Silly metrics

This is my favorite dumb story of recent days:

The NYC media hot-take: “Look at all those idiots in flyover country continuing to spread disease! Sure they only have a couple coronavirus cases now, but Armageddon is coming for their science-denying MAGA asses!”

The economic reality: This is where do all those trucks that bring you food and other necessities after the hoarders buy it out every single day come from. This is where your essential goods are manufactured and where most of the shipping hubs in our country are located. Enjoy your bread and freshly-squeezed Florida orange juice.

We are so lucky the New York Times doesn’t run this country.

Political blinders and the coronavirus response

The following things can be, and likely are, simultaneously true:

(1) Communist China is a generally unreliable narrator, especially in any situation that directly involves its primary economic and cultural rival, the United States. China has a well-established track record of falsifying important statistics, ranging from the performance of their economy to the success of their efforts at managing disease. Communist China deliberately attempted to conceal the extent to which the coronavirus spread through the country using propaganda and physical violence.

(2) The narrative that the illness originated in China and is only now reaching the western hemisphere is not supported by credible data of any sort, which would require antibody testing not testing for current infections. It is not “Chinese propaganda” to challenge this specific claim, especially given the social cost and economic destruction involved.

This problematic assumption is the product of another generally unreliable narrator, the World Health Organization. The WHO is a corrupt and downright incompetent agency with a long history of screwing up global, coordinated responses to epidemics. They only continue to exist because rent-seeking globalists love corrupt and downright incompetent agencies.

(3) Some academics in the US and Europe have created objectively bad models that lack predictive ability. This is partially because they use bad inputs, meaning deliberately falsified data from places like Communist China and the WHO. This is also partially because these academics are not good at modeling the spread of disease. They use mathematically simplistic models in a technological age where they should be able to employ machine learning to do much better (yay, tenure – keeping old people and old ideas at the top of the food chain at the expense of progress). They make bad assumptions about the nature of populations and when diseases were first observed in a geographic region. They assume that the disease made it to a region only when there is an uptick in testing, hospitalizations, and deaths. With this particular illness, it is possible to be asymptomatic for weeks and still carry it – another detail the corrupt WHO loudly misrepresented for months – which increases the likelihood that it was spreading around the globe earlier than academics and policymakers currently assume. So does the fact that testing was mostly limited to acute cases. So does the fact that most people ultimately only experience mild symptoms.

These models should not be used in crafting public policy. But they are being used in public policy because we have a profoundly bad generation of policymakers who are more concerned with maintaining power than asking the right questions for the good of all humanity. This issue is further obscured by the hyenas in the media who play up every new case, as if every one has the potential to overwhelm ICUs. Any increase is one incremental step toward Armageddon.

(4) Extreme political dysfunction in the United States has contributed to the government making catastrophically bad decisions in response to the coronavirus and doubling and tripling down on them. This dysfunction works across the entire political spectrum.

Trump has been dealing for years with a scorned rival party and select groups of bureaucrats who dub themselves “The Resistance.” Their goal is to frustrate all activity within the Trump Administration – regardless of whether said activity is critical to national security, economic stability, and now even public health – and they have successfully hindered Trump from taking an aggressive stand in managing the coronavirus. He wastes a ridiculous amount of time and energy shooing The Resistance away – all day, every day – when he could be focused on serving the American people.

As the virus was raging around the world, they were playing up a sham impeachment, blowing up taxpayer dollars and sucking all of the oxygen out of a political system with bigger things to worry about, over an entirely predictable outcome where they lost for the billionth time because for the billionth time their arguments were painfully childish and unpersuasive to most Americans.

When Trump made prudent decisions about closing the borders, they blasted him as racist 24/7.

The Resistance actively tries to drive highly qualified outsiders out of Washington DC by viciously smearing anyone who dares to be associated with Trump. You can be a literal choir boy and The Resistance will accuse you of operating a rape train in college, whatever the hell that is.

Their obsession with sabotaging the daily activity of the executive branch of government has become sociopathic. They truly don’t care if the country is destroyed so long as they get their gotcha Twitter Moment. They are also completely blind to the fact that most of the country regards them with the level of contempt they deserve, because they are beyond mentally ill at this point.

And now Pelosi thinks what the world needs is another round of highly partisan investigations carried out by the mouthbreathers she has put in charge of otherwise important congressional functions. This means that any future stimulus legislation is either unlikely to get done or likely to be structured in ways that do not help ordinary Americans but continue to enrich special interests when funding is scarce. So all the economic damage that comes with the ongoing economic shutdown going forward is unlikely to be intelligently mitigated. Just to nurse their decades-long dick-measuring contests during a crisis, because this is all Boomer politicians do – “investigate” each other ad nauseam.

And frankly, even the last coronavirus stimulus package, while necessary, was so highly partisan that it managed to include a litany of provisions that continue to nuke economic value even as they promise to provide assistance. Like the airlines have to fly empty planes around the country to “maintain capacity,” further draining their financial resources before they receive an injection of money to prevent them from going bankrupt. What were they even thinking? We don’t want you to file for bankruptcy, so we are forcing you to continue blowing money on superfluous expenses. Can these swamp rats just go away already?

Trump, per usual, has himself made some incredibly poor personnel decisions and is trusting people he should not be trusting. Having Dr. Fauci manage the coronavirus response was and continues to be a major problem. Despite all the phony hero worship, Dr. Fauci is very much embedded in the Washington DC political establishment. That’s pretty much his main qualification for the job, in fact. He has been pushing Trump to make decisions that have led to the complete collapse of the US economy – without important data like antibody testing, which could eliminate concerns that most of the US population has already been exposed to the coronavirus, not knowing it, and that telling people to stay home is pointless.

Dr. Fauci has zero timeline for managing the spread of the coronavirus or even testing his own assumptions. He says he would like for the shutdown to continue “until there isn’t a single case of coronavirus left.” He would be perfectly content to keep the economy shut down all year, and has little demonstrable concern about the profound human suffering that involves. If the Fed needs to print enough money to replace the entire GDP, then so be it in his book. Zimbabwe and Venezuela have amazing health care systems, you know.

This only reinforces conspiracy theories that he is a member of The Resistance, because the best nutrition for conspiracy theories is a fundamentally irrational reality. Dr. Fauci has surely accomplished that by advocating for a situation where job losses outnumber coronavirus cases 47 to 1 and are only getting started.

Dr. Fauci himself only weeks ago was making the rounds on political talk shows claiming there was no reason to worry about the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx now blame their blasé attitude on their decision to trust Chinese propaganda, which should be immediately disqualifying. This crowd also outright lied to the American people about the efficacy of covering their faces when going out in public, presumably as a tactic to stop the hoarding of medical gear when they could have just allowed health facilities to turn to the private market for supplies. Not only are they trusting Chinese propaganda, they are behaving like Red China themselves.

Trump apparently has his children interfering in the coronavirus response, because – per usual after Trump makes terrible personnel choices – his children are the only people left in DC that he trusts. Trump has a well-established pattern of selecting a bad czar and then not being able to move on to someone more reasonable and less egotistical because that person has seized the moment to make his or herself a household name. And part of that is Trump’s own doing – he tries to turn everyone around him into a brand, and he creates monsters in the process. The only person who has survived this treatment – thank God – is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and that’s just because he’s a cold-hearted and calculating Goldman Sachs alumnus with the weapons-grade DGAF that comes with being on the spectrum. Without him, our economy would really be toast right now.

(5) There are solid clues that America and Europe are burning down their respective houses over a virus that has been circulating the world for months unnoticed. Here is one example:

No rational person would assume that the virus was floating around Brazil in early January (when this woman caught it) and not also floating around Florida. Socially, Florida is closer to Brazil than it is to the rest of the United States. No rational person would assume that the virus was floating around Florida and not New York. The social networks of these three places are thoroughly intertwined. Again, this is why we should be using machine learning to predict the path of viruses across networks of interaction, not “exponential growth – somewhere, anywhere, everywhere – we’re all gonna die” models. It’s possible that 50 million Americans have already been infected over the past few months, and no one noticed it because they did not overwhelm ICUs and the media was too busy crowing about Gordon Sondland rather than drumming up panic over pneumonia.

The primary reason we cannot answer this question is the behemoth health care bureaucracy in the United States exacerbates problems in emergencies rather than alleviating them.

At least 10 million Americans are unemployed thanks to Fauci and Birx and the hysterical models they have chosen to rely on without seriously considering counterexamples. (If you came to this blog looking for hero/credential worship, you are definitely in the wrong place. The only things I care about are outcomes.) And only now has the FDA gotten around to approving antibody testing in the United States that would give policymakers the first real clue as to how widespread the illness has been.

It may be that this thesis is wrong, but it 100% should have been tested before deciding to burn a $21 trillion economy down.

(6) It is a real problem in government and other cultural institutions that Baby Boomers refuse to move out of positions of power even though many are no longer the most intellectually qualified people to be making decisions. I am not saying this to be unnecessarily cruel or insulting, it’s simply a fact of aging that would be recognized in any other context.

Trump’s coronavirus task force looks like the A-Team of senior citizens and they share the “save us at any cost – and we do mean any cost” mentality that has torched our economy. Dr. Fauci is almost 80 years old himself, which incidentally is the median age of coronavirus-complicated deaths in Italy. This really isn’t all that far off of having a clearly senile Robert Mueller managing the Russia investigation and having his political operative underlings walk all over him.

We’ve got a demographic minority that is deeply invested in a deeply personal panic, and they are making incredibly dangerous and destructive policies to govern the many. Whatever the reverse of triage is, that’s what we are doing to our country.

This exact sort of situation is what our entire constitution was constructed around preventing – allowing a select group of people to strip everyone else of their liberties, property, ability to earn a living and feed and educate their children, because it might be construed as in the minority’s personal interest. If past generations acted the way our government is acting now, our country would have ceased to exist a long time ago. It’s lunacy, and that’s why it requires an atmosphere of panic, threats of jail time, fines, and threats to one’s reputation and well-being to achieve compliance. It requires lies like “this virus is actually killing a lot of young people without pre-existing conditions, so you better not go outside or it might get you too” and “stop buying masks, science says they only work for us.” It requires the country of George Washington to behave more like the country of Stalin.

The worst people that could ever be making public policy decisions – in any context – are people with short time horizons and an explicit conflict of interest. If someone’s policy mindset is “burn it all down and decide later if it was the right decision,” they don’t belong in US government. They belong in places like North Korea or Iran. We don’t need pseudo-scientific ayatollahs here. This shouldn’t even be a controversial observation.

There are younger scientists with far, far better knowledge of data science and technology out there. Some are in the private sector and not at universities. They could be running the coronavirus response right now not a man who is almost 80. They have not been a part of the solution to this pandemic beyond their own decisions to publish rational, contrarian content online and in the opinion pages (of mostly financial media) with the hope that actual science might stick somewhere that matters. Instead we are stuck with the Boomer political response, which involves a blind faith in swamptastic institutions to the point of believing propaganda is credible information and an absolute disdain for the immense cost of the response to three younger generations.

There is a reason why propaganda works on our current crop of leaders, and it’s not all that different from why senior citizens make the easiest fraud victims. They are the ones who are most sincerely convinced that their credentials and experience make them the best candidates for decision-making positions, but they are also the most removed from current culture and new technology, so they are the least likely to realize when they have been duped. You don’t have to be a wizard to punk someone with zero intellectual humility – it’s something Russian and Chinese trolls do all the time.

Given all that has happened, it is terrifying that America is going to vote on whether to be led by Trump – whose entire coronavirus response changes catastrophically on a whim, gets outsourced to charlatans with innumerate models, and can melt down in the span of a couple days – and a dude who is legitimately senile and would be in his EIGHTIES in the White House.

We’ve had two of the worst financial crises in US history in the course of 12 years and five foreign conflicts that have become mostly irrelevant to the American people, but sure, what’s another manufactured crisis before this generation of leadership goes away already? What do the trillions even mean at this point?

Treasury is offering **forgivable** loans for small businesses from stimulus legislation

In case this information helps any of my readers:

CNN – What small businesses need to know about the government’s new forgivable loan program

–article text below–

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has promised that by this Friday small business owners can apply for a new, forgivable loan to help keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly $350 billion has been allocated for that purpose in the new economic aid package signed into law last week.

Unless further technical guidance is issued soon, it might be tough for many lenders to launch on Friday, according to Chris Hurn, CEO of Fountainhead, a non-bank direct Small Business Administration lender. Otherwise, he thinks lenders should be ready to go by next week.

Many have already done what they can to prepare for an expected surge in demand. Hurn estimates his company alone is likely to process loan applications for more than $1 billion right off the bat.

Who is eligible to apply?

Generally, any small business with 500 or fewer employees is eligible.That includes sole proprietorships and independent contractors. It also includes nonprofits, veterans organizations and tribal businesses.In certain circumstances, businesses with more than 500 employees also may qualify.Applications will be accepted up to June 30. But the program is on a first come, first serve basis.

What is the money for?

The goal of the loan program is to help small businesses continue to pay their employees and their overhead costs in orderto stay afloat for the next couple of months.So long as you use the borrowed funds to make payroll and to pay expenses, such as utilities and your rent or mortgage, you won’t have to repay the loan and you will not owe income tax on the forgiven amount.In order for your loan to be fully forgiven you must maintain your headcount and not reduce employees’ pay.

But I had to let my employees go already. Does that mean I can’t get a loan?

You still can, so long as you can show you had employees as of Feb. 15, 2020. Once approved for a loan, you can use the money to rehire your staff.The loan forgiveness provisions will apply so long as employees are rehired by June 30, according to senior Treasury and Small Business Administration officials.

What do I need when I apply?

Lenders will ask you to fill out a two-page application, which can be found here.You must show lenders proof that your company was in operation on Feb. 15, 2020 and that you had employees for whom you paid salaries and payroll taxes.In addition, you’ll need to show proof of your average monthly payroll costs in 2019 (or for the first two months this year if your business is new).Independent contractors and the self-employed, who must wait until April 10 to apply, need to show proof of “payroll and other certain expenses” according to Treasury.You will not have to provide a personal guarantee or collateral to secure a loan, as you normally would for an SBA loan. But if you use the money for fraudulent purposes you will be subject to criminal charges.You will not be charged loan fees.

How much money can I get?

Loans will be made in an amount equal to 2.5 months of your average monthly payroll costs in 2019 (or the average of the first two months of this year if your business is new).

Does the money need to be paid back?

You will not have to pay back the loan so long as you use at least 75% of the money you get on payroll costs (including wages, benefits, payroll taxes plus state and local wage taxes). and the rest of the funds are spent on your business’ rent or mortgage, utilities and other overhead expenses. The money must be spent in the first eight weeks after you receive the loan.In other words, if you spend the borrowed money for authorized purposes over the first two months of the loan, that obligation will be forgiven. And the amount forgiven will not be treated as taxable income to you.At the end of eight weeks, you’ll have to show your lender proof of your expenses during that period.Payroll costs eligible for forgiveness may not exceed $100,000 per employee.

When would I have to pay the loan back if it’s not forgiven?

If any part of the borrowed money is used for unauthorized purposes, that amount will not be forgiven. And you will have to repay it over two years at a 0.5% interest rate.There’s an automatic six-month deferral on payments for all borrowers. So you would need to start paying it back, with interest, after six months.

Where can I get the loan?

All SBA-approved lenders as well as federally insured depository institutions, federally insured credit unions and Farm Credit System institutions will be able to make these loans if they choose. Senior Treasury officials said they are also looking into allowing some fintech companies to make loans as well.The SBA will be posting a tool for you to key in your zip code to find lenders near you participating in the program.If you’ve never taken out an SBA loan before, you might go to your primary bank first because lenders will be operating under so-called Know Your Customer regulations and that process will be streamlinedif you’ve previously workedwith the lender.

Do I have to go to a bank to apply?

No. The expectation is that you should be able to apply online.

Is it true that I can get the money the same day I apply?

Possibly, at some lenders. But it’s more reasonable to assume it could take two to three days after you submit an application, Hurn said. It’s up to every bank to decide when it disburses the money after an application is approved.

This loan will only support two months of my costs. Then what?

Good question. If the coronavirus crisis goes on for a long time, the Treasury and Congress will need to come up with more ways to provide capital to keep small businesses afloat.

Where can I go for more information?

For more detailed information on the loans, guidance put out so far by the Treasury and the SBA can be found here and here.

Disney furloughs non-union park employees starting April 19th

The jobs carnage continues as long-term shutdowns force major employers to toss in the towel. First Boeing this morning, now Disney. That’s close to half a million layoffs right there.

From CNBC:

Disney will furlough its non-union park employees starting on April 19 as the coronavirus pandemic keeps its theme parks closed.

“Disney employees have received full pay and benefits during this time, and we’ve committed to paying them through April 18, for a total of five additional weeks of compensation,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “However, with no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses, we’re forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time.”

During the furlough, employees will receive full health-care benefits, with Disney paying the cost of employee and company premiums. They also will be able to continue with their Disney Aspire education programs, the company said.

Employees will also be eligible for $600 per week in federal compensation through the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment insurance, according to Disney.

The entire Disney Parks, Experiences and Products segment has around 177,000 cast members, this includes people who work in its theme parks and at retail locations like the Disney Store. Disney declined to say how many of those employees will be affected by Thursday’s announcement.

“This reality has been sobering to all of us,” executives from Disney Parks, Experiences and Products wrote in a letter to staff Thursday. “As difficult as this decision was, we know it was the right one to help protect our cast members, our guests and our communities.”

Disney’s theme parks across the globe are closed indefinitely since large gatherings have been restricted. Parks in Asia have been closed since February and parks in the U.S. and Paris have been closed since March.

It’s unclear how the closure of the two California Disney parks will impact the opening of the Avengers Campus expansion at California Adventure. The new land was expected to open in July. It is unknown if workers have been able to continue working on the project.

Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products is a massive piece of the company’s business. Last year, the segment accounted for 37% of the company’s $69.6 billion in total revenue.

Vermont bans the sale of “non-essential goods” within major retailers

I thought the states that banned fishing during their coronavirus shutdown were peak stupidity for local government officials. I mean, you’ve lost your job and the Trumpbucks are going to take weeks and even months to be distributed, and now you can’t even fish for dinner?

And then I saw a picture from Vermont of the vegetable seed display at a Walmart with a sign saying the sale of vegetable seeds was prohibited. Surely this is fake, I thought. Not only are they trying classify specific physical businesses as “essential” and “non-essential,” they are applying that to items for sale inside the stores. And apparently starting your own victory garden is non-essential?

Turns out, it’s not fake:

[Vermont] is ordering places like Walmart, Costco, and Target to stop in-store sales of arts and crafts, beauty products, carpet and flooring, clothing, electronics and more. They must restrict access to these items by removing them from the floor or closing aisles.

The state admits the variety of products in these stores attracts customers, that’s why they are restricting what you can buy so you will stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development tells WCAX News that these aren’t new restrictions. This is part of Gov. Phil Scott’s original executive order.

The governor couldn’t talk to but told us via his spokesperson that he “appreciates everything Vermonters have done thus far and recognizes it’s been very disruptive, but every action taken has been to slow the spread of this virus, which if successful, will save lives. But it requires everyone to make some sacrifices.”

Trump and Mnuchin are effectively running the Federal Reserve now

I wrote a piece earlier, Federal Reserve policy is getting crazier and crazier, about how the Federal Reserve has dramatically reduced capital requirements for the largest banks in the country – requirements that were put into place following the 2008 financial crisis to stabilize the financial system and prevent future crises – so that those banks could help finance the deficit. There’s essentially no other way for Treasury to keep up with the insane amount of economic value the coronavirus panic has nuked and continues to nuke with every day the economy is shut down.

I believe that Trump and state and local governments have made a catastrophic mistake in (1) pushing for this shutdown in the first place and (2) drawing it out as long as they have. I think there are far more intelligent ways to protect vulnerable populations than what is being currently done (which is basically lock everyone down and wait for vulnerable people to arrive at the hospital on death’s door). But the worst thing that is happening right now is the amount of risk the financial system is assuming to keep the country operating at anything approaching economic survival. The word “existential” has been abused in Washington DC through a billion manufactured crises over the years, but I think this is legitimately an existential crisis. And it’s totally unnecessary.

Much like the infringements on civil liberties that the shutdown has involved, the Federal Reserve is moving into areas that are, well… not even remotely legal. And they aren’t legal for very good reasons. The Fed has pretty much given up any semblance of independence from the Trump administration. And the more policymakers feed the panic machine, the more the Federal Reserve has to do ever more insane things. It’s quite the negative feedback loop.

The problem is, unless the shutdown stops, the Fed cannot stop doing these questionably legal maneuvers. Because once the music (liquidity) stops, we are in a Great Depression.

This article in Bloomberg says everything I have been thinking for weeks now:

The economic debate of the day centers on whether the cure of an economic shutdown is worse than the disease of the virus.  Similarly, we need to ask if the cure of the Federal Reserve getting so deeply into corporate bonds, asset-backed securities, commercial paper, and exchange-traded funds is worse than the disease seizing financial markets. It may be.

In just these past few weeks, the Fed has cut rates by 150 basis points to near zero and run through its entire 2008 crisis handbook. That wasn’t enough to calm markets, though — so the central bank also announced $1 trillion a day in repurchase agreements and unlimited quantitative easing, which includes a hard-to-understand $625 billion of bond buying a week going forward. At this rate, the Fed will own two-thirds of the Treasury market in a year.

But it’s the alphabet soup of new programs that deserve special consideration, as they could have profound long-term consequences for the functioning of the Fed and the allocation of capital in financial markets. Specifically, these are:

CPFF (Commercial Paper Funding Facility) – buying commercial paper from the issuer.

PMCCF (Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility) – buying corporate bonds from the issuer.

TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility) – funding backstop for asset-backed securities.

SMCCF (Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility) – buying corporate bonds and bond ETFs in the secondary market.

MSBLP (Main Street Business Lending Program) – Details are to come, but it will lend to eligible small and medium-size businesses, complementing efforts by the Small Business Association.

To put it bluntly, the Fed isn’t allowed to do any of this. The central bank is only allowed to purchase or lend against securities that have government guarantee. This includes Treasury securities, agency mortgage-backed securities and the debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. An argument can be made that can also include municipal securities, but nothing in the laundry list above.

So how can they do this? The Fed will finance a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for each acronym to conduct these operations. The Treasury, using the Exchange Stabilization Fund, will make an equity investment in each SPV and be in a “first loss” position. What does this mean? In essence, the Treasury, not the Fed, is buying all these securities and backstopping of loans; the Fed is acting as banker and providing financing. The Fed hired BlackRock Inc. to purchase these securities and handle the administration of the SPVs on behalf of the owner, the Treasury.

In other words, the federal government is nationalizing large swaths of the financial markets. The Fed is providing the money to do it. BlackRock will be doing the trades.

This scheme essentially merges the Fed and Treasury into one organization. So, meet your new Fed chairman, Donald J. Trump.

In 2008 when something similar was done, it was on a smaller scale. Since few understood it, the Bush and Obama administrations ceded total control of those acronym programs to then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He unwound them at the first available opportunity. But now, 12 years later, we have a much better understanding of how they work. And we have a president who has made it very clear how displeased he is that central bankers haven’t used their considerable power to force the Dow Jones Industrial Average at least 10,000 points higher, something he has complained about many times before the pandemic hit.

When the Fed was rightly alarmed by the current dysfunction in the fixed-income markets, they felt they needed to act. This was the correct thought. But, to get the authority to stabilize these “private” markets, central bankers needed the Treasury to agree to nationalize (own) them so they could provide the funds to do it.

In effect, the Fed is giving the Treasury access to its printing press. This means that, in the extreme, the administration would be free to use its control, not the Fed’s control, of these SPVs to instruct the Fed to print more money so it could buy securities and hand out loans in an effort to ramp financial markets higher going into the election. Why stop there? Should Trump win re-election, he could try to use these SPVs to get those 10,000 Dow Jones points he feels the Fed has denied everyone.

If these acronym programs were abused as I describe, they might indeed force markets higher than valuation warrants. But it would come with a heavy price. Investors would be deprived of the necessary market signals that freely traded capital markets offer to aid in the efficient allocation of capital. Malinvestment would be rampant. It also could force private sector players to leave as the government’s heavy hand makes operating in “controlled” markets uneconomic. This has already occurred in the U.S. federal funds market and the government bond market in Japan.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell needs to tread carefully indeed to ensure his cure isn’t worse than the disease.

I think we are a long ways away from Trump even being able to do something like what the author has described here. But much like the abuse of civil liberties, I am willing to think that if governments will engage in this sort of behavior now, they will do it in the future with much less impetus. We are already seeing how quickly financial crisis-era regulations went out the window. It seems safe to say no practical limitation in the financial realm has any teeth.

All of this seemed like a good idea last week when the administration was still in “reopen the economy by Easter” mode. But right now, the entire country is being held hostage for an epidemic that is primarily centered in New York. Now we are looking at the large-scale destruction of our economic output, again, and all of the good that the stimulus had accomplished is melting away.

Once the Federal Reserve has nationalized pretty much every aspect of the financial markets, it’s going to be hard to argue that Trump is not the United States’ first socialist president. He did not start off on that path, but he sure got there fast. What a legacy.

New York City-centric media in a nutshell

New York State currently has 92,381 coronavirus cases. It makes up nearly half of all cases in the entire country. Of those, 48,462 are in New York City proper. New York has more coronavirus cases than most countries in the world, to the point that other states are banning travel to and from New York.

Here in Florida, coronavirus tourists from New York brought the epidemic to resorts and vacation homes in droves. The state has had to physically set up checkpoints on the freeways to stop them from coming in. There was not a single coronavirus case in our county until the New Yorkers showed up, trying to flee their own state’s quarantine.

So what are the NYC media types trying to get trending on social media?

Let’s take a moment and ponder why the lockdowns in New York City have not done much to slow the spread of the virus.

In the South, people do not live on top of each other. It is possible for me to spend the next month without ever talking to another human being, because I have a house with a large yard surrounded by forests and a month’s worth of food in my pantry. There isn’t even pollution in my area. At night in the summer, I can see the Milky Way.

Your average apartment in New York City does not have a pantry. In fact, your average apartment in New York is probably smaller than my pantry. The flip-flops piled on the floor in my closet have more personal space than New Yorkers. New Yorkers have to go out into the world, and they have to be up in each other’s faces. To get out of their building, people need to ride in an elevator crammed with others. They pile into grocery stores. Telling them to stay inside decreases their contact with other people, but it hardly eliminates it. And that’s under ideal circumstances.

While New Yorkers gasp at heat maps of Southerners who are still driving over two miles a day (spoiler: your average grocery store in the South is more than two miles away from where most people live) that’s actually the detail here that keeps Southerners relatively safe. We aren’t up in each other’s business unless we choose to be. (Much like how Mardi Gras spread the illness in Louisiana and surrounding states.) It’s also 90 degrees here. I know journalists think this is a super-special cold virus that actually loves the heat, so let’s not spoil things for them and tell them what the biological purpose of a fever is.

And while the New York media likes to squawk about how “healthy” they are relative to the rest of the country, that’s not even remotely close to true. I’ve been to Manhattan, and it’s as full of fatsos as Atlanta. In fact, you are more likely to have access to fresh, healthy food in the South (even now) than you are in NYC. They live in a city that is full of air pollution, which in itself puts them more in line with China as far as being at risk for a respiratory illness.

There are millions of impoverished people in New York who do not have access to top health care. Paul Krugman doesn’t see them on his walks on the Upper West Side, but they are the reason New York had a Medicaid-driven multi-billion dollar budget gap before this crisis even started. And why DeBlasio is famous for putting up people in rat-infested public housing. And let’s not even get started on the homeless.

These are major, major issues when it comes to covering the spread of illness in the country and public health. The population density and economic inequality in New York City make it impossible for the city to respond effectively to an epidemic. It should be a public policy initiative to get people to move away from densely populated areas. For their physical health, for their mental health, and for the health of our environment. But that would involve folks pondering for a second that maybe their lifestyle isn’t as great as they like to think it is.