By Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner -
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Unknown
Wirepoints made the case in COVID-19: Seven facts that tell us Illinoisans can and must get back to work, that deaths will extend far beyond the virus if the economy isn’t reopened soon. Recessions and depressions kill. Interwoven in economic declines are deaths from bad health, poverty, opioid abuse, suicide, domestic violence and depression. We don’t need models to know that, just past experience.
It’s not a trivial concern to be dismissed out of hand. The Congressional Budget Office now predicts the virus will trigger the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Others warn of worse.
But dismiss is exactly what opponents of a reopening do, declaring those that want to return to work are exchanging lives for money or “throwing grandma under the bus.” They are often so vitriolic in their attacks that you can’t help but think they know little about the pain and suffering that accompanies a recession. Maybe too many of them have had it too good for too long.
And here’s the tragic irony. The longer a lockdown continues, the more likely it is that the deaths attributable to economic devastation will overtake the number of direct COVID-19 deaths, says Prof. Joseph Pagliari of University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. And the victims will be our country’s most vulnerable.
The warnings are overwhelming. After just five weeks, nearly 30 million Americans are unemployed. And if the Federal Reserve of St. Louis’ 32 percent unemployment predictions are right, it will soon reach 50 million. The suffering Americans can expect to endure is tangible:
“Every 1 percent hike in the unemployment rate will likely produce a 3.3 percent increase in drug-overdose deaths and a 0.99 percent increase in suicides, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the medical journal Lancet…If unemployment hits 32 percent, some 77,000 Americans are likely to die from suicide and drug overdoses as a result of layoffs.”
The reality is nobody knows and understands what havoc this shutdown will bring. Never before have we experienced an on-demand shut down of our economy. It’s unprecedented.