A Terrible Choice: Save Lives, or Save Jobs?
One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic shutdown is something I never would have thought possible 45 days ago.
I have developed sympathy for politicians.
Politicians of every stripe: federal, state, local, Republican, Democrat -- makes no difference. I feel sorry for these people.
They may or may not have seen this coming, but they weren't ready for it -- to be fair, NOBODY was prepared for it -- and now they have to make some incredibly tough decisions between two impossible alternatives.
Alternative No. 1: One million or more deaths nationwide from the coronavirus.
Alternative No. 2: A lengthy and total economic shutdown with perhaps 12% to 15% unemployment (about on par with the Great Depression, for you history buffs out there), a spike in crime rates and millions of small-business bankruptcies.
It's no secret that politicians of all stripes hate making tough decisions. Today they have no choice. There are no meaningful compromises between these two extremes. Whatever they decide to do in the coming months, they will have to face the consequences.
Whenever you try to predict the future, you always end up putting your foot in your mouth. But I think one prediction is fairly safe. The road to recovery from the pandemic will take place in three broad stages, as follows:
-- Stage I: total lockdown until hospitals and other health care providers are ready to handle large numbers of patients.
-- Stage II: limited resumption of business activity but a continued ban on large gatherings (concerts, theaters, restaurants over X patrons) and continued use of precautions (6 feet of separation, masks, hand-washing, etc.).