Rising to the Challenge: Can This Be a Great Generation?

By now it should be fairly obvious that we are headed for an economic depression. Even small dips America’s economic activity produce recessions. The unprecedented lockdown of large parts of the United States will inevitably produce a depression such as we have not witnessed in our lifetime.

This would actually be a lucky scenario. If the shutdown goes on much longer the result will be a severe economic depression followed by fiscal breakdown and the unavoidable societal upheaval. Please make no mistake: the federal government cannot legitimately finance this country’s closure. The fact is that it simply does not have the money to bankroll the gargantuan stimulus it has just approved. In fact, our government is broke and it only lives on further borrowing. If we keep going on like this, it is only a question of time before the buyers of US treasuries completely lose their faith and the dollar collapses in an inflationary spiral. When this happens, all hell will break loose.

Empty freeway into downtown Minneapolis on St. Patrick's Day, 2020 (Photo by Chad Davis)

The shutdown and the present hyper-frenzied borrowing are, of course, being carried out in response to the corona threat. A great deal of this, however, is probably excessive and unnecessary. From the reports we have so far, it appears that the vast majority of healthy people under the age of 60 who become infected pull through without serious complications with most developing only relatively mild symptoms. For this demographic the chance of dying from this disease appears to be well under one percent. On the other hand, a large proportion of people older than 70 and those with serious underlying medical conditions do develop complications. Some figures suggest that the mortality rate among those high-risk groups can be up to 15 percent, which is high indeed.

There is obviously a vast disparity between how the virus affects different population demographics. It is, therefore, important that the policies correspond to the situation on the ground. There are indications from respected scientists that the nearly universal quarantine is too severe a measure. If prolonged, it will almost certainly result in economic, fiscal and societal breakdown.

The more sensible approach would be to isolate the elderly and the susceptible in order to protect them from the ravages of the virus. People who are young, healthy, able and willing should be allowed to return to work to restart the economy and hopefully keep it afloat through the coming depression.

If those who are able and willing do not return to work very soon, the economy will fall apart and then almost no one will be able obtain adequate medical care, especially not the weak and lonely. The best way to help the vulnerable is to keep the economy reasonably strong, so that it has the resources for those who require them in their hour of need. Good health care is virtually non-existent in broken economies. Just ask the people of Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela. Faced with the threat of COVID-19, we must think rationally and not let hysteria and fear drive us into taking measures that will in the long run cause more damage than good.

Those among us who are not vulnerable must be permitted to continue with their jobs. This carries some risk, of course, but the less-than-one-percent chance of developing serious complications is a risk that, I believe, most of us would be willing to take given what is at stake. There are, after all, worse things than a remote chance of death. Hiding at home while the economy collapses and society falls apart would be, in this writer’s view, worse than taking less than one percent chance of personal harm while trying to keep the country from disintegration.

Writing in the New York Times, Dr David Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, raised doubts about the current closure approach:

“I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.”

We need to come together as a nation and work together at this time of national crisis. America must get back to work while at the same time safeguard the vulnerable. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and given what we know about the disease so far, this task may be well within our ability to accomplish.

We should not take any foolish or unnecessary risks. We should keep evaluating the incoming data to make adjustments and devise the most reasonable and effective course of action to take. Given what we know so far, the policies we pursue at the moment leave much to be desired. It was interesting to hear New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggest this, even though he initially supported a far more restrictive approach. This is what Cuomo said the other day: “We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy. If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say ‘Quarantine everyone.'”  Looking at the data and costs, the governor has apparently re-evaluated his position, even as it may have cost him politically. His open-mindedness should be commended. It is okay to alter the course in a difficult situation like this. Each decision has its costs and benefits and those need be considered carefully and revised if the situation or data should change.

It is sometimes said that the 2nd World War generation was the greatest generation of all. Let us see whether we can emulate their courage and heroism in this hour of national trial. After all, the risk of injury and death that the Americans who sailed to fight in Normandy and on the battlefields of Europe was far greater than one percent that the young and healthy among us face from the corona virus. Today we are all, in a way, fighters in the great battle for national survival, whether we happen to be in the workplace or protecting and caring for the vulnerable.

Today our country faces the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Let us not give to panic and fear, for the cost of a prolonged shutdown will be unimaginably painful and dire. When future historians look back at this time in our history, let them say that ours was a brave and even-headed generation and that this crisis was their finest hour.

By now it should be fairly obvious that we are headed for an economic depression. Even small dips America’s economic activity produce recessions. The unprecedented lockdown of large parts of the United States will inevitably produce a depression such as we have not witnessed in our lifetime.

This would actually be a lucky scenario. If the shutdown goes on much longer the result will be a severe economic depression followed by fiscal breakdown and the unavoidable societal upheaval. Please make no mistake: the federal government cannot legitimately finance this country’s closure. The fact is that it simply does not have the money to bankroll the gargantuan stimulus it has just approved. In fact, our government is broke and it only lives on further borrowing. If we keep going on like this, it is only a question of time before the buyers of US treasuries completely lose their faith and the dollar collapses in an inflationary spiral. When this happens, all hell will break loose.

Empty freeway into downtown Minneapolis on St. Patrick's Day, 2020 (Photo by Chad Davis)

The shutdown and the present hyper-frenzied borrowing are, of course, being carried out in response to the corona threat. A great deal of this, however, is probably excessive and unnecessary. From the reports we have so far, it appears that the vast majority of healthy people under the age of 60 who become infected pull through without serious complications with most developing only relatively mild symptoms. For this demographic the chance of dying from this disease appears to be well under one percent. On the other hand, a large proportion of people older than 70 and those with serious underlying medical conditions do develop complications. Some figures suggest that the mortality rate among those high-risk groups can be up to 15 percent, which is high indeed.

There is obviously a vast disparity between how the virus affects different population demographics. It is, therefore, important that the policies correspond to the situation on the ground. There are indications from respected scientists that the nearly universal quarantine is too severe a measure. If prolonged, it will almost certainly result in economic, fiscal and societal breakdown.

The more sensible approach would be to isolate the elderly and the susceptible in order to protect them from the ravages of the virus. People who are young, healthy, able and willing should be allowed to return to work to restart the economy and hopefully keep it afloat through the coming depression.

If those who are able and willing do not return to work very soon, the economy will fall apart and then almost no one will be able obtain adequate medical care, especially not the weak and lonely. The best way to help the vulnerable is to keep the economy reasonably strong, so that it has the resources for those who require them in their hour of need. Good health care is virtually non-existent in broken economies. Just ask the people of Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela. Faced with the threat of COVID-19, we must think rationally and not let hysteria and fear drive us into taking measures that will in the long run cause more damage than good.

Those among us who are not vulnerable must be permitted to continue with their jobs. This carries some risk, of course, but the less-than-one-percent chance of developing serious complications is a risk that, I believe, most of us would be willing to take given what is at stake. There are, after all, worse things than a remote chance of death. Hiding at home while the economy collapses and society falls apart would be, in this writer’s view, worse than taking less than one percent chance of personal harm while trying to keep the country from disintegration.

Writing in the New York Times, Dr David Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, raised doubts about the current closure approach:

“I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.”

We need to come together as a nation and work together at this time of national crisis. America must get back to work while at the same time safeguard the vulnerable. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and given what we know about the disease so far, this task may be well within our ability to accomplish.

We should not take any foolish or unnecessary risks. We should keep evaluating the incoming data to make adjustments and devise the most reasonable and effective course of action to take. Given what we know so far, the policies we pursue at the moment leave much to be desired. It was interesting to hear New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggest this, even though he initially supported a far more restrictive approach. This is what Cuomo said the other day: “We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy. If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say ‘Quarantine everyone.'”  Looking at the data and costs, the governor has apparently re-evaluated his position, even as it may have cost him politically. His open-mindedness should be commended. It is okay to alter the course in a difficult situation like this. Each decision has its costs and benefits and those need be considered carefully and revised if the situation or data should change.

It is sometimes said that the 2nd World War generation was the greatest generation of all. Let us see whether we can emulate their courage and heroism in this hour of national trial. After all, the risk of injury and death that the Americans who sailed to fight in Normandy and on the battlefields of Europe was far greater than one percent that the young and healthy among us face from the corona virus. Today we are all, in a way, fighters in the great battle for national survival, whether we happen to be in the workplace or protecting and caring for the vulnerable.

Today our country faces the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Let us not give to panic and fear, for the cost of a prolonged shutdown will be unimaginably painful and dire. When future historians look back at this time in our history, let them say that ours was a brave and even-headed generation and that this crisis was their finest hour.