Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Politicians Have Overreacted to Coronavirus

 

The coronavirus crisis put Americans to the test. Could we function in a sane, scientifically informed, non-partisan manner to rationally protect the public while encountering a newly discovered viral disease?

The answer is no. Goaded on by in unrelenting hysterical media, our leaders have inflicted far more economic and societal pain on Americans than was warranted.

The practice of public health is founded on calibrating the cure to the disease. There are a lot of threats out there. But the worn-out phrase “out of an abundance of caution“ can be used to justify any overreaction. Sound cost/benefit analysis is replaced by sloppy thinking and simple anxiety reduction.

For example, look at my state of Arizona. During the influenza epidemic of 2017-18, worse by orders of magnitude than the coronavirus so far, Arizona public health officials were pushed by the CDC to close our schools. But they refused on the basis that almost no school children were sick from the virus and closing the schools was a major disruption with no known benefit. It was the right decision.

This time, with the stress level sky-high, political considerations prevailed. State health officials again advised against shutting down schools, based on Arizona‘s specific level of exposure to the disease, but they were overridden. Public health specialists advised against shutting down our businesses too.

But instead, our economy took a gut punch and 1 million school children sit at home in a state where a few hundred people have contracted a flu-like illness and five people who were already sick have died. Yet Gov. Doug Ducey is criticized for not doing more.

The politicians, to be fair, have a dilemma once the seeds of fear are sown. Contagious disease caseloads always grow initially. When they do, those advocating a conservative course are blamed. Later, when the inevitable drop occurs, activists take the credit, regardless of cost. In politicsville, all the arrows point to “Do Something.”

Amidst the panic and chaos, politicians seized the opportunity to jockey for position in the 2020 election. Democrats accused Trump of calling the virus a “hoax,” defunding the CDC, refusing test kits from the WHO, and intentionally coughing on Pelosi. OK, that last one was made up but the others were all part of an extensive false litany intended to prove the crisis was Trump’s fault.

Trump at first attempted a calming, rational approach but it was soon apparent that he faced an existential political threat if he persisted. He parried with a mix of sound science and overkill, probably saving his skin but also confirming the general sense of despair.

The coronavirus clearly has not run its course. As testing becomes more widespread, more infections will be discovered. But it seems likely that this “worst crisis since WWII” was in response to a viral outbreak that is far from the worst ever. It’s not even the worst this year.

As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

In 1794, James Madison referenced the “old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government.” Now comes the real danger zone, when Washington dives in to alleviate the economic pain we have inflicted on ourselves.

Madison’s insight lives today in the replay of the 2008-09 stimulus that didn’t stimulate. Once again, left-wing groups are attempting to exploit a crisis to advance their agenda.

Rather than job-preserving tax cuts and deregulation, they want to incentivize non-work with paid leave for workers not working, unemployment insurance and Medicaid expansion. Rather than helping businesses survive, they’re going the opposite direction with cash handouts and mandated minimum wage increase.

Collective bargaining for federal workers, corporate board diversity requirements, student loan and US Postal Service bailouts, and expansion of wind/solar tax credits are just some of the proposed ransom demands from the left.

National emergencies and wars have often resulted in government permanently expanding, liberties lost. Americans now must be hypervigilant to avoid damage that will persist long after the coronavirus has receded.

Tom Patterson is a former practicing physician and president of Emergency Physicians, Inc. He served as both Minority Leader and Majority Leader in the Arizona State Senate.

Published in Economics, Healthcare
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  1. Stad Thatcher

    Tom Patterson: As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

    We’re setting ourselves up for mandatory “social distancing” every year, with governors granting themselves dictatorial powers to deprive people of their rights. Coronavirus may be more efficient killing people off, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as the regular flu.

    • #1
    • March 26, 2020, at 2:05 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Roderic Coolidge

    Tom Patterson: As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

    The numbers are to low to impress you? Give it time. You may yet be impressed.

    The lesson learned from previous pandemics and epidemics is clear — when we see it coming we must act quickly and robustly to save lives; the numbers will get to be frightening otherwise. That’s what the policy makers are trying to do. The response has hardly been perfect, but I think it has the right emphasis for the time being.

    There’s a fire in the corner of the room, and people are arguing that it’s too expensive to use the fire extinguisher.

    • #2
    • March 26, 2020, at 2:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Stad (View Comment):

    Tom Patterson: As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

    We’re setting ourselves up for mandatory “social distancing” every year, with governors granting themselves dictatorial powers to deprive people of their rights. Coronavirus may be more efficient killing people off, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as the regular flu.

    On the other hand, we have a vaccine for the flu, which is not as effective as MMR or of DTaP vaccines, but still provides some protection. We also have an antiviral available. To the best of my knowledge, the flu does not have as much time where you are infectious but not ill. 

    • #3
    • March 26, 2020, at 3:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Tom Patterson: As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

    The numbers are to low to impress you? Give it time. You may yet be impressed.

    The lesson learned from previous pandemics and epidemics is clear — when we see it coming we must act quickly and robustly to save lives; the numbers will get to be frightening otherwise. That’s what the policy makers are trying to do. The response has hardly been perfect, but I think it has the right emphasis for the time being.

    There’s a fire in the corner of the room, and people are arguing that it’s too expensive to use the fire extinguisher.

    Roderic, please cite the previous pandemics and epidemics that you reference, with details as to the lessons learned.

    I think that your assertions are entirely devoid of facts. You are free to express your opinions, of course, and I will continue to ask for empirical data.

    • #4
    • March 26, 2020, at 3:31 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Published an hour ago… we have over 80,000 confirmed cases and over 1,000 dead with many more in critical condition. New Yor has been on lock down for nearly two weeks their case loads are still climbing. Had they ignored the problem like the author suggests every indication is that not only would they be suffering more cases, but most like more places across the US would be exploding with even more cases as it spread out even faster from there over the last two weeks. 

    The hysteria regarding the economics of this is sounding downright insane to me. Assets aren’t being destroyed physically like in a natural disaster, and demand hasn’t been obliterated like in a financial disaster, just suppresed like during a war mobalization. It’s all there ready to be picked up again when the crisis ends. People are filing for uninsurance as a means to recover lost wages. When this thing calms down unemployment claims will drop sharply. Everyone just loves to panic, if it isn’t about the virus it’s about the economy. Get a grip people.

    • #5
    • March 26, 2020, at 3:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. itaintwhy Member

    @valiuth The hysteria regarding the economics of this is sounding downright insane to me. 

    I’d be interested in learning what you do and the professional experience you have that gives you the insight to posit these ideas.

    I’m in commercial finance. A boutique firm that funds small businesses typically doing $500K to $12mm per year. And I can tell you that our small portfolio of around 100 customers are in extreme distress. If this goes on much longer, a large chunk of them won’t make it. Some are already finished.

    When they close shop/file for bankruptcy I’ll be sure to let them know that Valiuth says, “get a grip”.

    • #6
    • March 26, 2020, at 8:14 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Roderic Coolidge

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Tom Patterson: As of this writing, there are just 55,081 confirmed cases and 785 deaths from coronavirus in the US. Meanwhile, the CDC reports 45 million seasonal influenza cases with 46,000 deaths. That’s 58 deaths from influenza for every one from coronavirus.

    The numbers are to low to impress you? Give it time. You may yet be impressed.

    The lesson learned from previous pandemics and epidemics is clear — when we see it coming we must act quickly and robustly to save lives; the numbers will get to be frightening otherwise. That’s what the policy makers are trying to do. The response has hardly been perfect, but I think it has the right emphasis for the time being.

    There’s a fire in the corner of the room, and people are arguing that it’s too expensive to use the fire extinguisher.

    Roderic, please cite the previous pandemics and epidemics that you reference, with details as to the lessons learned.

    I think that your assertions are entirely devoid of facts. You are free to express your opinions, of course, and I will continue to ask for empirical data.

    I think it’s ironic that as you wrote that the USA surpassed China in terms of the number of people with COVID-19, assuming China’s reports are accurate. That’s from Worldometers.info/coronavirus. The numbers in the USA continue to go up like a skyrocket. No sign of any peak yet.

    I refer you to a book by Peter Piot, “No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses”. Piot was a leader in the effort to suppress the big Ebola Virus outbreak in Western Africa. He went on to be a world leader in infectious disease. He emphasizes the importance of an early and robust response to viral disease outbreaks to prevent such things as a breakdown of the medical system and the economy, both of which happened in Western Africa back then. He reviews the histories of several other pandemics and epidemics as well and cites those as evidence that outbreaks must be snuffed out early on to save lives. There have been several more outbreaks of Ebola in Africa since then, and his advice has been followed to good effect.

    Piot reviews his work in a video here. “Are we ready for the next pandemic?” he asks back in 2018. 

    Perhaps we are already past the point where Piot’s advice will do any good. Perhaps we ought to take the hit and turn to saving the economy. I don’t know, but I would at least like to see this peak out before we give up on efforts to prevent spread.

    • #7
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Ida Claire Member

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Published an hour ago… we have over 80,000 confirmed cases and over 1,000 dead with many more in critical condition. New Yor has been on lock down for nearly two weeks their case loads are still climbing. Had they ignored the problem like the author suggests every indication is that not only would they be suffering more cases, but most like more places across the US would be exploding with even more cases as it spread out even faster from there over the last two weeks.

    The hysteria regarding the economics of this is sounding downright insane to me. Assets aren’t being destroyed physically like in a natural disaster, and demand hasn’t been obliterated like in a financial disaster, just suppresed like during a war mobalization. It’s all there ready to be picked up again when the crisis ends. People are filing for uninsurance as a means to recover lost wages. When this thing calms down unemployment claims will drop sharply. Everyone just loves to panic, if it isn’t about the virus it’s about the economy. Get a grip people.

    Valiuth,

    Your attitude is awfully condescending. Why should people be complacent as they watch their accumulated wealth disappear? Or why shouldn’t they be upset as their income dries up? Do you know people who live paycheck to paycheck? I do, and they are worried. Very worried.

    We have ONE case in our county and we live well spread out from one another, and yet we are covered by the blanket WA State closure. How does this make sense? And to top it all off, we have to tolerate all the government workers, including teachers and school staff getting their full paychecks lecture us on the importance of not working.

    Hopefully we won’t destroy the underpinnings of our economy, and it can come roaring back. We are a small business, we have done well in the past. We will not receive any government handout. Regardless, we will have to pay our taxes, for services not rendered. And yes, I am resentful. 

    • #8
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:34 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. D12 Coolidge
    D12

    Tom Patterson:

    The politicians, to be fair, have a dilemma once the seeds of fear are sown. Contagious disease caseloads always grow initially. When they do, those advocating a conservative course are blamed. Later, when the inevitable drop occurs, activists take the credit, regardless of cost. In politicsville, all the arrows point to “Do Something.” 

    In his magnificent book on practical leadership, “Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity,” Steven F. Hayward notes that Churchill was uncanny in his ability to exercise extraordinary restraint in decision making when more information was desirable. According to Hayward, Churchill often acted – and directed his staff to act – according to the maxim “don’t just do something; stand there!” It’s foolish to hope for another Churchill; is it too much to ask our leaders today to practice some restraint? [Probably, yes.] 

    • #9
    • March 27, 2020, at 2:55 PM PDT
    • Like