Covid-19: The forgotten equation wreaks havoc 

Doesn't anyone realize that shrinkage of the economy puts new demands on public health well out of reach?  The economy has to be put into the equation.

Steve Apfel

OpEds Finance committee meeting
Finance committee meeting

Policy makers and advisors have taken leave of their senses by forgetting that two elements make up the equation to understand the full impact of Covid-19. One element is the impact of the virus, the other, infinitely bigger, is the impact of the economic meltdown. The elements also react upon each other in the way of a squeezed balloon.  The world should be in a better space. It would have been had not the full equation, Xv +Ye = T been ignored. .  

Take Israel. It has recorded 12 deaths from Covid-19 (the V factor). In the same month over 600,000 who lost their jobs registered for unemployment support, equal to 17%.of the workforce (the e factor). Before the government locked down the economy, e was zero because there was no unemployment.  

Had just one country used the equation to set policy, other countries might have followed suit. Instead the world stares down the endless tunnel of Great Depression II. Even the wealthiest countries are left fighting the virus amid economic ruin. Supply chains creak. They can’t meet the demand for testing kits, ventilators, hospital beds and materials because of locked down economies with productive people cooped up at home, deteriorating mentally and bodily. Public purses have to resort to borrowing and printing money to compensate citizens for livelihoods and lives destroyed by the ubiquitous sign hung at the entry points of  border posts: ‘Closed for business.’

Shutting up shop translates into lower tax revenue to fund public health. Lockdown is supposed to buy time. But how much money is there to make use of the time to buy what’s needed? 

Take South Africa for an already bankrupt case. Before Corona the economy was junk-rated and stagnant. One in three adult South Africans were already out of work – most never had a job to start with. Debt hovered near 80% of GDP. Whatever money could be borrowed begged or stolen was chucked at a bankrupt national airline with aircraft parked on runways and an executive stuffed with unqualified buddies. Along came Corona to deliver the one-two punch of global and domestic slumps. Shrinkage of the economy put new demands on public health well out of reach. 

To ‘buy time’ a 3-week lockdown was decreed: No business allowed. And stay home. No goal posts, no exit strategy. What happens after three weeks? A lockdown only postpones inevitable decisions that will stir trouble. It throttles some 3 million owner-run businesses, and puts two-thirds of the workforce at home, out of work. 

Here’s the macabre irony of it. Social distancing hits the poor hardest. Where are the homeless supposed to lockdown? How will people who are crammed into hovels made from tin and cardboard keep at bay chronic sickness and susceptibility to infection? 

Every country scrambles to obtain the wherewithal for treating patients hospitalized with Corona. The panic is a consequence of business lockdown as much as it is of the spike in demand for healthcare.

Think of it this way: There are two groups of people. Group A contains everyone involved with the medical consequences of Corona, whether they treat, test or produce. Group B contains everyone else. Its job is to buy Group ‘A’ more time. Group B is the sacrificial lamb; it must flatten the curve by isolating itself to cut off the different chains of transmitting Corona. 

Forcing millions of people to stay at home under pain of punishment is the road to Big Brother dominion. It’s no accident that power-hungry Eurocrats were quick to follow the example set by China. And who drives panic more than the transnational World Health Organisation. If the H stood for Hysteria the shoe would fit equally well.

How many leaders champ at the bit to get the economy back on the road and people working again? Only US President Trump. Contrast him with a fan of Big Government, Mayor Cuomo of New York. He says that just one life saved would make the lockdown worthwhile. Cuomo forgets to weigh the millions of livelihoods sacrificed to save the one.   

Mass support for the lockdown, having to apply for permission to walk the dog, is driven by thought leaders. Add ‘less’ after ‘thought’ and the shoe would fit. The panicked and trusting masses in their desire to be coddled to the grave, are not difficult to pluck, tune and orchestrate. 

Then there’s criminal waste and its side-effects. Enforcement of the lockdown takes public resources that could otherwise have gone into testing and healing. Enforcement is doubly wasteful in that people being people, disobey decrees. They crowd into public places, gather in bars and parks which shouldn’t be open, to fill idle days. Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse may spike as people are forced to stay home. Children, mostly spared by the virus, may be traumatized.  

The notions, ‘If we adhere to social distancing there’s a chance that ‘we can, at least temporarily, bring the pandemic under control; and ‘No one knows how long it will take, but it won’t be quick’, are as contradictory as they are moronic.

Experts (so called) seem willing to trust the v-factor in the equation, hence rely on social distancing with extremely uncertain outcomes. Yet the experts have no time for the e factor, the impact of wealth destruction with  an outcome of absolute certainty. About social distancing, President Trump’s advisor, Anthony Fauci said: “It could be anywhere from four to six weeks, even up to three months. But I don’t have great confidence in that range.”

Should we laugh or cry? Take another expert, a Harvard academic. “We need to be prepared to do multiple periods of social distancing.” How many experts know that the equation contains two elements; that they’re squeezing the end of a balloon without looking what happens at the other end?    

There are nihilists aplenty with a Big Brother mentality. They scoff at those who ‘can’t see beyond economic textbooks or stock portfolios.’ They profess to be pro working class and anti the rich.

Yet who is being thrown out of work: rich or working class? And who bankrolls the nihilist parties who are pro working class?  The moneybags Gorge Soros and Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos and media moguls. And whose jobs and livelihoods are safe from economic meltdown? Who have one-eyed vision on locking down people and the economy for tackling Corona? None other than Big Brother leaders Angela Merkel and Nancy Pelosi and expert advisors and Eurocrats  ensconced in comfy Brussels; not to mention the hysterics at WHO or the model builders lounging in ivy towers. They won’t lose their jobs. 

And who scoffs at the cost-benefit approach to policy making, at the equation of two elements? Again the nihilists. Anyone who considers the e-element in Corona’s full  impact is compared to Malthus, the economist who once prescribed allowing the poor to die because they bred at a rate which outpaced resources needed to sustain a growing population, so bringing famine and misery on all. Big Brother dominion is all the rage. Political leaders and expert advisors are the know-alls.  

The prospect of Great Depression II is manmade and wholly avoidable. Remember this.  Whomsoever the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Let us then beseech God to return our policy makers to sanity.