A Disaster for the Ages

This crisis is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, I fear. And even as the effects of the pandemic fade in the rest of the world, they are going to be felt in the U.S. for a long, long time. And that’s because Donald Trump is president.

The Trump administration’s botched coronavirus response, explained by German Lopez at Vox does a good job walking us through all the ways the Trump Administration failed to respond to the pandemic when it would have made a difference.  We’re past that point now. Even if the Trumpers get everything else right going forward, there will be tremendous misery, and lots of people will die who didn’t have to die. And the economy will be thoroughly bleeped for a long, long time.

This will go down in history as profound failure of our national government,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said today. And the failure continues.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked the federal government to put military logistics experts in charge of procuring and distributing medical supplies. Instead, right now pandemic response is being managed by Jared Kushner. I’m serious. Having already screwed up negotiating a bleeping contract with General Motors, Mr. Ivanka is now the nation’s ventilator czar.

What started two-and-a-half weeks ago as an effort to utilize the private sector to fix early testing failures has become an all-encompassing portfolio for Kushner, who, alongside a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, has taken charge of the most important challenges facing the federal government: Expanding test access, ramping up industry production of needed medical supplies, and figuring out how to get those supplies to key locations.

Kushner has even obtained a new center of power at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the crisis-response organization that’s taken over coronavirus strategy and planning — and where Kushner and his deputies ride herd on the health agencies that had been criticized for their slow responses to the pandemic earlier this year.

So we’re screwed. Jonathan Chait writes,

As head of an ad hoc task force, Kushner is “working alongside government officials from FEMA, HHS, and USAID to solve a range of logistical and technical challenges” and “has stepped in to coordinate decision-making at agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” according to Politico. “I don’t know how our government operates anymore,” one Republican source complains.

For anybody familiar with Kushner’s boundless self-confidence in his ability to master even the thorniest of policy challenges, from modernizing government processes to solving the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, his disposition will come as no surprise. Gabriel Sherman reports that, in one meeting, the presidential son-in-law insisted that he had mastered the problem of ventilator disbursement. “I have all this data about ICU capacity. I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators,” Kushner announced, according to someone present.

A lot of people will die who didn’t have to die. See also an old Frank Bruni column from last November, Jared Kushner Fails Up Again.

And just when you might have through the derp couldn’t get any deeper, this happened today.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he wasn’t aware that asymptomatic people could transmit coronavirus as he announced he was preparing to issue a state-wide shelter-in-place order.

Let us take a moment for a mass facepalm.

It’s a good guess the pandemic is going to hit the southern states especially hard. See Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread. The concept of shelter in place was lost on the Deep South until maybe yesterday. See also The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South in The Atlantic. For some reason, mortality rates from coronavirus among middle-aged and younger people are much higher in the South than elsewhere.

Although the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in Louisiana are still among victims over 70 years old, 43 percent of all reported deaths have been people under 70. In Georgia, people under 70 make up 49 percent of reported deaths. By comparison, people under 70 account for only 20 percent of deaths in Colorado. “Under 70” is a broad category, not really useful for understanding what’s going on. But digging deeper reveals more concerning numbers. In Louisiana, people from the ages of 40 to 59 account for 22 percent of all deaths. The same age range in Georgia accounts for 17 percent of all deaths. By comparison, the same age group accounts for only about 10 percent of all deaths in Colorado, and 6 percent of all deaths in Washington State. These statistics suggest that middle-aged and working-age adults in the two southern states are at much greater risk than their counterparts elsewhere; for some reason, they are more likely to die from COVID-19. … Case-fatality rates around the world are notoriously tricky because they are based in part on the extent of testing, but a recent study of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, found a case-fatality rate of 0.5 percent among adults from the ages of 30 to 59. The current estimate of fatality rates in the same age range in Louisiana is about four times that.

The article provides data showing that southerners are less healthy than the rest of us. They have higher rates of hypertension and heart disease at earlier ages.  “Southerners are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases than other Americans—even as Americans are more likely to suffer from chronic disease than citizens of other countries with comparable wealth,” the article says. And a lot of that is because of poverty. And there’s this — the gray states hadn’t expanded Medicaid as of 2019.

If you look at the New York Times map of where people have traveled the most over the past couple of months and then the Medicaid map, you see a close correlation. It’s not a perfect correlation, but close. That probably says something.

And then there’s the economic fallout. There’s an interview of Paul Krugman in Business Insider that’s useful. Among other things, he says that our government so far has produced the weakest economic response of all the G7 countries. And because the states are breaking their budgets to buy gray-market medical supplies now — not to mention losing tax revenue — there is likely to be a mass layoff of state employees next year, which will hurt the economy massively.

So this is not going to end soon, and it probably will haunt the country for a long time. And it didn’t have to be this bad.

9 thoughts on “A Disaster for the Ages

  1. I've also read that health insurance premiums are going to go through the roof next year, given all the claims for coronavirus. A horribly creaky and expensive system will be brought to its knees.

    If we can eject the Republicans this fall, this could be the moment for universal health-care. And Trump decided to not reopen the Obamacare exhanges, just as unemployment claims went through the roof, again this week.

    Michele Goldberg,Jared Kushner is Going to Get Us All Killed.

    • Its a system designed with one purpose in mind: delivery profit to its shareholders.  Actually providing health care is a distant second, if that.




    He didn't know?!?

    We all we know GA's GOOBERnor was a bigoted asshole, but we didn't realize how either stupid, ignorant, evil, or all three, Governor Shemp is…                                                                                                                              Whoops!  My apologies to the great Shemp Howard of "The Three Stooges," who was neither stupid, nor ignorant, nor evil.

    I, of course, meant GA GOOBERnor BRIAN KEMP when I wrote what I did above.  Why?  Because the CDC offices ARE LOCATED IN GA!  And less than an hour away from the GOOBERnor's Mansion.  THE CDC!  IN GA!!!!!  OY!

    So, Kemp, like Shemp, was neither stupid or ignorant.

    But he is evil. 

    And a lying evil monster at that!  He stuck to the story of his beloved asshole, the KKKaptain of "our" Titanically f*cked ship of state, America: presiDUNCE Donald J. tRUMPleTHINSKIN, and that this tRUMP Plague was a "Democrat"* hoax.

    Imagine, Georgians, if you had Stacey Abrams as your Governor, how many less of you would sicken and die?!?


    It's often said that in politics, voters deserve to get the person they voted for!  But I'll excuse GA, because Brian (Note: Not B-R-A-I-N!) Kemp, cheated and suppressed votes in order to become GOOBERnor!  So maybe you don't actually deserve this incompetent, lying, cheating, stealing, uncaring, sociopathic, moronic GOOBERnor!

    My Abram's-voting niece who lives near Atlanta, sure as hell doesn't deserve the GOOBERERnor she's got now.  And neither do millions of other voters.

    • It's often said that in politics, voters deserve to get the person they voted for! 

       Yeah, I can agree with that…but in this particular case the punishment doesn't fit the crime. I don't think people fully understood the depths of Trump's moral sickness. I've never seen a pathological liar lie with the consistency that Trump is able to put forth. I've run into a few who would sporadically toss out a lie or two on occasion, but nothing on the magnitude or scale that Trump is able to do.

  3. My daughter (age 16) and I were discussing how State governors, and Trump and Congress and Wall Street and K Street all have (and continue to) miss the significance of Trump Flu. They had the inside information and the  analysts. The handwriting was on the wall by late JANUARY and nobody took action in advance for six weeks even while the media was asking questions.

    The comment by my daughter relates to a TedX talk on procrastination where the  speaker described how people who fail are driven by the "Instant Gratification Monkey." They know what needs to be done and the deadline but refuses to act until the deadline is almost now. Which was a revealing concept for a HS student applied to HS procrastinators but the entire leadership  of government and corporate America are slaves to the Instant Gratification Monkey.

  4. The map above mirrors the map of travel distance per day used in an article in the NYT today to a large degree.  Rural people do need to travel more miles to get supplies and to get work done, but when one factor's that out. you get a culture of denial, inability to delay gratification (aka instant gratification monkey), and magical/odd unscientific thinking.  You also get a time bomb of an area which is asking for a late peak of virus hotbeds.

    Both Doug and this reader and Time's pick comment writer capture great points.  It seems cultural and character differences are going to lead to problems with containment in some geographic area.  

    Credit Steve Griffith of Oakland, CA for his unflattering but accurate criticism of problem personal characteristics that are an impediment to solving this problem. 

    On February 26th, San Francisco declared a state of emergency. On March 16th, the seven Bay Area counties directed all of their residents to shelter-place, several days before the entire state of California did. Those early, aggressive efforts have already shown encouraging, promising results with respect to “flattening the curve” in the region. Since then, we have been “treated” to tales of Louisiana and Georgia so-called evangelicals still holding cheek-by-jowel services for hundreds, Texas students spreading the virus by spring-breaking in Mexico and Hobby Lobby defying Colorado orders to close their businesses because “it’s in the hands of the Lord”. Even Trump wanted to see “packed churches on Easter….a beautiful thing”. Alas, all of our early, constructive efforts may have been for naught as, it turns out, there are several things that travel even faster, and are more deadly, than the coronavirus itself: lack of consideration, selfishness and an endless loop of stupidity.


  5. It is good to read an article on what not to do, or what will really spread the virus.  Hot spots are the exact opposite of social distancing.  This article from Der Spiegel provides a readable and well documented case of a hot spot.  Ski areas in the US have been reported to have similar hot spot characteristics.  

    I will unmask and be not anonymous on this comment.  



  6. I think we're in for a helleva ride. But looking on the bright side there are two emotional comforts I can find solace in. The first being that there will be so many people in the same boat of financial ruin that I won't be alone in my misery, and the second being that my house has a sizable front porch which will provide the perfect setting to enable me to sing spirituals for deliverance from the economic burden the Trump administration has placed upon me. 

     Swing low sweet chariot, comin' fore to carry me home.

    It's a serious time of great anxiety where a hard and realistic look at what a tenuous financial situation our country is in due to a vacuum of leadership in a time when we need a steady hand at the wheel. And then to hear Trump touting his superior Facebook rating as an indicator of his greatness in the midst of such a crisis just sends shivers down my spine. Makes me want to say, God help us! Will somebody in the halls of power please pull the plug on this clown. He's just not connected to the American people. ( or humanity for that matter).



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