Two Cheers for America’s COVID-19 Response
Brent Orrell on why it was better than it looked.
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: A GOP Crackup?
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Having painted a somewhat rosy picture of success, it’s important to acknowledge the asterisks. As the Autor study found, PPP could have been better targeted to small firms, which might have spread program resources more evenly. As has been well documented, the explosive and largely unregulated release of new and enhanced UI benefits, much of which were delivered based on “self-certification,” was subject to enormous fraud driven chiefly by criminal entities outside the United States. As noted already, these programs also appear to have slowed the return to work as vaccines took hold and pandemic conditions improved. Much still needs to be done to reform and increase the capacities of the federal and state governments to more effectively and efficiently deliver emergency benefits to avoid some of these pitfalls in the future.
But the key word here is “emergency.” It’s likely that with better planning, greater transparency from public health leadership, and less COVID partisanship, especially in late 2020 and in the early days of the Biden administration, we could have protected even more people from infection and death and avoided some inefficiency, fraud, and waste. That, however, was not possible given the dynamics of the election year and the presidential transition.
To an important degree, though, a crisis like COVID-19 can never be fully anticipated and there will always be some level of disagreement over how to respond when the policy tradeoffs between economic freedom and public health are so profound. Contingency will thwart and confound our best-laid plans. But grading on the curve of a once-in-a-century pandemic, it’s arguable that Americans and their federal and state governments ought to give themselves a bit more credit for their handling of the pandemic, as imperfect and contentious as it has been.
From Pat Buchanan's culture war to Sarah Palin wearing her resentment on her sleeve, Trump's escalator ride was a long time coming. The New York Times' Jeremy Peters joins Charlie Sykes on today's podcast.
MIKE ST. THOMAS on The High Cost of How We Work.
Our cherished American work ethic, Malesic believes, is one of those demons. Recent studies, such as the World Health Organization’s estimate that some 745,000 people died from overwork in 2016, indicate that something is wrong with how we approach our jobs. Malesic’s own experience as an exhausted and unfulfilled college professor, to which he refers throughout the book, will resonate with most readers: our current work climate is unhealthy.
Malesic notes two major problems with the way we talk about worker burnout. First, the term itself is poorly defined, often indicating something as straightforward as fatigue while at other times referring to something closer to clinical depression (Malesic tends toward the latter). Second, mainstream articles on the topic tend to treat achieving a sustainable work-life balance as kind of “life hack,” often using imprecise, sensationalized research to exaggerate the extent of the problem, then suggesting tips workers can follow to avoid it. Malesic rightly notes that our current conversation allows companies to profit from a crisis that is partly of their own making: “By applying this veneer of scientific respectability over a broad and fuzzy set of experiences, they can create a burnout emergency—and an entire market of people who stand in need of a cure.” Malesic traces burnout’s lineage through two millennia of malaises such as acedia, melancholia, and neurasthenia, until its rise to the fore of our social consciousness in the 1970s. Over the last half century, it has only grown more prominent, he argues, spurred by the depersonalization of the workplace and the rise of what David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs.”
ADDISON DEL MASTRO: Allan Sherman’s Accidental Anthology of American Anxiety.
Sherman had long loved entertaining guests at parties with comedy bits and musical parodies. In Hollywood, these impressed the likes of Harpo Marx, Jack Benny, Steve Allen, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. He decided to try to turn them into an album—and in just a few weeks he had written enough new songs for an LP and recorded them. The album dropped in the fall of 1962: (Allan Sherman’s Mother Presents) My Son, the Folk Singer, a collection of folk melodies given witty new lyrics. Soon, Sherman was everywhere: “Frank Sinatra bought twenty-five records to give to his friends. Sammy Davis, Jr., gave one to each of his friends, including Frank Sinatra. Irving Berlin bought a copy in New York and was mad for it. . . . Every rock ’n’ roll station in the United States began to play” the album. By year’s end, it had topped the charts.
The next year, Sherman put out two more albums—My Son, the Celebrity and My Son, the Nut—both of which also received wide airplay and became number-one albums.
It was Allan Sherman’s moment.
But it was only a moment. The fascination with silly songs was fleeting. None of the three albums Sherman put out in 1964 did as well as his first three chart-toppers, and the airwaves were soon taken over by the rock music of the British Invasion. NBC gave Sherman his own one-hour primetime special in early 1965, but already by then his record sales were collapsing. In 1966, his record label dropped him and his wife divorced him. His creative output and health alike declined, and he died in 1973 at the tragically young age of 48—while entertaining guests with songs at a party.
The problem with COVID contrarianism… Cathy Young brings the heat.
Scars and bars… 100% here for this great ad.
But Ron DeSantis is the pro-vaccine governor! The right wing media told me so! You mean to tell me his surgeon general candidate is a quack? Whaaa?
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