The Economy versus Health Care: Government as God

Two important news items came out yesterday (3/23/20) and today (3/24/20):

Time Magazine: President Trump Is Already Considering Defying Health Experts to Boost the Economy

New York Gov. Cuomo: ‘Troubling and astronomical’ coronavirus cases increase urgency for hospital beds

There are points to support both sides of this argument.

If we shut down the economy, the damage could be immense.  Note that China took drastic quarantine steps and is starting to emerge from the pandemic, but no one is sure if there will be a second wave of disease when people go back to work.  By March 6th, the Shanghai Stock Index had almost climbed back to its pre-crash high (but is currently testing new lows for the last year, undoubtedly in reaction to market panics around the world).

If we don’t shut down the economy, the health damage could be immense.  All one has to do is turn on the TV or listen to Governor Cuomo above to realize this.

As in any critical decision, we do not have all of the data we need to know the outcomes.

The government will try to make a cost-benefit decision, and to do this they will have to put a dollar value on human life.  Some lives will be judged more valuable than others.  In hospital triage situations, a person’s remaining life expectancy is a factor in the life-saving decision.

When the government is assuming the role of God, one hopes that we have the “best” people (however one defines that) in the country calling the shots…

But please don’t forget Abraham Lincoln’s words.  Our country is a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  If there ever was a time to make your opinion known to your elected representatives, this is it!

My recommendation – If a decision is going to be made to allow an unknown, possibly large, number of people to die so that others can continue to work, this needs to be a collective decision involving top people across the government, including, at least, the leaders of Congress.  A significant fraction of the country does not trust the President, particularly his tendency to think he is the smartest person in the room and a “strong leader.”

It is in his personal interest not to make this decision without broad buy-in.  If he is wrong and the number of deaths is much higher than he expects, he will go down as the worst President in U.S. history.  Of course, if he decides single-handedly and is correct, he will confirm his genius status.  Does the country want to take this high-stakes gamble by a single individual??


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Last night Chris Cuomo gave the following “Closing Argument” on CNN. Cuomo argued in effect that the “Greatest Generation” made tremendous sacrifices during WWII to keep this country and the world free. Will we now ask them to sacrifice themselves yet again? No! He states we are all in this together.

You can also comment by calling the White House directly at 202-456-1111.

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired scientist, teacher, bioinformatician, IT director, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist (7690 miles and 724,300 feet of climbing in 2015), backpacker, you name it! Current avocation is tutoring high school students near San Mateo, CA in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Please see the Bio link in the right sidebar for my detailed background information.