In recent weeks and days, the argument for the shutdown of, basically, America, has gone from an effort to stop the spread of the virus to an effort to stagger its spread so that we have enough medical equipment, ventilators and ICUs to cope with the overflow.
That’s not crazy, but then our priority should be making as many ventilators and protective equipment as possible. As of yesterday. Not spending $50 billion on an airline bailout for Warren Buffett, a major Democrat donor. Instead the bailouts are going full speed and the process of producing the equipment is staggering along. How many ventilators could we produce if we launched a crash industrial program for everything from materials to components to final product? Wouldn’t it cost a fraction of the $1 trillion bailout?
As Holman Jenkins at the WSJ notes, “The cost to Americans of the economic shutdown is vast. What are they getting for their money? Essentially less excess demand for respiratory ventilators and other emergency care than can currently be supplied.”
“The U.S. may or may not be a test case of a large continental country where hot spots of contagion shock other places into buttoning up and hunkering down, curbing excess local demand for intensive-care beds. But the cost will be astronomical. Essentially we are killing other sectors indefinitely to manage the load on the health-care sector.”
His analysis may be somewhat on the more cold-blooded side. But the argument has essentially boiled down to, “We need to isolate everyone because, even though everyone will eventually get it, we don’t have enough equipment right now to manage the load.”
So why isn’t that the focus?
In Washington, medical personnel are making face masks out of office supplies. Meanwhile we’re talking about yet another airline bailout.
If we had a shortage of face masks in WW2, how long would it have taken us to set up plants and churn them out? At the peak of production, we were building a Liberty ship in under two months. If we were fighting the war today, we’d have no ships, but lots of bailouts of sugar cane industries in Hawaii.