The coronavirus and the test of reality

Passengers disembark from virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship

Photo via New York Post.

The first duty of any government is to assure the survival of its people.  The COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus is a test of how well the world’s different governments can perform this basic duty, and they will be judged on how well they perform that duty.

It doesn’t matter whether leaders call themselves conservatives, socialists or something else.  Are they able to act effectively and without panic to meet a threat?  Are they able to face facts or do they punish truth tellers?

Here in the USA, our President and Congress have mainly been fighting over problems generated by governmental policy and a couple of things that don’t really exist—the alleged Trump-Putin collusion and the imaginary Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Now, along with the rest of the world, we face a real external threat—one that can’t be made to go away by means of public relations or changing the subject.

The Trump administration’s budget priorities are its nuclear weapons modernization program and the new Space Force.  In contrast, as Nicole Wetsman of The Verge reported—

The administration’s proposed 2021 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cuts $25 million from the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response and $18 million from the Hospital Preparedness Program. The administration also asked for over $85 million in cuts to the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases program.  [snip]

Housed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response is charged with responding to public health emergencies.  It also coordinates public health responses with local and international partners and manages the Strategic National Stockpile, which squirrels away critical medical supplies for use in emergencies.

The Hospital Preparedness Program aims to ready hospitals for emergency surges of patients, and it’s already under-equipped to handle situations like the ones currently seen in China.  Right now in the US, hospitals are already swamped by the flu and are counting their supplies of protective equipment.

Cuts to the Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases program would further hamstring the CDCs ability to do research on diseases like coronavirus and to gather the scientific information that lets it prepare for outbreaks like this one. [snip]

The 2021 budget request did ask for an additional $50 million for the CDC’s Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund.  That fund, which was established in fiscal year 2019, is currently being used in the ongoing coronavirus response.  That money, though, is activated only after a public health threat appears.

==The Verge.

The coronavirus has not yet reached our shores.  There is still time for the U.S. to rally.  There is still time for President Trump to assume leadership.  There is still time for Democrats in Congress and on the Presidential campaign trail to make an issue of this.  Will they?

It is not just an American issue, of course.  All the world’s leaders—Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Emanuel Macron, Boris Johnson and the rest—will be weighed in the same balance.


The coronavirus threat makes two other things clear—the need for internationalism and the perils of globalization. Let me explain what I mean.

Internationalism is solidarity across national borders.  All of humanity—Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Italians, Iranians and all the others—face the same threat.  We need to put aside our differences and fight the common foe.  For us Americans, this is a real case of fighting an enemy “over there” to safeguard ourselves “over here.”

Globalization is something else.  It is the implementation of the idea of “comparative advantage”—that each nation should specialize in making whatever it is best at making, and import all the rest.

The problem with this is that it makes us all dependent on global supply chains that will break in an emergency.  We can see this happening now in the face of a possible pandemic.

No nation can isolate itself from world trade, but each nation’s leaders should strive to make their country as self-sufficient as possible for food, fuel and medical supplies.

Another thing for us Americans to reconsider is our nation’s worldwide military presence.  There are U.S. military detachments, many of them small, in every region of the world, including many countries we haven’t been told about.  Each of them is a potential disease vector leading back home.

Coronavirus confirmed cases.  Click to enlarge.

Map via New York Times.


The Coronavirus Is More Than a Disease – It’s a Test by Ross Douthat of the New York Times.

Coronavirus May Be the Rare Crisis Trump Has to Deal With That Is Not of His Own Making by Jack Holmes of Esquire.

Trump administration wants to cut funding from public health preparedness programs by Nicole Wetsman for The Verge.

Preparing for the Coronavirus by Ian Welsh.


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One Response to “The coronavirus and the test of reality”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Well put. There are certain industries that should be protected and preserved at home as a simple matter of national security. Of course we should be allowed to import but we should also have some native capacity to spool up should we really need to.

    Pharmaceuticals and Biologics is one I really hate to have to depend on having a major source of infections agents produce.

    Liked by 1 person

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