Friday, April 24, 2020
It's obvious that we can't leave the economy shut down much longer, and the restrictions on business have got to relax soon. The problem, at least here in the USA, is that our sheer size and geography makes for very different conditions all over the country.
This is why Trump left responses to the pandemic up to the local governors, rather than set nation-wide standards, as the Democrats nagged him to do.
Here in Arizona, for example -- where half the population is clustered in one large city, two small cities, and the other half scattered in small towns across the whole state -- "social distancing" isn't much of a problem. Like most other states, we were caught short on Covid-19 testing devices -- not so much on masks, gowns, gloves, and ventilators. Our major outbreaks were centered around the usual old-folks-dying-houses and a recent tribal powwow on the Navaho lands. Outside of the state, nobody seems to realize that the Indian tribes (Oooooh, excuse me: "Native Americans") are a major chunk of Arizona's population and political powers. Therefore, nobody but the Arizona governor could be expected to understand just what this state's reaction to the plague should be.
The problem with this decentralized approach is that it allowed various governors to sneak certain political hobby-horses into the emergency protocols, usually by declaring just which industries they considered "essential". By now we're all familiar with the Michigan governor banning sales of gardening seeds, and the Virginia governor trying to shut down gun-stores. We're also familiar with the local revolts and protests against the same, all of which have been energetically denounced by the Democrat-leaning media.
Therefore it makes sense that Trump would both announce that the re-opening of the economy should be up to the local governors -- or even mayors -- and that he would scold particular governors and mayors who stepped into the political stratosphere. And of course it follows that the Democrats and their media-flacks would denounce him for both actions.
So what have we learned for ourselves that is really necessary to control the pandemic while getting the country back to work?
Basically, we have to keep the six-foot distance in public, wash and clean everything we can as often as we can, and not go out in public without wearing some kind of mask covering the nose and mouth. Now this face-covering doesn't have to be the full N95 medical-quality mask that can filter out particles as small as the virus itself. It only has to be thick enough to stop the aerosols -- the tiny droplets of water in our breath -- which the virus lives and travels in. A common allergy-mask, or painter's mask, or carpenter's mask, or even a Bandito-style folded bandana mask can do that. Simply passing all this information around to the populace can accomplish that. The public is not stupid, regardless of what the Democratic National Committee may think.
In fact, businesses and common citizens in most states have already taken their own steps in that direction. The last time I went out to get food, the customers at the supermarket were wearing assorted masks and carefully keeping six feet apart, at the bank there were tape-markers on the floor guiding the customers to stay six feet apart, at the local MacDonald's there were similar tape-guides on the floor (and the dining section was closed, so the store sold only carry-out or deliveries), and all the employees were distanced and wearing various masks. The governor had not given any such orders; the people did it themselves.
There's no reason to think that they can't extend that to the rest of the economy. The publicized cases of meat-processing plants providing hotbeds of infection have spurred those companies -- perhaps under the sharp rowel of threatened lawsuits -- to redesign whole factories for maximum space and hygiene, and other factories are following suit. Schools, from colleges down to grade-schools, have taken seriously to selling online courses -- and home-schooling has gained a whole new popularity. White-collar industries, like investing and consulting, have made creative use of teleconferencing. Service industries have been decentralizing with a vengeance. The economy is adapting, rapidly, on its own -- without "national guidance".
Perhaps this is exactly what the political leftists fear, since what isn't "guided" can't be controlled.
The other guideline we keep hearing is "universal testing", how we can't go back to a "normal" economy unless everybody in the country is tested for the corona virus. This is impossible, for several reasons. First, people keep forgetting that the US has the third largest population in the world -- 330 million that we know about, and probably another 20 million that we don't -- and even with all the test-manufacturing companies in the country running day and night, we couldn't turn out 330 million tests within a year. Second, there are two forms of test: the mucous test which shows if the live virus is present, and the blood ("serology") test which shows if specific coronavirus antibodies are present. The mucous test would have to be applied every day, because a person can test negative on one day and positive on the next; now we're talking about billions of tests. The serology test would be more useful, since one of the proposed treatments for Covid-19 is collecting and cloning antibodies from people -- or animals -- who have had the virus and recovered, and injecting them into active patients, but that too would take millions of tests and well over a year, at least.
Likewise we can't wait for a vaccine, which would take-- according to the FDA and CDC -- about a year to get out to the public.
The best solution would be to develop some reliable cures, which is what Trump has been pushing for -- and therefore the Democrats have been denouncing and decrying almost frantically. Early, and small, trials of hydrochloroquine plus azythromicin and zinc, remdesivir, and convalescent plasma have shown very good results -- but later trials reported from China claim they don't work. Then again, we've learned that we can't trust anything we hear from China. The best place to get trials done would be in Israel, but nobody's mentioning that.
One might almost think that everyone politically an inch to the left of Clint Eastwood wants to keep the American economy hobbled, the various US govts. hemorrhaging money, and a good 30 million voters living on Unemployment. Gee, why should they want that? As if we couldn't guess. *Sigh*
So what we're stuck with is how to reopen businesses, re-hire all those suddenly unemployed, and avoid a surge in Covid-19 infections, and we have to do it quickly.
The question isn't when, but how -- and the citizens have already taken their own steps to do that. All they need is permission, and a bit of encouragement.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
While surfing the 'net I came across an amazing claim by the notorious AOC -- whom I prefer to call Alldyslexia Occasional Cortex -- claiming that the Covid-19 virus is "racist" because, in New York anyway, it has infected a higher percentage of Black people than White people. Never mind that it has affected a lower percentage of Latinos and Asians than either Blacks or Whites, or affected men more than women, or the very old more than the very young, or city-dwellers more than rural people. No, it has to be about ray-ray-racism, and the solution is to pay "reparations". Uhuh.
It's not surprising that AOC, like BLM, has turned accusations of racism into an extortion racket. What's interesting is her underlying claim, shared by leftists ideologues all over the US, that "healthcare is a human right". I've also heard the related query: "why is bearing firearms a right and healthcare isn't?" That deserves a closer look.
To exercise your 2nd Amendment rights (never mind the 1st Amendment) you must take action yourself. You must pay for the firearms (or other personal weapons) -- and the ammunition, and the targets, and the range-time, and the training, and the carry-license fees -- yourself. If you abuse the right -- say, by shooting innocent people -- then you get arrested and tried and pay the penalty all by yourself. To misquote the old folksong, nobody else can do it for you; you've got to use and pay for the right all by yourself. It's all on you. The right itself is free -- except for occasional wars to defend it; it's the exercising of it that costs, and it costs only yourself.
Healthcare is something totally different. Aside from simple preventatives (like diet, exercise, and hygiene), and simple treatments (like disinfectants, bandages, over-the-counter medicines like aspirin and cough-syrup), healthcare involves other people. For ailments more serious than a common cold you go to see a doctor, and probably his/her nurse (and, doubtless, his/her medical-insurance clerk). Very likely, the doctor will send you to a laboratory for tests. If the tests reveal a problem that a simple general-practitioner can't handle, the doctor will refer you to a specialist (and the specialist's nurse and insurance-clerk), or possibly to a hospital. This involves a lot of people, all of whom have gone through extensive -- and expensive -- training, for which they're often still paying. In brief, it involves a lot of other people's labor.
Since the end of the Civil War, no American has had a right to other people's labor.
Now you may argue, and rightly so, that members of the medical community tend to overprice their labor -- particularly the pharmaceutical companies -- but that's another story, and subject to other solutions. The point is that other people's labor, overpriced or not, does not come free; it must be paid for.
It's on the question of "who pays", and how, that the problem of "rights" re-emerges. The medical business has overpriced itself to the point where only the super-rich can afford to pay for their healthcare directly. Everyone else, over the past century, has become obliged to pay through the insurance business. This only moves the problem one step back, because insurance -- being a service, and a business -- mus also be paid for. Our society has determined, likewise over the past century, that equal access to businesses is also a right -- one that can't be denied on grounds of race, sex, or religion. This applies to insurance as much as to lunch-counters.
Subtler grounds such as ethnic group, age, ancestry, political party, or country of origin are still being argued. The way this works out on the question of health-insurance is that anybody can have access to the service, but the amount paid varies. A single person, buying health insurance for themself, would pay more or less, depending on all the above variables.
This is where a form of "herd immunity" comes into play; a group purchasing insurance for its members can get equal insurance for all of them, regardless of individual differences, provided that the group is large enough for the insurance company to expect a reliable, uniform payment from the group. This is why so many Americans gain their health insurance through their job, or their labor union, or their church, or their sports-club, and the right to equal access -- for all members of the group -- would apply. The bigger the group, the lower the fees would be per individual. The biggest group in America is the whole electorate: all the citizens, all the voters, all the taxpayers. The organizers of such large groups can't be smaller than the state or federal governments; thus we have state Welfare health-insurance and federal Social Security/Medicare insurance. All citizens -- and in some states non-citizens -- have equal access to these. Likewise, tax money goes to pay for federal, state and even municipal public-health services -- which, again, service the groups -- and to which all members of those groups have a right to equal access.
This is as far into the area of "rights" as healthcare can legitimately go -- regardless of what AOC, or Bernie Sanders, or any of the Socialist Democrats may claim.