The largest political issue this year is Covid-19. It shouldn’t be, of course. We should be working together to defeat it—together. As we noted, no Democrat wants to kill the economy, and no Republican wants to kill people. But since it is a political issue, anyway, we’ll continue to report relevant news about it.
The question is what should be done. Forbes reports that many medical experts think we should shut everything down, and start over.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the U.S. despite mask mandates and social distancing measures, more than 150 medical experts, scientists and other health professionals signed a letter organized by a prominent consumer group and delivered to government leaders Thursday calling for new shutdowns to bring case counts down and “hit the reset button” to implement a more effective response. . .
The signatories call for closing all non-essential businesses [across the country] and opening restaurants for takeout only, with Americans leaving their houses “only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air.”. . .
The lockdowns should continue “until case numbers recede to a level at which we have the capacity to effectively test and trace,” at which point “we can try a little more opening, one small step at a time.”
Lay people never seem to consider the tremendous stress we cause medical professionals when we take chances with our health—and with the health of others. Shutting everything down may or may not be the right thing to do, but it is notable that medical professionals are calling for it. The letter says, “The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it’s to save as many lives as possible.”
In other news, a number of companies, across the world, are working on a vaccine. We earlier reported that the Russians appear to be trying to steal vaccine research. Now, there’s evidence that China is also trying to steal vaccine research.
It will be difficult to find an effective vaccine, and while intellectual property theft is always a problem, apparently Russia and China are not trying to sabotage the effort. They are just trying to get ahead of the game.
But there is a sabotage that will not appear until after we have a vaccine. That is, vaccine deniers, who will claim that the vaccine is some kind of plot that will hurt us, not help us.
Convincing vaccine skeptics to trust any future COVID-19 vaccine is going to be a tough job, even if there are mountains of data from clinical trials showing that it is safe and effective. . .
One of the most durable myths trafficked by so-called anti-vaxxers is that vaccines are scams developed by greedy pharmaceutical companies, abetted by a corrupt government, to make money from substances that do more harm than good.
Another hoax is that vaccines cause autism, and one of the most vocal proponents of was—Donald J. Trump, himself.
[Trump tweets:] • Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes—AUTISM. Many such cases!
• Look what happened to the autism rate from 1983-2008 since one-time massive shots were given to children
• So many people who have children with autism have thanked me—amazing response. They know far better than fudged up reports!
• Autism rates through the roof—why doesn’t the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try.
However, the CDC unequivocally states, “Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism,” and “There is no link between vaccines and autism.” Trump has changed his tune, and is now lauding vaccines, but deniers, of various political persuasions, could still be a problem.
Back to the main point, an article in Politico says that we may actually benefit from the current crisis, citing history.
Yet big disruptions can bring big opportunities. Thinkers have already been considering how the world could emerge better, or smarter, from the Covid plague. And there’s real historical precedent for this: The Italian Renaissance may have begun before the 14th-century plague known as the Black Death. . .
The Florentine lesson isn’t that a plague is good for you. No one wants thousands or millions of people to die so that others can have the opportunity to take their place. But it shows clearly that the right systems and opportunities are crucial to benefit from a crisis.
What the plague did in the 14th century was to “level the playing field.” Previous to it, the aristocracy held all power; afterward, merchants and guilds got a piece of the action. However, the article notes that we are now going in the opposite direction.
As the economy crumbles, low- and middle-income workers are being laid off, while at the other end the stock market has soared and the net worth of wealthy Americans continues to grow. Small businesses are shutting down; Amazon has never been more valuable. Many privileged Americans are profiting and staying safe, while economically insecure Americans walk into risky jobs, and young people, the poor and immigrants—a natural talent pool to help build the future—are increasingly blocked from even entering the country.
Florentines managed to use their experience of the plague, partly on purpose and partly by accident, to bridge wealth gaps and create whole new kinds of opportunities and new visions of the world. Right now, it appears Covid-19 is doing the opposite, widening the inequality gap even further, letting it divide our society even more radically.
It has been amazing that there are no protests about inequality. While millions are out of work, with small businesses going out of business—large corporations are showing record profits and the stock market has been making historic gains. The contrast between “haves” and “have-nots” could not be more stark today.
The point of the Politico article is that when things are shut down, we have an opportunity to “start over.” We saw dramatic change due to the Great Depression. FDR worked to save Democracy, at a time when Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries were turning to fascism. He saved Democracy—and capitalism—by making major changes, such as the Social Security system.
Yes, FDR temporarily shut down the banking system, but it was to save it—and brought us the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), that protected the people from losing if a bank went under. He also established the national minimum wage, prohibited child labor, and required overtime pay, and the first step to forbid racial discrimination in the workplace.
Also, The Glass–Steagall Act separated commercial and investment banking. The act was repealed in 1999, eventually leading to the unfettered speculation that caused the Great Recession.
All of that was possible because FDR was aggressive about change. What about the Great Recession? Well, you could say that the economy was put back on track, with growth that has gone up in a straight line, but what was accomplished for the majority of Americans? Can anyone point to a lasting benefit to most of us from the Bush and Obama efforts? Certainly nothing like Social Security, the minimum wage, overtime, end to child labor, etc., etc.
Medical people want us to shut everything down until they can get a handle on the pandemic. If we do, we should also look at what kind of country and economy we want for the future. Use some imagination. Do the hard work to bring about change. As Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”