Balancing Money and Death

Is it just my own faulty recollection, or did President Trump actually fail to appoint an “Opening our Country” council this past week? Given that our great nation is home to some of the best and brightest researchers in fields like public health, economics, finance, labor, social psychology, and (yes) even history, one would think that such a panel would have includes at least one Nobel laureate if not several. Instead, the news report I was watching mentioned names like Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Larry Kudlow, and Peter Navarro, all chaired by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“Really?” I thought. “Those are the finest minds in the United States of America on the subject of the socioeconomic and public health impacts of COVID-19?”

But alas, even that didn’t happen. Perhaps the whispering of those names stirred such a ruckus among Trump’s strongest supporters that the panel was never appointed. Instead, President Trump distributed the names of over 200 government and business leaders to media representatives after a White House speech, thereby implying, without saying so, that those people were somehow part of whatever task force he was forming.

Yet today is Saturday, April 18, 2020, and there is still no definitive word about the final makeup of that council.

Further muddying the waters, President Trump told the country this week that governors would decide how and when to reopen the economies of their respective states, then tweeted support for those citizens living in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia who had demonstrated a lack of support for their governors. In the tweet relating to Virginia, he added “save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege.” By connecting guns to the word “liberate,” Spirited Reasoners cannot help but conclude that President Trump was calling on his supporters to use armed force against those states’ governors. (Forgive me, but I keep searching in vain for a kinder interpretation.)

Thank God most of our governors appear to be using sane criteria in the determination of how and when to reopen their economies. Following are only a few of the unique questions these leaders are considering when they balance the risk of death against the risk of economic privation:

  • How stressed are the emergency rooms, ICUs, and nursing staffs of our local hospitals? Would an increased caseload be manageable or would it break the system? How close are our front-line health care providers to the breaking point? Do our state’s medical teams possess an adequate supply of masks, protective gowns, and ventilators if patient loads increase?
  • Is our state configured in such a manner that some regions could reopen more quickly than others? If so, how would we prevent a mass migration of people from a closed region to one that chooses to reopen? Note, for example, that when the initial call was made to close schools and businesses in Washington and Oregon, people flooded to the coast as a means of getting away from other people. What they discovered is that “other people” had the same idea. This behavior resulted in crowds at area beaches, and the eventual closure of all beaches and state parks.
  • How stable is our region’s supply of food and essential services? Is some degree of reopening necessary to prevent shortages?
  • Are there less restrictive orders that might allow for limited operation of businesses while also mandating social distancing and/or the wearing of protective masks?

Spirited Reasoners can no doubt add other questions to this list. The one question which I doubt any Spirited Reasoner would be adding, however, is the one that seems foremost in President Trump’s mind: “What effect is social distancing having on the 2nd Amendment?”