I about swallowed my tongue when I sat down at the table to try to ease into the news of the day, and instead saw this from NBC:
For those uninitiated to basic economics, a collapse of that magnitude would be more than just bad. It would be singularly catastrophic. Now, of course as it turned out, NBC was wrong. Breathtakingly wrong.
The U.S. GDP did fall a dangerous amount – 9.5% to be precise – but nowhere near the mark that NBC reported. The 32.9% was the annualized number, meaning that if the GDP continued falling at its current clip, that would be the total drop for the year.
I note that NBC News never deleted the tweet, likely because truth plays second fiddle these days to political agendas. Which is also the foremost reason that these types of stories, as well as the commentaries they engender, are always detached from the glaringly obvious cause.
No one in their right mind could say our economy was on pace at the end of 2019 for this kind of a collapse. Maybe the pessimists were right that the good times weren't going to continue to roll even if our economy had not sprinted face-first into the coronavirus buzz saw. But set that worthless speculation aside, our economy did run into a global pandemic, and it's patently obvious the COVID cataclysm – and more specifically the federal government's recommended and state-imposed lockdowns – are the culprit for what we're now experiencing.
Yet remarkably there exists a growing chorus of "experts" who are calling on us to do it all over again:
"Shut it down now, and start over" is the message from health experts across the country as COVID-19 cases surge in more than 40 states… More than 150 doctors endorsed an open letter to lawmakers, urging them to hit the restart button.
The letter, published on the United States Public Interest Research Group's website and penned by its public health campaigns director Matthew Wellington, blames the push to reopen the economy for the country's worsening health crisis and calls for all nonessential businesses to close.
I take nothing away from the medical knowledge of any of those doctors, and I think their perspectives need to be considered. But only as a part of a much larger and diversified collection of voices that understand some realities these doctors apparently do not.
Realities like the fact that it is the height of hubris for you, me, them, or some panel of bureaucrats to determine for everyone else what is "essential" and "nonessential" business. Our well-intentioned efforts to do that several months ago have proven fiscally and psychologically catastrophic.
As I wrote at the time, it's true that my inability to get my business cards printed may not be essential for my survival, but it is essential for the owner and workers at the local print shop. And as it turns out, this very economic report touted by NBC is telling us that the print shop may just be essential for all of us.
While government-imposed lockdowns have proven largely ineffectual in stopping the spread of COVID-19 (it stretches out the timing of infection, but doesn't prevent the eventual spread), both here and around the world, these lockdowns have proven extremely effective in grinding the wheels of commerce to a disastrous halt. The health and well-being consequences of that blow are just now beginning to be felt, and are likely to inflict far greater devastation globally than coronavirus.
Delayed cancer treatments, postponed surgeries, and the rationing of basic medical care in the United States due to government-ordered lockdowns have all led to increased death and suffering, as has the social isolation resulting in higher suicide rates, domestic violence, depression diagnoses, and community unrest.
But that's only the beginning. Government lockdowns have also crippled the global food supply chain, resulting in a de facto death sentence for many third world inhabitants like those in Burkina Faso.
All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The Associated Press ahead of its publication in the Lancet medical journal.
On top of that, according to the UN, over half a million additional children each month are facing malnutrition that produces spindly limbs and distended bellies. The COVID-lockdown policies are producing what many of these world health experts are predicting to be a "generational catastrophe."
Let's all agree there are no easy answers. Let's also agree that lives lost as a result of government COVID response were just as precious as those lost to COVID itself.