Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Covid-19-Seen and Unseen

As the public policy to Covid-19 is considered we are increasingly seeing differences between Republicans and Democrats in what our next steps should be.

Democrats seem to believe that we should stay locked down for even longer periods of time. We must stay locked down until there is almost no risk of the virus spreading in the community. Some have even suggested that we should not consider attempting to return to normal until a vaccine is available. That might be a year of more in the future.

Republicans seem to be more of a mind that we have to take responsible steps to reopen the economy. The economic damage and the other effects the lockdown are having on society have to be taken into account in any decision involving our response to Covid-19. We need to consider both the direct and indirect effects of our actions in response to the virus.

I find these divergent views on Covid-19 interesting because they generally follow a pattern that you consistently see between Democrats and Republicans on major issues.

When Democrats look at an issue they generally are only focused on the visible effects of the problem. They seem to consider only first-level effects and ignore everything else that might flow from that.  All of their focus is on what they see and feel right in front of them. They ignore the unseen issues.

Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely considering both the immediate effects and second-level effects of an issue. They see the issue in front of them but are equally concerned about the effects that a response to that issue could have causing secondary impacts on society.

Let's look at a few examples of major issues in which we see this divide between the SEEN and UNSEEN between Democrats and Republicans.

Deficit spending- Democrats focus almost solely on spending more on needs that they see today.. Continuing to borrow and spend money we don't have is totally justified and there is little concern on what that debt will do to unseen generations in the future.

Healthcare reform- Obamacare was justified in Democrat minds in order to solve the immediate problem of uninsured Americans.  They totally ignored the fact that the solution would completely undermine the health care system for unseen millions of Americans who already were satisfied with their coverage and make healthcare costs even more unaffordable in the future.

Minimum wage- Democrats want to raise the minimum wage because they believe it will alleviate the poverty problem they see.  However, they totally ignore the unseen after-effects in that the minimum wage increase will undoubtedly result in long-term job losses. 

Immigration- Democrats want to legalize millions of immigrants who have entered the United States illegally and who we see everyday around us. However, when calling for this they totally ignore the unseen potential immigrant who has been waiting patiently in line for years to come to this country legally.  They also don't consider the effects that amnesty will have on encouraging even greater illegal immigration in the future.

Welfare-  Democrats can't do enough to help people in need that they see.  Food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, long-term unemployment assistance.  It is natural to want to help people who need the help. However, what about the unseen problem that in all of this we may also be creating a cycle of dependency?  In the end our compassion may feed the problem rather than solve it.

Abortion- A woman who is pregnant is seen and known.  An unborn baby is unseen and unknown for most Democrats. We see the life affected with that pregnancy today. The life and the potential in that baby's future tomorrow is unseen.

Let's look at the seen and unseen involving our response to Covid-19.

We cannot ignore the 24/7 news cycle that covers the impacts Covid-19 every day. It is the lead story on every news program. We cannot escape the daily count of tests, confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths. We have been presented with models that tell us 2 million or 1 million or 200,000 are going to die, the hospitals are going to be overwhelmed and we are short 40,000 additional ventilators. Press conferences by our political leaders on Covid-19 have become a daily occurrence. 

It is all SEEN in a way in which we have not seen most anything else in our lifetimes. There is no escaping it as many of us are locked in our homes. For the last seven weeks it is practically the only thing we have SEEN.

That is also what drove the public policy response. 

That is the SEEN that apparently still drives the Democrats from a policy perspective.

However, what about the UNSEEN side of this?

In 1850 Frederic Bastiat wrote an essay entitled "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen". He wrote it as a commentary on economics but it seems just as appropriate with our Covid-19 response.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

What are some of those unseen effects of our Covid-19 response? What are some of the effects that should have been foreseen? What are some of the effects that are SEEN today that are simply too big to be ignored as we look at next steps? Why, despite the fact that some of these issues are so apparent and large today, are they still apparently UNSEEN by Democrats?

30 million people have filed for unemployment in the last six weeks.

Many of these people are in the bottom half of income-earners who the Democrats claim they are most interested in protecting.

Trillions in dollars of new federal debt has been created in order provide economic subsidies to workers and businesses.

The burden of this debt will principally fall on the Millennial generation and those younger which is also a demographic that Democrats claim to represent. To make matters worse, these are the groups who have been hurt the worst economically and educationally from the lockdowns.

Hospitals around the country are under severe financial pressure and hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers have been furloughed or seen their pay cut.

You begin to see how large an effect this is when it is considered that nearly half of the decline in GDP in the first quarter was related to healthcare.

Consider that the ban on elective medical procedures generally only took effect in the last two weeks of the first quarter and you only imagine what the number is going to look like for the second quarter.

There is also certainly going to be an unseen effect on the health of Americans as a result of the delayed medical treatments for millions of procedures that were deferred.

Schools are closed and what instruction is being done is online.

However, how does this work for poor, inner-city children who benefit the most from the structure and support of a classroom setting? In addition, how does a poor, inner-city student get access to the technology resources needed to do the online instruction?

The Democrats always talk about economic and educational injustice but it seems to me that the consequence of what we have done with the school closings will further increase the economic and educational divide over the long-term.

State and local governments are facing enormous budget shortfalls and potential spending cutbacks due to the economic effects of the lockdown.

The impacts of any future cuts will undoubtedly be felt most by public sector employees who have also traditionally been Democrat loyalists.

As the first steps in response to Covid-19 were taken it might have been difficult for Republicans and Democrats alike to foresee the series of effects that have cascaded through our nation and society.

However, many of those effects can now been SEEN by anyone that is really looking. At the same time, many more UNSEEN effects are still to come.

What I don't understand is why Democrats still seem to be only interested in that which was SEEN at the beginning and seem to ignore all that has followed?

It is even more puzzling when it is considered that many of those additional effects will most seriously impact their core constituencies the most over the long-term.

It might lead someone to conclude that the only thing that is SEEN by Democrats are the current political dimensions involved in an issue. 

Everything else is simply UNSEEN.

I don't know about you but it all seems rather UNSEEMLY to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment