April is among my favorite months - so much change in the air. Our days are longer, the song of birds is in the air, the weather is totally unpredictable - and oh, yeah - we’re still living in Covid Nation. I don’t have to tell you that life is different today than it was at the beginning of March, and I think we all wonder what it’s going to be like this time next month, or in the fall. I found myself thinking about the passage of time as I entered into this months’ blog writing session - of the inevitability of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun. A clockmaker may measure this passage, a photographer may capture a bit of its beauty, writers and historians might take note of major moments, but the world keeps spinning round and round.
I would submit that there are two camps, largely speaking, as to how people see the role of government in the world. There are those who see the inequalities of the world, the poverty and the strife, the abuse of power by corrupt businesses and organizations - and believe that government should do something about it! We’ll call them the Fixers. Others see this same poverty and strife and the abuse of power, and inequality, and corruption of businesses and organizations and have come to believe that the more money and power governments exert in an attempt to fix the problems, the more they become the problem - we’ll call them the Nixers.
The Fixers want the government involved in near-everything, making sure it’s fair and equal and balanced and open to diversity. The Nixers see the role of government as defense of its people and property and the enforcement of the rule of law - and little else. Most of us, of course, are somewhere along the spectrum - clumping a bit somewhere in the middle probably - we want the government to do something but we’re cautious about it being too much.
So along comes COVID19, and it’s clear by the nature of this new virus and the consequences faced in other nations that many people will die! There is a great call from among the people, apparently, for government to do something about it! And do something about it they have - first banning gatherings of more than 250 people, and teaching us about the elbow bump. Later, it was gatherings of more than 10, and how to make your own mask at home - ignore the fact that we told you homemade masks are useless a couple weeks ago! And now, and for the last several weeks, we are under a stay-at-home order, with parents ordered to stay at home with their children who have no child care, and only the essential parts of the economy engaged in production and commerce - largely manufacturers, medical, gas stations, liquor stores, and pot shops it seems. At final edit, in Colorado we’ve just transitioned into the “safer-at-home” phase, and government agencies are scrambling to communicate what that means to individuals and businesses in every region.
I’m thankful for this limited reopening, both for the increased opportunity to do stuff, and by the hope communicated by the change. We’ve flattened the curve, great joy!, but we don’t want it to spike back up again. This virus is so new and contagious, the researchers and doctors tell us, that by flattening the curve we won’t actually reduce the total number infected, but we will keep the hospitalizations under the level of maximum health care capacity, and thus fewer people will die for lack of care. BUT DON’T WORRY, we’re going to figure out a vaccine, eventually, and somebody, somewhere is making test kits we think, and this other company has invented a machine that scans people and gives results in only minutes, and oh yeah, we passed a $2+ Trillion dollar stimulus package with more on the way and we’ll pay your people to stay at home just so long as you keep them on the payroll!
I have to say, the Fixers really dropped the ball on the preparation for this calamity, despite numerous signs that something like this was bound to happen. But they’ve been working feverishly to fix it in all sorts of ways since it all broke out.
And the small business owners and displaced workers of America are groaning under all of this pressure, financial and emotional and logical. If you were banking with a big bank, you probably didn’t get the PPP. And even if you did - should you really borrow money that may or may not be forgivable, in order to pay people to stay at home and not work? You don’t have any work for them to do, and things look like they might be tough coming out of this forced shutdown, so you may have to lay them off in 2 months anyway - maybe you do them a favor to get on Uncle Sam’s new souped-up and extended term unemployment contract right away, before that runs out!
If you’ve read my work before, you know that I tend to drift a lot closer to the Nixer side of the spectrum. Give me liberty or give me death is a popular slogan on the nixer Facebook pages of late, and I’m actually seeing some Nixer conversions occurring in my circles. A quarantine of the healthy is a big step-up in authority for the powers that be, and it’s got people asking questions they’ve never asked before.
But the reason I fly on the nixer side of the spectrum is less because of the freedom and liberty elements involved, but more because of my longtime fascination with unintended consequences - the fixers seem to always fix it wrong! One little-covered story from years ago was fan-favorite Bill Clinton encouraging Donald Trump to “take a more active role in the Republican Party” some weeks before Trump announced his candidacy in June of 2015 - you can read it here if you want to - in Vanity Fair no less. Now, to me, Bill was trying to fix a couple things by this encouragement - he thought it would be fun to throw a bull into the China shop that was the Republican establishment at that time, and he thought that Donald Trump was one of the few people in America that his wife Hillary could beat in a general election - thus becoming the first woman President!
Now, we all know what happened from there. We now have President Donald Trump, Hillary is still munching on sour grapes from four years ago, and Trump now owns the China shop - which he’s converted to a ‘Merica shop! The same kind of fixing appears to have happened this spring in the Democratic primary, where among a broad field of candidates Crazy Bernie was starting to build a commanding lead in the runup to Super Tuesday. Then Sleepy Joe takes South Carolina (where Joe’s buddy Obama carries near-saint status) and suddenly Peta and Amy - the most likeable candidates in the field - see the light and drop their candidacy and throw their hat in with Joe.
The light they saw was the dark-room flashlight of a Fixer I’m sure - or more likely a group of them - talking with Pete and Amy about the dangers of a Sanders candidacy, and how it’s essential to win in 2020 to defeat the evil Donald Trump, and talking with them about their political hopes and aspirations for the future I’m sure…and showing them pictures of where their kids go to school...
So, now we have Presidential Candidate Biden, running unopposed. Despite the fact that recent polls are showing Biden leading Trump at present time, we all know they showed the same thing for Hillary last time around. And, I saw the preview for the first debate the other day - Trump is the guy with the flamethrower, and Biden arrives dressed as a giant stick of cotton candy. It’s not gonna be pretty people - I’m calling Trump in a landslide on the electoral, plus I believe he’ll win the popular vote. I’ll probably throw my vote away again on the Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate, but I've met too many people that didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but will in 2020 to think Joe’s got a snowball’s chance in you-know-where!
So, here we are, with the Fixers on center stage in Covid Nation, getting ready to show us their next act. Will the curve spike back up and chase us all back into our homes? Will we figure out a vaccine and let Bill Gates make $50 a dose on 7 Billion units? Will there be a test to let people and employers know if we’ve got it, if we’ve already had it? Will there be even more fiscal stimulus - on borrowed money in a time of seriously diminished government revenues?
I’ve gotten some criticism the last few weeks, for voicing my opinion early on that the cure might be worse than the poison in this circumstance - that the financial and emotional costs that we’ve incurred to flatten the curve aren’t worth the investment. This is not because I want your mom or grandma to die, but because of my belief that Mother Nature is a lot like Mr. Market and their close cousin Papa Politics. These large systems of collective forces do what they do, and there is little that we can do about it. Mr. Market doesn’t like price fixing, or large taxation, or economic uncertainty. Papa Politics plays funny-not-funny tricks on those who try to fix the outcomes. And Mother Nature will take out the old and vulnerable with new diseases from time to time. It’s just kinda the way things are, we can take notes and pictures and write about stuff, but it doesn’t change the happenings much.
I’m all for working hard to find treatments and vaccines, and to protect the most vulnerable. But we can’t be locking healthy people in their homes for weeks at a time, and we best protect the most vulnerable by building herd immunity. The silver lining of all this, to me, is the significant shift toward the Nixer side of the spectrum that has already started, and will increase all the more as people see additional unintended consequences unfold after the Fixers recent performances.
- Curt Bear