Did Anyone Think This Through?
Count me as one of a diminishing number of "coronavirus response" skeptics. My vantage point is that of a working-class person (service manager in an auto repair shop). My state of Virginia has joined the growing number of states that has ordered its citizens to remain in their homes except for essential reasons, and a shutdown of non-essential businesses until at least June 10th.
The good news for me is that auto repair is classed as an essential service and I have enough diverse skills to make me the kind of employee who will be the last to be laid off. The bad news is that inevitably, I will be laid off. Shop revenues for the month of March were down between 25 and 50%, depending on which metric was being used, which means my pay was down by a nearly equal percentage. So far, in the first few days of April, revenues are down 75-90% companywide.
I work for good people. It’s a family-owned business with 10 shops. I know they don't have the cash reserves to keep paying staff through this, and even if they did, they would be foolish to do so since there is no date certain of a return to normalcy.
At some point very soon, they will have to shift from keeping enough employees to recover quickly when the crisis ends, to preserving whatever assets they have for the survival of the family. When that happens and I am laid off, as millions of working-class Americans already have been, I have a problem beyond no job and no income. Try no health insurance. Because I, as most working Americans, get my health insurance through work.
Approximately $1,500 a month comes out of my pay to cover health insurance for me, my wife, and my son. It is the top-tier health insurance plan available, but the basic plan would only have been a few hundred dollars cheaper. The policies of my government have not only encouraged me to get my insurance through my employer -- they have made it nearly impossible to get it any other way. The government has also ordered the draconian actions that have shut the economy down and thus the potential loss of my insurance, at a time when we are theoretically heading into a healthcare mega disaster.
If I were an ambitious leftist trying one more time to get socialized health care across the goal line I couldn't plan it any better: intentionally throw tens of millions of Americans out of work and deprive them of their health insurance.
But what about COBRA? (That's the law that allows you to keep your employer-sponsored health insurance when you lose your job.) Duh! You still have to pay for it. With no income. The $1,200 of promised money I am supposed to someday get from the government is not enough to cover 1 month of my premiums. Unemployment insurance? Medicaid? When people’s backs are to the wall and they have no choice and no other way, they will accept socialism.
I fear Donald Trump has taken the bait and he knows this. He is trapped in a car barreling down the highway toward economic disaster and a great depression, and he knows it. He is desperately looking for an off ramp but unfortunately he has turned the accelerator and the wheel over to the "experts.”
The “experts” are people of genuine theoretical scientific knowledge but no real-world experience and no capability of risk assessment beyond the specific risks in their chosen field. They are focused on the virus and only the virus, because it is not their job to worry about anything but the virus. They could, without blinking an eye, recommend a six-month in-home lockdown. You could scream, "But people will starve by the millions!” That is not their concern. If they starve to death in their homes, they did not die of coronavirus and thus the “experts” have done their jobs. It doesn't help that almost all of them are government employees for life guaranteed to receive full pay and benefits until the end of the known universe. They are not capable of grasping the concept that no work equals no pay, no insurance, no food, and finally nowhere to live.
But there’s another bunch of people in that car. Malevolent people within the government, federal and state, who would love nothing more than to slam the car into the wall, destroy the economy, the lives of millions of people, and destroy America’s preeminence in the world, and the Trump presidency, in order to give themselves the ultimate power, the power of life or death over each citizen. They will fight furiously when and if the president tries to take back control of the car.
At some point very soon, Trump will have to accept the fact that the ones he has turned the car over to are not going to stop, slow down, or turn. There is no incentive or reason for them to do so. So far, Trump has confined himself to tossing money out the windows of the speeding car hoping somehow this will soften the blow. It won’t and it can’t.
Insane ideas are being hatched (in a Harvard faculty lounge?) such as loaning businesses money to pay employees when there’s no productive work to do or revenues to collect, with a fingers-crossed promise that the loans will be “forgiven” if certain criteria are met. But we know our government bureaucrats all too well. Contributed to DNC? Loan forgiven. Contributed to RNC? Sorry, you needed to spend 80% of that loan on payroll, but records show you only spent 79.97% on payroll. Payback in full plus penalty interest. Don’t have it? Sell the business to my friend or family or give Uncle Sam a controlling stake.
No, the smart play, the only play for any businessman is to lay off your employees. No telling how long this will go on, so why burden yourself with an insane relationship with the federal government? Your employees will probably be better off drawing full unemployment and you’ll probably be able to pick them up at a considerable discount when and if the crisis starts to ease.
And the longer this goes on, the harder the recovery will be. Inflation will be a major factor if money is continuously tossed out of the car. States will have to raise the unemployment premiums on the few surviving businesses in order to cover their enormous outlays. People will not want to, or be able to, go back to life as usual or spending as usual. After all, what has happened once can happen again. Better to hunker down, don’t buy that new car, don’t upgrade that house, don’t spend that $150 on a dinner out or a rock concert. Become more like our depression-era grandparents.
The sad and scary part is that the safe political bet for Trump is to let the “experts” slam the car into the wall, destroy the country and the lives of millions, and rule as a new-era FDR, with the country in permanent depression, the capital hidden in walls, under rocks, or in treasury notes until better times.
The right thing to do, even if it costs him the presidency, is to kick the crazy “expert” driver out of the car and grab the wheel and steer for the off ramp. It may already be too late. But it’s the only chance to save the country.
And yes, those he kicks out of the car or subdues will all become his open enemies now with twice the power because of the trust he gave them in the first place, and because of the media’s readiness to embrace them as they trash the president daily on all the networks.
No death in the United States will be recorded as anything but a coronavirus death. Armed suspect shot in bank? Hey, test him. He had coronavirus! 103-year-old granny with stage 4 pancreatic cancer? Whoa, she died of coronavirus. Boeing 737 goes down with all hands? Well, we can’t prove it, but the maintenance chief did test positive for the virus.
It will be a really tough news cycle for the next 7 months or the next 55 months if Donald Trump wins re-election. But it was always going to be thus.
Graphic credit: Pixabay