Regrets already about social distancing policies.

Looking back at the public policy of social distancing as a mandate, it appears we went too far. For one thing, we didn’t know that much about covid-19 when we undertook the policy. We didn’t really know how to stop it from spreading because we didn’t know how contagious it is. And we didn’t know what it would do to all of us as it filtered through our population. We undertook a public policy change in order to cope with the unknown when it seemed so scary.
Historically, it has made more sense to isolate sick people rather than to isolate healthy people. Why did we isolate healthy people? Maybe because we have seen too many scary movies about epidemic illness. We also probably wanted to believe that we could stop the common or uncommon coronavirus with a large social effort that coordinated our resources. Now it looks like we failed to stop covid-19 because it was too contagious and spread too quickly.
One of the ideas that is a little troubling now that I can look back over the last few months is the idea of non-essential jobs. No job is non-essential. Most jobs that exist in our economy only exist because they are essential and are supported by buyers of the goods or services that they provide. It is interesting that any job would be culled from the economy as though it didn’t perform a function that matters.
The idea of some professions being non-essential is related to economic interventionism by government. That’s when a government picks winners and losers by subsidizing certain parts of the economy more than others. Jobs that are important to achieve certain policy goals get government help instead of allowing markets to prove the worth of each one. But economic interventionism doesn’t work in the economic world to stimulate economic vitality. Economic interventionism serves political goals instead. Over time, companies that get government help can become an economic blight that suck up resources instead of producing goods and services that people want and can afford.
I’ve never seen our economy look worse than it does today, and I think that the mess that we find ourselves in has been caused by economic interventionism, including through taxes and bank deregulation. Maybe social distancing as a mandate is just an extension of the economic hubris and political hubris that has become all too common in the United States. Maybe the time is here now for us to reconsider.
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Is social distancing the new global warming?

To be sure, some good people have died from covid-19. People die of the flu every year and the most recent guess by our experts regarding the lethality of covid-19 puts it near the kinds of flus that come every year. Some years, the flu is worse and covid-19 is like those flus but not like the Spanish flu. In our history, we haven’t shuttered the economy in response to that kind of flu challenge.
I am troubled to see that some want to discredit effective treatment with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. In the face of evidence that it’s an effective treatment, I read recently about a Veteran’s hospital study to debunk it. If you give hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to someone close to death who seeks treatment for the first time at the extremity of illness, hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin can’t always save them. This is unsurprising. The outcome would be similar at death’s door no matter what you tried to do. Claiming that the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combination doesn’t work based on that kind of situation is really dodgy. Whose interests are served by debunking an effective treatment?
I’ve been frustrated to see the press campaign to prolong social distancing continue, apparently for as long as possible. “We are all in this together,” say the campaigners. I felt ok about social distancing when we were uncertain about the lethality of covid-19. But the situation has now changed. We know that covid-19 isn’t as scary or as deadly as was feared. Also, graphs are showing that social distancing has failed to stop infections with covid-19; that social distancing failed to lower the rate of infection because the virus had already become established before social distancing started. Public health based social restrictions aren’t supposed to be used except in the case of an emergency. Covid-19 epidemic doesn’t appear to be an emergency now.
In any case, your safety and mine wasn’t the reason that we started social distancing. The purpose of social distancing was to reduce the numbers of acutely infected individuals so that hospitals could cope with them. Even during the peak of covid-19 infections, New York hospitals have not needed overflow treatment areas.
These days, there seems to be a campaign to unite everyone behind social distancing, maybe even more than before even though it won’t reduce the total number of infected people. A study out of Santa Clara California showed more people already have antibodies to covid-19 than was recently thought. They overcame the infection a while ago. With widespread antibody testing, we may learn more about that in many other cities. With many more people infected than what was recently known based on active positive infection testing it appears that covid-19 isn’t killing people at the percentages we’ve been shown. Social distancing controls on healthy people aren’t needed.
The politicization of covid-19 has already included false estimates of how many will die of it, missing descriptions on protocols that show how it should be treated and ignoring treatments that work, and some states prolonging social distancing past its usefulness possibly for political or financial gain. Fantasies involving covid-19 are an excuse for powers in banking to get more money, with inflation that will insure you’ll pay that money. Global warming similarly was fraught with phoniness. Global warming was always meant to increase the tax base. Now similarly, covid-19 appears to be the bugaboo that promises higher taxes and greater advantages to some at a huge cost to most of us.
If you want to keep your distance, you are welcome to. But the social distancing initiative should end now. Meanwhile, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries: Liberalism, Pragmatism, Opportunism available now in print or electronic form at Amazon.com.

The Greenspan Put undermines solvency by encouraging banks to embrace more risk.

Along with the end of panic for covid-19, it is time to end the Greenspan Put. Back in the day when Alan Greenspan was in charge of the Federal Reserve, he promised investors that the Federal Reserve would support the stock market if there was a loss of financial liquidity in the age of enhanced risk. That promise is the Greenspan Put. Before that happened, the age of enhanced financial risk was helped when the Federal Reserve ended the policy package of the Banking Act of 1933 which separated commercial and investment bank monies. Most people have called that separation Glass Steagall. Cross border capital flows became normal after the London Stock Exchange deregulated and opened its financial markets to foreign investors in the London Big Bang. Hot money began to look for bargains as it circled the world snapping up cheap assets. As hot money entered and left nations, it created imbalances that also provided investment adavantages to people who held large amounts of secure capital. These changes were processes that led to global bank deregulation.
We can see that since the Greenspan Put was applied to the banking sector, it provides a subsidy whenever banks run into problems. Uncle Sam steps in like an enabler that helps an alcoholic to continue abusing whiskey. It’s time to stop enabling banking hubris. When derivatives created imbalances in the stock market during the subprime mortgage crisis, collaboration between the Treasury and Federal Reserve subsidized the losses of large banks. Some, like Timothy Geithner, claimed that this saved the economy but even more than ten years afterwards, many people experienced life in an economy that had a lot less opportunity for them. And banks have continued dominating the economy in an unhealthy way.
Banks have also profited from the covid-19 panic. They were having trouble with collecting loan debts in the repo market and the Federal Reserve was already providing them with more liquidity. Now ever more liquidity has been made available for failing ventures large and small but the economy continues behaving like a fragile invalid with debts that can’t be paid. The whole world is sick from bad banking. The world needs better banking policies. That would include an end to the Greenspan Put, an end to derivatives, an end to ZIRP and an end to cross border capital flows. Solvency is better than risk.

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Georgia governor opens up his state in a proactive move away from economic suicide.

According to Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, the best choice in Georgia is for businesses to reopen right away. He is open-minded about reopening after he viewed the consequences of business shut-downs all over his state. He views continued closure as extremely damaging to many Georgians. After the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, minimum wage jobs proliferated all across the nation and many of those jobs are particularly vulnerable to closure. In addition, the people working for minimum wages have little money in reserve to protect them after their employment closes down and their income goes away.

Even in healthcare, he wants to return to practices that were in place for conditions of business as usual. He noticed, for example, that hospitals had ended elective surgeries and without the deluge of covid-19 patients that had been planned for, the hospitals were losing money. Although it was thought that hospitals would be overrun with critically ill people, that never happened. Now hospitals need to resume their usual operations in order to stop losing money.

The Governor admitted that people may need to adapt to reduce close contacts but he believes that it is critically important to stop planning for a dramatic deluge of sick people because we haven’t seen that situation in real time and space. It’s time to stop planning for a covid-19 catastrophe.

A lot of what people were worried about when covid-19 escaped China to infect the whole world hasn’t happened. In comparing infection rates in Sweden, which never closed its businesses with the rest of the world that did close businesses, the rate of infection is similar. It looks like we didn’t stop infections with social distancing even though we had all hoped that we caused dramatic changes in the rate of infection. Sweden did isolate its most vulnerable populations but they allowed groups of up to 50 people to gather in public places and they didn’t shutter their businesses. The experiment to isolate healthy people instead of sick people appears to be without merit. Meanwhile it is costly.

Now in addition to comparing with Sweden, we can compare with Georgia. As we do that, it may become apparent that Georgia is on the right track.

If you would like to get a bird’s eye view of the politics and economics of our time in a format that is easy to understand, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries available at Amazon.com.

source: John Fund and Joel Hay, National Review, http://www.nationalreview.com/2020/04/coronavirus-resposne-sweden-avoids-isolation-economic-ruin/, April 6th 2020, accessed on 23 April 2020.

This virus has already had its way with us.

Most people in developed nations rarely are confronted by an acute illness. Most developed nations have populations that suffer from chronic inflammation instead of sudden death from an overwhelming infection. Many of us have forgotten that people everywhere were once familiar with surprising deaths due to acute infections. Modern sewage treatment and water sanitation have reduced mortality from acute illnesses. Congratulations for being born now.
Several days ago I posted the reminder that our culture still hasn’t managed to cure the common cold. This fact is still all too true. Despite the dramatic comments that are everwhere discussing the danger of covid-19, it is a coronavirus that is a lot like the common cold in two ways. The first is that it is very contagious and the second is that it can’t be controlled. It is lucky for us that it appears to be about as deadly right now as a bad influenza virus that isn’t nearly as deadly as the Spanish flu. The early models about covid-19 that predicted a higher mortality were just wrong.
Yet with all the data that has been collected there continues to be a neurotic call to do more testing. This, in spite of the fact that there are asymptomatic carriers. But we don’t need more testing and there’s no need for further panic if you look at the virus as we have already come to know it.

There have been deaths from covid-19 but the world has mostly been lucky. The luck is that it hasn’t been more deadly. The luck is that not everyone gets sick from it and some people who do get sick have a mild course of illness. The luck is that for those who have more severe symptoms it can be treated with drug combinations that work to get rid of the virus after 5-6 days. The luck is that some of the treatments not only can get rid of the virus but also attenuate the immune response to make our own body systems more gentle on us while they also remain effective against covid-19.
When someone dies from an acute infection, it’s a sad loss. Doctors and nurses that lose patients feel bad that they can’t save them all. Families grieve for their lost loved one. But we are still lucky that the death toll is smaller than what we first feared.
It’s surprising that so much panic has been caused by the fact that we don’t have control over covid-19. We haven’t yet been able to stop it. We haven’t yet been able to control it to keep it from spreading across national borders, across oceans, across to different languages and cultures and traditions of treating illness. Please, can’t we stop trying to lay blame somewhere? There’s no one to litigate. Humans have always been powerless in exactly this way.
We don’t fully understand the origin of the virus. We don’t yet comprehend in detail all of the manifestations of illness that are possible in response to this virus. And this powerlessness is an old story so there’s no reason to panic or to dramatize our situation.

Learn more about history, and the dance between economics and politics: buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries available at Amazon.com.

Taking stock.

The first case of covid-19 in the United States was detected on January 21st, 2020, in Washington state. Since then, many states have logged deaths from covid-19 infection, more of them happening in crowded cities and in crowded facilities like retirement homes. Several states have called for social distancing to reduce the risk of infection. Some states have not called for social distancing because the number of covid-19 cases in those states is smaller. Some people in the United States have called for a variety of tests for covid-19 but for different reasons.

Some want to use contact tracing whenever someone exhibits symptoms associated with the disorder and then tests positive for infection. They want to quarantine people who may have been exposed. But this effort can’t work to isolate all potential exposures because many people who can transmit the infection have an absence of symptoms or mild symptoms so that they don’t know that they are ill and don’t ask to be tested.

Some want to have antibody testing to determine how many people have already developed immunity to covid-19. People who have recently acquired immunity would be a potential resource for IgG antibody supplies to treat people who are sick if they would give permission for some of their antibody to be purified and transfused into a sick person. Some who advocate for antibody testing want to use IgG antibody to treat the sick.

Others hope to do antibody testing in order to suggest that people who are immune can go back to work. I have read that sewage testing shows covid-19 has become part of the waste stream, indicating a significant amount of infection in our population. Would antibody treatment show that many people have already gotten over infection with covid-19? When will covid-19 antibody testing become available?

On Mar 29th, 2020, President Trump said that social distancing as a public health measure should continue until at least the end of April. Part of the reason to begin social distancing was to protect hospitals from being overwhelmed by huge numbers of seriously ill patients beyond their ability to treat. Some have said that social distancing should continue until there is a vaccine that would make people immune to covid-19. But when that vaccine would be developed, if ever, is not known. Models that predicted higher death rates than what we have seen make some believe that this virus is less dangerous than once feared.

Some studies have already proven the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin to treat people infected with covid-19 (see previous post). According to one study this treatment is safe and effective with careful appropriate dosing given to a covid-19 positive patient soon after covid-19 infection causes symptoms of illness and the person tests positive. Presumably, people without symptoms don’t need this treatment. If we have a safe and effective treatment for covid-19, isn’t the health emergency over? Isn’t social distancing to protect hospitals not needed anymore?

As we look forward to tomorrow, I hope that we can rely on each other. I hope that political and economic motivations won’t cloud people’s judgement in deciding what policy is best for Americans. Many now suffer without employment in our economy as part of the policy of social distancing. I hope that if there’s a safe and effective treatment available in terms of supplies on hand and recommendations by doctors that we can use it and end the social distancing policy. Is there a practical reason not to end social distancing?

Addendum: On Thursday, President Trump’s broadcast announced measures that governors can use to reopen their economies and relax social distancing. If a state has a 14 day long decline in cases, that state can begin to reopen for business in a three stage process. In the first stage, people may be asked to continue staying at home as much as they can while businesses open their doors with the idea of having limited close contacts. During the first phase, schools will remain closed. This approach allows governors to make decisions about social policies that affect their state based on conditions they see there. These guidelines are an effort to respect the need for economic activity during a pandemic.

If you are curious about how we got to today’s political and economic package, I have written a book to help you do that titled, Political Catsup with Economy Fries and it’s available right now in both electronic and print formats at Amazon.com.

French Clinical Study Proves Efficacy of HCQ-AZ.

Wow! What a few weeks we have had of alarm and worry and even confusion. Today I am happy to tell you that there’s a French clinical study that concludes that hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin works safely to stop COVID-19 in elderly patients. There’s also an interesting computer model developed by Chinese researchers that postulates a mechanism COVID-19 might use to damage the body. But it’s controversial and unproven.

Would you like to know why we have success using anti-malarial drugs against COVID-19? I sure would. How could an antimalarial operate against COVID-19? According to libertymavenstock, writing in an article titled “Covid-19 had us all fooled, but now we might have finally found its secret.” COVID-19 operates to cause hypoxia by binding the heme protein in red blood cells so that blood can’t carry oxygen to the cells and organs of the body. The iron that the heme protein usually binds is then released from the heme protein and it causes oxydative stress in the body. The combination of oxidative stress and oxygen deprivation causes organ failure and tissue damage and death. The reason that antimalarials work, according to this source, is because they also interact with heme in hemoglobin and it may be that drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine block COVID-19 from opening heme and releasing toxic iron.

Here are some sources that can inform you about this:

Blacklisted News, “New York MD Says He’s Seeing People Suffering from Something that Resembles High Altitude Sickness, Not Pneumonia; Ventilators Possible Harming Them. Accessed 11 April 2020, http://www.blacklistednews.com., link to https://www.cryptogon.com/?p=57989.

Libertymavenstock, “Covid-19 had us all fooled, but now we might have finally found its secret.” http://web.archive.org/web/20200405061401/https://medium.com/@agaiziunas/covid-19-had-us-all-fooled-but-now-we-might-have-finally-found-its-secret-91182386efcb, accessed 12 April, 2020.

A Chinese academic paper published for the purpose of academic discussion based on a computer model: Wenzhong Liu, Hualan Li, “COVID-19: Attacks the 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin and Captures the Porphyrin to Inhibit Human Heme Metabolism,” accessed 12 April, 2020.

I’m not finding sources for the libertymavenstock article. I don’t know where this information comes from. It could be based on scientific guesswork. Or it may have been written in response to the Chinese article listed below it. What I do recognize is that there’s a lot of room for discussion. Why are doctors in New York observing hypoxia in COVID-19 patients? Is it lung cell damage? I’ve also heard that the surfactant that coats lung cells is damaged by the infection which causes reduced gas exchange. Chinese and Italian doctors and nurses also observed hypoxia that can lead to death. Hypoxia from less gas exchange might explain why ventilators don’t work on patients. If chloroquine could block hemoglobin damage, that would be a new explanation for why antimalarials work against COVID-19. HCQ-AZ reduces the virus numbers dramatically according to the study listed below from the Mediterranean Institute of Infection. It is surprising for an anti-malarial to do that to a virus and it’s lucky for us that it does.

We all need hope, today. We need hope that we are standing on an easier treatment road right now even though this road may not yet be supported by a lot of research because we haven’t had enough time to do a lot of research. Sometimes anecdotal stories about what works to help patients really can offer helpful direction and this may be one of those times. President Trump mentioned in one of his health broadcasts that he had hope for a new treatment using antimalarials combined with an antibiotic. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infective Diseases, Dr. Fauci, wanted clinical proof before adopting anecdotal treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in combination. What if HCQ-AZ is promising enough as a treatment to end the public health threat of COVID-19? Is it time to end the policy of social distancing…without needing a vaccine? It might be that everyone can go back to work, now.

Here’s a source on-line that describes a clinical study performed by Professor Didier Raoult at the Mediterranean Institute of Infection in Marseille France, that shows the superior effectiveness of an antimalarial plus azithromycin combination to treat COVID-19 as compared with some other treatment options:
https://www.mediterranee-infection.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Abstract_Raoult_EarlyTrtCovid19_09042020_vD1v.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2Bx-Fldm2fFsLg7L06BYUz-8QvwuJ-hAW9uWmwx1KdKzCUOYGHtSwXXWw . According to this study, “The HCQ-AZ combination, when started immediately after diagnosis, is a safe and efficient treatment for COVID-19, with a mortality rate of 0.5%, in elderly patients. It avoids worsening and clears virus persistence and contagiosity in most cases.” Since COVID-19 infections can worsen 5 days after symptoms and since hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin dramatically reduces viral load by the 5th day after dosing, it appears that a person who tests positive for COVID-19 and gets this treatment would prevent the worst outcomes of infection altogether.

Addendum: According to Jennifer L Kasten, MD, MSc from a Facebook posting, the theory of hemoglobin attack is based on a completely unproven theory generated by a computer model. According to her, scientists who have checked for an abnormal hemoglobin electrophoresis have found nothing that supports the claim that hemoglobin is changed by COVID-19. She also says that the lung cells are clearly targeted by the virus and damaged directly by it.

If you would like to understand more about politics economics and history, buy a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries: Liberalism, Pragmatism, Opportunism, available at Amazon.com. I’m Mel Scanlan Stahl and I wrote this book to help you to make sense of today’s political and economic problems.