Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition

Reading time – 3:41  .  .  .

Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, has been kicked out of his post. Reports STAT, “Bright’s career has largely centered around vaccine and drug development. His work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on influenza viruses, antiviral drugs and tests.” Sounds like the kind of guy we need right now.

But reports are that Dr. Bright and Bob Kadlec, the current HHS assistant secretary for – get this – preparedness and response had a little conflict. In fact, Bright foolishly pointed out the homicidal stupidity of recommending hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19. That’s the drug prescribed by Dr. Trump and recommended by the prime time Fox News clueless hysterions and which hasn’t been shown to be effective against this virus but has been shown to kill patients.

Let’s see: A doctor, an expert scientist in his field, had the temerity to say something truthful and important that Trump didn’t like. Rather than listening to this guy who actually knows something, Trump and his know-nothings instead did what they always do. They always purge the best people – in this case, a really Bright one, in both senses of the word – and replace them with Trump hacks, like the know-nothing former Labradoodle breeder who is now the senior lead on the Health and Human Services (HHS) coronavirus task force. In this hour of our desperate need, what could possibly go wrong?

This sounds like a conspiracy to ensure things really do go wrong. Truly stupid.

No matter what the President says, DON’T drink me.

A reader wrote to me,

I’m reading about the latest bill passed to send $ to “SMALL” businesses. Every article mentions that the prior bill ran out of money in 3 weeks because the majority of money was sent to “LARGE” corporations. So, my question is: why is there no one in public office demanding that the government require the large corporations to return the $ so that it can be redirected to the smaller businesses, which were the intended recipients of the $ in the first place? What am I missing here?

If those large businesses fell within the program guidelines (guidelines that were created to support small businesses), then where was the oversight among all those professionals when the guidelines were created? Surely, someone should have been charged with assuring the money would go to the right companies. Seems like a slam dunk job to me.

Dear Reader,

And DON’T inhale me. No, really.

Thanks for your comments. I have no satisfactory answers. Nevertheless, I offer this:

  1. I have not heard of anyone in a position to do anything about it say a word suggesting a give-back.
  2. To the best of my knowledge, those larger businesses fell within the guidelines of the federal program – even the hedge fund operators who sucked cash from the trough. It’s crazy that these folks who clearly don’t need help could do that legally. Where, indeed, was the oversight?
  3. The larger companies commonly have a strong relationship with their bankers and they have the in-house professional expertise to apply for money from the program. Not so much for the mom and pop shops or small manufacturers. That effectively aced a lot of them out of the program.
  4. The whole thing was chaos, because the program was suddenly dumped on banks with very little in the way of direction to process these loans. Like so much during the Trump era, it was ready, fire, aim, only this time it was Congress that did it. They were in such a hurry to get money to businesses that they failed to be more clear in the process to ensure they’d help the little guys and not the hedge fund managers.

Gotta give Congress credit for earnestly wanting to help small businesses. But there was something stupid about the guardrails for the program. Do you suppose that’s fixed in the next tranche of funding?

In this time of crisis, we need the President standing a post on that wall. Instead he’s playing a constant game of Top That Lie.

On Thursday of last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested, ”  .  .  .  that states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak should be allowed to seek bankruptcy protections rather than be given a federal bailout.” This was specifically aimed at diminishing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and pension obligations of the states. From reader John Anderson ([email protected]):

Today Mitch McConnell suddenly got concerned about government spending.

He was not concerned after the so called tax cut bill.

He was not concerned after the recent stimulus bill.

He was not concerned when the Senate passed another stimulus bill yesterday.

Today, he WAS concerned. He talked about the need to cut spending. For him that means cutting Social Security and Medicare. Not cutting Defense Spending. He’s said that before. Only a partial scare there.

Now the SCARY part.

He suggested that maybe, just maybe, states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy. He didn’t suggest that states could default on bonds. For him, bankruptcy of the states means they would reduce or completely default on the pensions for all people who earned those pensions – millions of police, fire, state parks employees, road crews, teachers, librarians, city employees and all others drawing state or local funds. If you’re one of those people who had to forego pay increases for the promise of future income (a pension) and who kicked in their own money to the fund, THIS IS SCARY.

I mentioned this a few years ago when Illinois attempted to change the pension terms. The Illinois Retired Teachers Association sued (Quinn v. Hearon) and won in a unanimous decision. When I wrote about this, some responses to my article were hostile, but consider this.

After WWII, Stalin took care of the USSR’s war debt by declaring that the USSR was going to write those war bonds off and thanked the Soviet citizens for their contributions. That’s essentially what McConnell wants to do to those on Social Security and Medicare and clearly thinks that the states should declare bankruptcy and default on the pension obligations to their former employees.

Responding to John, per IllinoisPolicy.org, “In fiscal year 2019, state estimates of Illinois’ total unfunded pension liability rose to $137 billion.” That’s just for the state pensions and doesn’t include city or county obligations; furthermore, the state is broke. And dealing with coronavirus is digging an even deeper hole.

Of course, this is all the result of kicking the can down the road for many decades – generations, really – refusing to fund the liability and stealing from the fund when desired. This is equal opportunity stupidity, proudly done by both Republicans and Democrats and Illinois isn’t the only state where this is happening.

Nevertheless, this bankruptcy thing is stupid on a world class level. Congratulations are due to Mitch McConnell for cavalierly flipping off 50 states and their present and former employees. On the other hand, he’s inadvertently helping to turn red states blue.

© Joshua A. Bickel/The Columbus Dispatch, via Associated Press. Protesters gathered at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Finally, we have to pay homage to the many rugged individualist Americans who, with AR-15s and testosterone proudly on display, proclaim we mustn’t tread on them. They bellow in thunderous voices that we can’t tell them what to do, as they ascend the steps of our state capitols to loudly proclaim their demands.

They’re insisting on an end to our punishing stay-at-home orders and that we “open up” our economy and let them get back to work to earn their pay and re-assert control of their lives. Let us all raise a vinyl-gloved fist in solidarity with these true descendants of the original Revolution, as they wave their Nazi and Confederate flags on the sidewalk.

There is a powerful message in their behavior, as they make a mosh pit of protest, absent masks and gloves. The message is their nomination of themselves for the 2020 Darwin Awards.

These awards are given annually to people who have helped the most to improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. And surely many of these angry protesters will fall in the Battle of the Daft, having been infected by contagious fellow protesters. Sadly, we soon won’t be able to identify these COVID-19 volunteers from others, because once a ventilator tube goes down a throat and a plastic mask covers a face, everyone looks pretty much the same.

How can we be this stupid?


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5 Responses to Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition
  1. rick sack Reply

    Great column today with so many cogent points. Just when I think it can’t get any worse, again I’m unpleasantly surprised.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Thanks for your comments. Re getting worse, hold on until November and work to make the changes we need.

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    How can we be this stupid? It’s really pretty simple (but really ugly). It’s our own fault.

    First, we develop a society of instant gratification; no matter what we want, no matter how frivolous or contrary to the public good, we will do whatever is necessary to get it NOW despite the cost in dollars and/or in effect. This attitude and viewpoint continues through multiple generations, multiple presidencies of multiple parties … UNABATED. We all remember the chant used in many picket lines and demonstrations, “What do we want? (Fill in this blank response depending on the cause.)
    When do we want it? NOW!”

    Second, We The People elect others to represent us who have NO INTENTION of representing us! They talk the talk when they are trying to get elected but, once in office, do whatever suits them, regardless of the harm they may be doing to those who elected them. Therefore, all the wrongdoing, all the graft, all the denigration of our various factions … are OUR FAULT! We elected them, we haven’t voted them out (since they turned out to be the same phony-baloney representation as what they replaced), so we are, in fact, the Ones At Fault!

    Third, we are so gullible that we believe whatever these elected (yet unworthy) souls spew at us.

    No matter how wrong.
    No matter how damaging.
    No matter how costly (in every form of cost).
    No matter that it’s contrary to everything they said they wanted to do.

    Whose side are you on? Who are you looking out for? Yourself, your family, your lifestyle, your future, your progeny’s future, your friends, and your neighbors? Or are you willing to sit back and allow YOUR ELECTED OFFIALS to do whatever they want to you and yours for the benefit of a few?

    That’s how we can be this stupid.

  3. Marti Swanson Reply

    (Quinn v. Hearon) [should be “Heaton” v. Quinn]

    You now have proof that I do my part in passing along your wonderful column, Jack; John McNeill Anderson is one of the folks to whom I send your posts.