March 11, 2020
Coronavirus and the Politics of Pandemic
By Buck Sexton
When the stock market has its worst day in a decade, people get worried.
When that drop could be the beginning of a global economic downturn in the face of a pandemic that could destroy trillions of dollars of wealth and kill enormous numbers of people, panic sets in.
We spent Monday deep in that panic phase. And while there was some relief for investors on Tuesday, everyone is looking for answers about how bad it’s going to get – and who is to blame.
Amateur epidemiologists across the Internet are pumping out back-of-the-napkin calculations about what’s coming next. These prognostications range from “don’t worry, there will be more people dead from flu this year than coronavirus” all the way to “this is a global pandemic along the lines of the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 50 million people.”
The truth is, nobody knows what’s going to happen with coronavirus in America. But we are seeing a surge of activity in markets despite the lack of certainty about what’s next. Some of these maneuvers will have major ramifications irrespective of the disease’s actual spread.
America is on the precipice of lockdown mode…
A number of schools have already closed in the U.S. and there are rumors that entire school systems could shut down for weeks.
Major corporations are telling employees to work from home. With each passing day, more American companies send out notices that yes, employees have either tested positive for coronavirus or came into direct contact with someone who has.
The event industry – along with cruise lines, hotels, and airlines – are all in serious economic peril. Large annual gatherings – SXSW in Austin, Texas and Coachella in California – have been canceled or postponed.
There are even rumors that New York City may shut down the subway if there is a surge in new infections, which would effectively shut down business in America’s largest city.
And we’ve all heard the advice of self-quarantine for the possibly infected and “social distancing” for the rest of us.
All of this is happening with about 750 confirmed cases in the U.S. and a few dozen deaths so far.
Now imagine what will happen if there is a major spike in community spread and the coronavirus death toll rapidly climbs.
Dozens of experts called for a crash in 2020. Yet the Dow is approaching 30k for the first time in history. Here’s why.
We may have a glimpse of our near future with Italy’s fight against the virus. Right now, Northern Italy is among the hardest-hit regions of the world outside of China, and the news on the ground is troubling. Millions of Italians are under strict quarantine, and the nation’s health system is already strained to the breaking point.
Nobody has any good answers about what to do now. Public safety announcements about hand-washing, avoiding sneezes and coughs of the infected, and the futility of buying up surgical masks are helpful but insufficient. Aerosolized droplets can linger in the air and infect anyone who breathes them in.
Coronavirus is going to continue to spread in America. The only questions are how rapidly – and what the final mortality rate will be.
One might think that, given the severity of this moment, there would be a pause on the hyper-partisan discourse of the 2020 election. Sadly, that’s not the case. From the beginning of this disease outbreak, it has been clear that opponents of the Donald Trump administration would exploit this moment of mass fear for cynical political gain.
According to his critics, everything that Trump does is wrong, even if his actions are exactly in line with the expertise and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and National Institutes of Health (“NIH”).
But this criticism might have more resonance if the anti-Trump “resistance” hadn’t been prophesying the end of the Trump administration every year now since the 2016 election.
President Trump established the presidential coronavirus task force in late January… while Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats were finishing up an ill-fated impeachment effort that most Americans have now forgotten.
The Democrats have pretended every Trump action was a catastrophe. That won’t change, no matter how many press conferences Trump holds to go over everything the federal government is doing to prevent the viral outbreak from becoming a full-blown pandemic.
The problem is that now that we are in a true crisis, half the country thinks the Democrats have neither the credibility nor the standing to trash Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
The good news is, we will make it through this virus. The markets will recover, and Americans will get a chance to cast their judgment about Trump’s response in elections this fall. But it is troubling for all of us that even when faced with a life-and-death national emergency, the first impulse of the establishment media and the ruling class has been to score cheap political points instead of rallying their fellow Americans in our common cause of survival and resilience.
Now here are some of the stories we’re reading…
Saudi Arabia, Russia raise stakes in oil standoff
Saudi Arabia will raise its crude supply to a record high in April, the kingdom announced on Tuesday, as it ratcheted up a standoff with Moscow over market share and appeared to reject Russian overtures for new talks.
Coronavirus sparks total lockdown in Italy and alarm in the U.S. as cases rise globally
In an unprecedented and potentially legally fraught move, all of Italy and its 60 million residents have been placed under lockdown… the toughest coronavirus response to be implemented outside of mainland China, and comes as the country buckles under the weight of the epidemic.
CDC tells people over 60 or who have chronic illnesses like diabetes to stock up on goods and buckle down for a lengthy stay at home
Of the 70,000 cases WHO scientists looked at, only about 2% were in people younger than 19. The odds of developing COVID-19 increase with age, starting at age 60. It’s especially lethal for people over 80.
Pharmacists quietly panicking over looming respiratory drug shortage
As face masks, hand sanitizers and rubber gloves fly off store shelves, pharmacists are quietly fretting over a looming shortage of vital prescription medications.
Mitch Daniels: Why the Midwest is seeing a resurgence
These changes are more than just a pendulum swinging. Some of the turnaround is the product of conscious, thoughtful public policy. Places such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and my home state of Indiana have built some of the country’s most business-friendly climates. Many have reformed and strengthened public education and seen positive results. Five of CNBC’s top 10 states for infrastructure are Midwestern, led by Indiana at No. 1.
And let us know what you’re reading at [email protected].
Executive Editor, American Consequences
With P.J. O’Rourke and the Editorial Staff
March 11, 2020