By: Mark Glennon*

Poverty kills. Recessions kill. Depressions kill tens of millions.

You’d hope everybody knows that, but public opinion polls indicate they don’t. Many politicians bank on that ignorance, and it was particularly baffling that the Trump Administration, which surely knows better, would publish guidelines that effectively dismiss the reality.

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released those guidelines for getting American back to work in stages, subject to states meeting defined gating criteria.

Regardless of whether one thinks those gating criteria are too strict or too loose, a fatal flaw should be obvious: They are static.

That is, they require that the same preconditions be met for reopening irrespective of whether they are applied today, a month or a year from now.

That’s simply irrational. With each day the economy sinks deeper into an extraordinarily dangerous and unprecedented abyss, perhaps even a depression. Decisions about when and how to open up must balance that against the direct health threat of COVID-19, and that balance changes every hour.

Much of the of the public is likewise irrational and apparently sees no need for balance – especially in left-of-center states like Illinois. An April Rasmussen poll found that fully 50% of voters who identify themselves as liberal say the lockdowns can continue “as long as government officials say is necessary,” as well as another 35% of moderates:

That’s madness. We will starve in cold and darkness long before we die from this coronavirus if shutdowns continued indefinitely.

Governor JB Pritzker’s preconditions for reopening seem to accept the potential for indefinite shutdowns because a treatment — a drug therapeutic — is one of his preconditions; it’s one of his “3 Ts” along with tracing and testing. But we have no idea when an effective treatment will be available. However, he has indicated he is open to modifying stay-at-home rules.

What many don’t seem to understand is that aside from destroying quality of life, a bad economy kills people. It’s not just near term deaths from suicide, substance abuse, domestic abuse and the like, which are nicely estimated here. Crippled economies, in the long run, also have less to invest in healthcare, highway safety, research, public safety and the like that save inestimable numbers of lives.

Depressions can cause civil unrest, riots and even war. The Great Depression spawned fascism, leading to World War II. Eighty million dead.

Nor do many voters seem to understand that the economy will not function at all if so much of it is closed. The economy is like an ecosystem in which killing parts kills the whole. It’s a complex machine that, when large chunks get lopped off, can collapse into a pile of rubble.

Make no mistake that the economic risks of the current shutdown are nothing short of terrifying. Among what experts are saying:

•  The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that about 40% of the American workforce is in jobs “that are at high risk of layoff.” Under a worst-case scenario, that would result in 47 million unemployed and a staggering 32.1% unemployment rate – higher than the Great Depression.

•  “This is more like 1929 and the 1930s, which hit the whole world,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard University.

•  “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy come to a standstill,” said the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Chicago food line during the Great Depression

•  Coronavirus has delivered “unprecedented shocks to economies and labor markets. … It is the worst global crisis since the Second World War,” the International Labor Organization said.

•  U.S. government spending in response is now comparable to what was spent on World War II, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And never in history have central banks unleashed anything comparable to the flood of fiat currency now being created. No expert truly knows how that will work out.

None of this is to say how and when we should open up again. Social distancing will continue, as it should, regardless of what the government does. Personally, I honor the social distancing guidelines. Those of you in high risk groups should be particularly careful to comply.

It’s just that we need to set policy rationally, with balance. We need to listen more closely when Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Health, repeatedly cautions that his advice is limited to medical aspects of the crisis, and that he does not attempt to balance those against economic concerns.

We do not face a binary choice between “lives and livelihood,” as many have put it, including Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. And if one recognizes that the choice is not binary, but instead a matter of balancing, it should be obvious that economic consequences of remaining shut down grow every hour.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

 

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UnclePugsly
7 months ago

There is one big salvation for America – We are still a Republic. Fortunately there are many states that are run by good stewardship (you know who they are, they are the ones IL conservatives have been moving to for the last decade) America will re-open. The biggest losers will be those states who chose to be the last ones to reopen – they will permanently lose more business, lose more residents, lose more tax revenue. Right now Plano TX is the best place in America to locate a Corp HQ. What will so many progressive Democrats in Chicago do… Read more »

Paul
7 months ago

While McCormick Place Hospital isn’t needed today, it could be tomorrow.

It might be too early to plan for fall. If university students don’t have good paying jobs, they might not be able to attend classes.

Online, there are news accounts of some people testing positive again for COVID-19.

North Korea’s political situation could somehow make the global pandemic worse.

susan
7 months ago

Strategy 2 to survive selectively applied predatory government practices: Boycott TIF development residents, Civilian police force to uncover illegal activity in property tax assessments. Illinois Property tax rates are highest in America. Property tax rate is determined by dividing levy amounts by the amount of taxable property value. The lower the divisor (total assessed property value), the higher the tax RATE. Two major factors skew that divisor lower: TIF and non-uniformly low property assessments. TIF raises property tax rates in 2 ways: 35 years of property inflation, incremental property and sales taxes of ALL land/properties included in TIF footprint are… Read more »

7 months ago

While there are the federal guidelines, it really is up to the states. Texas and Georgia are already loosening up. Gov. Cuomo here in New York has already stated they will be doing policy by large geographic regions in the state, based on local conditions [the regions do make sense for our state]. They are obviously not waiting for a sure-thing treatment, forget about a vaccine.

So it seems to me your problem is with Pritzker, Lightfoot, and the rest of that crowd.

As for the Federal Reserve… that’s a different issue.

debtsor
7 months ago

Please stop spreading disinformation. There is no evidence this is ‘lung herpes’ and little to no evidence that you can get it again. It is not passed from generation to generation, and they’ve done tests on newborns and the come back negative.

Mark Felt
7 months ago

Politicians were late in responding to this pandemic and will be late in opening the country back up, particularly in a risk averse system like Illinois. Imagine if more people die, then Illinois politicians would not only have to worry about all the ongoing investigations into corruption by the FBI, but they just might have to face the voters at the polls.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Felt

The voters at the polls vote blue always. So it doesn’t matter, and they know that too. Some dumb as a box of rocks democrat in my neighborhood told me the other day that “JB is doing a good job of keeping us all safe.” I said, are we all really safe? what about the people in bread lines? What about the children who have no school again until August? What about the households that have lost jobs and income? What about the people filing bankruptcy? They’re all ‘safe’ too, right?

Robert Fair
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Ask a democrat and get a dumb out of touch answer. All the way to Springfield.

Susan
7 months ago

Strategy to survive Illinois government predation: Denial of services to public defined benefit entitlements recipients. Medical professionals could accomplish this by migrating to cash-pay service provision. (Civilians have no idea how much actual healthcare can be purchased for the price of annual insurance premiums paid for high deductible high copay policies. In 2-3 years, an individual can have saved enough to afford treatment for a cardiac event, In 5 years, many traditional cancer therapies). Other services follow suit: social shaming and denial of services whenever possible toward the segment of Illinois population willing to commit economic violence on the rest… Read more »

chumpchange
7 months ago

The federal guidelines are what they should be. It pushes decision making down the state political executives. Unfortunately, political executives are typically cowards. They don’t take risks because risks are politically dangerous. This is particularly the view of the left. So, the answer for political cowards is signal your own virtue while blaming everything and anything on somebody else. This approach underpins the left’s identity politics and culture of victimhood. Some states will begin to thrive sooner than others because their political leaders are not cowards. Illinois is definitely in the latter camp. I’ll post the quotation below again because… Read more »

Jåmes Conley
7 months ago

Mark, Many thanks for your column. Perhaps what is needed is a Reasoned voice that will inspire our collective talents to confidently engineer solutions to the current human condition… see below from Mitch Daniels of Purdue. He is planning to open for business and problem solving in The Fall…
https://www.purdue.edu/president/messages/campus-community/2020/2004-fall-message.php

7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Scott Adams
@ScottAdamsSays
·
Apr 21 Scott Adams
If #coronavirus only targeted young males, the economy would not have shut down. That would just look like every other war.

DantheMan
7 months ago

As many of us have anticipated, the longer the crisis the better for Pritzker. It gives him cover. All the blame for Illinois woes will be focused on Trump and China. Most of the media will fail to challenge this assertion. His strategy will work. Taxes will be raised. I can already hear his future speech….., “President Trump won’t give us the money and we need to keep essential services like hospitals, police, firefighters and schools staffed and open.” Perhaps they will sell the higher tax initiative as “temporary”, and the liberal voting fools may actually believe him. The alternative… Read more »

Jeff Carter
7 months ago

Feel like selling all my stock

JimBob
7 months ago

Act in haste [because November’s not that far off]; repent at leisure. An electorate comprised of people ignorant of history and economics that can be bought with a few government checks … what could go wrong? We’ll see soon enough. They may find a virus cure, but there is no cure for stupid.

Repent Now
7 months ago

Maybe, COVID-19 is God’s punishment for idolatry, gluttony, abortion, murder, rape, child/elder abuse/neglect, crime, sodomy, adultery, greed and more.

James
7 months ago
Reply to  Repent Now

Yowza, now we get the nut jobs arguing their take on the “causes” of the current pandemic. Let the flood gates open on that!

Mikey.
7 months ago
Reply to  James

People were punished back then for all kinds of things back then, so it’s possible. Having a religious view doesn’t make one nutty.

James
7 months ago
Reply to  Mikey.

Maybe, but to state that point of view with anything approaching a good level of credibility simply stretches things a bit too far. There a lots of explanatons often given for cataclysmic events, your take being one–and only one–of them. Don’t assume its true necessarily. What you are doing is enticing the religious right groups to come into the argument, and that will swamp this website with that group’s sense of what’s right and wrong about the United States as they choose to see it. Is that what the people here really want to see happen–turning this website into the… Read more »

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  James

The virus came from a bat, either at the wet market or at the labs walking distance from the wet market. All the available evidence points towards that.

I don’t know why, given JB’s unlimited and authortarian power, he isn’t forcing the stay-at-home order against bats too, only humans and their pets. I saw bat just last night fluttering around my yard. Didn’t that jerk get the memo? All bats and people STAY AT HOME until further notice. jeez

Ozzy Fan
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Ozzy Osborne ate bats. 😝🤢🤮

Robert Fair
7 months ago
Reply to  James

It’s not “religion” It’s a personal relationship with Christ who sent His son to die for the sins of the whole world and rose again. Is that not what Easter is all about?” For by grace you are saved through faith. It is not of yourselves it is a gift of God” Ephesians 2:8

Mike Williams
7 months ago
Reply to  Repent Now

God has punished the earth in the past (asssuming you take the Bible as truth). God also gave us free will. With free will comes mistakes. This Wuhan virus is more likely a human mistake rather than God’s punishment. Luckily for us, God is more about love than anger.

FYI: Illinois is lucky I’m not God. My brother that still lives there would be finishing up an ark right about now.

Repent Now
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Williams

It isn’t a human mistake. It’s global.

Robert Fair
7 months ago
Reply to  Repent Now

I agree 100% Nothing happens by chance. God is in control of everything. It is a wake up call to repent and turn to Him.2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

nixit
7 months ago

I’m sure the vast majority of retired govt workers in IL are willing to stay on lock down “as long as govt says”. No matter how much the economy tanks, their pension checks are not affected. No matter how many workers lose their job, they’ll get a 3% raise.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago
Reply to  nixit

This right here. I’m a huge believer that humans are extremely sensitive to incentives as well as pleasure/pain/stress. I think people do more in line with these sensory inputs than they realize. You take that weekly check away from those government workers–like the private sector–and the entire mood in this state is a different animal. Pritzker would not be so breezily dismissing the economic concerns of the rest of us. Because his pain point is public employee unions. And right now they don’t feel a thing, other than having an extended Netflix and chill marathon, while everyone else figures out… Read more »

Gray
7 months ago

I work at law firm that deals with many state agencies. We can cannot get answers to questions for clients, including clients who are trying to give the state money! Apparently, many state employees are simply not working and thus preventing those sectors of the economy trying to operate. It’s ridiculous.

Thanks to Wirepoints for being the only news service to challenge J.B. and Lightfoot’s narratives.

Douglas
7 months ago

Restuarants, stores, airlines–everything could open, and people will avoid any risk now. The reality is that this will not be a V shaped recovery, as the damage has been done now. I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for balance, but the evidence is clear what would have happened had we not had social distancing. The healthcare system would have been well over capacity by magnitudes greater than many understand.

Freddy
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Huge losses here in one of Rockford’s hospitals. Est losses from March 15-June15 are between $45-75M. Many have to take pay cuts or reduced hours. No matching IRA for a while. Few if any elective surgeries are hurting the entire hospital systems around the country. Yet no cuts whatsoever to any public taxing body.

PinkFloydActuary
7 months ago

People rightfully pointed out the concern of an exponential increase of cases of COVID if we didn’t take action. They don’t seem to understand the economic version of that same concept. Too many people who aren’t impacted now don’t seem to realize if we don’t slow this down, their time is coming too. Playing to the emotion in it, I saw a slide today that within 60 days, nationwide 450 hospitals could shut down and 97% of physician practices are going to be impacted (with smaller practices being wiped out). Stated by others, the greatest irony of everything is that… Read more »