Since the two-week lockdown from mid-March, I have been convinced the country, meaning our national government, has been on the wrong course. The disastrous because it was wrong decision to extend this ill-considered course for 30 days on April 1 sickened me. My wife encouraged me to write to our Senator, but that struck me as a waste of the time even to compose it. The pressure increased in me like a pressure cooker, until I did finally write what I thought and searched the internet to discover that Fox News has a site that accepts efforts to communicate with their shows. I wrote my thoughts, sent them with the request to forward to Tucker Carlson Tonight, and received an acknowledgment with no promises on Sunday April 5.
I am reasonably sure that the many people between me and Tucker Carlson view their role as keeping me from him when my view of business would suggest their role is to bring me to him. Nevertheless, I did not and do not expect to hear from him. The disastrous direction continued and nobody was discussing the right course of action. Then I remembered, I have a website (that I have attended poorly to these past five years) and I have my own blog. So even with no expectation of anyone who might read what I write, I realized I could articulate my concerns and policy proposals and I didn’t need to wait for anyone.
What follows is the note I sent to Tucker Carlson on Sunday, April 5th. As with anything done in realtime, facts I have subsequently learned would have brought a slightly different treatment of certain points, but I will write about those facts in subsequent posts. It is perilously close to Monday Morning quarterbacking to publish this post, I am not going to change it to incorporate subsequent facts learned.
Dear Tucker (I know I should call you Mr. Carlson, but you are the age of one of my sons),
First, I am one of those people you, so correctly, scoff at: Yale, Harvard, McKinsey. I am not, however, in charge of the world. I am simply a seventy-eight-year-old man who writes novels. Given the country’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic, I should be in charge of the world. Hence, I write you.
I am a Trump supporter from the moment he took the escalator because our country needs someone who harks back to the Cincinnatus model. I continue to support him today when we simply have no alternative that measures up.
Nevertheless, he has not provided the kind of leadership that I expected from him and that we need in this crisis. To keep it short and minimize the political points of view, we need a Churchillian vision and devotion to mission that define his call to action and his action
President Trump should announce immediately that we are adopting a World-War II-style full-employment economy assault on the virus. While I would prefer that he announce he will have the policies, programs, and steps in place by April 15, if he insists on maintaining this ill-considered shutdown until April 30th, I can live with that so long as he announces immediately and definitively that leadership is taking charge of leading our nation. To those who persist in criticizing him for not having all the answers or all the magic wands, he should simply repeat: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
He should have one vision and one mission to ensure that we are all working to conquer this virus: Both the productive work of producing goods and services and the emotional work of pulling together and supporting the goal. Nothing in this mission ignores science, scientists, or current insufficiencies. What it does require is that they are all turned to achieving the goal, not describing nor decrying our predicament. Every single person who has ever actually worked has made a mistake. While we want to do better with each passing day, we will not dwell on mistakes but use them to foster improvement. To do this and deal with the fear of death, we will implement three core, programmatic thrusts:
First, every single person is responsible for their own health. The government will use its enormous resources to educate and encourage individuals to take care of themselves. Visualize Uncle Sam Wants You To Protect Yourself posters with the top ten self-protective steps itemized. Every single policy and program for individuals to protect their own health should be explored and put out to the public. If stay at home is the most powerful tool the CDC can recommend, individuals should be allowed to judge for themselves and decide.
Second, every single person is responsible not to harm the health of another: Again the government uses its resources to educate and encourage people not to take personal actions that harm or may harm others: Uncle Sam Says No to: itemize the top ten causes of spread. No one should go trivial on this point. This includes such concepts as no mass meetings (no Armistice parades in Philadelphia in 1918) right down to meetings of ten or even five.
Third, the government should use its powers to enforce and protect. State and Local government action that does not violate the Constitution should be encouraged and supported, but in this note my focus is on the national government. It has enormous police powers and it has enormous production and logistical powers. They should all be focused on supporting the work toward a full-employment CV-19 contained, and best, free day. Again, I go to the WWII model; we did not urge our citizens to flee inland because the enemy would tire trying to cross the oceans to invade our shores, AND we did not shirk from a goal of Total Victory. Unconditional Surrender may be the vaccine, but it took us forty-five months to achieve that goal during which time we waged total war and, yes, we sacrificed many lives.
The current approach is governed by two damning characteristics: first, an unabating commitment to 15-minutes of fame. There never should have been a discussion of we could have had 1.7 million deaths if we had done nothing because by the time that self-proclaiming declaration was put in the air, we already had taken numerous steps that mitigated against ever having that outcome. In turn, we should not be discussing 100,00 to 240,000 deaths based on our current models. The measure that is relevant is the increase in total deaths in society and the comparison that is relevant is that number with the current lockdown v. that number with a full-employment economy attack. If it is already 100,000 to 240,000 what if the full-employment attack were 105,000 – 250, 000. (I use those numbers for illustrative purposes because my suspicion is the true comparison of a full-employment attack would show fewer deaths, not more.). Second, I recognize this is a bit political, but note that the fear-mongers and policy influencers who are pushing this lockdown are all among the 10% who either have the wealth or the private sector job that protects them for life or the 30% employed by government. The 60% who are vulnerable have no voice.
I fully recognize that nothing in this note has the gravitas that a 10,000-word exploration of the available facts and models would have, but it provides the correct policy approach. With the resources available to your program, assuming you can find the objective and open-minded people of competence, you can prove it.
Edward (and I included my full mailing address and telephone number.)