Fight the Virus! Please.

One of the most confounding aspects of the pandemic has been Congress’s unwillingness or inability to spend to fight the virus. As I said in the LA Times:

If an invader rained missiles down on cities across the United States killing thousands of people, we would fight back. Yet despite spending trillions on unemployment insurance and relief to deal with the economic consequences of COVID-19, we have spent comparatively little fighting the virus directly.

Economists Steven Berry and Zack Cooper have run the numbers:

By our calculations, less than 8 percent of the trillions in funding that Congress has allocated so far in response to the virus has been for solutions that would shorten or mitigate the virus itself: measures like increasing the supply of PPE, expanding testing, developing treatments, standing up contact tracing, or developing a vaccine. A case in point is the most recent House Covid-19 package. It calls for $3 trillion in spending; less than 3 percent of that total is allocated toward Covid testing. As Congress considers next steps, it’s imperative to shift priorities and direct more funding and effort toward actually ending the pandemic.

Berry and Copper point to the vaccine plan that I am working on as an example of smart spending:

…a group of prominent economists, including Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer, has proposed spending a $70 billion dollar vaccine effort. The proposed expenditure is both much larger than anything proposed by the White House or Congress and also quite cheap compared to the potential benefits.

…[Similarly] Nobel Laureate Paul Romer and the Rockefeller Foundation have each sketched out $100 billion plans to increase testing. We say: Let’s fund both, allocating half the funds directly to states, who can spend to activate the vast capacity of university labs, and also fund Romer’s plan to scale up $10 instant tests for true mass testing. We could create a $50 billion dollar challenge prize that rewards the first 10 firms that develop effective treatments for Covid-19 — $5 billion each. We could fund Scott Gottlieb and Andy Slavitt’s bipartisan $50 billion contact tracing proposal. We could allocate $100 billion to fund the libertarian leaning Mercatus Center’s proposal for advanced purchase contracts to procure massive quantities of PPE.

What makes this all the more confounding is that spending to defeat the virus will more than pay for itself! As I said in my piece in the Washington Post (with Puja Ahluwalia Ohlhaver):

Economists talk about “multipliers” — an injection of spending that causes even larger increases in gross domestic product. Spending on testing, tracing and paid isolation would produce an indisputable and massive multiplier effect.

Who gains by killing the economy and letting people die? Yes, it’s possible to spin some elaborate conspiracy about someone, somewhere benefiting. But in talking with people in Congress the message I hear is not that there’s a secret cabal with a special interest in economic collapse and dying constituents. In a way, the message is worse. Multiple people have told me that things move slowly, no one is stepping up to the plate, leadership is absent. “Who is John Galt?,” they sigh. Ok, they don’t literally say that, but that sigh of resignation is what it feels like in the United States today at the highest levels of government.

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Have you been able to pitch Donald's people yet?

Trump has yet to take any of Madden's calls.

Trump is almost alone in fighting this virus. Congress is absent.

So, Trump from day one was focused on getting McConnell to fund virus research and getting drug and vaccine factories built to be ready for the deadly airborne disease obama predicted in December 2014 at the CDC in a plea for more funding to fight future pandemics expected in five years?

This pandemic has been widely predicted by many over the past decades with calls for tens of billions in private and public funding.

However, the last several scares had Trump attacking all efforts by obama to fight a possible pandemic and to get funding to fight future threats.

Plus Trump calls Bush who got funding to fight deadly airborne disease a loser, but not because Bush privatize government development and production and created higher cost private monopolies, which Trump et al are now shoveling billions to in recent months, but because Bush called for action to prevent or deal with future deadly airborne disease.

Isn’t 8% of $3 trillion $240billion?—-the amount in the bills we allocated to the virus. Maybe your point would be better made if you stated what amount you think should be spent, rather than having readers infer we spend nothing or close to nothing. We are testing close to 700k a day—-heading toward well over a million a day by Labor Day. State how many we should be testing, how much I more we should be spending on vaccine research , etc. Generic scare statements are not useful.

The problem is Trump. His ego is very fragile and he elevates himself by putting others down. In his rush to re-open the economy and his divisive comments only hasten the ability to fight this virus. A pandemic of this magnitude requires leadership and bipartisanship. None which exists. It was left to each individual state. Not a good policy. Since the ruling party is the Republican party, the blame falls squarely with them for being cowed by Trump.
Look at it in this context. In 3 months, twice the number of Americans were killed by this virus than the total number of Americans killed in over 10 years fighting in Vietnam. America is at war with this virus and we are losing because of Donald Trump's policies. It's that simple.

Umm no, this virus hit us because of our relationship with China, nothing more. Biden might as well have CCP stamped on his forehead.

If you remove the deep blue states(NY and NJ lead the way) which forced COVID patients into nursing homes its nothing more than a bad flu season.

You hate Trump who has been in office 3 years while giving a pass to people there for literally decades.

Did Trump pull our CDC eyes on the ground from China because of his failed trade war?

Having eyes on the ground would have helped Trump make better decisions.

Trump was warned to prepare for a pandemic when he entered office. Trump decided to inflate the deficit 50% by cutting tax revenue instead.

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Getting rid of President Trump is priority 1 with the Democrats and the media. Collateral damage is unfortunate. As the deaths decline to the noise level, the cases are spiking! The latest trope, which I saw on my local news, is that just because you test negative, you can’t be sure you don’t have the disease.

Do you understand that under the Constitution the President and the Republicans are allowed to propose exactly the plan Alex lays out above?

They refused in 2014 to do anything to stop this pandemic, so why should the GOP do anything now to do what Trump has consistently opposed for decades, and especially opposed from 2009 onward?

The GOP has a voter mandate to do nothing to stop human suffering from any health problem, and especially a mandate from voters to never stop pandemics.

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as are the democrats
bills start in the house of representatives

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Under the Constitution, anyone can propose anything any time.

Were you objecting to something the Republicans have done or not done, or were you defending them?

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Perfectly true. For any test there are always false negatives and false positives. For a good test the rate is low.

How good are the tests, exactly? Do you know?

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Deaths are not declining, they are rising.
July 6 - 378
July 7 - 993
July 8 - 890
July 9 - 960
July 10 - 849

July 8 was the highest single total day for deaths sine June 10.

The U.S. is so, so messed up.

Nice cherry picking. Death reporting is very lumpy. On June 25, 2500 deaths were reported. On June 28, 271. The week ended yesterday, 4300, or a little over 600/ day. Weekly deaths are around 56,000 in the US (2017 actual projected to 2020) so deaths attributed to Wuflu are about 7,5% of total. An interesting project would be to audit the death certificates to see how many deaths actually were attributed to the Wuflu based on a positive test without comorbidities. In Italy, I believe the number was 12%.

Cherry picking the last 5 days? Do you think that making it a week helps your case?
July 4 - 265
July 5 - 262
(July 3 was 626 by the way)

I stand in awe at the idea that cherry picking involves providing a week's worth of data when talking about the last week. Or do you prefer 7 day rolling averages?
July 3 - 626
July 10 - 657

And honestly, what source are you looking at? Worldometers has a death total of 653 on June 25, and 285 on June 28. The last time the US had more than 2000 daily covid deaths was May 7. And one fervently hopes that such a number will not be reached again.

Last weekend was unusual in that on Covidtracking's data (https://covidtracking.com/data/us-daily) you saw three days of depressed death count, due to 4th of July weekend and death reporting delays. On Covidtracking, new death reports for 4th - 306, Sun 209, Mon - 242, probably followed by some upswing on the other side. Contrast with previous periods with smaller death depression on the previous Monday 30/06, and a shift on weekend of 20/21 where Sat had high deaths and then lower reporting on 21/22.
(As to why prior_approval picked the date he did, well, it's prior_approval. Bird gotta fly, fish gotta swim, scorpion gotta sting the frog carrying him across the river. It's his nature.)
They will almost certainly be some increase seen in death rates. Then as some degree of social distancing and behavioural change kicks in, they'll likely drop again (looks like the evidence points to covid being pretty wimpy at maintaining R0 in the presence of behavioural change, whether large scale shuttdowns happen or not). But as to the size of this, we'll have to see what happens; it's very uncertain.

We are getting better at treatments, but I'm not sure you should be so confident when hospitalizations are growing like this:

https://twitter.com/ScottGottliebMD/status/1281786741029052418?s=19

What do you think I'm confident of?

That deaths will "likely drop" without national leadership.

You don't have a situation without national or even state level leadership, so it's a somewhat moot point, but yes, most of the evidence I see points cross culturally to sub-exponential growth that halts when people change behaviour, voluntarily, in response to their awareness of the situation. So I have some degre of a confident gues for that to happen.

fwiw,

https://twitter.com/tribelaw/status/1281898128174718977?s=19

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Deaths are indeed rising now in Texas and Florida and i think it's because the virus is hitting nursing homes again. You can see the nursing home cases increasing from late June from the data reported to the CDC.
Almost 5 months into the pandemic, we are still struggling with this, The WSJ reports still shortages of PPE and testing that takes days to return results.

Tests should return results in under 4 hours. Korea could do it under 6 hours in February. Tests that takes days to give a result are not much useful.
Start with that requirement, then work backwards to determine how many tests you can do.
prioritize testing in - nursing homes, nursing home workers, health care workers, people over 60 ( use pooling if necessary)

And random screening for both virus and antibodies.

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Interesting point if true, and very unfortunate.

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dont think anybody can spin houstons situation
they are clearly having a grim week with the pandemic

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The 7 Day Death Reproduction Rate (7DDRR), is a number to watch that almost no one mentions. That rate started to increase on 7/4 after 2 months of steady decline. It has risen from 1.03 (rounded) to 1.04 (rounded) between 7/4 and 7/10. Doesn't sound like much. However, the time for cumulative deaths to double has dropped from 25 weeks to 18 weeks. If the rate climbs as high a 1.05 then deaths will double in 14 weeks. These numbers are still smaller than the rates in late April and early May, but they do signal caution.

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7-day trailing average has risen from about 525 to 650 over the last week.

Already up to 725

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Please look at your numbers again. July 9 had higher numbers than July 10. I’ll let you answer if this is declining or not.

This is a prime example of why we use moving averages. The change in any single day is noise. Anyone who uses numbers the way you just did does not deserve any attention. I do even think Fox news uses such stupid examples of cherry picking data.

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Getting rid of President Trump is priority 1 with the WORLD.

There, I fixed it for you.

And people are willing to let people die to ensure it happens. That's the worst part.

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First being America’s unwillingness or inability to respond to effectively fight the virus.

The second most baffling is watching people who have spent decades attacking government spending suddenly complain that the government is not spending enough.

And the third most baffling thing is that when talking about vaccines and treatment, one does not use much more realistic numbers like bazillions or gajillions.

Very puzzled by your third point, but many libertarians are not anarchists. If you see any role for government spending, or government at all, pandemic response is it. Heck there was a debate about anarchism or minarchism or some such and the guy arguing in favor of government used pandemic response as the crux of his argument.

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Of course, it might depend heavily on what one spends for.

Also, pandemics and total wars are the exceptions for which otherwise minimal spenders are supposed to spend as necessary. Of course, one seeks to avoid both.

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"Who gains by killing the economy and letting people die?"

Uh. Tyler. We need to have a talk. Those aren't incentives for Congress.

Incentives are there's a military base in my state that hoardes tanks nobody needs, and thousands of people have jobs there, so my state is going to keep tanks that will never fight in any war.

Incentives are the overabundance of corn growers we subsidize in my state now rely on this absurd cash crop, so we need to use ethanol in things. It doesn't matter what things. Just adapt them to ethanol, even if it's a poor choice to do so.

Unless you think "the will of the people" is an incentive. Every international voting initiative that has looked at the American system would disagree with you, with reams of data to back it up.

What's the incentive, Tyler? I don't see one. The "economy" can die if money machine go brr. The "people" can die if cloistered CEOs as basically fine.

(I realize this is an AT post, but Tyler hosts it.)

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"who gains by killing the economy and letting people die?"
probably the marxisto/as who are explicitly demanding to wreckon the economy and defund law enforcement

There are full blown plans put forth by the left that seek to destroy systems so they can be rebuilt favorable to ideologies they want. See Cloward-Piven. That is a plan put forth in 1966 where the US welfare system is completely overloaded, resulting in collapse, and the "new" system that replaces it moves to guaranteed income and the gov handling most every detail of your life. For everyone.

Make no mistake: If riots were put down in hours, Trump wins. If the US understood the die for the virus response was cast over the last 20 years, and not something that any other person would have prevented EXCEPT for Trump, then Trump wins.

This was the same thing in 2008: The economy was destroyed intentionally so that a democrat would win the election. What are the odds that two "once in 50 year events" happen right before an election where a republican has been office with a good economy?

I see. Bush mismanaged the economy to elect a Democrat. Why not? Life is great if you never, ever have to accept blame for your policies and you can always blame elves, I mean, Democrats. Those Jews, I mean Democrats, always poisoning our wells and casting spells on our cattle and destroying our harvest. Funny that secret Democrats didn't cut short Reagan's Morning in America or prevented Bush II's and Nixon's re-elections. It would look important things to do if they had such powers.

The root of 2008 was the desire to make loans to people that would likely default if a downturn hit. A person with a 750 credit score will see a default rate of 1-2% in bad (once in 20 year) down turn. A person with a 600 fico score will be 10X to 20X that in a downturn. And THAT was the root of the downturn. Had the gov not mandated loans to those with lousy credit, the downturn would have been a minor blip. We'd have seen 1-2% default and moved on. But instead we saw 20% default. And worse, those gov guaranteed bad loans had been inserted into investment grade securities that infected retirement portfolios. Making everything very hard to unwind.

It was overwhelmingly the democrats that pushed for loans to people that would be unable to pay if the shite hit the fan. And it was 15 to 20 years in the making.

Not sure why you think the jews had anything to do this. Can you elaborate?

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If the Democrats are so diabolical, how come they lost the House and a critical mass of state legislatures in 2010, paving the way for redistricting and Republican control of the House for eight years? Like most conspiracy theories, yours imagines an all-powerful opponent that is able to act with impunity and stealth at a particular time and place but inexplicably botches other, simpler tasks around the same time period. Were Ben Bernanke, George W. Bush and Hank Paulson secret Democrat agents when they allowed Lehman Brothers to fail?

And somehow, the evil Democrats must have been responsible for contemporaneous housing bubbles and crashes in Spain and Ireland.

They lost in 2010 because of overreach. Had they swung more centrist, they'd have held on. Had Obama not pushed health care reform so hard (causing nearly everyone to lose their policy and have to move to a new gov policy at 2X the price) they'd likely have won in 2016 too.

Plus, what happened in 2010 wasn't unprecidented. It happens all the time after a presidential election. Republicans were slaughtered in 2006, dems slaughtered in 2010 and 2012, republicans again in 2018. If Trump wins 2020, the republicans will likely be creamed in 2022, and if Biden wins 2020, dems will creamed in 2022.

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All tanks are tanks nobody needs--until somebody does, and they're needed in a hurry. Likewise all other weaponry, and warfighters skilled in their use and in coordination with one-another. Like an insurance policy, it isn't something that you should think useless if you aren't its tangible beneficiary at the moment; on the contrary: that's when to be most grateful. Even more so, because health insurance doesn't deter diseases, nor fire insurance fires, nor life insurance death.

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I click on Alex's "most recent House Covid-19 package" link, and it tells me "the proposal was immediately rejected by Senate Republicans, who called it too large and far-reaching."

If that's the dynamic, and Republicans don't really want a strong national response, then Democrats will be tempted to follow a Plan B. That is, let them own it.

Now that is not as good and moral as Plan A, where everyone comes together to battle the pandemic .. but is Plan A even on the table?

"Let them own it" implies that the Democrats are able and willing to not compound the issue with their own poor decisions. Half the deaths in the country occurred in a handful of solid blue states whose officials spent time encouraging people to visit Chinatown, keeping public transit systems running, stuffing patients into nursing homes, etc. There's no doubt they will blame Republicans for their own failures; the only question is to what extent their decisions were intentionally designed to make the fake pandemic worse in an election year. Again, it gets increasingly hard to ascribe Hanlon's Razor to these actions. And "coming together" is, as always, code for letting leftists have their way.

Pure hand waving, but I hope you recognize this:

If Donald Trump had come out on day one for a strong national, nay nationalist, response to the pandemic, you would be on board today.

You would be yelling for liberals to get out of the way and let government save lives.

But he didn't (random presidential choice) so instead you apologize and hand wave with inappropriate data sets.

I predicted on "day one" exactly what's happening today: the virus is overblown, the media is using it as a political weapon. Most people, here and elsewhere, who aren't Chicken Littles assumed the same.

Like most leftists, you seem incapable of distinguishing anything but condemnation of Orange Man from pure adulteration of him. I shouldn't have to tell supposed mature, reasonable adults this, but: life isn't a Harry Potter novel.

If you must call me a leftist, I know you lose.

And I think it's actually my pragmatic pursuit of good governance(*) which you oppose.

* - 7 x 24 x 365 and regardless of who holds office

You are a leftist, as is the rest of the cargo cult here. As you already know, it has little to do with your political positions. Most conservatives, particularly the ones in our government, are leftists.

And if you were pragmatically pursuing good government, again, you ought to be concerned with the actions of a few state governors (Democrats) who have allowed half of the nationwide deaths to occur in their states, directly because of their governments' decisions. You can complain about the "national response" all you like, but it ought to be obvious that decisions made at the local and state levels are driving local case and fatality counts. If you don't believe that's the case, I don't want to hear any more about Texas and Florida (but not California, of course).

That being said, as far as Trump and the federal government goes, there's no doubt in my mind that they could have handled the situation much better. The response has been very underwhelming. But unlike you, I expect government to not work, 7 x 24 x 365 and regardless of who holds office. So it's on-brand as well.

And this of course ignores the fact that much of the federal bureaucracy is engaged in !RESISTANCE! against Orange Man, such that one has to ask whether they are intentionally sabotaging the national effort in order to hurt his reelection chances. I'd bet this is the sort of bad governance you're pragmatically willing to overlook, however.

"Most conservatives, particularly the ones in our government, are leftists."

Sure. And all the Politburo conspired to kill Stalin and sell the Soviet Union to Hitler and England. Procurator General Vyshinsky and Ambassador Joseph Davies told me so.

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OH yeah and how many deaths did you predict? Well over 200,000? Did you say "Hey guys! It's only going to kill like 200,000-300,000 people! Don't worry about it!"

Predicting 200,000-300,000 deaths in early March made you a MAGA truther, since the "experts" were predicting about ten times that amount.

The experts were not predicting 2-3 million deaths. I actually read most of those predictions. You are just repeating stuff you read.

Steve

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Do you mean 10x that with no social distancing or mitigation? I saw estimates of 1,000,000+ in that scenario which is very reasonable, if you assume you get to herd immunity and looking at fatality rates of 0.5-1%.

Most every MAGA truther I know was posting every day that we still hadn't passed the deaths from a flu season, and every day I reminded them COVID wasn't over yet and they laughed, and then at some point they stopped these posts and moved on to fact-less assertions that everyone but them was deranged, DERANGED!!!

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If Democrats are asking for funding for arts institutions, large cash payments to people who still have jobs, and funding for BLM agenda items, of course republicans reject. I just can’t understand why there hasn’t been a massive push for investment in testing infrastructure. Of course, it almost doesn’t matter now with the virus so wide spread and so many new cases/day: I imagine you would need 10s of millions of accurate, rapid tests per day/week to realistically make a difference.

If the bill had too much "extra" nonsense like funding for arts institutions(*), isn't the normal response a Senate bill and reconciliation? Rather than full rejection?

* - if it's a few million of a few trillion, even talking about it is a waste of time and pure opportunity cost. In an emergency "bad" spending below 1/100 of total should be ignored.

Well, they are all professional politicians, so the motives of everyone involved are automatically suspect.

But if this is critical, there was nothing keeping the Democrats from crafting a very focused, clean bill, in informal cooperation with the Senate Republicans, before it was presented in the House. I would expect that could have been done in a few days.

They chose not to do this, and in fact added extraneous things which they had to know the Republicans would find objectionable. Their objective was not to address the problem, but to create a political talking point in an election year.

Their priorities are clear.

I feel like I'll hear this every year until I die. "Of course we Republicans couldn't fix the problem" (whatever's up in 2030 or whatever) "Democrats should have done it, if they were serious."

A serious reason I'm an ex-Republican.

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Is this a consequence of government by geriatrics? Trump is no spring chicken; Pelosi is far gone.

No doubt Geriatric Joe will sort everything out.

Trump needs to hang on to the anti-vax vote. MI, WI, PA among others are anti-vax.

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/anti-vaccine-hotspots-rise-across-u-s-study-finds-n882461

He's likely got those states. No need to woo the crazy white chick voters.

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anti-vax tends to be a progressive viewpoint. Doubt progressives vote Trump.

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Republicans in Congress get their signals from Trump, and Trump is signaling he's had enough with this obsession with a flu. Now, if Trump actually believed we'd get a vaccine that works and can be given to everyone in American before election day, he'd be all over it. But he doesn't actually believe it (although he was saying for a time that the vaccine would be here by September, but having been caught in another lie, his only escape was to pretend the coronavirus away). Cowen has the habit of blaming "government" for the dysfunction of the Trump administration. Please Tabarrok, not you too.

Remember, it doesn't matter who is president. We can tell because Arizona and Oregon are different.

(Inside joke for the diligent reader.)

The magical thinking Fisher King theory of governance, brought to you by a Boomer who can't articulate their own operative theory.

Childish

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People who love government have an unfortunate weakness for not counting the administrations of parties of which they disapprove as "government." But of course they are.

Clue: Stalin's government was government. So was Hitler's, Mao's, Genghis Khan's, and Ivan the Terrible's. Of course, American government tends to be better than that kind of thing. It is important to remember why, and not to undermine it.

Oops. Possibly replied to wrong post. Was intended as reply to "rayward."

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The odds are pretty good that Geriatric Joe will let Geriatric Fauci get on with his job. Maybe even talk with him once a fortnight.

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Caligula declared a war on Neptune too.

How the heck was Caligula going to transport an army to Neptune?

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Why not let Trump take an ownership interest in whatever vaccine is discovered and works. Then he'd propose spending trillions of OPM on the effort. This is a simple man with simple desires and simple friends. Let's get on with it. If Trump can pardon Roger Stone (technically, commute the sentence), he can pardon our preference to send him back to wherever he came from, with a nice pay package for his efforts. Tabarrok and Cowen don't seem to understand incentives, surprising for an economics blog.

So not to be accused of libel, Roger Stone requested a commutation rather than a pardon because a pardon would have implied guilt. That according to Howard Fineman, who interviewed Stone. The logic (and gall) of some people. We are living in Bizarro World.

We get to decide in November if we are truly a post-moral society.

The morally righteous one in this theory:

Crime Bill
Mass Incarceration
Afghanistan War
Patriot Act
Iraq War

Let’s not be obtuse

We are *post* moral when, like you, we stop trying.

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Alex, your last paragraph is pathetic. You are a Public Choice scholar, not a virus scholar. You should know that politicians and their servants are liars and hypocrites. Are you aware of how many $20 bills have been left on the floor by Congress, a collective body of people with opposing ideas and interests? And how many fake $20 bills they have printed to win votes and appease constituencies? And what about the bureaucracy, including the public university, to which the enforcement of laws and the execution of programs have been delegated, albeit with little accountability and qualified immunity?

Please review the state of the ongoing political competition last February (or any other month before coronavirus). What were your expectations about the consequences of that competition for decisionmaking at all levels of government (even small towns) in the months to the election?

What happens to a society that demands no more from politicians than that they be "liars and hypocrites?"

My view is that through history, most people have been willing to pay a price in exchange for protection, and in the competition for meeting this demand for protection, most societies have accepted government as the monopolist for providing it despite the additional cost of being unable to contain its scale and scope. In these societies, residents are demanding protection and attempting to minimize this additional cost, but the monopoly of legitimate coercion is a prize too big to be ignored which often subverts the poorly-constrained competition to win it into the illusion of a "winner-takes-all" competition. I say illusion because the political competition never ends: as soon as a winner claims the power to govern, losers and newcomers will claim the fight is not over. It has been this way for the past 5,000 years, and it may continue forever. Mendacity and hypocrisy are tools to win, especially in the poorly-constrained competition of constitutional democracies.

I think it's fine for "drunk uncle" to proclaim at Thanksgiving that "all politicians are the same, they're crooks!"

But it's not rational for the sober to hold that drunk opinion. Human beings vary in their commitment to morality. Humans become politicians. That new role does not magically wipe them all to a cookie cutter form. That's been true for the last 5 million years.

But certainly in this newfangled democracy we have a special responsibility to spot the differences and the nuances, and publicly pick and support the most moral of the bunch.

(Even if we do harbor drunk uncle pessimism privately in our souls.)

You fail to take into account the great diversity of humans. Politicians are self-selected from large populations.

Please don't preach about others' special responsibilities. If you want to condemn someone do it but don't waste your time preaching, especially if you are "anonymus".

Yes, politicians are self-selected from large populations. They start with their moral beliefs, and then they are selected by voters in part based on those beliefs.

I don't see how the actions of variously moral voters on variously moral candidates always *must always* produce the same result.

It sounds like pure rationalization. It's drunk uncle with a veneer of sophistication.

Bravo!

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They're not self selected from large populations. Rather, whichever party is in power at the state level uses gerrymandering to select which populations they represent.

For those people loyalty to the party is more important than loyalty to the country. Otherwise they might get primaried by whack job Q types.

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My friends know I am not a Brazilophile of any sort, quite the opposite. I do not even like samba and bossa nova. However, I spent a few weeks in Brazil last year because its weather aurely beats Yorkshire's most of the time and I got impressed by how professional and capable its leaders are. Maybe we should emulate Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro's policies. He is known to control the world's biggest chloroquine stockpile in the world and to have been able to reopen the economy successfully.

Judging by the daily death count in Brazil, the per capita death rate from Covid-19 will be higher that the per capita rate in the U.S. in about a month. What is amazing is how few people who claim to understand math and finance refuse to understand the idea of compounding.
As the R increases above 1, the infection rate, the hospitalization rate, and the death rate will increase but it does not all occur overnight.

I think the situation is mostly under control as the econopy reopening shows us all.

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People in many other countries have done just what Alex suggests: they have fought the virus.
Problem is, 'fighting the virus' does not mean big tech, advanced science, or miracle cures. It simply means cooperating with common sense policies to slow the spread to decrease the total viral load in the population. However, that means giving up a bit of personal 'want' in exchange for the good of the community and a significant number of Americans are too selfish to do that. (See also: gun control, affordable health care, etc.).

+1.

Not complicated. Not rocket science.

1. Clearly articulated national leadership.

2. Common sense, simple, non-invasive measures to avoid the spread of a respiratory diseases.

2. Coordinated, transparent, and effective build-up of PPE, cleaning supplies, and hospital capacity.

4. (Comparatively modest) direct financial support for those affected economically.

The US government is 0 for 4. Yet still managed to spend trillions.

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@EB

+1

Alex is either posturing here or genuinely has a very muddled understanding of American government principles and its actual daily functioning in DC.

- Today's Congress is dysfunctional & incompetent in even its most basic, formal duties. There is no hope of its reform.
Expecting Congress to act responsibly in any problem solving of any serious issues is incredibly foolish.

- Health care & virus-fighting is in no way a Constitutional function of the Federal Government.

If Alex thinks the current Constitution is outdated and an obstacle to efficient American government & the well being of our populace -- he should say so... rather than totally ignoring that Elephant in the Living Room.

"provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare"

Good God, an originalist!

'The Original D' is a typical liberal with no clue or interest in Constitutional basics.

As James Madison clearly explained in Federalist #41, the Constitution enumerates the "particular" powers authorized to the federal government.

General phrases used (e.g., Promote the General Welfare) are merely introductory statements that are NOT grants of open-ended authorities to the government. The specific enumerated powers come right after the general introductory phrasing.

The Constitution would have been a much shorter document if it intended to grant broad plenary powers to Congess, etc.

That makes sense. English law puts no weight on general statements of principle recounted in preambles.

The idea that We the People is the most important of a document. As the Supreme Court just so straightforwardly reminded a president who claimed to be above the people - “In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence,’” Roberts noted. “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”

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"[P]romote the general welfare" in the preamble does not make the Constitution a grant of general police power, or responsibilities, to the federal government. It is a government of limited and enumerated powers and responsibilities of which the control of disease is not one. Perhaps it should be, but that goes to the desirability of a constitutional amendment.

It is true that the Congressional power to "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes" can be construed to authorize certain anti-epidemic measures. Good. But that goes only so far.

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"Health care & virus-fighting is in no way a Constitutional function of the Federal Government"

It is rather silly that the U.S. Constitution delves into matters such as bankruptcy, patents, weights and measures, and establishing a post office but not a peep on contagious disease control. That's what you get when you leave constitution writing to a bunch of business people and lawyers.

Still, if appropriating money to fight a disease that has killed over 100,000 people and disrupted interstate commerce is unconstitutional, so is the entire bailout package they passed. None of these constitutional objections matter in practice.

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Maybe the government spending 8% of the bailout is too much. It signals to market actors that they shouldn’t take care of this themselves. Doesn’t Coase tell us that the market actors with the most to lose will reallocate funding to pay for solutions to the problem? Won’t the rationale actors like airlines, hotels, etc. combine funds to pay for a vaccine because that would be cheaper than losing money from the pandemic long term?

This is why we need to fill the government will more Atlas Shrugged disciples. 8% is a moral hazard to solving the pandemic. The market will provide. Amen.

"This is why we need to fill the government will more Atlas Shrugged disciples."

Lord knows it's full of them now!

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The U.S. surrender to Covi19 weeks ago and just does not want to admit it. The citizens of the U.S are too lazy, too short-sighted, too stupid, and too partisan to deal with anything for more than a couple of weeks. The citizens of the U.S. just do not have the traits that it takes to deal with a pandemic and thus, we are getting the worst of both worlds, higher deaths per capita than many other countries and the negative economic and social impacts.

The biggest lessons Americans should learn from this is never take on a problem that cannot be solve in a few weeks, never ask for any sacrifices, and expect that no matter what, 10-20% of the population wil do the opposite of what is asked of them just to show others that they can be deficant.

My notion that much about American life can be understood if you simply assume that Americans dislike each other seems to be borne out again.

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@superdestroyer-
Unfortunately, you are correct. Sacrifice nothing, respect nobody and expect a bailout. It's the American way for a large enough part of the population to ruin it for all.

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A prominent libertarian who had spent over a decade attempting to shift the public discourse against government interventions is then surprised when he's helped create an ideological atmosphere where the government prefers markets to solve problems. And here I thought libertarians always went around telling people about the importance of unitended consequences.....

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The stock market has stabilized.

The virus is mostly killing brown people.

The Trump administration's only consistent objectives have been corruption and racial score-settling on behalf of an aging and shrinking base that prefers conspiracy theories involving market-dominant minorities (Jews and Chinese) to any serious explanation of their economic plight that might attribute any blame for it to their own actions.

"The virus is mostly killing brown people."

I wasn't aware that deaths were even being tallied by color. Cite and link, please.

Or not, of course.

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Well Alex, as the massive rush to give protestors every idiotic thing they ask for demonstrates, we have an epidemic of stupidity in government, affecting every level, from city councils to congress.

Back in April I thought the biggest mistake being made with Covid-19 was the conflict messaging and the contradictory messaging. I thought emergency management textbooks would discuss the failure of communications. However, now the biggest lessons is that if any response to a disaster/emergency turns partisan, it is guaranteed to fail. There is no way to get people to respond to an emergency when political leaders (both Republicans and Democrats) insist on being partisan.

+1 tiramisu of insight.

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I saw, and still see, hypocrisy on both sides but a lot more on the part of the Democrats, especially regarding the protesting hordes. Can’t disappoint November’s shock troops by asking them to restrain themselves. Presumably if the virus doesn’t abate and Biden wins, protests will be frowned upon again.

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I think TC's comparative logic is a little broken here. If an enemy were raining down missiles on us with a 1% fatality rate, how hard would we fight them really? We have lots of little "wars" like that going on all the time, this one is just novel. In that light the congressional response makes sense. The COVID crisis is more a crisis of confidence, and Congress has become a short term solution engine. The vaccine is an uncertain solution to a long term problem. The CARES act is a certain solution to a short term problem. Who was it who said political economy matters?

How many Americans have been killed by terrorism? And how much have we spent on the War on Terror?

Point taken. But I would still say that is an example of this mentality in action. Would you say that money was directed primarily towards the things that make people feel safe, or to combating the root causes of Terrorism? How effective was the TSA?

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A simple pledge by governments of the world that they would not shake down the company(s) who develop the vaccine would fix the issue, the investment by the private sector would be immense.

No one would believe the pledge.

Agreed.

Sadly.

The governments are not trusted because they are not trustworthy. Ultimately that is because their peoples do not believe themselves bound by their leaders' promises. Democracy.

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Apparently, the government tapped itself out supporting the free market.

https://www.cnbc.com/2011/12/14/the-size-of-the-bank-bailout-29-trillion.html

Picking winners and losers. Let markets work.

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Used to be more taxes will solve everything. But now, more spending will solve everything. And the band played on. We should quarantine households, not communities.

"We should quarantine households, not communities."

Possible with testing and contact tracing, which have been botched in the U.S.

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We flushed $2 billion dollars down the toilet on the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot. Why will billions more on a Tabarrok Virus Moonshot be any different?

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"One of the most confounding aspects of the pandemic has been Congress’s unwillingness or inability to spend to fight the virus."

Conservatives and Libertarians spent the last 30+ years talking about how ALL government spending is wasteful, government is NEVER good, NEVER useful. They have their own media empire that repeats this day-in and day-out 24/7.

And then you're surprised that Republicans are unwilling to spend money in a crisis? You've been part of the problem here, Alex.

Do they actually say this? Libertarians (absolutely zero power) say something like this, some of them anyway. Republicans spend money like drunken sailors.

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Culture is important, but it can be costly.

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Libertarians don't need leaders, didn't you know that? :)

Really? Cite and link, please.

Or not, of course.

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Congress is designed to represent local interests and to deliver particularistic benefits, not to develop broad solutions for national problems. That's one major reason why Congress is inactive now on vaccine funding.

Politically, it's easy to cut checks because voters love free money. Members of Congress can point to those $1,200 benefit checks and claim credit for supporting families. But it's politically riskier for members to vote for multi-billion dollar bills that fund projects that may or may not work. If Congress funds several vaccine initiatives that all fail, challengers in future election cycles will likely point to that "wasted" money and use against the incumbents who had voted for it.

Right now, in the midst of the pandemic, such fear may seem absurd. But four years from now, when the pandemic is (hopefully) a bad memory and the deficit is a political priority, no one will want to be on the hook for seemingly costly measures that didn't materialize.

Anyone remember Solyndra? Of course you do. And you remember it not because in the grand scheme of things it was an important policy failure, but because Obama's political opposition seized upon it as a failed government initiative and used it as an example of serious government waste. (Solyndra cost $535 million dollars, a paltry sum in a $3.5 trillion budget.)

Nobody in Congress wants to vote for the next Solyndra. Hence inaction. And voters almost never punish incumbents for doing nothing.

"Congress is designed to represent local interests and to deliver particularistic benefits, not to develop broad solutions for national problems."

We are talking about the institution that set up the Post Office, the National Parks, the Land Grant Colleges, and passed (just to name a few Democratic delights) the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society, and the 2009 Obama program, are we not?

I'm not saying they do these things particularly well. I am saying that their ambition is very often national as opposed to local.

True. But I think the combination of crisis and presidential leadership explains many of your examples, not congressional initiative. No one in Congress represents the country. Just a district or state.

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Seems there is likely greater diminishing marginal returns on medical research spending relative to economic stimulus. We can keep spending on a vaccine, but there is only so much spending that can help. Sooner or later it is not about the money but about time. With stimulus, the need for funds accelerates as time goes on as the ability of firms and individuals to absorb the shock of the economic fallout decreases.

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Spending $50 billion on contact tracing is possibly the dumbest idea I've heard in a while. How do you do that when we've had massive protests, busy restaurants, crowded beaches, etc.? If you become infected after attending a protest what do you tell the contact tracer? "Yeah, there was this woman in a BLM shirt who looked sick"?

Democratic states (like mine) have solved that problem by having contact tracers not ask or record any information about BLM or other woke gatherings.

It is still a problem for Trump rallies, "Back the Blue" protests, and all other white supremacist gatherings, of course.

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Gotta love all the "death count" analysis. I am sure there will be a COVID Channel on cable soon where they provide the predictions in minute detail with nice charts and graphics. You all do realize that while the government can certainly provide assistance to the unemployed it cannot raise the dead. So none of these people will be "coming back" with the economy. Abstractions are fine when everything is going well. Not when people are dying.

Abstractions also sometimes help--and sometimes not--when people are dying. Sorry they don't make you feel good.

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The regulatory bureaucracy benefit by maintaining their fiefdoms. If any of the delays and stupidities of the regulatory state were bypassed, many institutions could no longer justify their existence.

Every significant university has labs that can do this testing and the technology is not that complex. An industry like one of my clients runs 10,000 PCR tests per day for shrimp genetics that could be shifted to processing human COVID-19 samples but in both cases, they are not medical labs and not approved and their reagents are the same chemicals but not blessed by the FDA so they are cheaper by the same quality. My client said the FDA said it would take 8 mo for approval and he said screw you to the FDA.

You came to the right blog, friend Weaver.

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"If an invader rained missiles down on cities across the United States killing thousands of people, we would fight back."

Want to bet? I can name at least one political party that would attach to any spending bill, however urgent, essentially a full surrender to the existing political agenda of its radicals.

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So: Government bureaucracies are inefficient, and an invader more or less DID rain down missiles on us. Elected officials are not especially brilliant, nor are they focused on anything as much as they are focused on the next election. Universities are no longer protecting the processes of scientific research or academic freedom but are succumbing to political threats. What institutional path is there to forward effective policy, and what infrastructure is available to implement it?

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