by Edwin A. Sumcad –
Funambulism is tightrope walking. Merriam-Webster said it is “the skill of walking along a thin wire or rope”, a public spectacle performed by daring acrobats. Reminds us of aerial trapeze artists performing in a fully booked town circus.
President Trump is a tightrope walker, a funambulist. With a balancing pole Trump is walking the high wire of COVID-19 pandemic.
We have to admit that what the President is doing with Coronavirus is dangerous, but to millions of Americans Trump must do what is absolutely necessary.
You may be as curious as I have been to know how dangerous high wire walking is to President Trump. Just imagine him as that daredevil Nik Wallenda walking against a strong wind blowing (my figure of speech), a 1,800-foot tightrope long and 2,000-ft high above a lava-spewing live Masaya volcano in Nicaragua on March 4, 2020 (volcano is the other twin metaphor to strong wind blowing while tightrope-walking). It is a terrifying teeth-gritting scene to watch.
I can’t hide this frightened side of me whenever I see a real danger. Watching President Trump tightrope-walking over his critical decisions on how to stop the pandemic is agonizing a scene to look at. I join the millions of Americans who do not only cross their fingers, bite their lips and wish him luck as we all watch, but personally when I am visibly frightened, I go to the corner of my room where the altar is and genuflect, make the sign of the Cross, and really pray that as the President walks the high wire of decision-making, he does not fall into the abyss below.
I pray also that the invisible force be with Trump, to preserve and protect him. Trump is the only president of his kind we Americans will ever have in our lifetime.
In this analogy – a virtual reality in this critical time in the lives of the American people while the imperiled President walks the tightrope of the COVID-19 pandemic — there are two powerful forces clashing with each other that he has to balance as a performing funambulist.
Forces No. 1 is pressuring him to continue the lockdown at least up to January next year if not indefinitely – and oddly enough – “for as long as the virus dictates”, according to immunology-specialist Anthony Stephen Fauci of the President’s disease control team. Fauci is not really supporting Trump. He is a hardcore scientist . . . he is supporting hard science relative to the toxicity and danger of Coronavirus as a killing pandemic, against the President’s “hope” that the virus can be stopped by conventional drugs used for Malaria and other medicines for respiratory ailments.
Forces No. 2 is opposed to prolong isolation and indefinite lockout of economic activities, especially of primary industries, in order to avert incalculable damage to the economy, a devastation which many economists, including those with suspect intentions believed is irreversible.
Trump declared that as early as the end of April, not anymore starting Easter this year, workers could go back to work. He was primarily referring to about “50,000 furloughed federal employees without pay . . . to blunt shutdown disruption” of government operations and in the private sector, to open and restart the locked-out production of primary goods and services in selected industries in specified States not severely impacted by the virus. Worried Americans and their families need food and medicines, utilities and other basic necessities as they retreated to the bunkers while we are at war with COVID-19, the unseen enemy.
As Commander-In-Chief who makes decisions on how the war is conducted to the defeat the virus, President Trump is trapped between those two powerful opposing forces I just described.
If by as close as a month or two, millions of workers are back to work and more Americans would be rapidly infected by the virus and the pandemic explodes with the number of cases and fatalities rising to the level of the Great Plague of 1665 that wiped out one third of the entire British population in particular or in general becomes comparable to the Spanish Flu that infected 500 million people and killed about 100 million as reported worldwide, then President Trump is tilting dangerously as he walks the tightrope of his decision-making power. Forces No. 1 is therefore for the continuation of the closedown, stay-home isolation and maintaining social distancing to starve and immobilize the virus. If this is not done, to Americans like you and me, the risk is unacceptable.
Forces No. 2 — the other side of this dilemma that stares us straight in the face – opposes Forces No. 1 with a stark warning that if economic activities are not restarted as early as possible as President Trump declared, the economy dies out and like the Pandemic, people die with it.
During the last week of March this year, 3.3 million out-of-work Americans had already filed unemployment claims. The spectacular pre-virus 3% low unemployment rate engineered by the Trump economy has been practically wiped out, and economic contraction hit a negative GDP growth.
Casualties from a dying economy could top The Plague scourge or the Spanish Flu outbreak, and deep economic recession could be comparable to that of the 1920 Great Depression.
We may recall that in that terrible “economic shock” of the 1920s people died of hunger and sickness. A lot of them hospitalized or bedridden due to manic depression (psychosis). Federal and state resources were so depleted and scarce that treatment of the sick and those compromised with existing medical conditions, especially among elders, was not forthcoming and when available was most difficult to obtain, to say the least.
Among the people who were not sick, the death rate by suicide was its highest as desperation caught up with most of those suffering the pervasive effect of “joblessness syndrome” when the rate of unemployment suddenly spiked to an unprecedented level no one expected.
Why then is President Trump inclined to favor Forces No. 2 (go back to work order) as his strategic decision in this war against the pandemic, is not really difficult even for the layman to understand. In my mind, there is no doubt that the President is taking a calculated risk. Assuming that millions of certain kind of workers are back to work by June this year and their return to work triggers a second wave of massive virus infection, I expect Trump to use “treatment” as his first line of defense.
More than 100 drugs doctors prescribed for the treatment of virus infected patients could be used to save those dying of COVID-19. We know that the latest of those drugs prescribed by doctors were Hydroxychloroquine originally for the treatment of Malaria, and another antibiotics called Zithromax that treats respiratory infection. The combination of those two drugs could stop the COVID-19 pandemic. FDA had already approved the use of these wonder drugs as our first line of defense. These are very effective. I could say this with the highest degree of confidence based on my own experience of using one of these drugs.
Early on last year when I was attacked by a debilitating flu epidemic that kills 36,000 Americans annually, I used Cotrimoxazole, an antibiotic for upper respiratory infection. This drug came from Europe. It was exported to the Philippines. Relatives in the medical profession from the Philippines who came to the United States used to provide me with Cotrimoxazole tablets because it was not sold here in the United States.
I ran out of this tablet when I was attacked by the flu virus. I asked my U.S. Primary Care Physician to prescribe me a medicine similar to Cotrimoxazole and he gave me Sulfamethoxazole, limited to only 5 tablets, to be taken 1 tab per day for five days. By the 2nd day, the virus was completely gone. But I have to continue taking it up to the fifth day as directed by the physician.
Cotrimoxazole and equivalent drugs are just among the hundreds of existing respiratory infection medicines now available in the market which could be used against Coronavirus as President Trump’s first line – repeat, first line — of defense against the next wave of infections if the grim prediction based on certain models comes true.
The second line of defense is selective opening of primary industries and mitigation of social distancing, including the continuance of the implementation, as well as voluntary practice of existing virus control measures still enforced nationwide. This vicious attack targeting the President saying that reopening businesses and the gradual return-to-work decision declared by the President this early is premature and the virus would kill more Americans, is at least ill-advised if not infected by another virus – the anti-Trump virus. It could even be worse if Trump is infected by this other kind of virus and becoming sick of it gives up out of frustrations and spite. That would be tantamount to surrendering in defeat, the nation’s battle against the pandemic. We would even be facing a terrible loss which to millions of Americans across the country is also unacceptable.
The third and final line of defense if the virus spread exponentially due to Trump’s back-to-work decision, is of course the signing on March 27, 2020 of the $2+ trillion economic rescue package. The Media put a name to it, a “rescue” or “relief” package.
But people are unaware what the colossal Coronavirus “relief package” President Trump has just signed was all about the magnitude of which is so large it has no comparison in the history of the United States. Is this humongous funding intended to “rescue” a dying economy, or is it a “stimulus” designed to “pump-prime” the economy whose phenomenal growth rate under President Trump had been remarkably slowed down if not wiped out by the Coronavirus.
The importance of this distinction goes beyond the suffering of the multitude stricken by the pandemic. The complexity and ramification of the $2+ trillion package as to what it intends to accomplish would be simpler to dissect and unravel if at a glance it just looks like a “relief” to millions of the suffering population. But even be that as it may, one of the most important implications when the question is asked what this pervasive government funding is all about is that when a large sum of money goes to the intended recipients specified in the $2+ trillion funding document President Trump signed into law supposedly to relieve the suffering of the American people, then what that is, is nothing more than just a “relief” package.
However, in the economic sense, such a huge amount of money in the hands of the people creates among others, a tremendous wallop of purchasing power that impacts the economy.
For instance, any economist worth the cost of his years in graduate school of economics knows that the macro-impact of that buying power of consumers on economic aggregates could create a demand-pull shock while at the same time pump-priming the economy even though the supply side is under-performing due to production restrictions and/or distortion in the supply and demand chain. So “relief” in that sense, tramps the true meaning and understanding of the “rescue” and “stimulus” nature of the $2+ trillion appropriation bill President Trump had quickly signed into law in a national emergency situation.
Allow me to clarify this a little bit further if I may: In the mind of economists, “to rescue the economy” relative to the $2+ trillion package just released, means to replenish what has been lost due to the occurrence of certain event, in this case the COVID-19 pandemic, or revive the economy that suffers some kind of trauma, which is totally different from “to stimulate the economy” through the introduction of fiscal and monetary policies for economic expansion.
In the area of stimulating the economy, the infusion of $2+ trillion into the financial system would not just restore the ailing economy back to health but considering its size, growth rate of the GDP could even leapfrog back to Trump’s pre-virus state of economy and from there achieve a stiff but faster new V-shape recovery.
That’s another separate but interesting story for economists to write about. For now we are just focusing on the high risks of funambulism as President Trump walks the tightrope of his decision-making power that he must use to win the war against the Coronavirus contagion. #
© Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access Foxnews.com March 31, 2020.
Read Part II – Was the damage to the economy so devastating that economic pundits claim it is “beyond repair”? This we have to know. We have to know also what our next response is going to be before the Coronavirus creates more havoc by the time it leaves the United States. In Part II, the author unravels what you need to know.
The author is a lawyer-economist-cum-journalist, and a retired United Nations Diplomat. More about the writer, go to his website at https://edwinsumcad.blogspot.com/2013/10/ At the blog, view comparative presidential advice of staying at the middle of the road by clicking 2008 (1) file, bottom right.