A return to “normal” would be the blunder of the century
Nine months ago, I ruptured my two quadruple tendons. I was put on braces that kept my knees rigid. They were uncomfortable. And they severely limited my mobility. I urged my doctors to let me remove the pins. They said, “Larry, we can get you off the suspenders. But if we do, you may end up injuring your tendons again and breaking them again, and then you will come back to where you started. To abandon our investment in social control when it is about to bear fruit would be as foolish as ripping off my suspenders.
What advice would you give the president?
In the face of really serious crises, I don’t think it’s ever fair to think that there is only one quick fix. I don’t have a single magic policy tip.
You have to be frank in your communication, in order to preserve the credibility of decision-makers and their advisers. There will be times when it is necessary to reassure, but this reassurance will only be effective if credibility has been preserved.
There’s also an old adage: hope for the best and plan for the worst, and that’s right in times of crisis. Usually it is a mistake to assume that the places and areas where you haven’t seen a problem yet are so OK. There is an aspect of rolling wave, where problems are popping up in more and more places.
Moreover, in my experience, policy makers more often regret having acted too slowly, too timidly than they regret having acted too quickly and too decisively.
Playing against an opponent, like in a military crisis, is not my experience. But when it comes to a financial crisis, an environmental crisis, or a pandemic crisis, when the adversary is kind of out there, the mistakes are usually being too slow and too hesitant. Very often the moment when the crisis begins to subside coincides with the first time that policymakers make a projection that turns out to be overly optimistic.
Until then, when policymakers are constantly lagging behind, making predictions that are out of date, things are unlikely to hit bottom.
What can we do to avoid the worst economic impact?
I think we need to invest, well beyond who we are, in developing an infrastructure for widespread testing, widespread contact tracing and widespread separation between those who are sick and those who are most vulnerable. . We must be at a level of mobilization in wartime. Around testing, contact tracing, the development of therapies and the ability to live with the coronavirus.
People were appalled at Katrina and the failure to prepare basic infrastructure that this represented. Neglect and failure now overshadow that.
Could the US government do more to coordinate this?
While Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, [head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] the people he represents, and all the people involved in emergency coordination in different parts of the country are working with extraordinary dedication and competence, I have yet to detect the type of national mobilization around emergency preparedness. management of what is appropriate for the severity of the threat or which has been set in motion in time of war.
We won World War II with our extraordinary capacity for mass production, our extraordinary ability to mobilize bullets, planes, freedom ships, soldiers’ uniforms, and extraordinary technologies like radar and the atomic bomb. Why on earth can’t the United States of America in weeks or months prepare for ubiquitous testing and ubiquitous contact tracing and ubiquitous ventilator availability?