The Cost of Reopening the Economy

Is there anybody more loathsome than the members of the mainstream media who have chosen to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as yet another political tool to attack President Donald Trump?  Its newest chorus is “Mr. President, how many people are you willing to let die in order for you to reopen the economy?”  It’s kind of a double edge sword.  In the first instance they are laying the groundwork to blame Mr. Trump for any COVID-19 death occurring after the federal government modifies the current recommendations regarding our efforts to slow the spread of the virus.  And the flip side is that if they can frighten the politicians into delaying the reopening of the economy they can blame Mr. Trump for the looming recession and economic stagnation.  Clever huh?  It’s a win-win for them.

But the answer about the number of deaths that politicians will tolerate is right there in front of them although they simply refuse to take responsibility.
According to the Center for Disease Control more than 16 million Americans are living with some disease caused by smoking, and of that number 480,000 die annually. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which include emphysema and chronic bronchitis.  And despite these gruesome numbers Congress and state legislatures have steadfastly refused to ban cigarettes.  And the reason is simple.  According to revenue to federal, state, and local governments from tobacco taxes produced nearly $12.46 Billion in 2019.  So when it comes to funding government we know that 480,000 deaths per year is acceptable.
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel approximately 38,000 people die annually in the United States from traffic accidents with another 4.4 Million incurring serious injuries.  The death toll amounts to about 12.4 deaths per 100,000 people.  And despite that there has never been any serious discussion about banning motor vehicles.  And for a very good reason, the social and economic fabric of America depends on the motor vehicle.  Should you ban motor vehicles America would collapse overnight.  So we know that the death of 38,000 people annually is an acceptable number to maintain the social and economic fabric of the nation.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism approximately 80,000 people die from alcohol related causes.  (There is overlap between this number and motor vehicle related deaths.)  And yet we do not ban the consumption of alcohol – we tried that once under the Volstead Act which failed miserably merely enriched mobsters and “bootleggers” like Joseph Kennedy (father of President John F. Kennedy).  Alcohol taxes produce approximately $10 Billion annually in the United States.  The social and economic fabric of the country is woven with alcohol and so we have accepted the accompanying death rate.
According to WebMD between 8,200 and 20,000 people die annually of influenza.  The CDC estimates those numbers to be between 12,000 on the low end and 43,000 on the high end over the last eight influenza seasons.  And despite those horrific numbers, prior to this year, we have never issued statewide “quarantine” restrictions or closed non-essential businesses. (This latter estimate is important because it is the CDC numbers, including forecasts, that are being used to track COVID-19.)  So apparently 43,000 deaths is acceptable within the medical community and state and federal governments.
And according to CDC there are over 600,000 infant deaths annually due to abortions.  And yet not only have we not banned abortions, we use state and federal tax dollars to support abortion providers and to pay for abortions.  And while those figures produce an outcry from nearly half of the population, the politicians have held fast to supporting, encouraging and providing taxpayer funded abortions on demand.
So you see, the questions asked by the mainstream media of how many deaths Mr. Trump will accept to reopen the economy are just about politics and not about a serious question of balancing life and death.  It’s about “gotcha” not about social policy.  Mr. Trump has answered truthfully that zero deaths are “acceptable” and that is the correct answer.  But the better answer is a series of other questions:
  •  How many people will die of COVID-19 if we continue the quarantine until an immunization is developed, tested and deployed (approximately one year from now)? 
  • How many people will die of COVID-19 after an immunization is deployed?
  • How many people will die from starvation, depression, and suicide because of the loss of jobs, income, and assets if we continue the quarantine until an immunization is developed, tested and deployed?  (The Great Depression is a convenient guide.)
  • How many people will die from unrelated diseases that go untreated as a result of hospital and medical closures or inability to pay for treatment if we continue the quarantine until an immunization is developed, tested and deployed?
  •  How many people will die from an increase in crime because people without resources and nothing left to lose will turn to crime in order to live if we continue the quarantine until an immunization is developed, tested and deployed?
One life lost is a tragedy.  One life saved is a blessing. 
But blessing and tragedies aside life is not without risk.  Those who will make the decisions carry a heavy burden and the fact is, that no matter what the answer, it will not be perfect.  The ultimate responsibility lies with Mr. Trump to issue new guidelines and for the nation’s governors to choose whether and when to implement those.  For the “gotcha” reporters of the mainstream media, let’s see how many of the nation’s Democrat governors you are willing to pose that same “bu*****t question to.
And for me, I would answer, “It would depend on whether I got to choose those who go.”