The surprise for many in power is that the vast majority of Americans are not stupid. Those who support reopening the economy while the pandemic is still raging are in the minority. Poll after poll make this clear. One conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (PDF) found a staggering 83% of Americans are concerned about the premature reopening the economy. Sixty-two percent strongly believe the lockdown should not be lifted. Sixty percent want frequent testing. Moreover, most Americans have a realistic estimate of how long it will take for something like normalcy to return: six months or longer. Only a third believe it will take less than six months.
Now recall that the White House Council of Economic Advisers posted a model on May 5 that projected zero virus deaths by the end of last week:
To better visualize observed data, we also continually update a curve-fitting exercise to summarize COVID-19's observed trajectory. Particularly with irregular data, curve fitting can improve data visualization. As shown, IHME's mortality curves have matched the data fairly well. pic.twitter.com/NtJcOdA98R
— CEA (@WhiteHouseCEA) May 5, 2020
Over 5,000 people have died since the end of last week.
There is more. Most Americans disapprove of the anti-lockdown protests (55%). But get this: only 32% of Republicans approve of them. Meaning, the men toting machine guns, and the men and women demanding hair cuts, are on the fringe of our society.
With that said, let's turn to Mitch McConnell's new threat to end enhanced job benefits.
Look at this language:
McConnell... said Republicans are "going to have to clean up the Democrats’ crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work."
It's hard to misinterpret the thinking at the bottom of this and other statements made by the Senate majority leader: The public is mostly opposed to the reopening of the economy because the $600 boost in unemployment benefits has made them at once too comfortable and fearless. What's needed, then, is a good dose of fear, and most Americans will wake up from the pleasant dream of a long lockdown and rush back into the economy.
But this thinking presumes Americans are stupid, and possess only a feeble idea of the risks that are still very real in our pandemic world. COVID-19 is not a flu, and it will never go away like magic. Death, at the end of the day, is the absolute master. Do not confuse American frivolity with American stupidity.
“Oh, I’d like to get my hair and nails done. It’s one of those little pleasures you take for granted,” said Kathy Bishop, a 59-year-old from Ohio, to AP. “But I’m just going to suck it up. It’s not worth the risk.”
So, necro-economics is not at all popular in the court of public opinion. Americans are not, for the most part, stupid. Only a few among us are actually impressed by, say, the 600-mile journey a man made for a haircut. But these and other acts of American stupidity are amplified, whereas standard, scientific-based American commonsense tends to be downplayed.
This amplification of stupidity has distorted reality, and it has made reopening the economy appear to be politically viable, when, in truth, the opposite is the case. Even at the birthplace of the anti-lockdown protests, Michigan, "63.7% approve of Gov. Whitmer’s [cautious] handling of the pandemic, including 44.7% who strongly approve. 32.8% disapprove of the governor’s handling."
But the supporters of necro-economics, who are always around 30% of the population, will not rest, even in the face of all the facts and the public's general rejection of graveyard capitalism. It's really astounding that even here in Seattle, where support for necro-economics is practically zero (we can base this on the fact that between 70% and 76% of Washingtonians do not support it), a commentator can actually write dangerous nonsense like this:
While all deaths are tragic, we must ask an honest question: Is it worth the complete destruction of our state’s economy for a virus that kills far fewer than die in an average flu season?
Again, the flu myth persists. Again, the disinformation about the death count is spread. Again, the end of the world can only be the end of the economy.