In the News: Week of May 10th

What happened in the world from May 10th to May 16th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! I hope you all had an excellent week.

In the news this week

Senator Richard Burr is temporarily stepping down from his position of Senate intelligence chairman. Burr is under investigation by the Justice Department for his sale of $1.72 million in stock in February. The sale occurred after senators received a private briefing on the threat posed to America by coronavirus, and several weeks before the market crashed. The FBI reportedly confiscated Burr’s cell phone earlier this week. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who committed similar acts, has turned over documents to the Justice Department, SEC, and Senate Ethics Committee, but maintains she did no wrong.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s stay-at-home orders Thursday, as the governor warned that doing so would put “lives at serious risk.” Some Americans have grown weary of staying home, and many states are reopening whether they’re ready or not. One popular coronavirus prediction model is now projecting around 150,000 deaths in the U.S. by early August. 

California State University will not reopen campuses in the fall. The decision, by the largest four-year public college system in the country, affects roughly 480,000 students. Tuition and fees will remain the same even though most students won’t receive any in-person instruction. It’s unclear what universities not in California will choose to do; some have already announced plans to reopen in the fall, but that could change if there is a resurgence of cases once school starts back.

Headline of the Week: Athens man offended on being ‘told’ to pull forward at drive-thru

What’s the difference between, “Sir, can you please pull forward to the next window?” and “Sir, pull forward to the next window.”? A two-year ban from McDonald’s, apparently. A man from Athens, Georgia was upset that McDonald’s “told” him to go to the next window, when, according to him, they are only allowed to ask. After the man became upset, he was refused service and received a refund made all in coins, which made him more upset. Things escalated, the police were called, and now the man can’t go to that McDonald’s for two years.

Recommended Reading: How Much Is a Human Life Actually Worth?

The U.S. is reopening for business, and more coronavirus deaths will occur as a result. Politicians have decided the economic costs outweigh the cost of losing additional lives. If the shutdown continues, more businesses will close for good and more jobs will be permanently lost. The reopening is an answer to the question nobody wants to talk about: how much is a human life worth, in dollars?

We don’t like to value life in dollars. It feels inhuman to put a number on something so precious. How do you value a father getting to see the birth of their child? What is the price of another Christmas with grandma?

This isn’t a new problem, of course. We put dollar values on human lives all the time. We could lock the country down every year to prevent unnecessary flu death, but we don’t. Instead, we take extra precautions with the young and elderly, get flu shots, and wash our hands. The death toll of coronavirus is already far greater than the average flu season, though, so extra precautions must be taken.

I’m not sure why the U.S. is being forced to choose between saving lives and an economic collapse. If workers and businesses were reimbursed by the government for economic losses suffered during any lockdowns, couldn’t we mitigate our hardships? Surely it would be less expensive to supplement the cash flow of existing businesses than to create millions of new jobs and businesses once the country reopens. 

Yet we, or rather our elected officials, have chosen both recession and death. The economic damage will be lessened by the hasty reopening, but over 36 million Americans are already out of work. Many of them will not have jobs to go back to when their state reopens. The PPP (forgivable) loan program, which was designed to keep workers employed and provide cash to small businesses, has failed miserably. At the start of the program, big corporations that didn’t need the cash were taking advantage of the program because banks got bigger commissions for handing out bigger loans. Now the funds are being directed towards more small businesses, but it will be “too little, too late” for many businesses that are already permanently closed or in dire straits.

It may be hard for businesses to convince workers on unemployment, who may be making a livable wage for the first time in their life with the extra $600 per week from unemployment insurance, to come back to work to make less money and put their health on the line.

We don’t have to choose more death in order to save jobs and reopen the economy. We didn’t need to crater the economy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The human and economic impacts of coronavirus would have both been lessened with a strong social safety net, something we could use now more than ever.

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