April 18, 2020
Now that we are all enjoying our coronacations we have time to think about what political leaders, scientists and experts are saying to us. The scientists, of which tribe I am a humble member, will in their better moments remind everyone that they might be wrong, and we really don’t know much about this new bug and its behavior. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, “…any scientist speaking outside his field is just as dumb as the next guy.”
Worth remembering. When politicians crow about “listening to the experts” and making “science-based decisions” the experts are often wrong, and the science is vague and contradictory at times. How then to make a decision?
Many decisions must made with incomplete information and conflicting advice. That’s how it goes. Maybe later it was the right call, maybe not.
So, getting the economies rolling again. And helping those in trouble now. It seems that President Trump is getting all kinds of kudos from many people least expected to give it.
Alex Brummer writing in the UK Daily Mail writes:
…One of the great hobbies of the British public and commentariat is to mock US policy.
When Trump claimed that $70 billion (£57 billion) of loans to small businesses had already been made, there were loud guffaws. What we now know is that the scheme for small enterprises operated through the Small Business Administration, with the loans made by hundreds of commercial lenders across the country, has been a roaring success.
The $350 billion set aside was exhausted in less than two weeks and a further 700,000 SMEs are waiting on Congress to approve new funds.
The key to getting the money out was Mnuchin’s insistence that applications be processed on one side of A4 and all the normal credit checks set aside with the government taking on the risk of cheats and bankrupts.
The contrast with the UK, where the banks are patting themselves on the back for getting just £1 billion of small business loans out of the door while the sector and its self-employed owners sink into the mire, could not be more stark.
Trump may be crazy but the efforts of his business and financial team put those of Sunak and our own banking pygmies in the shade.
And in Canada, the Macdonald Laurier Institute , a sort-of establishment think tank, writes:
Last week’s aid package ticked all the Trudeau government’s electoral boxes, targeting Aboriginals, the homeless, women’s shelters, students and low-income earners. The business community was largely overlooked, except for banks being asking to defer mortgage payments for people losing incomes (despite the failure of working with banks to mitigate foreclosures in the U.S. in 2009). The government also largely neglected the problems of small businesses, such as restaurants, whose revenues are collapsing while property taxes and utilities still have to be paid. Offering temporary support to workers is basically pointless if their employer goes bankrupt. The U.K. understands this and is offering direct aid to small business.
It seems that Trudeau is simply out of touch with the real world, adrift in the fantasies of the chatterati.
…The contrast between the business community’s “can do” optimism and the public sector’s overall moroseness is striking. While the U.S. stresses a pharmaceutical resolution to the crisis, Trudeau offers only the prospect of “weeks or months” of social distancing.
Doug Ford’s government in Ontario seems the most disposed in Canada to view the private sector as a creative partner in solving the crisis. Ford cites companies switching their beverage manufacturing to hand sanitizers, auto part plants offering to convert to making ventilators, Canada Goose manufacturing medical gowns instead of parkas, and firms making phone banks available to Ontario Health to help field questions from a worried public. Ford asked the business community to “keep your ideas coming. If you have an idea, there’s no such thing as a bad idea.” By contrast, the federal government has only belatedly spoken of involving business in fighting the virus.
That’s sums it up really. And in the US, as Nancy Pelosi is vying with Hillary Clinton for the title of the country’s most ghastly woman, Pelosi blocks a paycheck protection plan for small business while chomping on chocolates in her wall-protected mansion in Californistan.
Trump will crush them in November.
[PS Antibody testing tomorrow–now more bourbon]