As I watch another day go by where the American economy – the greatest in history – remains closed, I can’t but help think of a quote from Brad Pitt’s character, Ben Rickert, in The Big Short
“Here’s a number, every one percent unemployment goes up, forty thousand people die, did you know that?”
I did some research to fact check this number as it seems an extraordinary claim. This statistic shows up in “The American Economy: What it is and what it isn’t” by Thomas and Carson on page 300 under the subheading “The cost of unemployment”. They cite their source as Bluestone, Harrison and Baker, “The Causes and Consequences of Economic Dislocation” from 1981.
They found that a one percentage point increase in unemployment caused 37,000 deaths. Not far off from Ben Rickert’s claim.
With that as our backdrop, let’s explore the below tweet
from a certain leader of the free world.
Is the COVID-19 “cure” – completely shutting down the American economy and society – worse than the problem itself? Let’s do some math.
The unemployment rate is expected to climb to a mindboggling 13% due to COVID-19. To put this in perspective, at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, unemployment only reached 5.5%. The worst unemployment rate in US history was 10.8% in November of 1982.
At 13%, 481,000 people would die from the unemployment increase alone. 481,000 people. The government estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 people will die from COVID-19. We are destroying the American economy to flatten the curve, but more people will STILL die from the unemployment increase than from the disease itself.
We should be looking at the whole picture when dealing with COVID-19. Going all in to stop the disease at the expense of our economy is short-sighted and driven by fear. We need to understand the impact our response will have on our economy and society before blindly closing the doors on another small business or school.
For example, has anyone thought about all the kids who are not learning in schools because of our knee-jerk response to COVID-19? We will see those effects when our workforce is uneducated and unproductive.
It is time to have a meaningful discussion about how far we are willing to go to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our country. President Trump highlighted this view in his tweet. The cure CAN NOT be worse than the disease. That should not be a partisan viewpoint. If the cure is worse than the disease, then there is something wrong with the cure. Period.
Prominent Republicans seem to understand it is time to restart the American economy. Why don’t Democrats?