Assorted Observations about the COVID-19 aka SARS-2 Pandemic: 1

April 3, 2020 12 comments

Since I have been following this viral pandemic pretty closely, and actually possess professional expertise in the topic, I thought it might be an good idea to create yet another series for posting about assorted bits of news and my musings on them. With that in mind, let us start now..

1] We still do not understand why children under 10 years of age or even teens and youth under 20 seldom get seriously ill, given that cells in their bodies also express the ACE2 protein which is used by this virus to enter cells. Sure.. man in his 80s with serious cardiovascular issues might express more of that protein on their cells, but not that much more and in any case the difference is not enough to explain the very different course of infection in the below-20 vs the above-80. Variations in amount of ACE2 expression is totally inadequate to explain why many in the younger age-groups don’t even have symptoms versus why many above 80 quickly go into respiratory failure and then cardiogenic shock so quickly.

2] Many of you might also have noticed that rich and middle-class people between 20 and 80 are noticeably less likely to develop the more serious forms of the disease than the poor or working class people. Why? Why does the course of this disease vary so much with socio-economic status? What part of being from a higher social-economic status translates into the more benign form of this illness and which aspects of being poor or working-class result in a substantially higher percentage becoming seriously ill? This is especially relevant since we do not, yet, have good and specific treatments for this infection. Also, why is mortality among blacks in USA noticeably higher than whites or latinos. Yes, this observation is based on fairly preliminary data from certain states such as Michigan and New York– but it is just too obvious to ignore.

3] We also still do not know what percentage of those infected experienced an asymptomatic or mildly-symptomatic version of the disease. This is important since the vast majority of testing in western countries is still limited to those showing some symptoms, usually serious enough to seek medical attention. But we already know that a significant minority of the infected don’t even develop symptoms and then go on to develop immunity to it without experiencing the disease. What is the percentage of those who never develop even a fever or cough serious enough to seek medical attention and why is the course of the disease so mild or nonexistent in them? What makes some people resistant to the disease even if they have no prior immunity to it?

4] How many older people who died of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) due to an unidentified reason (not bacterial pneumonia, influenza etc) in the past two months in USA, and countries such as Italy or Spain, actually died from COVID-19. I suspect that the number of such deaths might be far higher than most “serious people” are willing to accept right now. There is evidence that doctors in Italy were seeing isolated cases of serious viral pneumonia that could not be attributed to influenza or other common virus, as early as November and December 2019. In USA, this is especially obvious in certain urban areas such as Cook County and New Orleans. We require far more extensive testing of the population- both for the virus and resultant antibodies.

5] If you look at the “official” symptoms of COVID-19 or SARS-2, you will see stuff such as fever, dry cough and difficult breathing. However even a cursory glance at published data and accounts of medical professionals attending them paint a different picture. For example, symptoms such as sudden loss of smell (anosmia), some GI symptoms in elderly patients, anomalously low blood pressure, puffy allergy-like eyes carry far more diagnostic significance to this disease than typical symptoms supposedly associated with it. For example, patients who display hypotension are far more likely to progress to more serious forms of the disease than those who don’t. What is the mechanism behind these unusual symptoms and their correlation with disease severity?

In the next part, I will write about potential drug therapies to treat this infection as well as possible routes for rapid vaccine development.

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 3

April 1, 2020 17 comments

In the previous post, I posted links to two YouTube clips by Kim Iversen in which she makes the point that shutting down economy of most countries for many months, till the COVID-19 virus is contained, is just not feasible. Nor is it possible, without a yet to be developed and efficacious vaccine, to eliminate a highly infectious virus with a low mortality rate which has already spread all around the world. The point she was trying to make is that the bullshit being sold to you as official government response and policies is likely to cause far more collateral socio-economic damage and human deaths than the viral pandemic itself. Some of you might have also noticed that tons of online virtue signalling losers, who have never worked a manual job in their entire life or being anything other than economically secure, were infuriated by her observations and are still busy trying to censor and “de-platform” her.

It is telling that the so-called “left” in western countries is as intellectually bankrupt as the right-wing nutcases they pretend to oppose and claim moral superiority over. This similarity between supporters of the two alleged political extremes will, however, not be surprising to some readers. As you might have also read in some of my other previous posts on this topic (link 1, link 2) the governmental response to this pandemic in most western countries has so far heavily favored corporations and very rich over the majority of their citizens. Even western European countries, who have so far done more for their citizens than USA, have still not formulated an effective response. Now.. I am not saying that they won’t get their shit together eventually, but they have not shown any signs of doing that- so far. Confused at what I am talking about? Let me explain..

1] Let me ask you a series of simple questions. What percentage of all paid jobs in the west are not in the ‘essential’ category AND cannot be performed from home? You know the answer to this one- the majority. Now let us follow on to the related question. How many jobs in these sectors pay more than what you can get on unemployment insurance? The answer tro this one is that a large percentage do pay more than even the generous unemployment insurance paid in west European countries today. Things might have been different decades ago, when it was higher in those countries- but that is a topic for another post. Now, some of you might counter by pointing out the governments in many west European countries are willing to cover 75-80% of the pay (upto a certain amount) of employees for a few months, if their employer does not lay them off. Well.. the key words here are ‘if their employer does not lay them off’.

The point I am trying to make is that even if you assume this economic disruption will not extend past a few weeks, affected employers (aka corporations) will lay off a significant percentage of their employees. In other words, a shutdown which lasts more than a few weeks is going to put a massive number of people on relatively stingy unemployment insurance. This problem is hard to solve in so-called “liberal democracies” where interests and needs of corporations and capitalists always outweigh those of the majority. See.. the government of one-party states such as China can simply order its corporations to keep paying their employees at an acceptable rate, because those corporations know that they will be refunded by government and have no option other than accepting the government’s order. Even other supposedly democratic east Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea can make their corporations and businesses retain employees in ways than supposedly “liberal democracies” cannot or don’t want to.

And the situation get even more dismal once you consider things such as residential and small business rent, auto insurance, utilities and other forms of economic rents on the majority. Do you really think voluntary guidelines and suggestions to postpone rent and similar payments is going to cut it? Do you really think that people on significantly reduced income who don’t have much money saved because they were paid so poorly even before this crisis can afford the upcoming balloon payments on rent, utilities etc while being able to afford all essentials and have enough leftover to to stimulate the depressed economy by spending like they used to? And let us clear about something else, most of the trillions being given to corporations right now are going to end up in secret bank accounts in oversea tax havens- one way or the other. And this holds for large corporations that are based in west Europe as much as those based in USA.

2] No western country (which I am aware of) has thus far implemented a freeze on financial rents of any type. To put it bluntly, most of the paltry unemployment insurance payments (to those who ‘qualify’) are just going to end up in the pockets of those collect rents, credit card payments, auto loans payments etc. In other words, many large corporations will receive government money twice- once directly to “save” jobs and then indirectly as people who could barely afford these rent payments in past have to pass an even larger portion of their income onto those corporations. Now imagine what this will do for the disposable income and ability of those people to support business which do not collect such rents. And this not a trivial question as businesses which do not collect such rents employ many times the number of those that do collect rent. Imagine the effect of such an economic contraction on all those retail stores in malls and other business which depend on them. And it gets worse.

Have you seriously considered the impact of this pandemic on the financial situation of those who work in airlines, airports, tourism, hotels and restaurants. What about those who livelihood is connected to running music concerts and other large cultural gatherings? You do realize that most people working in those sectors aren’t well-paid in the best of times.. right? Have all those idiots who incessantly talk about shutting down the economy indefinitely “until the pandemic is over” understand the ramifications of such actions on the livelihood of a substantial minority of the population? Given that most western countries have still not offered to replace income of their working citizens and small businesses in addition to freezing rents, where do they think all that money necessary for restarting the economy is going to come from? Then again, virtue signalers are not known for their ability to think through their actions.

To make matters more interesting, the mortality rate of COVID-19 (once you factor in people who don’t develop symptoms and recover uneventfully) is less than 1%. And ya.. I am basing that number on countries such as South Korea and Germany who have done a much better job of extensive testing of their population than others such as Italy and Spain. Did I mention that majority of those who die will be more than 80 years old? The point I am trying to make is as follows: At some stage relatively soon (not more than four weeks from now) a lot of people who are younger and not well-paid or compensated for this shutdown will start asking questions about whether ineffectual attempts to stop a disease that kills mostly very old people is worth them losing their livelihoods and future. To make matters worse, if that is possible, the pig-headed response of bureaucrats to such concerns will only inflame this situation further. And it is going to cause far more problems in countries such as USA and UK than Italy or Spain who have the social structure necessary to deal with prolonged economic adversity.

In the next part, I will write about how the lack of realistic plans for controlling this virus or mitigating its effect and reopening economy will make the situation far worse than it has to be. Might also write about how this pandemic will diminish the already decreasing the direct and indirect power of USA (and west in general) outside their borders.

What do you think? Comments?

YT Clips about Problems with Current Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

March 28, 2020 26 comments

Here are a couple of interesting YouTube clips about the absolute inadequacy, and highly magical thinking underlying, current official responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first clip, Kim Iversen, correctly makes the case that the virus in question is already so well distributed in global human population that it is impossible to contain it without an effective vaccine- which won’t be available for at least a few months or a year. Her point is that you just cannot shutdown entire countries without very serious, and far worse, collateral damage to the lives of everybody else and the economy. It seems she got a lot of flack from virtue-displaying dumbfucks aka modern western nosy leftists aka proto-SJWs for pointing out the obvious.

Clip #1: Is THIS Really Our Strategy?

The second clip is about whether we should do a cost-benefit analysis for measures to control this pandemic, especially given its rather low mortality (at the population level). She correctly points out the hospitals and doctors who spend all their time on trying to help COVID-19 patients are doing so by neglecting others with much worse illness- from heart attacks and strokes to cancers. She also points out that short of shutting down the world economy till we develop a vaccine is a really bad idea with even infinitely worse consequences. Similarly the bullshit idea known as “social distancing” does not help in the long term- and, in fact, might make acquisition of herd immunity much harder. Some of you might like it, but she is correct. FYI- one of my degrees is in Microbiology and a lot of the stuff pushed by so called “experts” about controlling this pandemic has always sounded like a lot of wishful aka magical thinking to me.

Clip # 2: Plan B For #COVEXIT

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 2

March 24, 2020 38 comments

In the previous post of this series, I promised to write about how the poorly thought shutdowns in combination with inadequate income support will likely cause epically bad public reactions all over USA in the next two to three weeks. Let me quickly update that prediction by saying that the bad public reactions to shutdowns in countries doing an even shittier job of income support, such as India, will be worse. Having said that, there will be far more public anger and discontent in this country than any other major developed country. So let us start talking about the many reasons that thoughtless governmental reaction to this pandemic is likely to discredit both them and other associated institutions even further.

1] One of the most important lessons that western governments have not learned is that, over past three decades, an increasing distrust of them by public as well as vastly increased flow of information makes lying a really bad choice. See.. it was far easier for governments to lie during first half of 20th century because mass media was new and people had not become so cynical and atomized. For example, analysis of the absolutely pathetic quality of military leadership during WW1 took over a decade to even begin entering into the sphere of public conversation. Something similar occurred with WW2 where it took almost two decades for critiques about it (especially for the “victorious” side) to start entering into popular culture. Public critiques about Vietnam war took a few years, Gulf War 1.0 about 2 years, Gulf War 2.0 less than a year.

But how is any of this relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic? Well.. by now I am sure you must have heard or read screeds by numerous media busybodies about how even young people can die from COVID-19 infection. This bullshit usually takes the guise of some breathlessly retweeted article about how one or two under-40s died of it in Italy or Spain, or how some unnamed doctor is tweeting about how there are many young people in the ICU because of respiratory symptoms due to this infection. But the hard data (graphed in this tweet) tell a very different story. To put it bluntly, less than 1 in 500 people under 50 years of age with symptomatic COVID-19 infection of any type (fever, cough to respiratory distress) verified by PCR -based tests end up dying. Even those under 60 experience a mortality rate of somewhere between 0.4 to 1.3%.

These patterns holds irrespective of country or continent. Don’t forget that a good percentage of infected people either don’t become symptomatic or the symptoms are mild or vague enough for them to not seek medical attention or testing. To put it another way, it is realistic to assume that the mortality rate for people with COVID-19 infection who under 50 is below 1 in 500 and likely closer to 1 in 1000, once you factor in the untested asymptomatic (or mildly symptomatic and untested) individuals. The same is probably true for those between 50 and 60 years, with the real mortality rate (for all infected individuals) in this group approaching somewhere between 1 in 200 to 1 in 400. Officials pretending that mortality is not low in individuals under 60 is going to hurt their public credibility- when they need it the most.

2] Now let us talk about the topic of money, or more specifically how most people are going to have enough money to survive let alone pay bills during this shutdown. Given that the economy and most jobs in western countries is based on mass consumption, it is darkly comic to see that not one government (even among the supposedly socialist nordic countries) seems to have a fucking clue about how they plan to replace the income of every person in their country. Yes.. you heard that right! Every person, not just every person who can file an unemployment claim. This is especially important since a pretty sizable minority of people under 40 in those countries do not have regular well-paying jobs. Given that this group is also the one least affected by COVID-19, any decrease in their already meager lifestyle will make them ask questions about the utility of boomers and older people- to put it mildly. Did I mention that western countries are already socially atomized and most of them just don’t care about old people.

Even paying 80% of the salary of those not yet been fired from jobs is insufficient. And I am also pretty sure that the neoliberal mindset which pervades political and bureaucrat types in these countries will not consider a worthwhile universal basic income (albeit, temporary) until it is too late. To put it bluntly, any governmental measure to replace lost income which does not actually put enough money in the pockets of people by mid-April in USA and mid-May in most European countries is going to be basically useless- as far as the longer term is concerned. Many idiots like to believe that crisis bring people together, however a reading of history suggest that this occurs only when the crisis is well-manged by governments in charge. Don’t believe me.. just read about what happened in the aftermath of WW1, where even countries that were on the winning side (Italy, Spain, many countries in Eastern Europe) experienced long-term civil strife which led to authoritarian governments. That is why so many dictators arose in 1920s and 1930s.

This is even more relevant today since the 2008 global financial crisis destroyed the faith of many people (especially those under 40) in the previous systems and its institutions. There is a reason why Trump is the president and Bernie can get donations from millions of supporters. Expect the trend of people under 40 (and even 50) distrusting institutions to increase, not decrease. Should also point out that a pretty significant number of those under 40 don’t have kids and family and are therefore likely to go much further than those who might have something to lose. It does not help that an open-ended shutdown of most parts of economy is a very bad idea, even when faced by something like pandemic. People will not come together in solidarity if there is no light at end of tunnel and have nothing to gain by playing nice.

Let me spell that out a bit more clearly. See.. unless most under 40s (and under 50s) see a much better future at end of this particular tunnel, they will stop complying and playing nice with the system- especially if they see no compensation for the loss caused by measures which might reduce the mortality among boomers and older people. And you can’t blame them- what do they have to lose? It should also be noted that social atomization in western countries has long since reached levels where majority of people don’t really care about their old parents. Now try making people care about the welfare of old people to whom they are not related. This is also why I believe that Trump’s idea of slowly opening economy will get far more public support than most LIEbrals realize, even if doing so resulted in the death of many old people.

Will write more in next part about why Trump’s idea of opening the economy much sooner than recommended by “credentialed experts” might actually be one of his best brainfarts. And yes, he is absolutely right to ask whether the human loss and ruin caused by shutting down the economy is worth the lives saved by controlling this specific open-ended but low-mortality pandemic.

What do you think? Comments?

Inept Western Response to COVID-19 Will Result in Public Backlash: 1

March 22, 2020 22 comments

Initially, I considered making this the next post in my previous series about how the coronavirus pandemic will cause the most damage to USA. But upon further thinking, I realized that while the USA is going to suffer the most direct and indirect damage from this pandemic, so would most other western countries- if on a smaller scale. Then it hit me.. the most important reason behind why the western countries would suffer far more damage than east-Asian counterparts has a lot to do with differences in how government is structured (and works) in those two systems. The west, especially in past four decades, have become truly capitalist in that the needs and demands of those who have capital (corporations and very rich) supersede those of everybody else. In contrast, east-Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc are not capitalist in the same way as western counties, because the demands and needs of society will frequently supersede those of their moneyed classes. Let me explain..

1] Initially, the provincial administration in Hubei tried to first minimize and then cover-up the impact of this outbreak, but failed. Once this became obvious, the central government in China just stepped in put and put incredible amounts of physical and monetary resources to control the outbreak. Most importantly, they did it without any concern to the cost of doing so or potential economic losses which their own moneyed class might suffer. To make a long story short, they put the welfare of majority above the needs and demands of their moneyed class. Their ability to marshal resources to get personal protective gear to affected areas, stop price gouging, maintain law and order, ensure people are fed and taken care of during the ensuing lockdown, remove affected people into quarantine, start dozens of clinical trials is very impressive. Most importantly, they let people who understood the problem (medical experts in infectious diseases) make all important decisions rather than let commercial interests and local capitalists hinder or dilute their recommendations for controlling the outbreak.

But they did not stop at just epidemiological measures to control this outbreak. Soon after the central government got involves, it ordered banks to stop collecting mortgage and loan payments and well as made sure that utilities stopped collecting bills. They made sure that people did not have to worry about pay rents or not having enough money for food and other necessities. To that end, they poured hundreds of billions (at least) into their economy to make sure that people kept getting paid even when they could not work due to being under lockdown. They went so far to make sure that food was regularly delivered to apartment buildings in areas under lock-down and that important functions such as garbage collection, food transport etc were not interrupted. My point is that the Chinese government did a lot to make sure that its own people (at least the majority) did not suffer from the consequences of not being able to work or move about freely when under lockdown because of the outbreak. To summarize, they did everything a competent government which cared for its own citizens would have done.

2] Now compare this to the shitshow currently playing out in western countries. First, they were delusional enough to believe that the outbreak would not spread to the west. This was also when their presstitutes were busy writing editorials about how China’s response was either too much, too little or otherwise “not correct”. They also spent the next two months doing almost nothing useful such as developing and distributing diagnostic tests etc. Then some of these idiots were spending time fantasizing about how this outbreak would destabilize China or Iran. Of course, China has never cared about what some idiots in declining western countries have been saying about them for decades. I remember how even two weeks ago, many credentialed losers in the field of biomedical research in west were busy writing editorials about how China’s approach to testing any drug which might have some therapeutic effect in those patients was a bad idea. We now know who was right, don’t we?

But it gets worse. When it became obvious that the virus had reached and was spreading in parts of northern Italy, governments in the EU were more concerned with potential losses suffered by their capitalist minority than the health of the majority. It does not take a genius to figure out that a sharp but brief shutdown of northern Italy along with a simultaneous massive increase in testing (perhaps with kits imported from South Korea) could have prevented much of the spread we are now seeing in Europe. While Italy, Spain and some other European countries have since implemented such socialist ideas such as freezing mortgage, utility, loan and in some cases rent payments, along with income support, it took them much longer than China to take these obvious steps. My point is that they could done this much earlier and with far better outcome, but a combination of magical racist thinking, obsession with interests of capitalist minority and general lack of competent people in their bureaucracies prevented them from making the right decisions at right time. But, at least, they are finally catching up with reality.

3] The response in USA has, thus far, been the biggest shitshow of them all. And let us be honest about something else- Trump’s contribution to this farce is minor, at best. Many features of the american system which contributed to this farcical response predate Trump, in many cases by a least a couple of decades. The current round of downsizing in public health institutions began under Obama- not unlike putting brown children in cages. Similarly, many governmental programs for developing drugs to treat emerging infectious diseases have been downsized for almost a decade now. Also, institutional sclerosis which prevents the government or companies from trying out new ideas under extreme circumstances has been a feature of biomedical research in USA for over two decades. We also cannot forget how concentrating research money into a few “prestigious” universities filled with mediocre credentialed but highly politically connected researchers has destroyed the quality of research in this country.

The response in USA to this pandemic has similarly been pathetic and comically inept. They have closed down the livelihood of over 100 million people (most of whom live paycheck to paycheck) without offering them prompt economic relief in the form of no-strings attached governmental money. They are still pretending that young people have the same risk of death from infection as boomers- something, which is going to backfire real soon. They are trying to bail out corporations without making sure that average people are bailed out first. They have offered no timeline for the return of normalcy. They have offered no hope to people in the form of of-label use of drugs which might reduce mortality in high-risk groups. Trump promoting Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine + Azithromycin to reduce viral loads and thus mortality is the probably the only good thing that has come out of the government, so far. And ya.. there is enough evidence that these drugs have some therapeutic effect- especially if given early in course of disease.

In the next part, I will write about how the poorly thought out shutdowns in combination with inadequate income and other support for most people will likely cause epically bad public reactions all over USA in the next two weeks. And yes, I am willing to bet that the legislative critters in Washington DC won’t be able to get their shit together and pass something that will stave off the beginnings of widespread social unrest in about two weeks. FYI- two weeks is about the length of time most people in USA can go without a paycheck. Did I mention that public trust in institutions (governmental or private) has never recovered since global financial crisis of 2008.

What do you think? Comments?

USA Will Likely Suffer the Most Damage from Coronavirus Pandemic: 2

March 18, 2020 22 comments

In my previous post, I wrote about how structural characteristics of the american economy and long-standing institutional decay will likely result in USA suffering the maximum damage from the Coronavirus pandemic. In it, I also promised to talk about other related issues which make USA especially vulnerable to the direct and indirect damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the lack of a usable social safety net, staffing of nursing homes and elder care in general by precariat workers, ideological unwillingness of government to directly workers for lost earnings especially if they are temporary and part-time, the risk of shortages of medicines, chemicals, electronic stuff etc caused by temporary disruption of supply chains in China. So let us dive right in by starting with the issue of a social safety net, or more precisely its lack, in USA.

1] Even the most delusional ‘murican would agree that the social safety net in this country is very meager compared to what exists in other developed countries. While most west-European countries once had similar attitudes towards social safety nets, things changed a lot after WW2. There is a reason why the average European after 1945 decided that working under conditions similar to those found in USA today was unacceptable. And let us be honest about something, the European rich were (and are) not better human beings than their American counterparts. They just had to go along with what the majority in those countries wanted after WW2, or risk losing it all. However, since the USA experienced a long-boom in the aftermath of WW2 (1945-1975) most of its workers never experienced the socio-economic pressures which led to creation of the modern welfare state in European countries.

To make a long story short, socialism never took root in post-WW2 USA because the median american worker in the first three to four decades did not live through prolonged bad times. And this is also why all this current talk of socialism in USA only began after the majority experienced a full decade of stagnation and decline in aftermath of 2008 global financial crisis. So what does all of this portend for the public reaction to the fallout of this ongoing crisis. Well.. let me put it this way. Unemployment rates of over 20% (maybe even north of 30%), even if short-lived, are unworkable in a system without a decent social safety net and where the median person cannot afford to miss even a single paycheck because they have less than 500 dollars in the bank. Things will get very ugly in this country if the government cannot drop a couple of grand of ‘helicopter money‘ per household within the next two-three weeks.

2] To Trump’s credit, he is clever enough to see that this problem and seems to have embraced the idea of ‘helicopter money’. As I have mentioned many times in the past, He may not be a genius (to out it mildly) but the guy is pretty street-smart and is very ideologically flexible when he feels the need to save his behind. Mark my words, he will even channel FDR if necessary to keep the angry mob way from him. Ironically, it is loser establishment democrats such as Pelosi, Schumer etc who are talking about fiscal restraint, “deficits” and “means testing”. To be quite blunt- if Trump is successful with getting the ‘helicopter money’ thing done, along with massive stimulus for especially affected sectors of economy, democrats can forget winning anything let alone the presidency in 2020. Also, let me remind you that Obama did nothing along those lines in 2009 or 2010. And that is why he barely scraped by to win in 2012.

It does not help that between trying to nominate a used-car salesman with dementia (Joe Biden) as their candidate and shouting about Russia, Putin and Ukraine for over three years, they have not done anything big to actually convince potential new voters to vote for them in 2020. Their so-called “victory in the 2018 mid-terms was only possible because Trump was stupid enough to try repealing ‘Obamacare’ without replacing it with a better system. And in case you didn’t notice it, he has learned from that mistake. In my opinion, what happens in USA in the next few months depends on whether Trump can deliver somewhere between 2-4 k to most american households by mid April- at the latest. If he can do that + properly bailout major sectors hit by indirect effects of this pandemic- he will win in 2020. If not, he will be reviled for a long time.

3] Regardless of what he does within next 2-3 weeks, the american economy will enter a steep recession with economic contraction of somewhere between 15-20% in next few months. And no.. these are not the feverish dreams of somebody who wants to see USA fall, but conservative figures floated by people working in supposedly “respectable” banking institutions. I would not be surprised if the economic contraction (and unemployment rate) reached 30% for almost a year. This is great depression territory and much more deeper as well systemic than the GFC of 2008. You know something else, mass unemployment in a country with a functional social safety net at that time was a very important factor for the rise of Hitler to power. And not just him, since almost every strongman of the 1920s-30s (from Mussolini and Franco to many others in East-European countries came to power in the aftermath of mass unemployment and disillusionment with existing institutions and the status quo.

Since we are already close to a thousand words, I will write about the other issues raised in this post in a subsequent part of this unintentional series.

What do you think? Comments?

USA Will Likely Suffer the Most Damage from Coronavirus Pandemic: 1

March 14, 2020 45 comments

Some of you will remember that I have previously written four previous posts (link 1, link 2, link 3 and link 4) on the ongoing global coronavirus outbreak. Consider this post as the next part of that unofficial series. And yes.. there is a specific reason why I am not making it into an official series, yet. The situation is still evolving and could take a number of highly consequential turns. For example, it is possible that one or more of presidential candidates (Trump, Biden, Sanders) might catch COVID-19 and pass away by election day. Imagine the impact on political scene if Dementia Joe, who also has a long-standing cardiac arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation), dies within the next month. So let us now talk about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on USA- which I predict will suffer the most damage (direct and indirect) of any country.

1] It is, now, almost a given that there will be an economic recession in this country within the next three months. Sure.. Trump’s fucking up things will make it worse, but it would have been pretty bad even if a semi-competent loser such as Obummer was in office. One cannot just shut down or reduce the activity of so many businesses sectors (airlines, hotels, other tourism related business, restaurants, shops etc) without causing a serious economic downturn. Unlike during previous eras, most jobs in this country are now in the service sector. Did I mention that these jobs offer low job security and poor pay? To make a long story short, most people in the service sector and other business dependent on it are not going to get paid soon- which is a problem since over 60% of people in this country don’t have enough savings to cover their next month’s rent or mortgage payment. And it gets worse.

2] As many of you know, the so-called ‘gig economy’ which flourishes by exploiting ‘independent contractors’ has become a fixture of life in many larger cities over past decade. While these “jobs” are often not the only source of income for those who perform them, they often provide the extra money necessary for many people to “participate in the consumer economy”. So even if ‘Uber’ guy also drives for a regular Taxicab company, any reduction in his expected income from rise-sharing services is going to fuck with his ability to pay bills on time, let alone keep spending on stuff he would normally buy. But the numbers in the ‘gig economy’ pales in comparison to those employed as ‘independent contractors’ by large companies. These ‘contractors’ are often employed by businesses who themselves are dependent on contracts from large companies such as Google, FakeBook, Amazon, Walmart and yes.. even your local hospital, university, school etc.

3] Some democrat cultists (MikeCA?) will try to tell you that the Obummer administration would have done an infinitely better job than the Trump administration. But it is that really true? While the Obummer administration did face some pandemics such as the influenza pandemic of 2009, there is no way to accurately predict how they would have would responded to such a pandemic. See.. COVID-19, unlike Ebola or MERS, is far easier to spread. While it is likely that the Obummer administration would have behaved more professionally, it is unlikely this would have somehow translated into better policy. If you don’t believe me, just look at how that administration handled the foreclosure crisis in 2009-20210 or how it kept pushing outsourcing and globalization even when it was obvious that those policies were screwing over their voter bases. So ya.. there is no definitive evidence that a Obummer administration would have done screwed up any less- even if they would have acted more “professionally” while doing so.

4] Let us now talk about how the defects inherent in the american “healthcare” system, default neoliberal ideology among both political parties and Trump’s obsession with the stock market will fuck things up- even more than they have to be. For starters, consider the issue of testing. Ask yourself a simple question- how can countries such as South Korea and Canada quickly test a pretty high number of people for COVID-19? Well.. the simple answer is that healthcare in both those countries (and every developed country other than USA) is treated as a public good which is highly regulated by the government to make it available (rather than merely “accessible”) to all their people. In contrast, the “healthcare” system is a bureaucratic nightmare full of multiple powerful lobbies whose sole purpose is to extract the maximum amount of money for the least amount of actual healthcare. This intentional design choice makes the system almost incapable of responding or adapting to new challenges and pressures.

Then there is the issue of how people within the system work, or don’t work. See.. in all other developed countries, physicians and other people actually involved in running the system have considerable freedom to make decisions on the fly if conventional approaches don’t seem to be working. For example, in both South Korea and Canada, insurance companies have no role whatsoever in approving tests, treatments in hospital etc. Also the vast majority of hospitals in those countries are not run to make a profit. Consequently, they put the welfare of patients above considerations such as whether some test or medication will get reimbursed. That is why countries such as South Korea were able to put up scores of convenient testing facilities so quickly. However this is not the case in USA even today, and Medicare for all is still considered a pipe-dream by “centrists” such as MikeCA. Moving on to governing ideology..

5] Every developed country other than USA has far more competent governmental bureaucracies because their politicians and populace understand their necessity. However, in this country corporate-funded politicians a good percentage of their brainless subjects are more than happy to go along with the bullshit about governmental bureaucracies being inefficient and “bad”. Guess what.. once you assume that and defund government bureaucracies you will end up with hollow shells of once well-known institutions such as the NTSB and CDC. And this is how you end up with disasters such as the Boeing 737-Max fiasco and, now, the COVID-19 outbreak spiraling out of control in USA. While shills such as MikeCA would like to blame all of this on evil republicans, let me remind you that all the cutting and slashing of governmental bureaucracies which occurred from 1980 to today was largely supported by a bipartisan “consensus”.

Since this post is already above a thousand words, I will leave discussion about other issues such as the lack of a social safety net in this country, the staffing of nursing homes and elder care by precariat workers, unwillingness of government to directly compensate temporary and part-time workers, risk of widespread shortages of products such as medicines, chemicals, electronic stuff etc caused by temporary disruption of supply chains in China, to another post or a new series.

What do you think? Comments?