And the portions are so small!

Ray Lopez (or perhaps the blogger that recently stole Ray’s name) directed me to this:

Hong Kong (CNN) In the coming weeks, if they have not already, your government is likely to begin advising you to wear a face mask to protect against coronavirus.

For those living in Asia, such announcements will be a vindication of a tactic that has been adopted across much of the region since the beginning of the crisis and appears to have been borne out by lower rates of infection and faster containment of outbreaks.

In other parts of the world, this message may be confusing, coming after weeks of public health authorities, politicians and media figures [but not me!!] confidently claiming masks do not help and urging people instead to focus on washing their hands and maintaining social distancing.

The tone of such claims ranged from condescending to frustrated, with the US Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeting in late February — in all caps — “STOP BUYING MASKS!”

And it looks like Fauci’s in a foxhole:

While speaking with Dr. Sanjay Gupta during a taping of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast to be released in full on Wednesday, Fauci signaled he would “lean toward” recommending that the general public wear facemasks “if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them.”

I may have underestimated this crisis a few months ago, but at least I was right about one thing.

BTW, I stole the title of this post from a wonderful Sam Bowman tweet:


PS. The CIA should start reading my blog. Today they blamed the Chinese for our lack of preparedness, even though for months experts have been saying that a large share of entire world’s population could catch the disease. The CIA said the Chinese underreported the number of cases (as do all countries) and also that they underreported the number of deaths. Perhaps the CIA should have paid attention to my February 5 blog post:

The Chinese data is somewhat unreliable, as some deaths from coronavirus are listed as other causes, such as “heart failure”.  . .

Within Hubei, the facilities are overwhelmed and there may be far more infections than reported, as many patients have not been tested. 

So that’s going to be our excuse? The Chinese are to blame? Funny that the Taiwanese (our allies) don’t need any excuses, as Taiwan has only 5 deaths, vs. our 4100 (and counting). Or are the Taiwanese also faking the data?

I won’t comment on the CIA report, as the public is not allowed to see it. I guess it’s not only the Chinese who censor information about coronavirus.

Infrastructure spending will not create jobs

This caught my eye:

President Donald Trump called on Congress to provide $2 trillion for U.S. infrastructure, seizing on the coronavirus outbreak to try once again to advance one of his longest-standing priorities.

Sorry, but when did we switch from talking about spending bills in the billions to spending bills in the trillions? When did trillions become a “thing”?

Right now, we are losing lots of jobs because people are unable to work. Fiscal stimulus won’t change that. When the coronavirus crisis is over, monetary policy will determine the level of employment.

This is madness.

Then consider this Bloomberg headline:

Economists Are Losing Hope in a ‘V-Shaped’ Post-Virus Recovery

Notice how March came in like a lion, with most economists (including me) predicting boom times ahead, and it’s going out like a lamb that’s stricken with coronavirus, with many economists (including me) worried about a sluggish recovery.

This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. As of yet, we don’t have a single monthly data point indicating any sort of recession (although I am pretty sure we are in one, and a deep one) and we are already speculating on the recovery! How is that even possible?

Maybe market monetarism has won. Maybe economists no longer rely on computer models fed with macro data, and now look to financial market indicators to predict the future path of the economy. If not, what’s your explanation? How are people already able to predict a slow recovery from a recession that is only just beginning?

PS. A sliver of good news?

China’s official manufacturing index rebounded to record an unexpected expansion in March, government data showed on Tuesday, after falling sharply in February as the coronavirus epidemic brought work to a halt across most of the country.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 52.0 during the month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, from February’s record low figure of 35.7. The 50-point level separates contraction from expansion. The March reading came in well above economists’ forecasts of 45 compiled by Reuters.

At least good news for decent people; not sure how anti-Chinese bigots regard the news.

PPS. Ten days ago I predicted that Switzerland would have 5 times as many active cases as China by the end of March. It ended up being 6 times as many. Very soon it will be 10 times as many.

PPPS. In East Asia, bigotry against Westerners is on the rise.

PPPPS. For those interested in looking beyond burial urns, a scientific study looks at the extent of the undercount in Wuhan.

Those Chinese never seem to learn

This Bloomberg headline really makes me angry:

When will the Chinese learn? Censoring doctors who are trying to warn the public about failures in the response to coronavirus will always backfire, just making the problem worse. You’d think that after what happened in January in Wuhan the Chinese would have learned their lesson.

Oh wait . . .

More confirmation that the Fed is never out of ammo

Market monetarists knew this all along:

Should conditions on Wall Street deteriorate significantly, the central bank could go where it’s never gone before: to passively intervene in the stock market for the first time ever, according to market analysts and economists.

. . .  The Fed would need congressional permission to extend its operations, but it already has received wide latitude from the Treasury Department through emergency provisions in the Federal Reserve Act.

“If there were any major dislocations, it is clear that they will go into whatever nook and cranny in the market that starts to choke,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. . . . Indeed, the Fed already has shown a willingness to go beyond its financial crisis response, and it may have to do more if the crisis worsens.

As the economic fallout from the pandemic spread earlier this month, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren already was saying the Fed may need to broaden the types of assets it can buy to support the economy.

It’s fine if people want to keep talking about fiscal stimulus.  But don’t pretend it’s justified by the Fed running out of ammo.

PS. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m in favor of Congress giving the Fed permission to buy corporate stocks and bonds, and I oppose the actual purchase of those assets.  Instead, I’d pursue level targeting.

HT:  David Beckworth

Five stages of denial

[Before starting this silly post, let me say that I’m seeing some positive signs in data from many countries; the curves seem to be starting to bend. Yay!]

Five Stages of Denial:

Stage one:

I feel for those poor Chinese suffering from the terrible coronavirus. Glad we don’t have it.

Stage two:

You say the problem is becoming worse here than in East Asia? That can’t possibly be true. Those East Asian countries must be faking the data. The West is superior.

Stage three:

OK, maybe the East Asian data is accurate, but we are much freer than the East Asian countries.  That’s why we are getting hit harder.  Freedom has a price.

Stage four:

You say it’s now gotten so bad in the West that many of us now have tighter restrictions that some of the East Asian countries?  OK, but the Chinese are to blame for all of this.  They delayed reporting the severity of the epidemic for several weeks.

Stage five:

OK, you say that an extra few weeks would have made no difference, as the West spent nearly 2 months twiddling its thumbs once we found out? And you say that our governments also lied to us? Well then the Chinese are to blame because they are a barbaric race that eats wild animals, and that’s what created the disease in the first place, just as Africans created AIDS and Europeans explorers brought smallpox to the New World.

And BTW, you are an apologist for Communist China because you are forcing me to confront the fact that the West might not be as superior as I had assumed.

I guess it was inevitable that this crisis would push people toward “us vs. them” thinking, but it is still quite worrisome.  Even within the US, you have states trying to keep out residents of other states.  And that prejudice is directed against our fellow Americans; just imagine how Americans feel about foreigners right now.

Unfortunately, things are no better in China, where Westerners are now widely viewed as a disease-ridden menace that needs to be kept out of their country.  Let’s hope that sanity prevails in the long run.  Looking back at history, I think it’s fair to say that a global rise in hypernationalism generally doesn’t end well.

PS.  Here’s the pro-communist WSJ explaining how China successfully controlled the coronavirus.

PPS.  Here’s an excellent NYT article on how the Wuhan government covered up the problem.  It’s the best account I’ve seen.

And LOL:

Trump spent weeks downplaying the coronavirus — but now thinks keeping US deaths under 100,000 would be ‘a very good job’

To quote Former President Bush: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”.