Our Mess, Part 2

Our Mess, Part 2


Leonard Zwelling


      Never have I received responses to a blog like I did after the one on Monday, July 27 entitled Our Mess.  Not only did I get responses, they were all over the place from castigating me for supporting the viewpoint of Heather Mac Donald to full throated agreement with her premises. Wow. Like I said, what a mess! All I had to do was read my email and I could appreciate the divisions in America.

      The best response I got was from a reader who sent me another blog. That’s the link above. The blog is by Morgan Housel and I will try to summarize it (as it was very long) and I fully expect a lot of feedback of all kinds from this one, too. I hope.

      The purpose of the blog seemed to me to be to try to make some sense of an almost incomprehensible world. How can anyone reconcile the loss of 150,000 American lives to a viral disease from China, along with the loss of 50 million jobs, and the stock market roaring with Tesla stock value up 400%? Housel makes five points to try to explain the current situation.

      First, people are more financially disconnected while they are more digitally connected. This exposes everyone to points of view that do not align with their own and creates the tribal inclinations so prevalent today. The rich are getting richer. The poor are getting poorer. There are more poor than rich and everyone knows all about this because everyone uses the Internet. People really know that there are other people who are not like them, but who are still Americans. Basically many people really didn’t know how the other half lived until there was Twitter. This has fueled the great American divide.

      Second, many more jobs can be done from home today than even fifty years ago. People get paid to maneuver symbols: numbers, words, ideas, pictures and money. Thus, many of us can work from home and those who cannot have suffered of late. Those who can work from home are richer and more educated. More resentment! We are definitely not all in this together.

      Third, things have been good for a long time now so a “setback seems overwhelming.” This reminds me of my medical conditions. I get sick. I get well. And when I get sick again, getting sick feels even worse than it did the first time. My heart did that to me several times from blocked coronaries to aberrant electrical conduction. Another mess.  It took many tries to get it fixed, yet I know, in the end, it will not stay fixed. That’s the nature of life.

      We are simply unused to infectious diseases killing thousands. One hundred years ago, Covid-19 would have been a blip on society. Today, with all the vaccinations we get to prevent disease, the new coronavirus seems like a catastrophe, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s nothing. People die of all kinds of things. We are very used to 1600 people a day dying of cancer and not blinking an eye. But 1000 dying of Covid-19 and everything closes. Does this really make sense? Americans are divided on that one, too.

      Fourth, national news dominates local news and world news dominates national news. There’s always a disaster somewhere in the world so there’s always bad news. If it bleeds it leads, and there’s always someone bleeding. One hundred years ago there was barely radio. Now there’s the Internet and there are no secrets and no unknowns (except maybe the truth half the time). Newspapers are going out of business as everyone gets their news on a screen. And there’s always bad news on the screen. As son Andrew says, the news is always the same: “everyone is going to die and no one has any money.” It always seems like there is bad news because something is always wrong somewhere in the world and now we all hear about it—instantaneously. Thus, people feel insecure. Thus, people are scared. Thus, the fear of the virus is rampant and we deal with it poorly when our only choice was to deal with it rationally and we chose not to do so. We also did not deal with it as one country for we are too divided to do so.

      Finally, the Federal Reserve has learned how to handle a financial crisis and avert another Great Depression by keeping the economy afloat no matter what idiotic manipulations investors and money managers make. The money supply is propped up and the economy does not collapse. Money floods the market. Stock values rise. Those with the means stay with the means above the mean. Everyone else struggles.

      Housel’s points are good ones and a real counterweight to the piece by Heather Mac Donald that some of you hated and some of you loved. I figure I must have gotten it right to post it with that reaction.

      An assessment of how the United States responded to the coronavirus depends to a large extent on your point of view, your educational status, your income, and your age. Sending sick people back to nursing homes was stupid. Going to bars unmasked was equally stupid. What we should have done was protect the vulnerable, mask up, wash our hands, socially distance and ride it out. Was there really any other choice until a vaccine arrives?

      Everyone get a grip. This is bad, but we’ve seen worse. See next blog. Here’s a hint, after Pearl Harbor life was really changed for the worse in America.

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