If your location values the freedom of its people to make the wrong decisions (as long as they don’t impact others), then you might consider opening up the economy. Delta will tear through those unvaccinated, but that’s their prerogative. Maybe the reality will hit better then.
Walk with me.
The CDC says smoking kills 480,000 Americans a year. Alcohol? 95,000. Guns? 38,000 (23,000 suicides).
Last month, COVID-19 was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, between Alzheimer's and diabetes. Now Alzheimer's isn't a choice. Diabetes often is.
A couple months ago, when the CDC straight-up dropped the mask mandate on a Friday, I opined that the Biden administration was letting the anti-vaxers to their fate because you know what? No amount of coercion was gonna do a thing and there was no reason to continue to punish the people who got vaccinated. The US can compel vaccination but we aren't. Los Angeles just had its fifth straight day of a thousand cases - and its fifth straight day of zero vaccinated cases admitted to the hospital. At this point it truly is a choice.
Sure, but what about Epsilon, Gamma, Zeta, Murgatroyd, Spumoni and Plaid? I mean yeah, I'm not about to pooh-pooh some hypothetical fuckyou variant of COVID that won't totally lay everyone flat. But we know the drill now - you put on your mask, go to ground, and wait for HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE HOW SCIENTISTS CAME UP WITH THREE DIFFERENT 95% EFFECTIVE VACCINES IN LESS THAN A YEAR?
Andy Weir thinks this is the last pandemic in human history. Granted, he's no more an epidemiologist than I am but he has a point - this was a microbiological moon shot.
And still, 1% of the developing world has been vaccinated. That's likely to be the situation for the next couple of years unless something changes. "Maybe we should slow the rate of mutation through a massive international public health program" would change that situation. That's $50-70b. Foreign aid in 2020 was an all-time high of $161b, also 1/10th what the US spent on the military alone in 2020, also between four and six Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers (who the fuck names an aircraft carrier after Gerry Ford). Also, we're now talking about boosters for Delta, which means we'll be talking about boosters for everything, which means we're now integrating public health into our daily lives.
Anyone else get a letter from Biden this week? "Hey guess what I'm dropping $300 in your bank account every month and yeah actually it's what you got off your taxes but hey wouldn't you rather I just give you the money instead of you know, not taking it in April?" Also I don't know if you've noticed but if you collected unemployment once this year your health insurance is like, a dollar a month. I mean, fer real. I wanna give my employees health insurance but to beat what half of them can get for A DOLLAR I gotta spend $60k a year.
The CARES act was a unilateral surrender by the Republicans. It was a Democratic grab bag of all the goodies in the world. PPP Mk. II was basically the CARES act with better accounting. Meanwhile the Republicans are screaming about Critical Race Theory as if they didn't just read about it on Facebook a week ago and the Biden administration has confirmed more judges at this point in his term than any administration in history. Michael Lewis wrote an entire goddamn book about the hollowing out of the government under Trump and it sure seems like for the most part, the Biden administration is spackling the holes over with frickin' bleeding heart liberals. Like, fer real, nobody read this but you should:
Matt Stoller is halfway to Tankie and he was all
The executive order does a lot, but to put it simply, if there were a way to write an executive order just for readers of this newsletter, that’s what this order would be.
So look. COVID will continue to kill people. Far, far more of them will be brown, black and yellow than wearing red baseball caps. That fucking sucks. They don't have a choice. They need a voice. I hope we do something about them soon. Because when we do, it will be vintage USA. Pre-Operation Condor USA, pre-Mission Accomplished USA. That'll be Marshall Plan USA. Universal Declaration of Human Rights USA.
I've been watching China with interest. I'm not convinced, but my working theory is they have accepted their ostracism for a COVID lab leak as inevitable and are repositioning themselves as an adversarial state.
This country has been absent student loan payments for a year. When those kick back in (October, theoretically) it's gonna hurt. And it's gonna make selling student loan forgiveness easy.
Obamacare is real close to socialized medicine. Closer than most people realize. If I, bleeding-heart small business owner, can't afford to compete with the government for insurance, then the failures are in the complexity and the roll-out. We've just done a whole lotta roll-out.
The Biden administration has figured out that they can claim the high ground - the economy, the healthcare, the foreign policy - while the Republicans are busy fighting their war of succession. They're fucking dangerous, don't get me wrong. But maaan, the more boring the administration can make this year, the more Democrats are gonna get elected. If you want more Lauren Boebert you can for sure get some. But if you're on the fence? She sure don't compete with the government "sending you" $300 per month per kid.
What happens after Delta? I think we end up in a Big Government federal country where our COVID response is national and successful or local and a failure. I think we all get sick, and getting sick without a vaccine kicks your ass and getting sick with a vaccine doesn't. I think missing a week with the flu is a compelling economic reason for a flu shot and missing two weeks with COVID is more compelling. And I think "goddamn it not this again" is,
no matter how you look at it,
no matter what the realities on the ground are,
no matter the particulars,
less scary than
"oh shit what do we do now."
Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a thing. It breaks, all at once, like a fever. Because once you let go of that central tenet, your mind whiplashes to try and find new anchors. We watched this. We watched a friend who was rabidly anti-vax catch COVID, nearly kill her mother, and spend two weeks wandering around the house huffing her supplemental oxygen go "gosh darn it, I caught COVID" and chill the fuck out on ALL OF IT.
Dunno if they're vaccinated now. I hope so? But they sure as shit aren't saying COVID isn't real anymore.
Delta? Delta's fuckin' real. It's REAL real if you aren't vaccinated. And I gotta imagine that if you're in the hospital with Delta and everyone else is in the hospital with Delta and everyone who is attending you doesn't have Delta because they've been vaccinated? I'll bet that feels like being Egyptian in that scene in Ben Hur when God comes through and Passovers the Jews. I'll bet that leaves you questioning some choices. And I'll bet that experience colors your decision process when Theta starts making the news.
And I, personally, think the, erm, anti-vax demographic questioning their choices is a silver lining.
Delta actually makes me hopeful. It's fuckin' bad, but we have prophylactics against it. It's going to totally fuck the third world, but what doesn't, and maybe it's time to channel our inner Sally Struthers again. It's a disease that selects for political affiliation - AIDS was hell on the creative class, so it's not unheard of.
I think we come through this stronger, better, healthier, more ready to take on big challenges. I think a resurgent pandemic in October 2021 is going to be a whole lot more hopeful than a resurgent pandemic on January 6 2020.
I dunno, man. The narrative has shifted from "what are we gonna do, we're fucked" to "this is what we gotta do or we're fucked" and that's a shift from fear to planning. We've at least put down the teacup and are looking for the exit.