At What Cost?

  • Posted: April 2, 2020
  • Category: Blog
  • 2 Comments
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In this bubble of an unreal reality, the time of the coronavirus, my wife and I often turn to each other and just say – “Can it get any weirder?” And then it does. We are starting to look over our shoulder when we say it now – the weirdness is getting a little scary. Since when did the Twilight Zone go viral – pardon the pun?

There is a nameless dread in the air, a fear of future effects. We will get past it, but how will life change. What about our kids? Caught up in my lifelong fascination with Tina Turner (her artistic genius you understand), I listen to her as she gives voice to the children in the theme to “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and wonder – “What thoughts will our children carry away from this?”

As we see an endless parade of the good and great announce the deliberate incremental devastation of our nation for longer and longer periods of time, the question hovers in the background, though unvoiced – Is anyone counting the cost of all this? Of course putting numbers down today invites tomorrow’s ridicule, but my gosh! Throwing mud against the wall, a four trillion dollar hit to the US alone appears to be a best case scenario.

How many lives might this sacrifice save -100,000? That equals $40 million per life saved, though the curmudgeon might rise to the bait, arguing that the reality in many if not most cases is $ 40 million per death delayed. Is that something we should be doing? Thankfully, that’s not my call. Did anyone ask all these old people, like me, if we wanted our children and grandchildren to risk Thunderdome for our benefit? Is that even a fair question?

As they shut down our nation, our leaders have promised government funds to cushion the impact of this emergency. Congress has stepped up, passing a two trillion dollar relief bill advertised as “needed cash in peoples’ pockets”. Cash in peoples’ pockets is a really good idea, but . . . The recent history of congressional largesse in the public interest makes us uneasy. The fact that some notable members of Congress held the bill hostage for long days in this crisis atmosphere does not bode well for the contents of this new Pandora’s Box. These individuals of note are justifiably infamous for their demonstrated ability to both successfully root in the trough as well as collectivize the life of the nation.

Earlier, the Federal Reserve opened their vaults, flooding our economy with liquidity. Federal Reserve liquidity is an elusive thing, magical in character. One might almost compare it to the elements of a Church Mass. Instead of the transmutation of bread and wine into the body of Christ, Federal Reserve liquidity must undergo a mysterious transmutation through the mediation of the banking priesthood before the people in the pews can benefit.

We have seen this movie before. While the mortgages of ordinary citizens remain firmly fastened onto their burdened backs, the favored princes of private equity are sent out, burdened with truckloads of cheap money in search of assets to buy at fire sale prices. One imagines that once again the ultimate result of the Federal Reserve’s actions will be a minor reshuffling of the Forbes Billionaire rankings and the creation of a new generation of Bernie’s Bros and Trump voters.

As we stumble in this sudden darkness, we turn on our TV, read our newspaper, surf news sites on the web. Who can give us guidance in this dark time? We look for a Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow, someone of gravitas whose words can be trusted to speak truth – even to power. But alas we remain adrift, finding only journalists, coiffed, diverse and empathetic, but simply mindless chickens cackling and pecking in their pens.

But despite our misgivings, this is not a time for doubt or questions. As good citizens of this country, we will follow our leaders instructions, sacrificing as required in the name of the public good. As Christians, we will both obey and pray for our leaders, as well as pray for our country and those afflicted while doing our best to sacrificially love our neighbors.

In this time of crisis, we are told to leave it in the hands of the “experts”. But there will be an accounting. How can there not be? Our losses will be grievous, particularly among those voiceless citizens of the nation who do the work, bear the burdens, suffer the consequences of “expert” leadership.

This has not been a good century for America’s “experts”. In the past twenty years, we have suffered through endless destructive and disheartening wars fought by “expert” generals. We suffered a financial meltdown and eight years of anemic recovery, all engineered by “experts” in finance. The election crisis of 2016 that so blindsided the political establishment along with the subsequent successes of the Trump administration are a ringing indictment of our political “experts”. And now we are coping with a pandemic guided by “experts” in public health. The words of Jude, the stepbrother of Christ, come to mind:

“clouds without water,

carried along by winds;

autumn trees without fruit”

As those other “experts” before them, our “experts” in public health are rich in excuses for our present circumstances, though somewhat lacking in results. Who could have predicted a flu epidemic from China? Who indeed? The SARS epidemic of just a decade past comes to mind, a prologue, a warning unheeded.

Perhaps our public health “experts” might consult with the insurance industry, a collection of greedy and shortsighted villains to be sure, but savvy enough to have “virus caused epidemic waiver” in virtually all business interruption policies. But then if we will pause to remember, the focus of pre-coronavirus public health “experts” appeared to be demanding legislation limiting the sale of giant sized soft drinks with their “empty” calories.

The people on the front lines, our doctors, nurses, first responders, have been magnificent during this time, as were our soldiers in the endless wars of the past 20 years. America’s people on the ground have been efficient and effective, as well as self sacrificing and courageous. America’s people do the job and do it well. Their “expert” leadership, “Eh”.

As we survey the America of 2020, our leaders and our people, one is reminded of the phrase popularized by Alan Clark in his history of the British Army during WWI. His memorable phrase describing the British soldier in the trenches might well be used to describe the American worker as well, whether in a hospital, battlefield, office or construction site:

“They were lions led by donkeys”

 

If you would like to see Ms. Turner, links are provided below.

 

Thunderdome Intro:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7802O7lLuAg

 

We Don’t Need Another Hero:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDERlmd2NS4

 

A Live Performance – chilling to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuO_8VlYAfk

 

 

2 Responses to “At What Cost?”

  1. Russell G Kyncl says:

    Thoughtfully solid writing as always, Bill. My Zuni friends tell me that back in the 1800s the tribe was hit with two new (to them) viruses in one week. 50% died. The tribe survived with their language, culture and religion battered and diminished but they remain. I don’t think what we are facing will be as bad as that.

    I will be taking Yogi Berra’s advice, even though he once said he never said half the things that he said.

  2. Ken Vogel says:

    A trillion dollars (or a trillion of anything) is incomprehensible. To help visualize a trillion dollars, follow this link:

    https://www.pagetutor.com/trillion/index.html

    Bill, my long time friend, I hope you and your family remain in good health and in good spirits!

    John 14:1

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