Florida has announced that all efforts to prevent the spread of COVID are over. Mask mandates cannot be enforced statewide, and restrictions are being lifted. This is so unfortunate. Again, as I’ve been saying, let’s compare this to Israel, then let’s think about how hard we work to stop people from dying from car accidents.
There are now more than a million confirmed cases of infection by the virus that causes COVID-19. Worldwide, the mortality rate is 5.3%. Of course, there’s plenty or reason to believe that it’s less fatal, and that 5.3% ignores the many people around the world who likely have been infected but have not been confirmed (either because of false negative results or because of lack of testing). I spent some time crunching numbers this morning. Not because I think there’s anything that I can learn that others don’t know already, but because it keeps my mind from wandering and I like crunching numbers. In the same way, I’m sharing this number crunching here, not because I think anybody should read it, or take it as some real source of information, but because this site has been a faithful outlet for me to put my thoughts on paper. So here’s what I found.
The United States is in the early stages of the pandemic of COVID-19 caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus. As of this moment, there are 597,304 confirmed cases worldwide and 104,661 confirmed cases in the United States alone. Today, the number of cases in the United States grew to the point that there are now more cases in the United States than in any other country. Of course, we do not know if this is accurate, and suspect that it isn’t, because there are very likely many people, in many countries, who are infected but have not been tested. There is a growing movement, especially among republicans, to weigh the potential harm caused by the virus and the harm caused by slowing the economy (because of people sheltering in place, closed restaurants and other businesses). A friend brought this up to me recently, calling attention to a quote in the movie The Big Short: every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die. It got me thinking…as most things do.
My family has been voluntarily quarantined for six days. My wife was frightened by the novel coronavirus first. We thought she was crazy, and made fun of her, but I soon was infected by her fear. At first I was just trying to be a good husband, and help present a united front for our kids, so they’d fall in line, but after some easy math, I got worried also. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this ends faster than we fear. I hope it takes fewer lives than I fear. I hope for all those things. I am, to a fault sometimes, a man of hope. But I’m afraid.
One of the places where I tend to disagree with other liberals is the defense budget. Attacking defense spending is a common hobby for many liberals. I get the appeal. I don’t like spending astronomical sums of money for the purpose of killing people. It doesn’t sit well with me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the defense budget is so much more than a killing budget. It’s a convenient way for Congress to allocate money to things we need, as a nation, but can’t convince many voters (or even Members of Congress) to support otherwise. How do some countries fight unemployment? They hire lots of people to work for the government. We do that too, through the military. Want to provide education and job training and healthcare for millions of Americans…put money for education and job training and healthcare into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done. Want to spend money on biomedical research, on materials research, on computing research, on all kinds of research…put money into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done.
Trump is in trouble, maybe. Something might actually stick to the Teflon Don this time. It’s bad. It’s really bad. And I hope he’s held accountable for it. But how bad has he really been as President? It’s a fair question.
Yes, you heard that. I think the democrats should give Trump the $5 billion he requested for the wall. I think the wall is a dumb idea. I think we already have physical (natural and man-made) barriers that do good where they’re needed. I think the eminent domain issues will be tied up in court for the better part of a decade, at least. I don’t think it’s a good use of our funds, but it’s about 0.13% of the proposed FY2019 budget, it’s a fraction of important things like the $39 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health, and I just don’t care enough about it to advocate keeping federal workers from getting their paychecks.
Obamacare set up health insurance marketplaces. It didn’t take over health insurance like some would make you believe, but one thing it did was establish a website, not much different from expedia, where people can compare available insurance plans. Of course, it made some rules about the plans that can be sold on this platform, and each state has its own set of plans, so somebody from NY, for example, only gets to shop for plans in NY. Republicans latched onto this, and said that it hurt competition, because insurance companies should be able to sell across state lines. I’m not an expert in health insurance, so I’m sure I’m missing something (maybe something big), but the whole thing always seemed silly to me. I’m the first to warn against anecdote, and I should probably use my own advice here, but every now and then we all ignore the rules (even our own), so here goes.
There are some things that I tend to say over and over. One of them is about the options, as I see them, when it comes to offering social services to a society. There is always going to be a group of people who we can agree are deserving of these services, and a group of people who take advantage of the services and get something they don’t deserve. In an ideal world, we will only give coverage to those who deserve it, and not one undeserving person will get benefits. This will reduce the costs to the lowest possible, because there is no waste in the system. Because the ideal never seems to be possible in an imperfect world, we have to pick which way we want to err. Do we want a system that covers the most people, or the fewest. The system that covers the most costs more, but makes sure that all the “deserving” get what they need, while unfortunately letting some of the “undeserving” take advantage of the system. The system that covers the fewest saves money, by making sure that no “undeserving” get help they need, but leaves some “deserving” without help they need. Of course we can also debate who is “deserving” and who isn’t, but that’s a separate issue (not unimportant, just separate). Nevertheless, the whole purpose of this post is to have a place for a graphic that I created to illustrate this. It’s rough, and I spent less than 10 minutes creating it, but here it is. Sharing is welcome, but it would be nice if a link to this post came with it.
The House of Representatives has voted, once again, to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is not the first time they have done so, and it likely won’t be the last. They passed several bills and amendments since 2011 that repeal or limit Obamacare, and few of these became law. My guess is that this bill will die like the others have, but this time it will be killed by a more pensive (and smart?) Senate. Senate republicans are already saying that they can’t pass the current bill, and it’s not clear that they even have enough support for a vote. It’s hard to see how the House and President see this as a win, but they do, and they had a party at the White House about it. Vice President Pence rallied the crowd (of middle-aged to old white men) with a line, “Welcome to the beginning of the end of Obamacare.” Silly line. Doesn’t that assume that Obamacare will end? Doesn’t it assume that the previous votes weren’t the beginning of anything? Silliness all around.