Jul 18th 2020

Less Transparency Will Worsen the Pandemic

by Sam Ben-Meir

Sam Ben-Meir is professor of philosophy and world religions at Mercy Collage in New York.

 

Hospital data is now going directly to the Trump administration rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This will have immediate and far reaching consequences. Already valuable CDC pages that tracked changes in the number of occupied and available hospital beds in the nation for COVID-19 patients stopped working as a result of the switch. We have essentially lost this important metric for gauging the progress of the disease. The sidelining of the CDC is nothing less than a travesty and Americans should be outraged and alarmed. This loss of transparency will lead inevitably to an even worse pandemic and greater loss of life.

The redirection of information to the Trump administration increases its power to withhold information or misinform because now the public will have less visibility into what is happening. It will also hamper experts and researchers in their analyses of how the pandemic is progressing and how to advise the public. Dr. Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said that bypassing the agency would “undermine our nation’s public health experts.” The administration weakly attempts to justify the switch by arguing that the new system will be streamlined and modernized. Sidelining the CDC is not the answer to efficiency.

Does anyone really trust that the administration will present information and findings to the public in a way that is unadulterated, unvarnished, thorough and complete? The president has handled the pandemic incompetently since the beginning. We can be sure that information will be provided to the public – if it is provided at all – in such a way as to cast the administration in the most favorable light possible at the expense of accuracy and completeness.

For Trump, this crisis has only ever been a political problem to navigate with his typical bluster, arrogance and lies. He has never treated it as a public health crisis of a magnitude we have never before witnessed. Which means that this shift will very likely have a damaging effect on our battle against the pandemic going forward.

Akin to entrusting a fox to behave in a henhouse, how can this administration be entrusted with sole access to this data when the president has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the pandemic, when he pushed for the precipitous reopening of economies even when it was contrary to the recommendation of every serious expert, when he repeatedly suggests that case counts are increasing only because testing has increased? This last claim is a falsehood Trump habitually repeats — as The Atlantic reports, in states such as Arizona and Florida, “the number of new cases being reported is outpacing any increase in the states’ testing ability,” and states are reporting record daily case counts.

The American public has a right to this information, especially when we are dealing with Trump who is without exaggeration “the most mendacious president in history.” According to the Washington Post Fact Checker Trump has made over 20,000 false or misleading claims since his administration began. And Trump made 654 false claims over fourteen weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, somehow, we must place our trust in an administration that has demonstrated time and again its disdain for the truth. This administration has undermined the very notion of objective truth by promoting absurd conspiracy theories, false accusations and empty charges against not only political rivals but impartial experts; and a general unwillingness to defer to science when its conclusions are not politically expedient.

To date there have been, in the US alone, nearly 3.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost 140,000 deaths. UNICEF warned that as many as 6,000 children could die every day due to the impact of the coronavirus and its disruption of routine health services. In fact, this is “the biggest and most urgent global crisis children have faced since the second world war,” according to UNICEF UK’s executive director Sacha Deshmukh.

What is so sad is that this country, instead of coming together, is perhaps more deeply divided than ever – thanks in no small part to Trump’s politicization of this crisis and of US intelligence, not to speak of his disagreement with top experts from within his own administration, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. Nearly three months ago, the White House called its response to the pandemic “a great success story” – at that point more Americans had already died in this crisis than in the Vietnam War. The only thing this president seems reliably capable of is self-lauding and congratulating himself for doing “a great job” – regardless of his actual performance, which in this case has been nothing short of epically disastrous, shameful and flagrantly irresponsible.

And now in support of his personal interests, Trump is taking steps to ensure that the many more thousands of Americans who die of coronavirus will not be in the public view.

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."