All Gonna Die-- But Far More Of Us Than Need To Will-- Unless Trump Gets It First


Americans' instincts would be to rally around the president in a time of crisis. Yesterday Digby warned that the exception to that rule is when the president is an incompetent, self-serving sociopath. "Some feel," she wrote, "that one should fall in line behind the president when something like this happens, just as a matter of principle. Others think it’s wrong to cast doubt on his abilities and make members of the public even more nervous than they already are. And then there’s the view that criticizing him may backfire politically on the Democrats because the public doesn’t want to see partisanship during a time of crisis." Digby feels that all those arguments are wrong.
Holding an elected official accountable at any time is the right thing to do in a democracy, and pointing out that he is doing a terrible job-- when he is obviously doing a terrible job-- makes people less nervous. Of course the president’s allies will complain about partisanship if their political opponents point out his failures. But unfortunately, they will refuse to hold him accountable themselves no matter what he does.

In any case, we have enough lies in our political culture already. We are drowning in them. If we can do nothing else in this surreal situation, we must strive to adhere to the truth as we see it or we’ll lose all sense of reason. And the reality, of course, is that President Trump is making things worse.

This should come as no surprise. As Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker of the New York Times put it:
Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring-- the profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the lack of human empathy, the penchant for rewriting history, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, the impatience with scrutiny or criticism. For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis threatening the nation, and now they know.

... His now-daily press conferences have become an anxiety-producing cacophony of lies and confusion, exactly the opposite of their intended purpose. To pretend that this president is behaving normally, or is even vaguely trustworthy, so that people won’t be nervous, or won’t think one is being partisan, would only make this terrifying crisis worse. Telling the truth is all we’ve got.
And not just anxiety-producing. Even worse is that they are producing bad policy-- bad as in policy that will kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who do not need to die. 2.2 million and ten million are figures that are being tossed around now as the number of deaths if Trump follows through with the back-to-work agenda he and Kushner have cooked up.

Let me make this really simple. It takes 8 weeks (minimum) after a total-- as in mandatory and enforced-- shutdown/lockdown before the curve gets flattened enough so that the pandemic is under control. At this point, the U.S.-- entirely because of T.R.U.M.P. hasn't even started that countdown. Here in California, one of the "best" states fighting this, there are more loopholes than shutdowns. At my local grocery stores, about half the customers and half the cashiers are not wearing masks-- meaning they are part of the chain spreading the pandemic.

You know when you'll know the just-eight-more-weeks kicks in? When it is mandatory that anyone out of their house is wearing a mask. Mandatory means that if they don't wear a mask there is social retribution. Now people give them the evil eye. I witnessed a fight on a supermarket line on Monday when a guy with no mask got online behind a guy with a mask and the guy with the mask forced him to stand 6 feet away from him. In Europe, people without masks get steep fines. At some point, people may have to be arrested. In Trump states, where the response so far is to have Corona beer parties and laugh at the liberals, people will start dying in large numbers. At that point, the Corona beer partiers will probably start enforcing a mask policy with their guns.

Yesterday NY Times reporters Jim Tankersley, Maggie Haberman and Roni Caryn Rabin wrote that Trump is hankerin' to re-open the (not yet even sufficiently shut down) economy, despite his own medical experts' advice. Instead of his medical experts, he's consulting fake epidemiologist Jared Kushner, a handful of craven Wall Street cronies and some conservative pseudo-economists. "Consensus," they wrote, "continues to grow among government leaders and health officials that the best way to defeat the virus is to order nonessential businesses to close and residents to confine themselves at home. Britain, after initially resisting such measures, essentially locked down its economy on Monday, as did the governors of Virginia, Michigan and Oregon. More than 100 million Americans will soon be subject to stay-at-home orders. Relaxing those restrictions could significantly increase the death toll from the virus, public health officials warn... resuming normal activity prematurely would only strain hospitals and result in even more deaths, while exacerbating a recession that has most likely already arrived."

The Trumpist Regime announced on Monday that it is "reassessing" the shutdown that he never had the political will or the personal guts to even put in place. Clown: "Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself." Corporate America and conservative politicians are cheering him on.

Any push to loosen the new limits on commerce and movement would contradict the consensus advice of public health officials, risking a surge in infections and deaths from the virus. Many economists warn that abruptly reopening the economy could backfire, overwhelming an already stressed health care system, sowing uncertainty among consumers, and ultimately dealing deeper, longer-lasting damage to growth.

The recent rise of cases in Hong Kong, after there had been an easing of the spread of the virus, is something of an object lesson about how ending strict measures too soon can have dangerous consequences. Yet places like China, which took the idea of lockdown to the extreme, have managed to flatten the curve.

“You can’t call off the best weapon we have, which is social isolation, even out of economic desperation, unless you’re willing to be responsible for a mountain of deaths,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Thirty days makes more sense than 15 days. Can’t we try to put people’s lives first for at least a month?”

For the last four days, some White House officials, including those working for Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the coronavirus task force, have been raising questions about when the government should start easing restrictions.

Among the options being discussed are narrowing restrictions on economic activity to target specific age groups or locations, as well as increasing the numbers of people who can be together in groups, said one official, who cautioned that the discussions were preliminary.

Health officials inside the administration have mostly opposed that idea, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an infectious diseases expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, who has said in interviews that he believes it will be “at least” several more weeks until people can start going about their lives in a more normal fashion.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the United States had learned from other countries like China and South Korea, which were able to control the spread of the virus through strict measures and widespread testing.

“Those were eight- to 10-week curves,” she said on Monday, adding that “each state and each hot spot in the United States is going to be its own curve because the seeds came in at different times.”

Dr. Birx added that the response “has to be very tailored geographically and it may have to be tailored by age group, really understanding who’s at the greatest risk and understanding how to protect them.”

Other advisers, including members of Mr. Trump’s economic team, have said repeatedly in recent months that the virus does not itself pose an extraordinary threat to Americans’ lives or the economy, likening it to a common flu season. Some advisers believe the White House overreacted to criticism of Mr. Trump’s muted actions to deal with the emerging pandemic and gave health experts too large a sway in policymaking.

On Monday, Mr. Trump echoed those concerns, saying that things like the flu or car accidents posed as much of a threat to Americans as the coronavirus and that the response to those was far less draconian.

“We have a very active flu season, more active than most. It’s looking like it’s heading to 50,000 or more deaths,” he said, adding: “That’s a lot. And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars. So we have to do things to get our country open.”

Mr. Trump has watched as a record economic expansion and booming stock market that served as the basis of his re-election campaign evaporated in a matter of weeks. The president became engaged with the discussion on Sunday evening, after watching television reports and hearing from various business officials and outside advisers who were agitating for an end to the shutdown.

Casey Mulligan, a University of Chicago professor who served as chief economist for Mr. Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, said on Monday that efforts to shut down economic activity to slow the virus would be more damaging than doing nothing at all. He suggested a middle ground, one that weighs the costs and benefits of saving additional lives.

“It’s a little bit like, when you discover sex can be dangerous, you don’t come out and say, there should be no more sex,” Mr. Mulligan said. “You should give people guidance on how to have sex less dangerously.”

Many other economists say the restrictions in activity now are helping the economy in the long run, by beginning to suppress the infection rate.

“The idea that there’s a trade-off between health and economics right now is likely badly mistaken,” said Jason Furman of Harvard University, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama. “The thing damaging our economy is a virus. Everyone who is trying to stop that virus is working to limit the damage it does to our economy and help our eventual rebound. The choice may well be taking pretty extreme steps now or taking very extreme steps later.”

Mr. Furman and other economists have pushed Mr. Trump and Congress to ease the economic pain by offering trillions of dollars in government assistance to affected workers and businesses. As lawmakers tried to negotiate an agreement on such a bill Monday, an influential business lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it supported restrictions on the economy to slow the virus.

“Our view is, when it comes to how you contain the virus, you do everything the public health professionals say to contain the virus,” said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer.

...Dan Patrick, Texas’ lieutenant governor, said Monday on Fox News that he was in the “high-risk pool” but would be willing to risk his life to preserve the country for his children and grandchildren.

“We are going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society,” said Mr. Patrick, who turns 70 next week. “If this goes on another several months, there won’t be any jobs to come back to for many people.”

But public health officials stress that there would be consequences to ending the measures too quickly. In a tweet on Monday morning, Thomas P. Bossert, the former homeland security adviser who for weeks has been vocal about the need for the U.S. government to take stricter measures, said: “Sadly, the numbers now suggest the U.S. is poised to take the lead in #coronavirus cases. It’s reasonable to plan for the US to top the list of countries with the most cases in approximately 1 week. This does NOT make social intervention futile. It makes it imperative!”

Mr. Trump’s interest in potentially easing some of the restrictions met with pushback from one of his close allies, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who himself self-quarantined after a potential exposure. “President Trump’s best decision was stopping travel from China early on,” Mr. Graham tweeted on Monday. “I hope we will not undercut that decision by suggesting we back off aggressive containment policies within the United States.”

Health officials remain largely united in defense of sustaining the restrictions.

“There is a way to think through how and when to start reopening our economy and society, and it’s important to get this right,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, pointed to the experience of countries like Italy, which did not institute aggressive measures to stop the spread of the virus and saw infection rates and deaths soar as a result.

The United States will need “a couple weeks” to see positive effects from its measures, Dr. Inglesby said, and abandoning them would mean “patients will get sick in extraordinary numbers all over the country, far beyond what the U.S. health care system will bear.”
I know I ran this Chris Martenson video yesterday but it's one everyone really needs to watch. I wish Trump and Kushner and all the people giving them such bad-- usually self-serving-- advice would take a half hour to listen to it as well. Señor Trumpanzee's foolish plan to prematurely end the fight against the pandemic and declare "victory" won't flatten the curve, it will make the curve much steeper, meaning more and more deaths, regardless of his incredibly moronic, manipulative tweets.

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At 9:31 AM, Blogger orangelion03 said...

“The thing damaging our economy is a virus. Everyone who is trying to stop that virus is working to limit the damage it does to our economy and help our eventual rebound. The choice may well be taking pretty extreme steps now or taking very extreme steps later.”

I'm guessing extreme steps later. This very well could be America's death knell.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger lukeness said...

Just how to you propose a mask policy be implemented when most of us don’t have masks and can’t get them? Why should I even be able to procure a mask when there aren’t enough for health care workers?

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, 62 million perfect geniuses can't be wrong! Imagine if the nation had listened to 65 million mere mortal humans!


At 3:54 PM, Blogger Skeptical Partisan said...

They are worshipping a false idol and sacrificing the lives of Americans at the alter of the Stock Market.

Economies are an emergent property of humanity. An epidemic cannot destroy one or more economies. Economies are how we survive crises because we exchange essential items through economic trade. As usual, DJT spouts lies and mis-directions.


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