Is it time to panic?

WalMart with empty shelves

This country is on full-fledged panic mode. Stores have run out of toilet paper! None of the shelves. Now this is getting serious. A financial crisis and a health crisis. What does this mean?

I have no idea what this means. The stock market is plunging (or is it recovering?)  Either way, there is very little less rational than the stock market. Reason has nothing to do with it. I don’t know how serious either crisis is. The financial crisis seems to have been brought on by the coronavirus crisis. I don’t know how serious it is.

But there is one reason I think that panic is a serious option.  Now I know some of my faithful readers will criticize me for bringing Trump into the discussion. Some people seem to think I blame him for everything. I don’t think that is true, but I acknowledge their concern. That won’t stop me from commenting on him. And I know he may not be to blame, but I doubt that he has helped either.

The real problem is two-fold.  Like it or not, Donald Trump is the leader of the free world (though I don’t acknowledge him as my leader and I think I am part of the free world.) The real problem is that he is a person who does not think evidence and data are relevant to his job as President. I started to worry when I heard Trump say, “I have a hunch the problem is not as serious as the Disease Control Center says it is.”  Earlier he said, echoing the right wing pundits from whom he does take advice, I think it is a hoax.”

I am not really concerned about Trump. His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said “he’s a fucking moron.”  Sorry for my bad language, but the quote is not real without the bad word. I think Tillerson was right. I know some friends of mine think he is smart. After all he got elected as President of the United States. I think Trump is cunning. He knows what is good for Donald Trump. He has a keen sense of that.  He is able to disregard the interests of everyone else other than himself. This allows him to avoid distractions and concentrate on his goal–i.e. what is good for himself.

But ultimately I think Tillerson is absolutely right. What really scares me is that about 55 million voted for him and most of them still like what they see. They like him. Now, from my perspective, the United States is led by a man who is obviously unfit for the job.

Even more important however is that Trump is uninterested in data or facts. And he won’t listen to experts. This is what Trump said on CBS 60 minutes the week the latest IPCC report was issued, when asked if he still thinks that climate change is a hoax? “Look I think something is happening, something is changing and it will change back again. I am not denying climate change but it could very well go back.” He added that his uncle  was a professor of science. Trump never talked about climate change with his uncle, but Trump assured us, “I have an instinct for science.” Trump wants us to base vitally important decisions not on science but an instinct for science. It doesn’t matter that Trump knows nothing about science he expects us to trust him. And guess what? Millions of Americans do exactly that. They are not accustomed to basing important decisions on facts and reasoning on those facts. They base decisions on things like hunches, faith, trust, and instinct instead. And they vote for leaders who do exactly the same thing. Would you want a cancer surgeon who based his decisions on science, data, evidence, and careful reasoning on that data or a surgeon who based his decisions on instinct or faith? During a serious health or financial crisis would you want the country to be led by a President who respects science or one who has a instinct for science? Take your pick. But his scares me.

I am about ready to panic.


4 thoughts on “Is it time to panic?

  1. barrister newfield

    there is an important distinction between an economic crisis and a financial crisis. i think we are in the former. we were in the latter a decade+ ago. this economic crisis could become a financial crisis. apocalypse is then NOW.
    in the former financial crisis the world was literally a few hours from a global financial meltdown, as in a run on the banks. the u.s. secretary of the treasury was in the bathroom in the capitol puking because of the stress level. read the histories that have been written. this would absolutely have produced an global economic depression.
    when, i ask, will there a serious discussion begin about the endless crises of capitalism. in the last 50 years we have had the stagnation and inflation of the 70s, the ’87 crash, multiple crises in the 90s, the information technology bubble at the turn of the century, the financial crisis of ’08, and now this. as the church lady said, isn’t that special.

    as for a public health crisis, this appears to be an extremely contagious virus that kills mostly old people like you and i at a rate just slightly higher than the flu virus. the flu virus also kills old people, but differently that this one also young people. one of the dilemmas in the health care system is that the hospitalizations secondary to the coronavirus are occurring at a time when there are the usual huge number of hospitalizations secondary to the flu. bed capacity may become a problem.

    the context for the anxiety about this virus is a planet that has been awash in anxiety well before yet another virus jumped from animals to humans. hiv for example is considered to have come from the consumption of bush meat, as in dead monkeys. it is a simian virus.
    aside from all of the above it raises once again the relationship of humans to other animals, a relationship that is fucked up in so many ways. this has religious and scientific roots. say hubris.

    then there is science and reason. as a former/philosopher you certainly understand how tortuous that business has been over the last few hundred years. however useful and important science is it is still an ideology. rampant quantification has its own rewards.
    i find it interesting that we are at this point where professionalism within bourgeois democracy, as in teachers, lawyers, bureaucrats, journalists, etc., is under serious attack.
    and i think that we professionals are implicated to a limited extent. we have acted like an elite and the “masses” have decided that we, not capitalism, technology, religion, etc., are the problem.
    limited in the sense that the situation is complicated by vastly variable levels of education, fascist political currents, extraordinary speed of change, particularly technological change, continued ideological influence of primitive religious ideology, increasing unequal distribution of income, etc. in other words it is not by any means predominantly or only the fault of professional attitudes and behavior.

    one result of this hatred of professionals by the orange one and his supporters has been an assault on professionals in government. the problem then is that in the u.s. the civil service has been decimated. it is not simply that the president is an ignoramus, it is that his cabinet and the civil service leadership he put in place are also ignorant. there are no “adults” left. in addition, the civil service positions are being vacated and left unfilled.
    a good example of this is that the orange one dismantled the epidemic infrastructure that obama created around the ebola problem. 25 percent of the centre for disease control budget was cut. the interagency epidemic task force was kicked under the bus.
    another example is the nominations for high level court judgeships in the appellate court that the orange one is submitting have in some cases never argued a single case as defense or prosecutor in any court of law. even the senate republicans have been publicly embarrassed.

    the barbarians are at the door. read it and weep.

  2. JR: These are indeed crazy times. Why have not more American complained about what DT did to the CDC? His attack on professionals I believe is part of his attack on expertise and science. The Great leader doesn’t need expertise. i understand that the leader of the CDC he appointed was one of those who said that AIDS was a punishment by God of homosexuals. And he is now the head of one of the most important organizations in the world? Why don’t more Americans complain about this?

    1. o so many reasons………….
      we are brainwashed – tv, movies, advertising, political propaganda, etc.- and “education” cannot necessarily counter this.
      we are subject to ideology, possibly more pervasive and less obvious than overt brainwashing and propaganda.
      we are cut off from information because of the secrecy of the ruling elite.
      we are narcissistic, wrapped up in our techno and other pleasures.
      we are struggling to survive and not paying attention to what is happening.
      we are traumatized by that struggle and as a result…….
      we are depressed.
      we are irrational, angry, like so many of the orange one’s tribe. and bernie’s tribe as well.

      one of the most amazing developments in yanqui land over the last few years has been the actual DECREASE in life expectancy, considered secondary to suicide and opioid overdose. ponder that for a moment. i believe that last year it stopped dropping. but think about it. this is the soil that the orange one’s fascism tills, revolution also for that matter. both have their fair share of associated trouble. talk about struggle to survive.

      think about how completely enveloped we have become in the machine. watch people, yourself with their/your smart phone/s. if you own one. we have become oblivious to books, birds, flowers, trees, other people, our children, significant others.
      why would we pay attention to the political order?
      and don’t forget that the political order has become overwhelmingly secretive and opaque. everything is a national security matter.

      the species obviously has yet to figure out how to live on tierra firma. in fact, given what has developed with the cyber world, the definition of the species may have been fundamentally altered. what is homo sapiens sapiens? a cyborg? a robot?

      1. JR

        I want to expand a little bit on my comment from yesterday. I think this is an extremely important issue that you raise. The decline in life expectancy that was experienced and might be over, though I doubt it, is fascinating. I watched a documentary series this past year called by “One Nation Under Stress with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. it was the first time I heard about it. In it he interviewed 2 important economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case who have done some very interesting research on this subject. In fact I just read a review of one of their books in the New York Review of Books (thanks to you) which you likely read as well. Added to that, I read an article by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn in the New York Times that adds to the discussion. I believe they wrote a book on the subject which I have not read. We are indeed living in interesting times and I intend to blog on this in the future.

Leave a Reply