We had been warned about the coming Coronavirus pandemic, but like with so many other things, we didn’t listen.
Back in 2015, Bill Gates — who went from a morally suspect businessman with an incredible streak of luck to one of the world’s great philanthropists over the course of his 40 years in public life — gave a TED talk that was remarkably prescient.
Among other things, he predicted that the next great pandemic would be an airborne coronavirus, and that it could cost 3 trillion dollars in economic damage (and it may do more than that).
He’s hardly the only one, but one of the best know people to make this kind of prediction.
In his TED talk, Gates recommended that we should put ourselves on a “war footing” and that we:
Create a global response system.
Strengthen health care in poor countries.
Create a medical reserve corps.
Pair up the medical reserve corps with the military.
Run “germ games” (instead of “war games”) simulations.
Engage in more advanced research and development.
This is one set of prescriptions, and other experts in the field may have different or better ones. But this looks like a pretty good list to start with.
The cost of doing this, by the way, would have been far less than the estimated 3 trillion dollars in economic damage that we’re likely to suffer.
Ah, if we had just been willing to listen to the experts. But you now, Donald Trump (and the entire American right wing) hate experts. They just hate them. (And other actors around the world could also have done better. And some of them did do better.)
It’s long been known that Donald Drunpf is a kind of Rohrsach test for the American public, with some people seeing him as refreshing and virile and willing to give it to the “Libtards,” and others (like me) seeing as an incompetent malignant narcissist. His response to the Coronavirus pandemic is unlikely to change that for many.
Trump has, of course, denied and minimized the danger, rated his own response to the pandemic a “10,” ranted at a reported who threw him a softball question, contradicted Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shown favoritism to Governor’s who have shown fealty to him, and generally behaved in the way one would expect a malignant narcissist to behave.
Along the way he has also done a few things right, including closing down our borders and invoking the Defense Production Act.
In the last couple of days I came across the following two posts on Facebook, which I found fascinating, and which show how much Trump supporters and the rest of us are living in two different worlds.
This post, which was written by someone name Cynthia Peackock (whom I do not know) , and which was reposted on my page, goes like this:
As I have watched President Trump maneuver through these last several days, I noticed a few things I have seldom if ever seen in a US President. We have had some great Presidents but how many have you seen that have actively engaged and allowed their Vice-President to have a word and actually do their job…and have it seen? In all of the years I can’t remember ever hearing from or seldom seeing the Vice-Presidents.
I have also noticed that Trump puts in place and acknowledges publicly those who have skills in areas he does not. He gives them a face to the American people… he isn’t portraying He’s doing it all by himself or seeking his own face time. He is listening to, delegating, and empowering those who have a skill set. He is making decisive decisions, and making it known that he has confidence in them to carry out what needs to be done. He is stepping aside on the podium to let someone else speak, giving them credit.. by name. (That’s humility people) He protects his team from the “heat” and takes the criticism. He praises and thanks them genuinely (publicly) for the tireless work they are doing.
He has a forward thinking positive outlook not a doomsday negative approach. He and Vice-President Pence are a team… He trusts Pence. All of that lines up with what a true team leader looks like. I’m thankful for Trump, he may be salty at times… but he is a leader with our best interest at heart. He can’t be bought, he doesn’t need money (he doesn’t even take the Presidential salary) and he doesn’t let “the media” determine what he does. He chose to work for the American people and that is what he has and is doing. (he wasn’t looking for power or prestige— he’s a Billionaire- he already had that)
I want a true team leader (with no political pockets) to lead our country… because that’s the only way anything gets done right. Trump has exhibited those characteristics… sadly it is rare and what should be expected from all of those in leadership. It has been encouraging to watch him lead, and for him to give credit where it is due.
A Great Team Leader:
Has Commitment and Passion
Is a Good Communicator
Has strong Decision Making Capabilities
Delegates and Empowers
Is Creative and Innovative
Has Emotional Intelligence
Has Vision and Purpose
If you are honest with yourself… what kind of boss would you rather have? I know my answer.
And I had to say to myself, Holy Cow, this woman must live in a completely different world than where my people live. He has empathy? Emotional intelligence? Is a good communicator? Exhibits humility?1
Then, later the same day, I came across this from someone I my Facebook feed:
I offer no apology for what I am posting for this is truly how I feel. I’M GONNA VENT HERE!
I have lived through Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama. In my lifetime I have never seen or heard of a President being scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public, slandered, ridiculeLd, insulted, lied to. Having his life threatened. Having his wife face threats of rape. And having his children also insulted and humiliated.
I am truly ashamed of the people of this country. I am ashamed of the ruthless, hating, cruel, Trump haters…who have no morals; and news reporters who feel they have the right to purposely lie and do the things they are doing. Every other President once they were elected and took the oath of office were left alone. They weren’t on the news 24/7 being dissected by every word out of their mouth, ALWAYS BEING PRESSURED to do this or that and never being given the support to do the important work that needs to be done.
ENOUGH is ENOUGH is ENOUGH, LEAVE THE MAN ALONE AND LET HIM DO HIS JOB FOR GOD’S SAKE!
But more to the point, Trump’s is the “fuck you” Presidency. From the moment he was elected and well before he was inaugurated, it became clear that the whole point of his Presidency was to “stick it to the libtards” and demonstrate graphically how much Sarah Palin’s “real America” has come to hate the rest of us.
There is indeed a “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” but it’s taking place on the right and not on the left. Any person who is willing to look can see that the Divider-in-Chief is indeed a malignant narcissist who is completely incapable of doing this job. While Trump clearly loves the trappings of the office and the incessant and unrivaled attention that it brings him, it’s clear that he hates the actual work of being President. In this sense he is the opposite of Jimmy Carter, who got lost in the weeds and tried to do too much himself. But whose heart was always in the right place.
Let the man do his job? If he were capable of doing it, if he could understand the science behind the coronavirus pandemic and make decisions based on public health, we would all certainly let the man do his job. (And Trump is hardly the only one to screw up. The CDC somehow managed to fuck up the early test kits, which could have given the United States a huge head start in controlling the virus or reducing it’s lethality, much as South Korea and Germany did).
So, I am also truly ashamed of the people in this country, but for a different reason. I’m ashamed that we elected a hate monger, whose only reason for being is to feed his ego and stick it to progressives throughout America (and the world). A man who has no capacity to manage this crisis, and yet we may elect him again! 3
With everyone focused on the Coronavirus pandemic, barely anyone noticed that Tulsi Gabbard dropped out of the Presidential race and endorsed Joe Biden.
Given how much she had proven to be an Iconoclast, it was a bit of a surprise that Tulsi endorsed Biden. Now the only holdout is Elizabeth Warren.
God help is all if something happens to Biden or Bernie, given that both are definitely in high risk demographics. I hope they really aren’t shaking hands and not ending up in big crowds. Who knows, if the virus were to take out both Biden and Bernie, we might still end up with President Klobuchar.
If you’ve been following the coronavirus pandemic — and who hasn’t? — you know that there are two problems: the public health problems and the economic problems.
The public health problem is obviously how to contain the outbreak itself. The economic problem is how to deal with the fallout of social distancing. Restaurants, the travel industry, the entertainment industry, the tourism industry, all of those are getting savaged right now.
Here’s what not to do: send a bonus check to all Americans. That is a poorly thought out way to try to buy an election.
The clear economic problem here is that this pandemic is going to impact different sectors of the economy in completely different ways. If you’re a coder and you mostly spend your day behind a computer writing code, there will be very little impact on your life.
On the other hand, if you’re a waiter in a restaurant, you could be shit out of luck. Or a driver for Lyft. Or, as some of my friends are, musicians who make their living on the English Country Dance circuit.
As we formulate a response to the economic devastation the pandemic is going to cause, here is a minimum of things that we should be thinking about:
Bailout of Certain Industries
It’s clear that certain industries are going to need a bailout. Like the airline industry, for example, which operates on very thin margins. However, this time around this kind of bailout should not come without conditions.
Companies must maintain payrolls and use federal funds to keep people working.
Businesses must provide $15 an hour minimum wage quickly but no later than a year from the end
Companies would be permanently banned from engaging in stock buybacks.
Companies would be barred from paying out dividends or executive bonuses while they receive federal funds and the ban would be in place for three years.
Businesses would have to provide at least one seat to workers on their board of directors, though it could be more depending on size of the rescue package.
Collective bargaining agreements must remain in place.
Corporate boards must get shareholder approval for all political spending.
CEOs must certify their companies are complying with the rules and face criminal penalties for violating them.
At the same time, one cannot let industries like the airline industry just go under. Some airlines are really going to need assistance, and it’s not going to help anyone to just let them go under.
Changes to Unemployment System
There have been some estimates that by the time this pandemic is finished, we could be looking at 20% unemployment. Again, it’s industries like the restaurant industry, the travel industry, the entertainment industry, and the tourism industry that are going to be hardest hit. Restaurants operate on notoriously thin margins, and a bunch of them are going to go out of business. Oh, they may eventually get replaced, but how long will that take?
First, all these out-of-work waiters and cooks there are going to need to receive generous unemployment benefits, and these should be extended as necessary. And the waiting period should be waived.
In addition, there is a second problem, and that is what to do with all the “gig” workers who are not entitled to unemployment compensation? (This is one of many problems that are being created by the growing prevalence of the gig economy. It’s a further shredding of the safety net.)
Rollback of Tax Reductions
At some point the question is going to be, who is going to pay for all of the government benefits and bailouts that will be required? By now it’s clear to anyone who has been watching that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was not a “jobs” act but just a tax give-away to corporations and rich people. Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is not what traditional economics would recommend, but at some point these completely unwarranted and ineffective giveaways will have to be reversed.
The problem with having such a huge budget deficit is that it completely reduces the flexibility of the federal government to spend money to protect people in times like this, where we have a pandemic on the loose in the United States.
The kind of things that we need to do to protect people and businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic:
Provide unemployment for workers affected in industries (like restaurants and food service) who can no longer go to work.
Extend unemployment for those who are already on it and cannot find a job in the middle of a pandemic.
Provide free testing for the Coronavirus.
Provide free health care for this infected by the Coronavirus.
Provide rental and mortgage assistance to those unable to work.
Provide financial assistance to small businesses hit hard by the Coronavirus.
These are just some of the things that government should do right now. They would not be easy to implement, and they would be expensive. But they are needed.
To see how a government can handle Coronavirus effectively, you need to look no further than Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan (two of which are city states) that did a fantastic job responding to the Coronavirus before it hit there hard.
All of those places have a much more positive orientation to government than we have here in the United States, of course. And the citizens of those places are generally much less rebellious when asked by their government to do something. Asian societies are generally much more pro-social than Western societies, where we worship individualism.
This is one time where individualism is not really going to work.
Drumpf has his loyalists, of course, those who think that Drumpf is “telling it like it is.” But for everyone outside of his camp, he has shredded his credibility a long time ago, beginning with his inexplicable claim that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than Obama’s, and going straight downhill from there.
Whereas President Truman famously said “the buck stops here,” Drumpf literally said that he takes “no responsibility” for the failures of the administration’s handling of the Coronavirus response.
Well, he’s right about that. He literally has taken no responsibility.
Drumpf loyalists aren’t likely to care or believe how massively he and his administration have fucked up the Coronavirus response. But the few swing voters who are out there might care, and in any case, this extraordinary episode in American history is likely to expose much more clearly the deficiencies in our health care system, in our labor law protections, and in the general inequities in the current American system.
If so, that would be at least be a silver lining of sorts.
Color me amazed that Bernie Sanders is proving to be about as popular in 2020 as he was in 2016.
Longtime readers of the blog know that in the 2016 Democratic primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders because it “tickled me pink to be able to vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew as a serious candidate for President of the United States.” They also know that more recently I argued that:
I have since admitted that I was wrong, adding to the growing mountain of evidence that the so-called “pundit class” doesn’t know what they’re talking about.1 And I’m including myself in that class for purposes of this argument.
Still, you have to marvel that a cantankerous old Jew who is essentially a one-trick pony continues to have such massive appeal, especially to young people. I thought that Elizabeth Warren, with her boundless energy and solution for every problem, might take off with young people. But nope, Bernie is their man.
And Bernie has one characteristic that you really can’t argue with: he’s as authentic as they come.
It’s pretty clear that most of the rest of the Democratic party have now rallied behind Joe Biden — with Elizabeth Warren being a notable omission — because they believe that a self-professed socialist2 cannot beat Donald Trump and will have a terrible effect on the so-called “down ballot” races. With Bernie leading the ticket, the pundit class fears that we will never flip the Senate and we might have trouble holding the House.3
And they might be right.
These days I would (mostly) throw punditry out the window, as the prognosticators have been wrong at least as often as they have been right.
But yesterday I made the argument that Joe Biden is the overwhelming choice of African Americans (and especially African American women) who come out in numbers when it’s time to vote. And Bernie, who has hugely excited the young base of voters has (as predicted) not been able to get them to the polls.
This is a huge problem for Bernie, because much of the logic for his candidacy is that he will bring out huge numbers of young voters (who traditionally don’t vote) and change the political equation that way.
But in the primaries, it just hasn’t happened.
And if Bernie cannot translate his enormous appeal to young people into enormous number of votes at the polls, he will definitely not become President of the United States.
If you’re a Bernie supporter and you consider yourself not to be racist, you should really consider supporting Joe Biden.
Because African Americans have spoken, and he is their man.
African Americans, and especially African American women, are the most loyal constituency that the Democrats have. And even though they do not have a candidate of their own that’s going to make it to the finish line — Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Deval Patrick — they have the next best thing: a surrogate that (most of them) have endorsed.
As progressives, we should take that very seriously.
Of course Joe is not as progressive as Bernie is, but he’s progressive enough for the African American community, and that should be good enough for the rest of us.
And yes, Joe may have lost is fastball (if he ever had a fastball), but almost everyone agrees that he’s fundamentally a good man.
Right now, where we have a malignant narcissist as President, that has to be good enough.
The general consensus among the pundit class is that he should find a woman of color (Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams) and make her his VP choice.
So African Americans have spoken. Joe Biden is their man. He should be our man as well.
Well, Joe Biden continued his South Carolina revival, and Mike Bloomberg tanked like a lead balloon. Bloomberg won’t be the party’s savior after all, but it will be the old comfortable sweater that no longer has it’s fastball. Who knew?
At the time of publishing this post, it looks like Biden got 390 delegates last night, Bernie Sanders got 330, Liz Warren got 36 and Mike Bloomberg got 12. Tulsi Gabbard has 1. That’s still a long way to 1991 — the amount that the winning candidate needs to amass — but Biden now has the lead.
It’s now a two-person race
The strategy of having Buttigieg and Klobuchar drop out and endorse Biden clearly worked, opening up the center lane for Biden. Even Beto O’Rourke came out of hiding and endorsed Biden. Smoking Joe isn’t a better candidate today than he was last week, but he now has all the momentum.
Biden and Sanders have bifurcated the electorate.
Biden has older voters, African Americans and moderates. Sanders has younger voters, Latinos and progressives. The two sides are going to need each other. African American women are the most loyal Democrats there are, and we’re going to need them. We’re going to need younger voters as well. We’re all going to have to work hard to keep everyone involved and motivated, as defeating Trump should be a priority for everyone.
Money can’t buy you Love.
As Mayor Bloomberg proved, money can’t buy you loved. When Biden seemed to be standing in quick sand a lot of people were ready to jump on the Bloomberg bandwagon. But one disastrous and one semi-disastrous debate performance later, it’s clear that Bloomberg is not the heir apparent.1
Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is over.
Some of her supporters, especially women, are outraged that she did not receive more love on Super Tuesday. But she didn’t. She appeals to intellectuals like me, but we don’t make up a majority of the Democratic party. She came in 3rd in her (and my) home state of Massachusetts, where Joe Biden (seriously?) came in first.2
Young voters are not coming out in droves.
Despite Bernie’s promise that he would bring out young voters, who generally are so enthused about his candidacy, it didn’t happen. But older voters and African Americans, the “old reliables,” are coming out in droves. And they came out for Biden. Unless Bernie can figure out how to actually get young people to the polls in numbers unlike what we’ve ever seen before, part of the logic for his candidacy disappears.
Biden has gotten a nice bounce out of South Carolina, but he’s no more impressive today than he was last week. He does go down very well with the African-American constituency, which is a very important constituency for the Democratic party. Especially African-American women.
Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar (but especially Buttigieg) are well-position to be potential vice-presidential candidates for whomever the nominee is. (Better Buttigieg than Klobuchar, because we still need Klobuchar in the Senate.)
Still in the mix for 2020 are Elizabeth Warren (who promised to stay in until the convention) and Tulsi Gabbard. For what it’s worth, Bill Weld is still hanging around on the Republican side.
We’ll know a lot more at this time on Wednesday, about things have played out here. A large number of people will finally have their say, including the monster states of Texas and California.
These are the ramblings of a disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
About this Blog
This blog tackles the two bête noire of dinner-table conversation, politics and religion. What politics and religion have in common these days is the almost complete absence of critical thinking. Religion is mostly characterized by wishful thinking, whereas politics is mostly characterized by increasingly polemicized rhetoric designed to inflame instead of inform. If nothing else, I want people to wake up and stop being seduced by deluded thinking.