You’ve had your turn. Now it’s time to tune up an economic recovery– to full employment, a vibrant functional financial system and prosperity. It won’t be easy, as you indicated in a Wall Street Journal podcast.
But as rapidly as the coronavirus showed up, the economy has crashed into the pit at even greater speed. While you look for a leveling off of the coronavirus incidence, the economy is failing at magnitudes much greater. This cannot continue.
You’ve done a great job, cutting through the scientific mumbo-jumbo and stepping into the leadership vacuum. You deserve the accolades.
But sometimes the science isn’t working. Take, for example, those models that were supposed to predict the seriousness of the pandemic. The results are all over the board, ranging from 20,000 deaths to more than a million. Useless. That’s like saying that buying an airplane ticket to New York from Chicago ought to be for 10,000 miles. Or 20 miles. The problem with the models is that, as you know, the required data are incomplete, and the more incomplete, the more unreliable is the output.
Maybe it’s prudent to base the strategy for combatting the pandemic on the worst possible scenario. But by now it’s apparent that it was wrong, that a policy of using a sledgehammer to swat a fly is overkill.
Then there’s this battle over whether anecdotal evidence should help guide our policies. Yes, the scientific method requires careful and rigorous clinical testing. To fully understand COVID-19, months and months of testing will be required. As you said, “sometime next year.”
We can’t wait that long. Anecdotal evidence of treatments that can dramatically reduce the disease’s symptoms is, nonetheless, evidence. And there’s evidence that drugs such as hydroxychloroquin have eased those symptoms. No, they cannot be called a miracle cure, but demands that they not be used until complete tests prove them safe and effective is, if I may, insanity. An example of how the perfect is the enemy of the possible.
If, indeed, if we’re beginning to see signs of the “flatting of the coronavirus curve,” there’s still the straight line of an economy heading for a crash landing. That, unlike the models, is something that we can be sure of.
True, the value of the lives of those killed by COVID-19 cannot be calculated. But that doesn’t make the grievous losses suffered by millions of Americans (including the 10 million who have applied for unemployment benefits it just two weeks) any less tolerable.
We’re about to eclipse the Great Depression. The time is past where we should not just thinking about how we can restore economic sanity in a measured way. It’s time to start doing it. Now. As you said, doctor, it won’t be like “throwing on a light switch.” But no longer we wait before we actually start doing it. Each hour we wait, the more prolonged and miserable will be the lives of hundreds of millions Americans.