Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Better Narrative - It's the Economy, Stupid!

If the Democrats are going to use the virus as their main argument this November, they may lose to Trump.   A better approach would be to address more bread-and-butter issues like the economy, debt, taxes, and health insurance.  Trying to win office on the back of a national tragedy has been shown to backfire before (From the Onion).

Why the media - particularly on the left - is exaggerating the virus is an interesting question.  And exaggerating it they are - claiming with a straight face that the USA is the "epicenter" of the virus with more cases and a higher death toll than anywhere else.   But this may come as a surprise to Italy and Spain, which have been harder hit by this virus than we have, and whose per capita infection rate and death rate are much, much higher.

The narrative they are trying to sell is that Trump screwed this all up (and no doubt, he didn't exactly do an "excellent" job) but our response in the USA hasn't been much better or worse than any other country in the world.   Italy and Spain certainly didn't handle this any better than we did.  And the narrative is selling.  I got an e-mail that a drag show at a gay campground was cancelled due to "The Trump Virus!" which struck me as a bit politically immature (well, we are talking drag queens here).  It is about par with rightists calling it the "China Virus."   Can we grow up a little bit here, people?

Could we have done more?  I don't think so, and let me tell you why.   Yes, it is theoretically possible if, in January, we started a nationwide lockdown and mandatory requirement to wear masks.  If we had started making ventilators and masks and gloves and practicing social distancing back then, things would have worked out much better.  While we have the time machine warmed up, why not go back to China and shut down the wet markets back in November?

That is the problem with time machines - always out of order.   Monday morning quarterbacks, however, there is no shortage of.

The problem with this hypothetical scenario is that back in January, no one was taking this very seriously.  Yes, there was some sort virus in China, but the first case didn't come to America until about January 15th.  People would have laughed at you if you suggested precautions back in January.  And unless you have people onboard about this, it isn't going to work.   People won't stand for being locked up unless they see a valid reason.  And even then, there are limits - as we are seeing these days.

And the same is true in February.  The first US case was diagnosed on January 21st, but no doubt there were many before then.  Folks might have thought, "Well, it isn't that big a deal just yet - a few infections, and the Chinese say the survival rate is pretty high."  It was a blip on the news radar back then.

It wasn't until people started dying that folks became concerned.  And it wasn't until a lot of people started dying that folks were willing to wear masks, practice social distancing, and stay at home.  It wasn't until mid-March that people became alarmed enough to change their behavior, and even then, all they did was buy toilet paper.   In retrospect, we could have done many of these things earlier and better.  But in retrospect, people are not motivated to do things until a crisis is at hand.   That's human nature.

Speaking of crises - budget crises are always at hand, it seems, and the government is always characterized as on the brink of bankruptcy.  Yet we soldier on, right to the brink and back again.  With all the economic damage caused by this crisis, many States, including high-dollar, high-tax States like New York, are seeing a shortfall in revenue.   Governor Cuomo wants a bailout by the Federal government, threatening to "crash the economy" (not sure how) if we don't comply.   Mitch McConnell says "Let them eat bankruptcy!"

Cuomo counters that firefighters, police and teachers will not be paid and these services would be cut off, it New York State declared bankruptcy.  An interesting argument, but then again, the cost of government in "Blue States" is about 4-5 times (if not more) than it is elsewhere, per capita, as evidenced by the five-digit property tax bills and high income taxes in places like New Jersey and New York.   Where does all the money go?  Gold-plated government jobs, corruption, the mafia (Cuomo gets a taste, don't worry!) and so on and so forth.

As a result, people are fleeing these States, moving away to better places to live (without snow, as well).   The tax conundrum of Blue States was, until now, their problem.   You elect a mafia Don as Governor, you expect corruption in government.   That's their business - they voted for that clown. They also voted for higher taxes as part of the package.

Now, Governor Cuomo wants to take this tax burden and shift it off to the rest of America, so that we are, in effect, subsidizing the mafia as well as the public employees unions (I am being redundant here) as well as padded big government, welfare services and such.   New York is a great place to live - on welfare.

It would be akin to GM not declaring bankruptcy - which forced them to renegotiate debts and union contracts - but instead asking the government to subsidize $7500 per car (well, which they do, if you bought a Chevy Volt).  Bankruptcy is harsh medicine, but not taking medicine only insures that you remain sick longer.   Bankruptcy would give New York State (among others) a chance for a fresh start - cutting debt load, eliminating onerous contracts with public service unions and so on and so forth.

Maybe - just maybe - it would force New Yorkers to re-think their blind allegiance to corrupt government officials.   Maybe.  Bear in mind that New York was in the shitter before all of this happened - the huge tax revenue from Wall Street was propping the place up, that is, until 2008 when the shit hit the fan.

I notice that for the most part, Biden seems to be sitting on the sidelines on these issues - he isn't getting as much press as a lot of the opportunistic loudmouths are.   Perhaps he realizes that trying to capitalize on a pandemic is just a cheap shot, and that since he is not currently in government, he realizes it isn't his place to grandstand.    Leave that to others, who can fall on their swords when the time comes.

Besides, come November, it is entirely possible this virus is but a memory.  Human economic memory is, at best, 18 months, perhaps less.  By this summer, people will be thinking about other things - mostly how glad they are this virus thing is "over" - even if it really isn't "over" only that we've adjusted to a new reality and moved on.

The issue of the economy will remain.  Trump will use the virus for cover - as shamefully as Governor Gretchen and Cuomo are doing right now.  He will claim the economy was just fine, but that the virus was to blame for the recession.  Biden would do well to remind people of the ruinous deficit spending, tax cuts, and other ill-advised "goosing" of the economy during Trump's first three years - and drive home the point that the reason they are out of a job is not a virus, but Trump.

That is a better narrative.  If they try to win on the backs of virus sufferers, I think it will backfire.  After all, look what happened to Giuliani - he tried to make himself into "Mr. 9/11" and no one bought it.  In fact, I think people were kind of disgusted by it.  I know I was.  Still am!