“Think Positively and Stay the Course” – Guest Opinion by Ari Kaufman

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Another weekend brought more unfortunate news on the COVID-19 pandemic.    

I, however, prefer to remain positive while tethered to reality, so I texted and emailed this to some friends Sunday evening: 

“Better weather. More tests. More protective supplies. More ventilators. Discovered effective techniques. Invented medication. Eventual vaccine. This will eventually level off.” 

Yes, the next two weeks will be tough (and nothing will change by Easter despite our best wishes; even President Trump admitted such when tonight he extended social distancing guidelines to April 30), but let’s resist the urge to play tribalist politics. Instead, let’s manage expectations, think logically, and by all means, do not spread misinformation, hysteria, and alarmism. We’ll persevere and likely turn the corner in May. I believe, as do most medical experts, that normal life shall return in early summer. In the meantime, we need to support those hurt most by the economic shutdown, maintain our health care workers, enhance technology, and prepare to thwart future outbreaks.  

As former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a must follow on Twitter, wrote, “We need to remember all the people who are hurt most by the measures we must take: the elderly, lower income Americans, the gig economy, those in services and hospitality sectors, and many others. And most of all, our front line providers who are risking everything to save us.” Can anyone disagree with that? After all, the theme we’ve heard recently is “we’re all in this together.” A bit idealistic considering our media, academia, and politicians, but those who are most worried about health care and/or the economy ought to cooperate and listen to each other.

And it seems they are. When the White House Coronavirus Task Force — established two months ago today — holds a meeting, the economists and health officials don’t bicker or compete; they reportedly acknowledge they are co-dependent and have much at stake. They are thankfully chaired by the steady hand of Vice President Mike Pence, who continues to lead professionally. 

You do learn a lot about people in times of crisis — whether it’s your elected leaders or your friends and family. I know I recently have. So let’s seek facts, peace, and grace, not discouragement, fear, and maudlinism.

And when you have time, read this latest roadmap to recovery: 

A former teacher and historian, Ari Kaufman has worked as a journalist in various roles since 2006. He currently resides with his wife in Minnesota

“Coronavirus crisis calls for the opposite of socialism” – Guest Opinion by Ari Kaufman

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Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the U.S. Senate to take quick action on a trillion-dollar stimulus plan to help Americans with expenses due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The government would send a check after calculating an amount per individual or couple based on a taxpayer‘s adjusted gross income from 2018. Aid would be phased down at income thresholds of $75,000 per person ($150,000 per couple) and those individuals who earned six figures two years ago receive no relief.

This is an unnecessary exercise in jumping through federal government hoops to obtain a questionable result. McConnell is too shrewd a leader to fall for this. Democrats, meanwhile, seem mostly concerned with the name of the virus, bashing “corporations” and using straw man clichés like “workers over shareholders.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House Bill was so rushed that it needed nearly 100 pages (!) of corrections and arguably would accelerate small business lay offs.

The most straightforward objection to the Senate bill is why base everything on 2018 AGI. Two years ago, many people’s lives were different. You may have sold a business, bought a house, or married since. There is no good rationale in going back two years to test incomes.

The people who most need help to financially survive the current panic lack income because their jobs disappeared this month, thus swift action surely is needed. 

Injecting liquidity is key to stabilizing the economy. Hospitals need help. Folks require money for groceries, rent, and maybe some proprietors can pay their remaining employees instead of shutting down.  A public school teacher, “non essential” government worker, or an accountant still being paid their same salary every fortnight does not need money urgently. They’re doing just fine.

Think instead about the entrepreneur who invested his life savings in a business only to see his customers vanish. Or ponder the recent college graduate with $50,000 in student-loan debt — not ironically taken on with the encouragement of Elizabeth Warren types — now laid off from her first job.

And if someone who receives a check is not desperate, have faith that he or she can figure out where to donate the money without government edicts.  

Two of the most impressive senators in recent days, as often is the case, are Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse. Both men offer realistic, responsible solutions. 

Rubio told CNBC last week he wants to use a network of lenders for an existing program to help small businesses and employees. He hopes to “figure out the most effective way to get cash into the hands of small businesses so that they can maintain payroll for at least a six-week period.”

The Florida Republican is sponsoring legislation to match President Trump’s call for $50 billion in loans from the Small Business Administration.  

Sasse, the only senator who lives his life completely outside the Washington bubble and has authored two recent books on related topics, gave a stellar St. Patrick’s Day Speech on the Senate floor. Everyone should watch it on YouTube.

The Nebraska Republican prefers letting governors direct spending instead of Washington-driven bailouts akin to “shoveling money out of a helicopter.” He instead called for most economic relief spending to be administered by state governors. He claims governors know how to target money more efficiently than U.S. Senators.

Sasse says we can’t mindlessly go down same path with spending people’s money. A dozen years ago, for example, President Obama irresponsibly tossed trillions into supposedly shovel-ready projects; most still can’t be found today. 

“This is not an opportunity for Washington’s connected insiders to exploit personal relationships, to put their pet projects first on things that they wouldn’t have been able to get passed if it weren’t a time of crisis. We don’t have to go down that path. Instead, we can more efficiently and more wisely spend the people’s resources,” Sasse said. “We can give our states and our governors the lead in making sure the majority of the money and the majority of the resources get where they’re most needed. We can help families and businesses keep afloat during this storm by admitting that 50 laboratories of democracy are going to be more effective than a rifle shot approach from Washington.”

The Senator is non-partisan, sentient, and correct.

Governors know their people, what their workforce needs, how to target money, and how to build public-private partnerships. Minnesota is not California, and Nebraska is not New York. Every state has unique needs that others may not. 

Polls show the least popular governors in America are still more popular than almost any DC-based Senator. There’s probably a reason. 

While state and local governments aren’t miracle workers, they have the capacity to restore companies and livelihoods to their prior economic standing better and more quickly than Washington.

No industry, company or person has an innate right to public money, no matter how severe the crisis. The principled Nikki Haley, likely already the 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner, was correct to resign her board seat late last week over Boeing’s pursuit of a government bailout. 

As an important Wall Street Journal staff editorial examined late last week:

“The politicians in Washington are telling Americans, as they always do, that they are riding to the rescue by writing checks to individuals and offering loans to business. But there is no amount of money that can make up for losses of the magnitude we are facing if this extends for several more weeks. After the first $1 trillion this month, will we have to spend another $1 trillion in April, and another in June?”

These are good questions. Bernie Sanders, who wants more and more spending and to “revolutionize” America and perhaps nationalize much of the economy, has no answers. 

Instead we receive the standard vacuous “these policies seem like socialism to me” claims from retired schoolteachers and assorted lazy lefties. 

They ignore that it’s PRIVATE companies developing a mass testing system, treatments and vaccines for coronavirus. Several private companies now have in place reliable testing systems already being mass-produced and distributed. 

A government-run “single-payer“ Bernie Sanders healthcare system is clearly not the answer in times of crisis (or normal times).

That would sap innovation, research and incentive. No cures would be found. We’d probably have millions dead already. As usual, the private sector works best for perilous moments. 

But let’s give state and local governments a shot at this before another capricious, bloated federal plan. 

A former teacher and historian, Ari Kaufman has worked as a journalist in various roles since 2006. He currently resides with his wife in Minnesota

I Got a Fevah…

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After weeks of speculation (and days of hyping it more than a new Lady Gaga CD), I’m finally breaking down and writing about the coronavirus. For those of you who have been living under a rock lately and aren’t familiar with the story (and for that I am eternally jealous), the coronavirus is a viral strain that appears to have started in China and has the potential to wipe out all life on Earth for centuries to come…or maybe it’s just like the flu. There are certain symptoms related to it, such as coughing, fever, shortness of breath, being overly pessimistic about the way the government is handling the situation, and being enough of a jerk to wish people of different political ideologies would contract it.

The first three are symptoms of people who have coronavirus. The latter two are symptoms of people who watch waaaaaaaay too much cable TV and Internet.

Seriously, the coronavirus has turned seemingly normal people into frothing-at-the-mouth lunatics whose humanity is more in question than Shawn King’s lineage. (As an aside, Shawn, I’m a Midwestern guy, and have more legit street cred than you do. Take your cul de sac cred and admit you’re Edgar Winter with some blush applied.) I have seen people on the Left wishing this on President Donald Trump and people on the Right wishing it on Nancy Pelosi, and few people outside the ideological Thunderdome are calling it out because then they would get targeted by these groups.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the media are hyping the story at every turn, even managing to put a little top-spin on their reporting to make the coronavirus outbreak look like it’s President Trump’s fault. Granted, some of the actions he’s taken on it have been slow and seemingly ignorant, but for someone who is thought of as being a fighter, the President hasn’t really been fighting back. He’s let the media paint a narrative that makes him look like, well, Donald Trump, or at least their version of him.

And when the media aren’t trying to Simon Bar Sinister up the President, they’re rushing out stories that would make H. P. Lovecraft cower in a corner asking for a plush C’thulu to hold. In turn, this worries people who still trust the media and sends them into a panic, buying up surgical masks at prices that could only gouge you more if they were literally screwed onto your face. And when there are shortages, the media report the shortage, which drives even more hysteria and worry. It’s gotten so bad, people are on record (seriously, I fear) as saying the coronavirus is caused by Corona Beer. If this is what the media are doing now, I can only imagine what will happen during Sweeps Week!

In trying to wrap my head around the various moving parts of this story, I came to one conclusion: this is not normal, kids. This is as far away from normal as I am from winning Mr. Universe, unless they start judging dad bodies instead of musculature. Then, I might have a shot. And after reading what people post online, I need a shot of booze to steady my nerves. And remember, a good number of these people can legally vote in the upcoming Presidential election. The tension is mounting to real-estate-brokers-trying-to-sell-property-along-the-Gaza-Strip-for-nothing-but-commission levels.

In fact, I’ve coined a term for what’s going on right now on the Left and Right where they treat each other worse than Ike treated Tina. I call it Coronavirus Fever. Put simply, it’s hypochondria with multiple social media platforms on blast. To determine if you have Coronavirus Fever, answer these simple questions:

–  Do you find yourself Tweeting every single news item you hear about the coronavirus to people who are friends of friends of friends so they can be up on the latest hot takes?

– Are you boycotting Panda Express, not because their food sucks, but because you’re afraid they’re in league with the Chinese government to spread the coronavirus here?

– Are you checking WebMD every 15 minutes to determine if you have the coronavirus and being relieved when you think it only says you have cancer?

– Have you started drinking hand sanitizer to fight off the coronavirus?

– Has the CDC blocked you on social media for “asking too many questions”?

If you’ve said yes to any or all of these, you have Coronavirus Fever. Oh, and you’re an idiot. Do you know the most effective way of fighting coronavirus or a good chunk of illnesses for that matter?

Wash your hands.

I’m not saying to take it to Howard Hughes levels, but use a little common sense, soap and water, and hand sanitizer (on your hands, not your innards). And if you feel sick, even a little, stay home and rest. Whatever it is you think you have to do today will still be there tomorrow. And for the love of Pete, think before you post! Not every nugget of what passes for news these days is important, and not everybody in what passes for news is trustworthy. Read up a bit, take a breath, figure out if what you’re intending on posting will help or hurt the situation, and act accordingly. (No, this does not mean post anyway.)

If you do these things, we will find a cure for the Coronavirus Fever in our lifetimes. Just in time for something else to kill us all. Cheers!