Welcome to June, approximately month three or four of the Coronavirus lockdown.
I haven’t been posting much about the Boston Globe, but I have been keeping up with their coverage of their main three topics: Coronavirus, Covid-19, and the pandemic. And then their subcategories: how to wear a mask, how the Coronavirus has increased racism in the U.S., how we need much more federal spending including more taxation, and why our personal freedoms need to continue to be curtailed until not a single person dies because of this disease.
It sounds good to say that even one death is too many, but seriously, as a human species, this certainly can’t be our guiding principle.
Imagine the esteemed Dr. Fauci in charge of automobile safety, with “not a single death” being the standard for which we judge success.
First, we would all be driving Sherman tanks. Second, the speed limit would be 25 with automatic seatbelts and airbags. Third, we would not allow anyone with a medical condition to drive (in case they lose control and hurt someone else) nor would anyone with a drug or alcohol problem, because they could be drunk or high and get behind the “wheel” (do tanks have steering wheels? I doubt it. Maybe the control stick?)
Living assumes certain risks, and the government’s job is not to protect every single individual from every single risk. Instead, adults need to assess the risk and make their own decisions. That is what freedom is about, even if there is a risk of death. This is why the government has not banned skydiving, rock climbing, scuba diving, snowmobiling, motorcycling, driving, flying, alcohol, smoking, and watching TV while eating snacks.
I agree that “flattening the curve” was a good idea. I also agree that we needed time to understand the virus and learn how to treat it. I also understand that people who are more vulnerable to serious risks may wish to continue to quarantine themselves. But the general population cannot continue to be locked down if some, many, or most of them wish to assume the risk.
We have mostly avoided politics during the pandemic, but the Democrats have gleefully looked at the open spigot of federal funds–money we are borrowing from future generations, one way or the other–and dreamed of using this free cash to fund every spending dream and backfill past spending, promises, and debt. Between adding more debt and creating more cash, we have spent several trillion dollars this year that we don’t have, and economist Steve Moore wrote in the Wall Street Journal that government spending at the federal and state levels are now projected to be more than half our annual GDP. That could be one definition of a “socialist” state, a threshold we have never crossed, not even during the massive spending for World War Two.
If there is no cost to borrow money, because the federal government is effectively capping interest rates at zero, the danger is no longer default, it is inflation or hyper-inflation. We can print and spend as much money as we need or want, until the people producing our wealth (the workers, the companies) decide they need more dollars because they fear the dollar is worth much less. And that will cause a spiral that could spin out of control and crash the currency. Unthinkable? I hope it is a scenario we never see, but isn’t that the logical conclusion to creating, borrowing and spending essentially unlimited money?
President Trump is not a true conservative, and he has argued for below-zero interest rates. Talk about devaluing our currency, that could do it. He even mentioned we could refinance our debt with negative interest rates. I wonder how that would work. Sounds like a massive Ponzi scheme.
The solution is a balanced budget with a realistic plan to pay back the debt. This creates confidence in our currency and trust. Anyone paying attention realizes all this is at risk with our present monetary policies. But balancing the budget and paying back debt must include a reasonable and affordable tax rate. If we simply raise taxes, we will further erode the private sector, which is the source of our wealth. Government spending is overhead, and is generally not productive for our economy (although much of it is, of course, necessary). So the trick is to minimize government spending and maximize private business activity so we are all efficiently working, producing, saving, and spending. The more the government takes from the private sector and spends in the public sector, the harder it is for us to have economic growth and avoid economic collapse.
So to get our private economy going, we need to open up, and allow people to assume the risks they are comfortable with. And as the disease gets further under control, more and more people will venture out and resume their lives. Yes, some people will assume this risk, catch the disease, and die. But for people who have experienced several months of living like a recluse, maybe it is worth the risk for most of them.
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