Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The myth of America's unique COVID-19 failure

If you follow the news these days, you are likely inundated with stories about how the United States, under Donald Trump, has uniquely mishandled the COVID-19 outbreak. Much of the rest of the world, we are assured, has managed the pandemic surprisingly well. But the United States? An unparalleled “catastrophe,” says the Atlantic. “A unique failure,” intones the New York Times.

But what if these judgments are wrong? What if they are so focused on absolute numbers of cases and deaths, that they miss the most important apples-to-apples nuances necessary to make a proper assessment?

It appears this is exactly what has happened with the reporting on America’s COVID-19 response. In fact, when you compare the United States with other countries with similar political and economic systems (the fairest comparison), the United States is more middle-of-the-pack than unrivaled outlier.

Surprised? So were we.

Like many Americans, we found the Trump administration’s initial response to the novel coronavirus to be lackluster, dismissive, and (typical of Trump) politically overwrought. And while there were significant successes, like enacting massive economic stimulus packages with Congress, and an impressive ramp-up in ventilator production, the dire numbers were hard to miss: COVID-19 deaths in the United States have consistently accounted for more than 20 percent of all COVID-related deaths worldwide. Unique disaster, right?

Actually, no.

If you dig a little deeper into the top-line numbers, you’ll find two important mitigating factors at play. First, the United States, with a population of 330 million, was always going to have a higher absolute death count compared with nearly every other country in the world. Hearing that the United States had 1,000 deaths on a given day while Costa Rica had only 15 might make for good copy at CNN — but those numbers are about equal, in relative terms, because Costa Rica has a population of only 5 million.

Second, and more important, the list of countries most negatively impacted by the pandemic, as measured by per-capita deaths per 100,000, is dominated by Western capitalist democracies: seven of the top 10 (and nine of the top 14 — not counting the microstates of San Marino and Andorra) are liberal democracies ranging from Belgium to the Netherlands. The United States, at number 8, is roughly equal to France, and significantly below Belgium, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

Yes, some of these countries had terrible early outbreaks that have skewed their overall mortality numbers. But so did the United States — the hard-hit Northeast still accounts for roughly half of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths. And while several countries like Spain, Britain, and the United States (and Australia) are suffering second wave infections, mortality rates have dropped significantly, none more so than in the United States.

In other words, the media-driven narrative that Trump’s America is suffering through a unique COVID-19 failure is wildly misleading. It would be far more accurate to say that American-style liberal democracy has, on balance, faced a much tougher time containing and controlling the worst effects of the virus on its societies.

This should actually not come as much of a surprise when considering that liberal democracies embody greater openness and exposure to international trade and travel than most other countries. They also contain private-sector-based free market economies that are not genetically suited to government-directed “shutdowns” or “lockdowns”; indeed, their natural instinct — none more so than the United States — is to be open and flowing.

So, while media talking heads like to point out that the United States is faring worse than “nearly all other countries” in its handling of the Coronavirus, this is actually an irrelevant point. Does anyone believe that Rwanda, Uganda, and Sri Lanka — the countries least impacted by the virus — should be models for running advanced industrial economies? Of course not. And while some democracies — like Germany and Denmark — have done a better job than others with their response, even they can’t escape being in the top 40 hardest hit countries.

Instead of being caught up with irrelevant global numbers, the United States and other liberal democracies must navigate recovery on their own terms. Indeed, we believe the same capitalist democracies that are having a relatively tougher time managing the Coronavirus will have relatively greater success moving past it. That’s because the same social and economic openness that creates Coronavirus vulnerabilities will also provide the ingenuity and resourcefulness to effectively balance public health and economic vitality, and a return to full strength.



UK: Tony Blair warns another national lockdown is 'impossible' and blasts 14 day quarantine rules as too long - as he claims ministers have been over relying on experts during coronavirus crisis

Tony Blair today warned it will not be possible to impose another UK-wide coronavirus lockdown as he claimed ministers had got the Government's travel quarantine policy 'wrong'.

The former prime minister said it was 'not credible' for the Government to repeat the sweeping draconian measures put in place back in March because of the economic damage another shut down would cause.

He said Britons must learn to 'live with' the deadly disease until there is a vaccine and that a mass testing programme is the only way to keep the country moving.

He took aim at the Government's 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut 'substantially'.

He called for ministers to take a more 'sensible' approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK's 'red list'.

Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise 'where the science ends and judgements begin'.

Boris Johnson has not ruled out imposing a second national lockdown should there be a major spike in coronavirus cases.

But Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that another lockdown was 'not possible'.

He said: ‘I just don’t think you are going to be able to do that and I think it was hard enough to do the first lockdown.

‘The economic consequences of that are obviously devastating but if you think about doing that in the winter months I just think it is not credible, it is not possible to do.

‘If you track what is happening around the world today I think countries are moving in the direction of this mass testing.'

Mr Blair has long advocated the introduction of a mass routine testing programme in order to stop the spread of coronavirus in the community.

He said that such a programme is necessary because as many as 70 per cent of cases are asymptomatic.

He said the Government 'has got to change the way it calculates risk' as he called for quarantine rules to be relaxed.

Ministers announced last week that travellers returning from France must now self-isolate for two weeks.

The Government has faced sustained pressure from the travel sector and Tory MPs to ease the rules.

Mr Blair said: 'In every single aspect of this, once you realise you are not going to eradicate the disease, you are going to have to contain it and live with it at least until a vaccine comes, then you have just got to have a sensible risk calculus in every area.

‘So for example now we are telling people to go back into pubs, we are incentivising them, quite rightly for the purposes of getting the economy moving, to go and eat out.

‘All of those things are risk. I think the way we are doing the quarantine rules is wrong actually, I think you could cut that 14 day quarantine substantially.

‘If you recognise that whatever you do there is going to be a risk, you just have to minimise it.’

Mr Blair also called for more political leadership during the crisis as he suggested ministers had tried to shift responsibility for key decisions to the Government's science and health experts.

Ministers have said throughout the pandemic that all of their decisions have been based on the latest official advice.

Mr Blair said: ‘In the end the important thing when you are in government and officials are giving you advice, is the hard thing is sometimes not finding the answers but finding the right questions.

‘You have just got to interrogate the officials properly and I think what has happened is that too much of this has just been, as it were, accepted without really trying to get underneath and into the detail of what people are suggesting so you understand where the science ends and judgements begin.’



Johannes Leak cartoon shows that the left just can’t handle the truth

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

Cue the pigeons of confected outrage and send in the cat. What has the left flock all fluttering and squawking is Johannes Leak’s cartoon lampooning Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s words about “brown and black girls”. But there was not a single feather ruffled about the terms when Biden originally used them.

It’s another example of the imputation that everybody on the right is racist and nobody on the left could possibly be.

Those on the left are so blinkered ideologically that they cannot see, or cannot admit, that their condescending identity politics and tokenism are rooted in racism.

In their stampede to push Biden’s campaign, they are prepared to ignore his racist remarks about “brown and black girls” and (disturbingly) his repeated assertion to the African-American community: “If you have a problem figuring out if you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

But instead of being offended by this blatant playing of the identity politics card, which stereotypes people with racial tropes, the left takes to the barricades over a cartoon that uses Biden’s own words against him. The cartoon incisively skewers Biden — a former vice-president — for choosing a running mate not on the weight of her career and achievements but because of the identity politics appeal of her skin colour and her gender.

Imagine the left’s reaction had US President Donald Trump announced the appointments of Small Business Administrator Jovina Carranza as “bringing hope to Mexican girls” or Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao as “bringing hope to Asian girls” — let alone referring to them as perhaps “brown” or “yellow”.

It is assumed by those on the left that they know better than we do, that they know how we think and feel — or how we should think and feel.

It is assumed by the left that to overcome racism we must follow the principles of identity politics and appoint individuals to positions of power because of the colour of their skin and/or their gender.

We are then reduced to the colour of our skin and our gender, not recognised as human and not recognised on the basis of merit.

Those on the left also obviously believe that we brown and black girls can’t cope with subtlety and complexity when it comes to discussing race and gender issues in the way that Leak so obviously can.

He has used Biden’s words to highlight the divisive, insidious and offensive use of identity politics as a means of self-promotion.

But the left, while giving Biden a pass on using the terms, then presumes to speak on behalf of “black and brown girls” and attacks Leak for doing what every good cartoonist should. Why do those on the outraged left feel they have every right to speak on behalf of “brown and black women and girls” around the world, such as me? We little brown and black girls can speak for ourselves.




NYPD union endorses Trump: "We need your strong voice across the country" (New York Post)

Nevada sent more than 200,000 mail-in primary ballots to wrong addresses (The Washington Free Beacon)

Twenty-eight million mail-in ballots went missing in last four elections (RealClearPolitics)

For the record: Six myths about the USPS and the election debunked (The Federalist)

Biden-Harris ticket aims to spark enthusiasm at convention after low-key campaign (Fox News)

Trump "failure" on COVID-19 will be central message of Biden convention (The Hill)

Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention (The Hill)

Kamala Harris brings gun confiscation support to presidential ticket (The Washington Free Beacon)

Federal appeals court rules law-evading Hillary Clinton does not have to testify in lawsuit over her emails (National Review)

GAO rules DHS secretary and deputy are not valid officeholders (The Resurgent)

More than sixty 911 calls go unanswered during Portland riot (PJ Media)

Trump threatens to intervene in the Big Apple after another violent weekend saw 50 people shot and seven killed (UK Daily Mail)

Costs from weeks of "protests" take financial toll on cash-strapped cities (Fox News)

The 2020 San Francisco exodus is real, and historic (SFGate)

Iowa requests nearly $4 billion in disaster aid after derecho; the storm damaged or destroyed 13 million acres of corn (Fox Business)

Japan was hit by its biggest economic slump on record in the second quarter (Reuters)

Head-turner: Notorious Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down California's ban on high-capacity magazines, says restrictions violate Second Amendment (Fox News)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo inks deal to support more U.S. troops in Poland (AP)


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