Guest Article: The US economic reopening: Are we the “kinder, gentler nation shining upon a hill” that Presidents Bush and Reagan wanted us to be?

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By David Schane, Ohio, USA – 6 May 2020
Examining the US economic reopening as it fatefully unfolds before us in real time, it’s readily apparent the US is divided in its perceptions and partisan in its attitudes.  Beneath the surface though and viewing current events thru the prism of President George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism” as well as President George H.W. Bush and President Reagan’s philosophical and governance framework, I sadly believe we are on the precipice of a jaded and cynical new chapter as the economy is reopened.  Federal reopening criteria (which President Trump ignores himself even though they were created by his own Coronavirus task force) are being jettisoned by many states regarding how and when they should open up – even though most states haven’t remotely put in place enhanced testing, contact tracing, and quarantine procedures identified by health experts as prudent regimes that should be established before reopening.  As a result, infection disease models are already calculating that reduced social distancing (without appropriate health infrastructure regimes in place) will result in substantial additional US Covid-19 fatalities over these next few months (perhaps 25,000 to 50,000 more deaths than would otherwise have occurred) depending on the model examined.

David Schane MA Int. Relations, USA

Yet beyond Ohio where GOP pro-life Governor Mike DeWine is courageously quadrupling existing testing and hiring 1,800 contact tracers to aggressively protect lives while concurrently reopening the state economy in stages, comparatively few within the US seem to really care that many states are reopening their economies without appropriate health safety protocols in place.  Why?  Fatigue with the overwhelming nature of the virus, impatience with experts (and the imprecise, ambiguous nature of science itself), partisan divides, and shifting messaging are collectively producing a degree of national uncertainty.  That’s especially when compared to the stark, clear costs and scale of the economic catastrophe America is experiencing, unwitnessed since the Great Depression.  While it’s understandable the factors identified above are probable contributors to the phenomenon of states reopening before appropriate health infrastructure regimes and safeguards are in place, I fear something more cruel and realpolitik is at play – something very distant from the “Kinder, Gentler” philosophy of George H.W. Bush, or the “Shining City Upon a Hill” framework of Ronald Reagan, or the urban opportunity zones of Jack Kemp.

Apart from Governor DeWine and a handful of others, I’m sadly beginning to believe the most vulnerable lives (like the elderly and urban poor) are being callously forsaken within the current rugged individualistic social framework of the US extolled by many of today’s GOP leaders (which values youth, strength and boldness of action).  Moreover, the rich and well off in the USA are generally not the people who are being infected or dying in the Covid-19 pandemic here.  To wit: the wealthy live in single family homes in the suburbs, not in shared apartment buildings in dense urban environments.  The wealthy drive cars and don’t travel via crowded public transport (which unlike the Swiss SBB transport system is almost exclusively utilized by poor city residents in the USA).  The wealthy have second homes too – and perform knowledge jobs which even allows them to comfortably work out of their distant, safely situated vacation house via the internet.  Contrast that with blue collar workers who are obliged to work in physical stores or production plants – where assembly workers (who are lucky enough to still have jobs) must show up in person to earn their wages.
Furthermore, the wealthy live off their assets, not wages – and asset prices (including even high yield risk assets) are performing well due to Federal Reserve interventionist policies and expanded backstops (which are protecting an even wider array of marginal quality credit assets than ever before).  Indeed, Wall Street, credit markets, and assets (particularly mega cap US technology stocks) have all been doing comparatively well during this economic crisis, especially since the March 23 market lows – while Main Street has hemorrhaged 30 million jobs thru April 30th weekly unemployment data.
Finally, the well-off in the USA have access to health care – which means they have fewer pre-existing conditions.  In contrast, the urban poor in New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans (places which were hard hit by Covid-19) frequently live with simple undiagnosed pre-existing conditions as they endure common maladies like high blood pressure (which can be easily treated for pennies a day with generic drugs) without health care remediation of any kind.  So while early data suggests simple pre-existing health conditions (like high blood pressure and obesity) may well increase the chances of negative outcomes if one contracts COVID-19, beautiful young, wealthy and “rugged” people generally don’t have any of these worries – nor pre-existing conditions either.

In sum, many state Governors across America appear poised to accelerate the reopening of their economies minimizing public health “speed bumps”, as COVID-19 affects the urban poor and elderly disproportionately.  Realpolitik wise, few elected leaders may care about these people as many of them are disenfranchised from the system.  Thus America is rushing to reopen faster than even federal criteria suggest to be appropriate.  Maybe warmer weather will help mitigate the risk of these Governor’s actions – but I fear we may be sacrificing tens of thousands of lives and certainly the “kinder, gentler nation” with the “city that shines upon a hill” that previously inspired and helped unify the American national and social conscience, as these shared ideals have become casualties of Covid-19 and the acrimonious discourse surrounding it.  America will never be the same until we recapture our higher consciousness and rediscover our better selves.

David Schane, Ohio, USA – 6 May 2020


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the author’s. Geopolitical Research and the other contributors at this site may not necessarily agree with the views of Mr. Schane. All contributors to our website express their own independent opinion based on their research. Thus, guest articles are not edited by this website. We appreciate diverse independent opinions, which sets us apart from many agenda-committed or ideologically driven platforms. We welcome thought-leaders with diverse backgrounds that can contribute to constructive discourse with a respectful language. Furthermore, no comment should be interpreted as an investment recommendation or suggestion.

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