The latest congressional outrage is from Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who went onto Fox News Sunday (January 31, 2021) with this pile of televised ignorance that begins at 02:34 into the video:
One area where we decrease. He [Biden] has $170 billion for schools. Now, we’ve already given schools 110% of what they usually receive from the federal government. Parochial schools have opened with a fraction of that money. Charter schools are opened. The real problem is public schools. That issue is not money. That issue is teachers’ unions telling their teachers not to go to work, and putting $170 billion towards teachers unions priorities, takes care of a Democratic constituency group, but it wastes our federal taxpayer dollars for something which is not the problem. We have $20 billion to get kids back to school on top of the roughly $66 billion, which is on top of the $57 billion schools normally get, we can get kids back to school without, you know, kind of bailing out the teachers’ unions.
A billion dollars seems like a boatload of money, but there are 51 million students in the US public schools; talk of each $1 billion translates into about $19.60 per child. I can’t speak for the veracity of the numbers Senator Cassidy has been throwing around, but I do know how to translate seemingly big federal numbers into local impact.
Let’s examine the real numbers behind school funding here in Massachusetts.
There are five strands of federal funding that flow to Massachusetts districts. For FY2021, this amounts to $302.750,324, roughly 2% of all school spending in the state. The state contributed $5,283,343,073, roughly 43% of the state’s school spending, with the rest coming from local taxpayers. Arlington receives about $335,000 from these strands, less than one half of one percent of our $82.5 million operating budget.
So, the feds tossed a few extra coins into the pot to provide $154,245 in federal Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for Arlington. It sounds like a big number when Senator Cassidy talks on Fox News, but local officials understand how relatively insignificant the federal support has been to date.
In Massachusetts, local funds are mostly generated from property taxes, a relatively stable source of funds. State revenues are predominantly from income and sales taxes, which are sensitive to economic downturns. Unlike the federal government, state budgets must be balanced annually.
In Massachusetts, state funding is awarded to school districts based on the property wealth of municipalities; ranging from 17.5% to 90% of the foundation budget, so students attending public schools in cities and towns with a smaller tax base are dependent on less reliable state funding.
There are too many state and federal officials who think they can simply decree that schools should be open for full-time, in-person instruction, and that decree should be enough for local officials to open schools. Those of us who rely on science, not state or federal decrees, know there are safety concerns that need to be addressed before we fully reopen our schools.
Instead of blaming teachers’ unions, let’s place the responsibility where it belongs. The federal government, when controlled by Senator Cassidy’s party, ignored science, failed to provide adequate testing, and fumbled the task of acquiring and distributing vaccine in their own end zone.
My message for Senator Cassidy: stop the school privatization demagoguery and do your job. Give President Biden the tools to fix the federal response, and make sure he can provide the resources we need to vaccinate our educators and open our schools safely.
Honestly, it has seemed to me like teachers unions have been among the most hesitant (almost to the point of paranoia in some cases) to get back to normal.
I don’t think it is paranoia at all. Schools are designed to be close, interactive environments. The buildings don’t necessarily have good ventilation, and some are incredibly poor.
New teachers are generally sick from September to December, as they build up immunity to the wide variety of viruses spread by children. It is that context that teachers, administrators, and policy makers must understand as we reopen schools. I look at vaccinated teachers and open windows as essential for moving forward.
A friend of mine was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that appears more often with teachers who have been in the occupation for a number of years. This was a few years ago, before Covid.
My town is doing as well as can be expected on a hybrid model. There has not been an outbreak in the schools themselves, but teachers are out more due to quarantining. I pretty much jumped at the chance to go back to sub. My concerns were more along the lines of how hard it would be to get kids to stay masked and distant, though those have proven largely unfounded. I have not heard much complaining among teachers I work with, but I have heard some of the more gloom and doom comments in the press from teachers unions.
I heard hybrid was a disaster when it comes to instruction in terms of having a cohort on the computer and a cohort in front of you. I’d be fine with hybrid if I was vaccinated, they did temp checks on the kids, and they threw out kids who didn’t follow the rules. It should also be optional for students and staff alike. I’m younger and while I am slowly becoming my parents caregiver, it’s likely they’ll be vaccinated soon enough and my wife already is. I’m eager to go back in person too-remote sucks-but 10% of my students already contracted the virus and it’s doubtful a hybrid model or even good mask use would have protected me or my classroom from their virus.
We have had quarantined teachers, but no outbreak in the schools themselves. Hybrid is hardly ideal, though the silver lining for subs like me is that we don’t have to do that, so when I come in I only work with the half of the class that is in the room (though occasionally the teacher Zooms in from home to teach everyone). My apprehension was never about the virus itself (and I have never moved off my previously stated position that our reactions have been overblown), but rather that we’d be constantly nagging kids to mask and distance, but those fears have largely proven unfounded. I think I even heard that my town is in the top 5 in the state in terms of how we have handled the situation and being able to accommodate everyone. There are some families and a handful of teachers who have opted for full remote. The other thing remote has allowed is that today could be declared a remote-for-all rather than cancelled for snow and therefore not necessary to make up in June. At this point I and many I have talked to assume this will be the way for this year and that September will be almost perfectly timed in terms of progress of the pandemic to reopen for the beginning of the next academic year.
I strongly suspect that the difference in perspective in these two comments reflects the stark difference in how the pandemic impacts the two respective towns. I’ll use Andover and North Andover as representative of the town Christopher is referring to.
Revere is among the hardest-hit cities in the state. Andover is among the least impacted. Revere has about four times the cumulative case count of Andover and North Andover combined. Not surprisingly, Andover and North Andover are significantly wealthier than Revere. Andover and North Andover are also significantly whiter.
This strikes me as a fine example of confirmation bias. Those “unfounded” fears have caused enormous suffering — both personal and economic — in our least-prosperous communities. It strikes me as at least insensitive for a white middle-class resident of a (relatively) wealthy town like Andover or North Andover to characterize the impact of this pandemic as “overblown”.
The experience of this pandemic in towns like Andover and North Andover is not representative of the experience of the state or nation as a whole.
Excellent points Tom. It’s also the fact that parents from those communities are largely working from home while Revere parents and guardians are working multiple shifts in essential services while also living with multiple generations or branches of their family in dense housing. Even some of my more affluent students have gotten it, largely since their parents own restaurants or work in the trades or for the city. All higher exposure jobs.
I worked at a large food market in an upscale location when the virus hit. I remained there until October when I retired. We all got a $2 an hour bonus, free coffee and bagels to compensate us for the “essential work” we all provided to the community during the outbreak of a deadly virus.
That bonus lasted for 90 days even thought the treat of the virus remained.
We were called “heroes”….I’d rather we were paid more. A hero’s cape has no currency when one needs to pay the bills.
The other thing I noticed was the significant increase in Instacart shoppers; people who made a few bucks picking up groceries for those who could afford to pay for such a service. I assumed that many of these shoppers were out of work and doing what they could to stay afloat; making fifteen or twenty dollars to pick up the filet mignon and fresh swordfish for the master’s kitchen.
Our employer was very good with health checks, PPE’s, and did what was possible to protect us, but testing for Covid was not available, at a time when we saw NBA and NHL players getting frequent Covid tests.
Whenever I hear someone say “”We’re all in this together”….I just shake my head in disgust.
Which ironically means that those who can get away with remote learning least need it while those whose lives would be a lot easier with kids in school full time may also be the most vulnerable.
Which is precisely why it has been my view all along that decisions regarding how to handle this should be as localized as possible.
The MTA is pushing for Gov. Baker to aggressively accelerate the timetable to get us vaccinated and get buildings adequately converted for hybrid. It would also have been nice if Republican Governors like Baker and Democratic Mayors like De Blasio prioritized reopening schools over reopening businesses back in the summer. Instead, they forced us to choose between our lives and our livelihoods. Many essential workers lack a union and were unable to fight for themselves, the injustice they suffer does not change the fact that I’m thankful for the justice mine delivered everyday.
It remains my view that lives vs. livelihoods is a false choice. I’m not necessarily essential, but I LIKE being able to work and do not see myself as heroically risking my life every time I interact with the public in my jobs.
Steve Consilvio says
We have 400000+ dead Americans. There is no such thing as normal. We are fighting a disease that is quite adept at hiding and moving. The ONLY way to fight it is thru isolation. If we had done a hard lockdown 11 months ago we could have stopped it. At any point we could have done a hard lockdown and stopped the spread. As it is, we have never done a hard lockdown, and there is constant pressure to relax what little we do. We might as well just infect everybody and see who survives, because in practice that is all the response has been. When did America become so incapable of solving problems and working collectively? Had this virus been more deadly, and maybe a new strain will be, we would have wiped out the entire population, not dissimilar to what happened to Native Americans 250 years ago.
Denial reigns supreme.
That happened on November 4, 1980, when America elected Ronald Reagan as president — embracing voodoo economics, fiction presented as fact, and replacing diplomacy with showmanship.
We’ve been denying COVID for not quite a year — we’ve been denying climate change for more than twenty years. The consequences of the latter will make today’s pandemic look like a walk in the park.
Historians will mark the election of Ronald Reagan as the turning point in American destiny. That is when America turned its back on the values and beliefs that led the entire world in an unprecedented period of prosperity, beginning with the Marshall Plan after WWII and ending with the inauguration of Mr. Reagan.
America and the world have not been the same since then.
Steve Consilvio says
I’d probably point to Nixon, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, but yea, it’s been a while. Still, Trump makes Nixon look good by comparison.
There is that problem of becoming what you hate. We defeated fascism, and became fascism: proud, self-righteous, paranoid.
Movies like The Forbidden Planet combined sci-fi with an exploration of the nature of man and the evil within. Nothing like that is discussed today. Most movies make the bad guy one dimensional and a caricature, and focus on greed, corporate excess or deep conspiracies. Is it any wonder why our politics now share the same baseline? Humanism is disregarded as a relic. It’s all about STEM, convenience and modernization, and, of course, rights without any responsibility or duty.
Forbidden Planet….I’d say Apocalypse Now was on the same wavelength…Heart of Darkness adapted for Vietnam…
But yeah, “Greed is Good”….from Wall Street and the happy go lucky portrayal of The Wolf of Wall Street that shows the debauchery of the capitalist with no mention of the common man who lost his pension or life savings….
The media wants us to believe that the system is fine. Sure, there is the occasional Norma Rae and if you want to get depressed, watch Radium Girls on Netflix. But let’s not get too deep into attacking the rich, they are the investors….
As I wrote a few year ago on BMG, the media likes to show us “Undercover Boss”, a thirty minute informercial about a business owner who shows compassion for a handful of the employees he or she as abused for years, in exchange for publicity of their company on national TV that shows them as caring.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society, 1932
Really glad my father had me watch a lot of those classics, Forbidden Planet is one of my favorites. Many years later I discovered it was an adaptation of the Tempest.
The lockdowns we had were a lot harder than a society like ours should ever have to accept. Sometimes you just deal with it. The fatality rate is <2% and we treated it like the Black Death which wiped out a third of Europe. The Constitution, human nature, and the economy took beatings as well.
While the fatality rate is <2%, that was an unknown in February. Even so, we are not sure what the long term effects are of this infection. In simple terms, all we needed in February was a national mask policy and immediate implementation of the Defense Production Act for starters, and then leave it to the science from there.
If we had started just with masks I might have been more amenable as long as society could otherwise go on unhindered. By the time we did get mask mandates it just felt like it was piling on with the psychologically horrible message that we should be afraid of each other. “If the wrong person so much as breathes on you you might die,” is an absolutely awful message to convey, especially when statistically it is extremely unlikely.
I’m sorry, but that is simply incorrect — at least given standards of “likely” and “unlikely” consistent with the standards that we apply to other risks.
Covid is the largest single cause of death for Americans in 2020, and spread primarily through airborne particles. It is badly mistaken to characterize that risk as “extremely unlikely”.
One of the things we know today that we did not know a year ago is that this disease is primarily spread through airborne transmission. That means that the “the wrong person” (meaning someone who is both infected and at a stage where they are “shedding” virus particles) breathing on you is the most likely source of infection. Daily infection rates remain very high — well above the generally-accepted rate of 8 cases per 100K population.
In my view, there are some messages that are even more toxic than the message you cite. Here are two of them:
My understanding is that COVID is in fact not the single largest cause of death for Americans in 2020. That “honor” would go to smoking at 480K. How is a 2% fatality rate anything other than extremely unlikely? How is 8/100K anything but very tiny? I know being breathed on is the most likely way to get it from someone who has it, but that was not the point I was making. My point was that the chance of the person next to me having it is small to begin with, and even if s/he does have it the chances of it having a serious impact remain small. The two “messages” you offer at the end remain bad framings and false choices.
Steve Consilvio says
“ lockdowns we had were a lot harder than a society like ours should ever have to accept.”
Could you unpack that a little?What hardships exactly are you referring to? And what is a “society like ours” exactly?
Who exactly is making a mountain out of a molehill, or a molehill out of a mountain, in regard to the Constitution, human nature and the economy? These are such broad and wide statements they could mean anything, but generally sound like proof by assertion.
We are a highly developed, medically advanced, society which values our freedom (at least I thought). We are cowering in the face of pandemic in a way that if we had responded as such to terrorism we would say the terrorists have won because they succeeded in shutting down society. This should have been handled in such a way that the only ones who had to worry about it were those who contract it and their families, the medical community, and policy makers, while leaving the rest of us alone. Two things IMO we never should have done just on general principles were banning assemblies of certain sizes and forcing businesses to close. The ban on assemblies directly violates the first amendment which when applied to houses of worship adds a layer of free exercise problems. Can we seriously not do better than 100 years ago with the Spanish flu?! We should have tested everyone entering the country beginning last January and targeted any lockdowns to vulnerable facilities and populations. We used sledgehammers when scalpels would have been more appropriate. Our species is not designed to avoid contact or to hibernate and I personally at least at first felt sentenced to my 320 square foot studio with half a kitchen that I referred to as my cell even before the pandemic. We shut down first and asked questions later and I am very disappointed that liberals weren’t the ones at least asking questions about jobs, education, civil liberties, and emotional well-being. I am absolutely making an assertion of my philosophy. I do not deny the publicly reported numbers, but I do provide them with context to make my point.
Steve Consilvio says
I think you have historical amnesia, along with faulty logic. When the pandemic broke we had very little data and N95 masks were in very short supply. We knew that there were a lot of deaths in other countries, and not much else. I do agree that the response was more fear-driven than logical. After all, we knew that the vast majority of people didn’t have it, but rather than preserving separate groups we adopted a non-plan based on “essential,” which was primarily self-interpreted and meaningless. People stayed home, but plenty of others stayed in constant motion so it continued to spread. As fatigue set in, it continues to spread. The only way to contain asymptomatic carriers is for everyone to isolate, and then adopt something akin to block scheduling. You have one group isolate for 21 days, and then they go out and another group isolates for 21 days. Do that a few times and the virus should have been contained (assuming you can only get it once, and be contagious once, which is itself an unknown). The balance sheet of all the businesses and people are easily fixed by the government spreading around more if it’s fake money. The ability to practice your religion is not infringed. You can pray anywhere. All of the other claims about loss of freedom, psychological damage are utter BS. People live through snowstorms, evacuated wildfires, floods etc., We have constantly responded to whatever Mother Nature has thrown at us. How now is it not the right response? Sure, people can stay in their house while the volcano explodes in their back yard. Only they will die for their own stupidity. In this case, others will die for their stupidity. So, just like you are confined to driving on the right and stopping at stop signs, you need to work within the system for the good of everyone. The 400000 dead were killed by the morons unable to exercise self-control. The fault of the government is that it was run by the worlds biggest moron at the time. Our sophisticated way of life is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and as the last four years have shown, there are a lot of weak links. The biggest flaw of democracy is that it works so well, the blind elect the blind.
While I agree with the overall direction of this comment, I fear it misses some important constraints.
Our national innumeracy has been on full display during this entire pandemic. In particular, we have an abysmal understanding of the enormity of the US land area. We have an equally abysmal understanding of the extreme concentration of our population in urban centers and of the implications of that for public health measures in the face of a pandemic like this.
I have maintained an interactive map since April of 2020 that shows, at the county level, daily and cumulative infection and death rates (http://covid.zeetix.com).
I encourage you (the reader) to open the map, set the “Pertains Date” to some date in April of 2020, and look at the “Daily case rate” — without normalization and without smoothing.
You’ll see that nearly the entire nation is green. There is an intense outbreak along the I-95 corridor between Boson and Washington DC and about a half-dozen other hotspots around major cities (Detroit, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, portions of the S.F. Bay area). Looking at the map as a whole, it is overwhelmingly green with a few splotches of magenta (the outbreaks).
At that time, requiring residents of Grafton County NH or even Franklin County MA to wear masks while walking on rail trails or shopping is nothing more than theater. I’m reminded of the early days of the HIV epidemic when religious elements across the political spectrum exploited the suffering of a tiny and easily-identified segment of the community to inflame fear and hysteria about sex among virtually everyone else.
White heterosexual teenagers practicing consensual oral sex in Minnesota in 1985 had ZERO risk of contracting HIV/AIDS — and yet the media was chock-full of hysteria about “safe sex” and the “dangers” of “unprotected” oral sex.
There is ZERO risk of infection from any person who is not already infected with a virus. There is NO risk of acquiring the disease from ANY behavior, protected or not. The key point then, is to recognize and measure the actual infection rate of whatever agent we’re talking about within a specific community.
The calls for a nationwide lockdown are over the top. What was needed was a targeted, enforced, and immediate lockdown in major US cities in April of 2020. Had we done that, the pandemic would have been stopped in its tracks.
Airports in the major cities impacted by COVID should have been closed. Travel into and out of those cities should have been restricted and regulated with travelers quarantined. We KNEW where the outbreak was happening, and we resolutely refused to do anything at all with that knowledge.
It is true that the response of the federal government was criminally negligent (or worse). It is true that tens of millions of Americans have been sickened and hundreds of thousands of Americans have been killed unnecessarily. Their blood is on the hands of Donald Trump and the GOP.
It is NOT true that a nationwide lockdown or nationwide mask mandate in the spring of 2020 would have made a difference.
We needed a response driven by science, data, and a sincere desire to reduce or eliminate pain and suffering.
We got instead a response driven by the desire of Donald Trump and his Collaborators to inflict as much chaos, pain, and suffering on America as possible.
Taiwan seems to have taken the proper course of action to limit the spread. What were they able to do that was not possible for us to do?
My take is that they put containment of the virus ahead of how many restaurants would remain open.
Even today in Massachusetts, Charlie Baker is allowing more seating capacity in restaurants while I, at the age of 66 with two health factors (asthma and high blood pressure) have no idea when I will get the vaccine.
Steve Consilvio says
I agree rural areas did not seem to have any risk, but taking the risk seriously in those areas was not a big burden either. If there was ever a case of ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ this was it.
The fact is that the virus is defeatable, but our culture has become so highly partisan and self-righteous that we no longer have a sense of humanity or connection to one another. The path to this state is long and twisted. We have long since failed to be ‘united,’ and generally split hairs and look for excuses to divide, with the vast majority putting in zero effort to understanding anything about the past or the world around them.
We have been trained to be blind consumers, work, and stay in a bubble of self-medication and triteness. Few are citizen statesmen. There are many to blame for this state of affairs, on both sides of the aisle. And, we now know, not even life and death can move the status quo. The GOP, especially, can’t do anything, form reprimanding Cheney for her lack of loyalty to reprimanding QAnon crazy. Talk about a gang that couldn’t shoot straight, and they are 50% of the population. The Blue Gang also has a host of problems in thinking outside the status quo. The status quo, even without the covid crisis was untenable. With it, it is absolute madness to preserve so many systemic failures.
Unfortunately, if there is one thing about America that has been consistent, it is that after every crisis there is a desire to get back to the state of things before the crisis. This forces the crisis to reoccur, since all the same flaws are put back in place, they can only have the same result again (but sooner and worse than the previous). We saw this in 2008, when all the alleged financial reforms meant nothing, and then the criminal Munchin (Mr. Robo Foreclosure) who should have been in jail, was instead given a cabinet position. Now we are doing it with a virus? It’s a miracle that we have a vaccine and may soon be able to defeat the virus. What would have happened if the vaccines weren’t ready? Next time we may not be so lucky. If we don’t get our culture back, we may well end up in hell yet.
I don’t see how you can say if we had done a better job in the Spring of 2020 it wouldn’t have made a difference. The virus spread then, just as it has been all along. Lower numbers are meaningless when 1 is too many, and the virus has all the time in the world to compound its numbers. Time is always on the side of the virus. A piece of paper folded 50 times would reach the Sun. Folded once more, it would reach the Sun and back. For the virus to spread widely and quickly is quite easy, as we have seen from many wiped out families from a single event. Geometric progressions are very powerful, and that was always the risk. A trucker drives from Massachusetts to Kansas, and gets 3 people infected. Time takes care of the spread over distances easily enough.
I said just the opposite of what you suggest. Here’s what I wrote:
Was some part of that unclear? A nationwide lockdown would not have made a difference. Closing airports in the affected cities WOULD have made a difference.
It took federal authorities about three hours to stop ALL air traffic on 9/11. It took only a few weeks to significantly tighten security at every airport. We did NOTHING comparable in this pandemic.
It sounds as though you missed some high school physics classes. A piece of paper that 81/2″ by 11″ is never going to span more than that no matter how many times it’s folded.
Steve Consilvio says
Ok. So maybe I misunderstood your emphasis, maybe not. We don’t seem to disagree that the response was too little too late, but I think the exemption for rural areas that you suggest is still based on a lack of evidence. As it is, it is far more likely that the virus was here months earlier. I have relatives, children, in rural Mass that may have had it as early as December. They were very sick with similar symptoms before Covid was on the radar. Looking at a chart of data accumulated from thousands of sources is likely very incomplete, but you are seeing it as infallibly accurate and complete. I don’t. Numbers represent things, they are not the things themselves.
As far as folding paper in half goes, it is not physically possible. They tried at MIT once and got and didn’t get very far, using a piece of paper that stretched a few blocks. However, the math involved in a geometric progression is easy to demonstrate, and a piece of paper folded 50 times will be thick enough to reach the Sun. The proof is here on my website: https://www.behappyandfree.com/sun.html
Your examples of other natural incidents we sometimes have to get out of the way for are very temporary, very localized, or both. I’d run away on instinct from fires and floods too, but not a random virus that’s flying around and not that dangerous to most people. I recall having little data at the beginning though the stats I saw made me less pessimistic then too, and I believe the reaction to little data should be collect more data, not have a fit. I really only care about the deaths and hospitalizations; the millions of cases that really do feel flu-like followed by recovery I mostly shrug my shoulders, pray they stay that way, and move on. I think our federal government can and should have done better too, but still balance other needs and values. As for free exercise, the generation that enshrined that recalled precisely that time was you would in fact be arrested for gathering in a designated spot for public corporate worship.
Steve Consilvio says
So the bigger the threat the smaller the reaction? To be clear, your point only makes sense if the crisis is and can stay localized, but, in fact, it is our response which determines if it is localized or temporary or not. (Not just the government’s actions but the average citizen as well). It’s like Kung Fu with young Grasshopper, when the master asks if the sparrow in the master’s hand is dead or alive? The answer can determine the result (and a willingness to make the disciple right or wrong), since in the act of revealing the bird is the choice to kill it or let it live. You are saying that you are okay with letting others die because of your choice, because the cause and effect sequence is not immediate.
So, I guess I should ask you, if you see your choice as one of life and death for others, or solely about personal inconvenience and a willingness to spin the wheel in a gamble of life and death? Quite a number of people have said they didn’t expect to die, and then later did, as a result of putting this attitude into practice.
Principle is about more than convenience and I reject the false choice you offer. I do know that if a doctor told me I had cancer BUT my particular type of cancer has a 98% survival rate, I’d be jumping for joy. My point about temporary is that staying inside for a just a day or two is a lot less onerous than for months on end. Remember when we were told we just needed to lie low for two weeks to “flatten the curve”? Well, it’s been an awfully long two weeks and I feel like the goalposts have been moved a few times. You are doing exactly what I have objected to all along from the pro-lockdown crowd – YOU MONSTER, IF YOU AT ALL QUESTION THE LOCKDOWN IDEOLOGY YOU MUST WANT PEOPLE TO DIE!!!! We could have done better and I will note that the current raw death total is lower than the number of annual smoking deaths in the US, yet we don’t ban cigarettes. Surely that would help relieve hospital capacity burden which we hear is the strongest motive for keeping the case count low.
Steve Consilvio says
Lol ok. Yes, we all thought it was going to take two weeks. We were pretty naive. Then we figured a month, certainly by July 4, end of summer by the latest. We were uninformed for a long time, and blindly optimistic. Hindsight being 20/20. But, it was always clear that isolation was the only way to stop the spread. The virus doesn’t have legs. We carry it from person to person.
The lockdown ideology is simple: it works. We really only needed a few weeks, (3 months at most) but unfortunately we never did a real lockdown.
Consider with the lockdown we have had 400000 dead, and have done irreparable harm to health care providers. PTSD, quitting, and some suicides. What would have more Ill people generated by doing nothing at all? Restaurants close and restaurants open all the time. All they needed, and what most people needed, was cash to survive the storm. A couple of hundred years ago people barely traveled 50 miles their whole life. Now we do it in an hour.
Sorry, I don’t get the great angst over this lockdown. Nor do I get how you can dismiss 400k deaths so cavalierly.
“The banality of evil” by Hannah Arendt comes to mind. Oh, most are old, it’s the same as other diseases, we are all going to die anyway, etc.
Don’t you think it’s a bit backwards that death is unimportant but inconvenience is majorly important?
It’s Orwellian doublethink.
you suggest that those who reject your contradiction are engaging in thoughtcrime, suffer from groupthink, etc. Orwell is always a double edged sword.
I get your frustration with the situation, but “ignorance is strength” doesn’t ever work.
We must be living through different pandemics. I recall lots of pessimism and four months of doing almost nothing between one job ending suddenly and another one being delayed in its start (not to mention one offer with career potential that was yanked entirely at the last minute). I know how viruses spread, but this isn’t the Black Death (1/3 of Europe dead) or smallpox (hundreds of millions dead over centuries). I don’t want to live like a couple hundred years ago and I do have certain expectations for the time and place in which I live. If we absolutely had to lockdown we should have talked about it, prepared for it, asked the pertinent questions, ameliorate financial and emotional struggles, but instead we just panicked. I’m glad I eventually got the enhanced unemployment, but there’s a humanity issue. We need to do more than simply exist. That is not healthy either.
Steve Consilvio says
I think there is almost universal agreement that the initial response was a failure. The only choice now is do we do better or repeat the failure.
“We’re pretty good at it. We’re late, but we’re pretty good at it”
Charlie Baker’s assessment of the Commonwealth’s performance with the vaccine rollout.
Maybe this should be the new State Motto?
Massachusetts: “We’re pretty good at it. We’re late, but we’re pretty good at it”.
Reminds of the line some of used to laugh about at Digital Equipment Corporation in the 1980s:
If Baker had closed down just a few days earlier the Biogen super-spreader event would jot have happened and maybe we keep Covid out of the US. The buck really does stop here. First Logan allowed 9/11 hijackers on planes and now Baker allowed Biogen to spread the Covid. Two black marks for Boston.
I did think at first MA had the advantage of knowing exactly where our first cases came from. What we should have done is contract-trace the heck out of the Biogen conference and isolated THOSE people.
Steve Consilvio says
Wouldn’t that violate their rights? Sorry Christopher, but your approach is full of doublethink.
Also, there are no rights without corresponding responsibilities and duties to the whole. The Bill of Rights protects the individual from tyranny, not from public health measures.
Should we cancel all the rules and regulations that make our food safe, allow electricity to flow at a set voltage, gasoline standards that allow engines to work? Aren’t they all an infringement on people’s right to sell whatever they want, and not be held responsible for any damage that results?
The nesting is getting a little tricky, but assuming Steve is responding to my proposal to contact-trace and isolate Biogen attendees then that is narrowly tailored and much more tolerable (albeit not perfect – when I first learned of leper colonies in ancient times my thought was how barbaric that people would be isolated just because they are sick through no fault of their own). It addresses those who actually have the disease rather than assuming we all have it. My hostility to collective consequences goes back to first grade when the teacher made us all lose recess on account of just a few who were misbehaving. The examples you offer in your final paragraph are not examples of protected rights. Even though I would be happy to assume that those infringing on rights to assemble are acting in good faith this time, constitutional defense requires constant vigilance on principle. It’s the same logic that says that the only way to guarantee that the innocent do not suffer at the hands of the criminal justice system is to make sure that even the most obviously guilty of the most heinous of crimes are afforded a vigorous defense. Your logic sounds like those who claim the ACA was an impingement on freedom, yet the opponents could never point to a constitutional clause it violated.
Steve Consilvio says
Yes, the nesting is hard, and yes, I was responding to your comment.
Again, how you are putting things together is faulty.
I agree that ‘collective punishment’ is not a good idea in grade school, and it is also against the Geneva Convention and the rights of man.
But trying to protect you and everyone, as imperfect as the strategy may be (and primarily because of non-compliance), is not punishment. It is more false equivalency.
Nobody wants a tooth pulled (or crown, or filling, etc) when a rotted tooth is causing no immediate pain, but that doesn’t make it malpractice by the dentist.
A pandemic is a public health emergency. We have 450,000 dead Americans and over 1 million worldwide. You just keep denying this fact in favor of your argument that missing recess is traumatic. Evidently it was, because it is still shaping your thinking all these years later.
The virus is a real problem, but the second real problem is that people are emotionally immature. The QAnon crowd, Trump, and, unfortunately, many progressives all exhibit immaturity in their analysis of many issues. It doesn’t really matter what an expert knows from years of study if the non-expert won’t heed his/her advice or warnings. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
I also don’t think either the Constitution or the founders were infallible. They were struggling to find better solutions as we are today. Their world is not our world. But, because we are all human, some issues will always remain. There is perpetually a generation of the young and inexperienced, and perpetually a subset of thought leaders who are ignored and misunderstood, despite being correct. And, every twist and turn in-between folly and wisdom. I say this because when I hear a claim for rights which ignores consequences it is, to my hearing, actually an argument for a privilege couched in the language of rights; a privilege that can actually be criminal, even though, like most crimes, it will never be prosecuted, anymore likely than your teacher will be held to account for collective punishment.
For the record, I think the ACA was a terrible solution. Yes, the insurance companies needed to be held to account. Insurance as a system has failed. Forcing people to buy something is unconstitutional in my opinion, but since government has essentially outsourced everything that is their responsibility I guess it isn’t a surprise that they found a worse way to do something which could be simple. We have lightbulbs, switches and ladders, but no idea on how to use any of them.
OK, first we need to get my arguments straight. I have never denied the numbers. I have simply applied some arithmetic to them to put them into some context. I don’t think the Framers were infallible either, but the constitution says what it says and allows no exceptions for either terrorism or pandemic. If we had reacted to 9/11 the way we have reacted to this we would be embarrassed by how we had let the terrorists succeed in their goal of forcing us to cower. It’s interesting that you find forcing people to buy insurance unconstitutional yet dismiss my constitutional claims. I find explicit protections for assembly in the Constitution, but not a word about whether we have to pay for insurance or not.
Steve Consilvio says
Well, just because I think something is wrong, I don’t become rabid about it. There are a lot of things that are routine, but also unconstitutional. Things get interpreted incorrectly, and the purpose (the common good) get ignored.
A virtuous society only exists with virtuous people, which requires an understanding of right from wrong. The laws are secondary, not primary. I don’t ‘dismiss your claims,’ I think you are wrong and have made some attempt to understand you and your thoughts on the matter.
What you call ‘perspective‘ is, ironically, dismissive of the science, facts, threat, deaths, uniqueness of the situation, etc.
I’m trying hard not to fly with rage at this ignorant comment. Lung cancer takes time and therefore does not fill up the hospital with every single patient taking up every single bed in the ICU. My wife works in a stroke unit at a rehab hospital and it’s been four or five times now when MGH dumps Covid patients onto her floor when they hit capacity. Which decreases the level of care they can provide to stroke patients. Also did you know Covid survivors had had stroke like symptoms? This isn’t a one and done virus, I’ve had students who are teens who recovered in two weeks but it’s been months since they’ve been able to smell. Multiple friends and colleagues have lost parents. A dear colleague just lost two parents in the last week. I’m not willing to sacrifice my own or anyone else’s on the altar of false freedoms and convenience you espouse. Everywhere that locked down less than we did did significantly worse, everywhere that locked down harder and longer than we did did significantly better. We now should mandate vaccines and get them out the door ASAP. The same people complaining about freedom for the lockdown will complain about freedom for the vaccine, literally the only way to stop the lockdowns.
We’re all going nuts and this sucks. I had a fight with my wife yesterday over nothing, I’ve been going to therapy, and remote learning is awful. But but we have to stay the course and flatten the curve and vaccinate everyone. .
Right with you on the vaccine and I’ll get my own ASAP. THAT might be a “minor inconvenience” to take a bit of time out of my day, but much less than turning our lives upside down. The rage you’re tempted to show is precisely my point. You are getting way too worked up about this, but I continue to think as I said early on that you seem to know a lot more than your share of sufferers. I’m truly sorry about that. I have yet to personally know anyone who has died. I figured most smoking deaths were preceded by a hospital stay and I thought we were at 80% capacity.
Can we PLEASE stop making this out as selfishness on my part? That is not who I am! While it is always easier and more authentic to testify to one’s own experience, I am speaking up….
That last bullet is my larger point. We never had any conversation or preparation about how a lockdown would work and what impact it would have. There’s still the over-the-top idea that we all should fear each other. I’m still a Sweden guy (and yes, I just rechecked their numbers in the past few days). Yes, there’s a connection between lockdowns and spread. I’ve said that all along, but have argued there is such a thing as balance with other values.
I’m still a science guy, and you’re directly contradicting well-documented peer-reviewed science.
For example, I invite you to read “COVID-19 and the Swedish enigma” (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32750-1/fulltext), published 22-Dec-2020.
Here’s the lead paragraph (emphasis mine):
You are advocating a strategy that has demonstrably FAILED.
I agree with the argument that it is wrong to allow 50 people to gather in a motion picture studio while blocking 50 people from gathering to worship. It is wrong to single out the exercise of religion while allowing other gatherings.
On the other hand, a temporary suspension of the right to assemble while an indoor gathering of 50 people qualifies as a superspreader event is reasonable and wise.
You are STILL advocating an approach that we KNOW resulted in a population-adjusted death rate as much as TEN times higher than its neighbors.
It doesn’t matter who you think you are — that’s simply wrong.
I know Sweden’s numbers are higher than its neighbors but 787/1M still strikes me as tiny. The Constitution does not countenance even a “temporary” (which I put in quotes because coming up on a year is an interesting definition of that word) suspension of rights for pandemic, terrorism, or anything else. I never said Sweden was perfect, or even better if the only metric is body count, just acceptable in terms of balance. BTW, Sweden’s percentage of deaths to population is slightly lower than USA – .12% vs. .14%
A major step that both federal and state officials MUST take is to significantly increase taxes on the wealthy and very wealthy. I do NOT mean raising INCOME taxes — income is different from wealth.
We need wealth taxes at the federal and state level. We desperately need to both increase spending on public education (more teachers at higher salaries) and simultaneously decrease dependence on property taxes.
While INCOME is volatile from year to year, household wealth is approximately as stable as property value (property is the dominant source of household wealth for most middle-class households).
A significant wealth tax on the very wealthy — I like Ms. Warren’s threshold of $50M in net worth — is a crucial part of the solution to this problem that you so accurately describe.
We need to call it something else. I agree, a wealth tax is needed, but we need to spin it. Equity Tax? Equity Adjustment? Bounty Balance? Community Contribution?
Heh — we could just call it a “Property Tax”. Property was, after all, a synonym for wealth before it became associated with real estate.
I agree with you about this.
Pro Tip: When talking to anyone who attacks “Teacher’s Union” as the root cause of failing schools in the USA, inform them that out of the two dozen or more nations that outscore the USA in K-12 test scores including math, reading, science, virtually all of them are staffed by teachers who belong to a union and the nations with the strongest unions typically rank in the top five. Given that reality, ask them how unions are the problem here and nowhere else in the world.
So apparently we won’t be vaccinated until March since the state won’t make vaccines available until then. How is that the unions fault again? We want to be vaccinated now to safely teach children.
Did something change? My understanding was that K-12 teachers were in the phase that began this week. Of course it’s not the union’s fault if this is delayed. I just don’t think teachers need to be as fearful of working without it as they are acting.