I fear for our world

See updates for April 10, 2020, April 15, 2020, and April 17, 2020 at end of post

The Washington Post reports, “Janet L. Yellen, one of the world’s top economists, said U.S. unemployment rate has jumped to at least 12 or 13 percent already, the worst level of joblessness the nation has seen since the Great Depression” and the article reports mass layoffs (over 17 million unemployment insurance applications have been filed in the last four weeks despite still-overwhelmed state unemployment systems) across multiple industries; a failure of programs enacted with the $2 trillion stimulus package to stem those losses with a decimated social safety net; and “[m]odern day ‘bread lines.’”[1] Even successfully implemented, the stimulus would have fallen far short of what is needed,[2] but we are, so far anyway, failing even at this. Take a step back and it looks a lot like collapse.[3] And it does indeed look a lot like the Great Depression.
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  1. [1]Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, “6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing the pandemic total to over 17 million,” Washington Post, April 9, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/09/66-million-americans-filed-unemployed-last-week-bringing-pandemic-total-over-17-million/
  2. [2]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/
  3. [3]David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/

As we cower in our apartments

As Pittsburgh closes down public recreation facilities to enforce social distancing during the pandemic,[1] it’s worth remembering who’s making the greater sacrifice here:
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Patrick Blower, April 6, 2020, via the Telegraph, fair use.
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  1. [1]WTAE, “City of Pittsburgh announces new social distancing restrictions,” March 30, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/pittsburgh-new-social-distancing-restrictions-coronavirus/31978041

When ‘good’ news might not be so good

See updates for April 2, 2020, April 4, 2020, and April 5, 2020 at end of post

So my mom sent me an article from the Washington Post which appears to show that California and Washington, having acted to contain the novel coronavirus sooner, may be having greater success in “flattening the curve.”[1] Read more

  1. [1]Philip Bump, “Decoding the graphs that may have saved millions of American lives,” Washington Post, April 1, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/01/decoding-graphs-that-may-have-saved-millions-american-lives/

COVID-19 and the trolley problem

It’s the trolley problem in real life:

In the chaos of New York City, where coronavirus deaths are mounting so quickly that freezer trucks have been set up as makeshift morgues, several hospitals have taken the unprecedented step of allowing doctors not to resuscitate people with covid-19 to avoid exposing health-care workers to the highly contagious virus.[1]

What if throwing the switch to divert the trolley has a seventeen percent chance of actually diverting the trolley? Okay, this is actually the reverse of that: Read more

  1. [1]Ariana Eunjung Cha et al., “Faced with a crush of patients, besieged NYC hospitals struggle with life-or-death decisions,” Washington Post, March 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/31/new-york-city-hospitals-coronavirus/