The answer to the pandemic is not poverty (Opinion)
Politics in America typically involve two sides digging in on their respective positions and then meeting somewhere in the middle. Sadly, due to the overwhelming panic among many people and politicians scared of the coronavirus, largely based on out-of-context numbers and sensational reporting, we have tilted severely to one side and are very far from the middle.
In order to deal with the potential of a serious health crisis created by the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, the President implemented some travel restrictions and was praised by many health officials. What were the national Democrats up to during this time? Impeachment of course. The complicit media and our local political leaders, especially Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, were equally focused on tearing down President Trump instead of doing their job on behalf of the people of New Jersey.
Following impeachment, the media began adding fuel to the growing public concern about this new so-called "China-virus". By the time the Governors in New York and New Jersey realized that they had a situation to deal with, it was too late. Instead of implementing a smart strategy of isolating the vulnerable, closing nursing homes, prisons and large gatherings, and quarantining the sick, they panicked and shut everything down. Restaurants closed overnight, parks closed, and other government-decreed "non-essential" businesses shuttered. All this to "flatten the curve."
The theory is a good one. Make sure that you slow the virus down enough to keep critical patients at a number below the number of ventilators, beds and available emergency medical personnel. The problem is that people misinterpreted this goal as a way of stopping the virus and getting fewer people sick. We have since learned, flattening doesn't prevent people from getting the virus, nor does it change the number who will eventually get sick, it simply slows the spread.
The whole situation was made worse by the constant media and social media assault on our senses sharing the doomsday predictions that millions will die if Americans don't stay home and shelter in place. Millions they said. Millions, unless drastic action was taken.
The expression 'out of the frying pan into the fire' doesn't even do justice to the destruction of so many livelihoods across the nation as a result of those "drastic" actions. Millions of middle and working class families find themselves jobless and in financial desperation. So many Americans have little or no savings and live paycheck to paycheck, paying minimum payments on maxed out credit cards.
We hear about "flattening the curve" and "stopping the spread," but the directions on how to do it and definitions of what we are really facing have varied from source to source as I've continued to point out over the past few weeks. A new source, a surgeon and state legislator in North Dakota, is echoing the warning I've been repeating, destroying our economy is not a solution, and we've actually made things worse. Keeping the number of people hospitalized at one time in order to stay below the max capacity of our health care providers certainly makes sense. Trying to stop a virus in its tracks by destroying the lives and livelihood of millions of Americans does not make sense.
The sober view would have been to listen to what many health experts were saying all along. That millions will get the virus, actually epidemiologists at Stanford believe that more than six million Americans have had the virus. Even the health commissioner in New Jersey said that "everyone" will get coronavirus, including her.
Seems the smarter approach would have been a specific plan for specific areas, like differentiating rural and suburban areas from places like NYC. Maybe closing the airports for two weeks the minute we knew we had a new virus coming from China to battle, or at least create travel restrictions to places like New York. Instead we had panicked leaders completely shut down our economy without a plan and without an end date.
As you've heard me discuss on the air, many restaurants got a six hour warning before they had to convert their business to take-out service. Obviously not practical and resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands in our area. What's even more maddening is how Governor Murphy seems to be making arbitrary decisions based on what constitutes "essential".
How are physical therapy offices open and holistic healing centers closed? If we can practice social distancing at the liquor store, we can certainly do the same at the gym. Social distancing does not mean total lockdown. What will we do when the next "novel" virus hits? We just spent about $2 trillion bailing out the American people from the economic crisis caused by weak and indecisive government officials. Will we do this every time this happens? Do debt and budget mean nothing? The Federal Reserve is now projecting unemployment to hit 32%. For perspective, the unemployment rate was just shy of 25% during the Great Depression.
The bottom line is the economy matters. Your job matters. Your ability to pay your bills and feed your family matters. Keeping yourself healthy matters. All of these things are possible as long as our economic engine continues to move. Even the Governor of New York questioned the shut down/stay at home order that he applied to the entire state. As far as Phil Murphy, he's grandstanding and making delusional references to World War Two as if he's Winston Churchill or George Patton.
We have an obligation to protect the sick and help them recover. We have an equal obligation to empower people to protect themselves. Panic and hiding under the bed is never the appropriate public policy. I am praying for our brothers and sisters across the Hudson as NYC gears up for critical patients to potentially outnumber the beds and health care workers who are working in overdrive to save lives. All of the courageous sacrifices and incredible hard work will be in vain if we destroy millions of families in the process. Saving lives and rebuilding our economy are not mutually exclusive. Part of the problem is the panic based on scary projections of deaths that are not backed up by credible numbers.
Former Education Secretary William Bennett had a very smart take on this issue in an article published Tuesday. His take is that the media rushes to publicize the scary news and then downplays the revisions. The challenge? Policy makers are acting on the some worst case scenarios which many experts have said are unrealistic and not based on facts nor evidence. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci has said as much, when you see his words in context as this excerpt shows:
The first analysis received a lot of headlines; the revisions downward, not so much. Dr. Anthony Fauci is now making headlines for saying what we’ve actually been warned about for weeks: bigger numbers, hypothesizing rates could reach the six figures. Sunday, he said, “Looking at what we're seeing now, I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases [of death]” and then he added, “But I just don't think that we really need to make a projection, when it's such a moving target, that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.” - William J. Bennett & Seth Leibsohn in an article from realclearpolitics.com
Senator Bernie Sanders was partially correct when analyzing the results of a federal government study from 2019, that poverty kills:
A comprehensive Government Accountability Office study commissioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders and published Monday found that low-income Americans have significantly shorter lives than the rich, leading the Vermont senator to declare that poverty in the world's wealthiest nation is a "death sentence."
"Poverty is a life-threatening issue for millions of people in this country, and this report confirms it," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement. "We are in a crisis never before seen in a rich, industrialized democracy." Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams
At this point in the economic shutdown, now expected to go into May at least, the Federal Reserve's projection of 47 million lost jobs and unemployment higher than the Great Depression, we had better pay attention and act. As bad as the disease is in New York City, we have to remind ourselves that we cannot afford to destroy the nation and create millions of additional victims in the name of doing everything possible to "flatten the curve." We have to achieve balance and reject "one size fits all" solutions to a problem that is clearly very different depending on where you live.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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