This is Going to be Bad Ep. 05
We are all about to become Swedish.
Republicans will tell you, “it’s the only way.”
The country is about to start reopening for business. The President has announced it, his loyal sycophants (after thanking him for his brilliant leadership) have agreed with him, and governor after governor of the Republican controlled “Red” states have announced their intention to cancel the “stay at home” orders and force people in their states to get back to work.
I have thought a great deal about why the Republican governors are doing this, because it is not just Georgia now. It is Iowa, Florida, Alabama, and almost all the Republican controlled states. Why would they take this obviously risky path?
The only answer that makes any sense to me is that the WH has decided that we are going to try and “be Sweden”. As everyone knows by now, the Swedes are the contrarians in this pandemic. They have asked their citizens to practice a form of “light” social distancing voluntarily, while keeping their economy completely open. A sort of “have your cake and eat it too” scenario if it works.
For us in the US this looks fantastic. We see people going out to bars and restaurants, people in the shops and stores, a country not in lockdown with what looks like a functioning economy. We are on the verge of a cascade of MAJOR economic meltdowns because it is May 1st tomorrow and all sorts of bills will come due that people will not be able to pay. Millions will not be able to make their car payments, are millions of cars going to be repossessed? Millions will not be able to pay their rent, is the government going to stop evictions? Millions will not be able to make mortgage payments for the 2nd month in a row, is the government going to stop foreclosures? So far, they have been able to “hold the line” with all the stimulus money and bailouts but after tomorrow that will be impossible, and the real cascade of economic woes will begin.
So, the WH, and the Republican party is desperate. Their own internal memos show they have concluded that if there is not an economic recovery by November they will probably be swept from power, at every level. If they want to have any chance of recovery they have to reopen and restart the economy “right now”. Which explains why they have decided to go down this path; it is their only hope. The question is, “will it work?”
Personally, I do not think so. Sweden is a tiny country compared to the US (only 10 million Swedes vs 340 million Americans). They have cradle to grave healthcare and are overall a much healthier population than Americans are, so they have a lot fewer of the underlying conditions like asthma and diabetes that make Covid-19 deadly for so many people. Plus, they have an extremely high level of social trust and trust in their government. They are good at doing what they are asked to do by their officials, “for the common good”. You only have to watch Fox News for an hour to know that attitude is not nearly as widespread in the US. We are a vastly different country, trying to “do a Sweden” is probably not going to work well for us.
The other thing to remember is that while Sweden has an open economy right now, they are not “doing great” as some Republican observers have stated. Sweden’s 2,400 deaths sound like a small number but if you multiply it by 34 you can see that it is roughly equivalent to 70,000 deaths in the US. On a per capita basis more people are dying in Sweden than in the US and we are one of the worst cases in the world right now because we reacted slowly and failed to control the spread of the virus. However, about 70% of the deaths in Sweden have been people over 65. What is clear is that the Swedish Health Ministry and their government has decided to sacrifice that age cohort for the greater good and the country has decided to go along with it.
They talk about “isolating the vulnerable”, and you will hear people in the US saying the same thing, but it is a “comforting” lie meant only to assuage people’s guilt. If you allow the virus to spread to try and reach levels of “herd immunity” there is no way to prevent it from getting into isolated populations. We cannot keep it out of prisons, much less out of nursing homes. And how do you “self-isolate” when everyone around you is getting infected? “Isolating the vulnerable” is doublespeak for “it’s just too painful for the rest of us to try and keep you alive”. Or as they say on FOX, “the cure cannot be worse than the disease” or “millions more will die from the economic depression than from Covid-19”.
What’s alarming to me is that the WH seems to have decided they are going to try and force this decision on the whole country. After all, it does you no good to open all “Red” states, if the “Blue” states and cities where 60% of the country’s economic activity happens, stay closed. For this policy to work, everyone must get in the pool. Which explains why the Attorney General issued a statement this week saying that they would aggressively pursue actions against states that tried to maintain their “stay at home” lock downs. It will be interesting to see how far they are willing to go to try and make that happen. Trump has already indicated that there might be no federal bailout money for states that don’t “play ball”. Would they be willing to send troops to “open the borders” if places like California or New York try to close their borders to travelers from “reopened” states? In order to try and avoid an economic crisis we seem to be moving towards a Constitutional crisis.