Week 20 of the Quarantine

SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – The $600 bonus for not having a job expires this week.

But maybe not.

This morning, The New York Times reports:

Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said he would now like to see lawmakers act this week to extend and alter the unemployment program, give tax credits to businesses to help ease reopening costs and grant employers new liability protections — while setting aside a long list of other objectives, including Democrats’ priorities.

And yesterday, an AP story told us that even more money is on the way:

Mnuchin told reporters at the Capitol that… a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks would be coming in August.

Yes, Dear Readers, watch your bank statements and your mailboxes. Another $1,200 is practically “in the mail.”

Looking ahead, gold rose to a new all-time high…

Reader Discontent

But let us pause to address some Dear Reader discontent.

Last Tuesday, we offered a different response to the coronavirus than the feds’ Universal Lockdown…

All the feds had to do was issue a warning to the vulnerable groups… and perhaps spend a few billion dollars helping old-age homes improve their defenses… and maybe a few more billion in income support to allow people at risk to stay home.

The Universal Lockdown would have been over almost immediately. And the price tag could have been reduced from $10 trillion… down to a very reasonable couple of hundred billion…

Instead, as many as 44 million people were put out of work… almost everybody’s freedom of movement was curtailed… restaurants, bars, gyms, schools were closed…

…and the COVID response became another counterfeit issue. Instead of reasonable people making reasonable compromises based on real cost/benefit tradeoffs… the cost was never even considered.

Francisco C. says we’re not “listening to any facts but your own thoughts… why don’t you comment about Brazil? This country looks like the President listened to you literally; never closed anything and they keep going and going like any other day.”

Well, Francisco, you can google “Brazil Coronavirus” and you will get thousands of headlines that tell you what an awful job Brazil has done.

But the death rate of about 0.04% (based on the number of deaths per 100,000 people) is almost exactly the same as the U.S. What does that prove?

Likewise, you can google “Sweden Coronavirus” and again, the headlines will tell you how horribly the Swedish response – “Lockdown Lite” – has failed.

But the death rate in Sweden from Covid is only 0.05%… with the number of new cases (unlike the U.S. or Brazil) falling fast.

Little Difference

In the end, it may turn out that there is little difference in the final death toll between “strict” and “lite” lockdowns. Or any lockdown at all. We don’t know.

But Francisco thinks that our suggestion – look after the vulnerable people; let the others get on with their lives – is bad advice. It “makes me wonder if you really are smart,” he says.

We’ve wondered the same thing many times.

Reader Lyndon B., meanwhile, thinks our comments are “harsh.” He asks, “Would you be happy if Elizabeth were given the gift of COVID?”

Hmm… the question suggests that there is a connection between the dots we connect in the public sphere (federal policies, fake money, etc.) and those in our own home. Yet, the link is weak.

We wouldn’t want to see the feds outlaw skydiving, for example; but that doesn’t mean we’d want to throw Elizabeth out of a plane.

And just because we think the war on drugs is a big mistake; it doesn’t mean we want her to start making crystal meth in the basement.

Elizabeth’s Safety

Reader Martha B. (in the mailbag below) seems to be concerned for Elizabeth’s safety, too… We annotate:

You have just chosen to live in your version of the old wild America West. No taxes, no services, no police.

[Huh? We probably pay more taxes than she does… and the police are everywhere. They just stopped us seven times while driving back from Salta. At one roadblock, we had to wait an hour for the cop to telephone to our local police for proof that we actually live where we say we live.

The local police chief replied: “Oh yeah… that’s the guy whose bull we hit with the police truck. He paid for the repairs. He’s okay.”]

Surely you have noticed that rich people in countries like Argentina all live in armed camps because the overpowering number of dirt [poor] people around them will kill them otherwise.

[Nope. We haven’t noticed that. We have no guards. We own no weapons. The local people can kill us anytime they want.]

You’d be better off coming back to the USA and fighting for a better and more just country.

[Just how would we “fight” for a better country? Join a Black Lives Matter demonstration? Vote for Trump? Write a letter to the editor?

As far as we can tell, we do our best… all we can do, actually… just by trying to understand what is going on and telling our Dear Readers… sometimes right, sometimes wrong…]

And your wife would feel safer.

[For the time being; we have no choice. The borders are closed. But would Elizabeth really feel safer if we went back to the U.S.?

We put the question to her: “Would you feel safer back in the U.S.?”

Her reply: “Are you kidding? I’m much safer here than I would be in Baltimore. No one can remember the last time someone got killed here in the valley. In Baltimore, they pick them up off the sidewalk every morning.”]

Fake Money, Real Price Tags

Back to connecting the dots.

The point we were making last week was that there are costs to everything.

An honest money system forces you to make choices… to weigh costs against benefits. In short, it keeps you from making a damned fool of yourself.

A public policy without a price tag – especially a war – is like a winning lottery ticket in the hands of a half-wit. It’s bound to lead to trouble.

There are about 180 million households that file a tax return in the U.S. But only about half of them actually pay federal income taxes. So, we take 100 million as the number of households that will have to pay for federal policies.

The War on Poverty, for example, would have cost each one of them about $220,000. Would they have thought that was a good deal? We don’t know. They were never asked to pay – not directly.

How about the War on Terror? Price tag = $7 trillion, or about $70,000 per taxpayer. Was that worth it?

And how about the war on the COVID-19 molecule? Estimates of how much it will cost are all over the place – including costs for lost output, lost sales, lost profits, Federal Reserve money-printing, deficits, unemployment.

Our guess last week was that the total will come to about $10 trillion over the next three years. And that is not even counting the damage done by the feds’ disastrous rescue efforts…

…including trillions more in debt, falsified interest rates, depressed GDP, runaway deficits, corruption, hyperinflation… and a social/political breakdown (barbarity, as the poet Lord Byron warned).

Ten trillion dollars would be $100,000 per taxpayer.

What do you think, Dear Reader? Would the average taxpayer willingly pay $100,000 for the benefits of the feds’ Universal Lockdown?

And even if he wanted to… could he?

In an honest system, the question would have at least come up.

Regards,

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Bill


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