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HORIST: Are we overreacting to the Coronavirus?

HORIST: Are we overreacting to the Coronavirus?

There are three things upon which virtually everyone agrees.  In terms of the coronavirus, we need to be well informed.  We need to avoid any unnecessary panic.  And the issue should not be politicized.  It is very possible that we are handling the matter wrong on all accounts.

The first two questions are sort of interrelated.  If we promote panic, we are – by definition – misinforming the public.

Looking at the coronavirus in a proper perspective, we must look at two manifestations – what is happening in China and greater Asia – and what is happening in America.  In Asia, extreme preventative measures make sense.  More than 80,000 people have the virus – with more than 2000 dead — and it continues to spread.

In the United States, only a hand full of people are infected – and most of these people contracted the virus in Asia or from people recently returned from Asia.  So far, we have only one community-contracted case – meaning a person who has not been to Asia recently and is not known to have been in the company of a recent returnee.  Still, that is a notable case and it is being investigated thoroughly.

In addition to China, other nations with significant and growing cases of the Coronavirus are South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Iran and Italy.  For those nations, Coronavirus is both a health and an economic problem.

The Comparative Death Rate

In the United States, some 60,000 to 70,000 people die from perennial influenza outbreaks – in which millions of Americans fall victim.  It has a death rate of one-tenth of one percent.  The Coronavirus is reported to have a two percent death rate – twenty times higher.  That may sound more scary than it really is.

Even though the rate of death of the common flu is lower than such epidemics as SARS, Ebola and now the coronavirus, it is still bewildering that we passively accept the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year and get hyper-agitated about rarer diseases that will kill far fewer of our fellow citizens.

Furthermore, the two percent death rate is based on the spread of the virus in Asia, where health treatment is at third-world standards.  So far, the death rate in the United States is zero.  It will likely happen eventually as the number of cases most assuredly rise in the United States – and highly compromised people might contract it — but the virus is not likely to spread as it has in Asia, nor to be as deadly as the common flu.

Economic Impact vs. Health Impact’

While the coronavirus is having very little health impact on the United States, it is hitting our economy with a dramatic dive in the stock market.  This has nothing to do with American economic policy.  The coronavirus has impacted on the wellspring of our supply chain – China.  Production in the Middle Kingdom has dropped precipitously.  American business has lost both products to sell in the United States and access to the huge Chinese market.

It strikes at the heart of our capitalistic system because it reduces profits – and that takes down the stock market.  It is not a fatal blow.  American enterprises have sufficient supplies to serve the consuming public for weeks if not months to come.  In the meantime, American companies will be seeking alternative sources.

Ironically, Trump’s trade policies with China may have even mitigated the problem a bit for the United States since they reduced the reliance on Chinese manufacturing – as American companies sought sources in other nations and even pulled factories out of China.

That is not to say it is not a significant problem.  Profits will suffer and stocks will decline.  Growth will suffer in the short-run.

America is not alone in this situation.  Virtually all the world’s major economies are suffering more than the United States – especially Japan, South Korea and Europe.  And no nation is suffering economically more than China.

Looming Recession?

As stocks continue their decline to what is known as a “correction” level – a common occurrence. However, the R-word has entered the economic conversation – recession.  Though the drop in the market hit what economists call a “correction” – a drop due to stocks being overpriced – this is not that kind of correction.  It is clearly related to a situationally imposed reduction in production and sales. The good news is that stocks are more likely to quickly rebound when the supply-chain is back in operation.

But the recession question is interesting because we have had one of the longest uninterrupted economic growth periods in American history.  By all past measure, the economy is overdue for a traditional slow down.  Will this be an underlying cause – masked by the Coronavirus?  Who knows?

Blaming Trump

We should be thankful for the pro-growth economic policies of the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.  Our economy is much more capable of mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus than it might otherwise have been.  It is important to keep in mind that Trump keeps the economy at an increasingly accelerated pace even as it entered the time period when it should have slowed down.

If we compare the economy to the disease, it is hitting us when we are strong and able – not when we are weak and vulnerable.

But in this day and age, Democrats and the left-wing media will spin any situation against Trump.  Even as they say we should not politicize this world health crisis, they proceed to politicize it.  As is always the case with big government progressives, there is never enough money to handle a situation – and never enough new government workers to be hired to meet a crisis.  That is their ever-present political criticism against fiscal responsibility.

The fact that this is an election year, fuels greater politicization of virtually everything – and enlarged by the unprecedented efforts to break the back of Trump’s substantial support among the voters.  As might be expected, every one of the remaining Democrat presidential hopefuls is blaming Trump for every aspect of the Coronavirus outbreak – and even trying to spin suggestions that he is indirectly the cause of it.

Democrats have approached the coronavirus as yet another opportunity to deploy their Chicken Little strategy.  They are doing their best to create a counterproductive panic by exaggerating both the actual health impact and mischaracterizing the government response vis-à-vis the Trump administration.  They are fearmongering when the situation demands the admonition of President Franklin Roosevelt – that “we have nothing to fear but fear, itself.”

What can one person do?

As individuals, we can take APPROPRIATE and  REASONABLE  precautions.  It is probably a good idea to postpone that trip to China – or any of the other highly impacted nations.  If you are in the vicinity of those affected individuals, wear the masks, use hand sanitizers and avoid intimate contact.

If you are not near anyone infected – and that would be the vast majority of us – it is always good advice to cover your cough, wash your hands and do not chew gum you find under your bus seat.

You do not need to wear a mask in public – and most medical authorities will tell you that.  You do not need to stop shaking hands with friends or using public transportation.  And you do not need to avoid dinner in your favorite Chinese restaurant.  If you are doing any of that, you are letting fear override the facts.

If you are prone to fearfulness, worry more about the common flu.  It will infect more of us by far than the coronavirus – and kill a lot more of us.  Who cares if the percentage is lower?  It obviously is more deadly by a long shot.

Just as we passed through the outbreaks of Spanish flu, swine flu, Asian flu, SARS and Ebola, we will come out of this outbreak as strong as ever.

Just remember that no matter what precautions you take – or do not take – your chance of contracting coronavirus is infinitesimally small – and your chance of surviving it is better than 98 percent.  In the meantime, I will be heading out to my favorite Chinese restaurant after I make an appointment with my Chinese cardiologist – and oh yeah, maybe stop by for one of those great Chinese massages (no not that kind).

All kidding aside — stay safe, but do not panic.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Craig Michael Vandertie

    All we need to know is that the blame for this outbreak within the United States citizenship rests squarely on the shoulders of the wealthy of this nation.

    It is a fact that the vast majority of the United States citizens evacuated from China were there on business, as in the type of business responsible for degrading the standard of living for United States citizens while greatly increasing profit margin for wealthy United States citizens.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      Can’t tell, this is sarcasm right?

    • Knock Knock

      It’s ludicrous and laughable whatever the intent was!

    • derek blurb

      Let’s take take this seriously. Well said Komrade! Now go get a job and make a a few bucks. Not too many since you’d become a kapitalist peeg.

    • Larry Horist

      Craig. You sound like a Bernie Bro — engaging in class warfare from some sort of bitterness. Not every tourist in China is a one percenter. Though we can recognize problems in our relationship with China, there is no doubt that every American has gained from lower prices based on Chinese production. It does not increase the profits of corporations as much as it reduces the cost of retail good. We are getting more for our money at the store. There is a lot to be concerned over with China, but it does not good to ignore the benefits. Our fight with China should be over stolen intellectual property, money manipulation, tariffs and government subsidies on China exports.

      • LMB

        BINGO!!! You nailed it yet again, Larry!!!!

  2. Joe S Bruder

    Even the fact that you’re suggesting that people are over-reacting betrays your ignorance. The number of cases of Coronavirus in China was doubling every 2-3 days, and the death rate was over 2 percent – compared to the death rate from the common flu of less than .1%, and we have yearly flu vaccines to slow the rate of transmission and give a measure of protection. The only reason that the rate of infection slowed in China was because they have an authoritarian regime that can enforce quarantines and lock down whole cities. The government also runs the health care systems, so they can test and treat everyone who is infected, regardless of the cost.

    There have been a small handful of cases of coronavirus in the US that haven’t been traced to travelers from other countries. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to pop up all around the country. Our health care system is for-profit – reports of people being billed over a thousand dollars for coronavirus testing have already surfaced. Sure, insurance will pay most of that for some people, but how many people without insurance can afford that? If people can’t get prompt and affordable health care services, and the government doesn’t react in a timely manner, the virus will spread to unstoppable levels unchecked.

    Trump put a religious zealot who refused treatment options for HIV for his own state until he was forced to by Indiana health authorities and the CDC. He put so-called “economists” (actually just Trump’s criminal buddies) as 2nd and 3rd in charge, not scientists or doctors or CDC officials. He has called the coronavirus a “hoax” that was somehow designed by the “deep state” to take his Presidency down. Trump has no idea what he’s dealing with.

    The really scary part of this, as I mentioned in the beginning of my post, is that the number of cases doubled every couple of days in China. Simple mathematics (at least for me) says that doubling every 2-3 days means that the entire US could become infected in 28-29 cycles, or less than 3 months. Imagine 7 million people dying before June 1st – with the incompetence of the Trump administration, it could be a reality. Trump is an idiot, and has idiots advising him (albeit loyal idiots, after his purges), and even delays of a few weeks could mean millions more dead.

    And another thing – nobody has ever accused the free market of being stupid, only short-sighted in the pursuit of profits. Their vote of (lack of) confidence in the Trump Adminstration is loud and clear. Trump has enjoyed (and taken credit for) Obama’s economic policies for his first 3 years. The market was happy to let Trump believe that he did something useful with his tax give-aways to industry when it made them short-term profits. They can predict long-term damage to the economy due to the deficits that Trump has taken on, and plan accordingly. Now that Trump is actually in charge of something that will really affect the economy, they’re terrified.

    Trump’s actions have caused the stock market to crash, and signed his own death (or at least prison) warrant. The only reason he has the support that he currently enjoys (even though it’s still only at 40%) is because of the economy, and now his response to the coronavirus is destroying confidence in that. Despite what you think of Democrats, I take no joy in the stock market crashing, and the potential for loss of life due to Trump’s incompetence is distressing. I only hope we still have a country and an economy left come the November elections. Then Trump will get voted out of office and end up in jail for his crimes, and saner heads will prevail.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      The question is why are we even talking about this? Trump has literally the best people in the world working on this, with an agency that has been planning for just these scenarios since 1946. Trump is responding to the idiocy of guys like Schumer, whose sole purpose is to manipulate the media against Trump. If there is any harm being done, it is their fault not Trump’s.

      Aren’t you embarrassed to be a liberal with all of the B.S. from your side of the fence?

      And BTW, Trump’s approval ratings are currently the best since his inauguration.

      And BTW, there are no reputable economists left who give credit to Obama for Trump’s economy.