Are we ready to respond to hard economic times?


To the Editor,

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed over 33 million people world-wide. (I can find no reference that describing the virus as “Spanish” as being racist.) Then there was no 24-hour news cycle on cable TV and the internet to fuel the flames of panic. Today talking heads and prophets of doom with a political agenda are stoking the fire. They see these events as the lever that will replace Donald Trump with a doddering former vice president who will be manipulated by the extreme left wing of the Democrat party and advance its progressive agenda.

I was 3 years old when I contracted lobar pneumonia. It was 1944 and World War II was raging. A new miracle drug called penicillin was developed most of it being delivered to the military. One of the few doctors in the one-horse town in Connecticut where I grew up was able somehow to beg enough to give me one injection of the drug. Dr. Gorley saved my life.

The swine flu epidemic of 2009-10 during the first year of the Obama presidency infected 60 million Americans out of a population of about 282 million or 21 percent. Of those infected 14,469 or two one-hundreds of one percent are believed to have died from the virus. Barack Obama took six months to declare a health emergency and the adoring news media shrugged.

If we apply those percentages to the 330 million Americans alive today, we could expect 70 million cases of the “Wuhan flu” with about 17,000 fatalities. Some prophets of doom are predicting 100 million cases and a million fatalities. The thing about such predictions of disaster is if you guess wrong no one remembers. If you are correct you are hailed as a great mind and can write a book and go on talk shows.

Allow me to join the ranks of the doomsayers. It is not unreasonable to expect the Wuhan Flu to be the catalyst for a Second Great Depression. When elected officials and medical experts say “the curve has to be flattened” they mean the number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus has to be spread over a long period of time -- perhaps as much as five or six months -- so as to not overwhelm the health care system, especially our hospitals.

If people have to hunker down in their houses and apartments and not go to work in “nonessential” jobs or to restaurants or get their hair cut or nails done the economy will stagger to a halt. No amount of “stimulus” or “bailouts” will correct the situation without causing raging inflation as the US dollar chases fewer and fewer goods and becomes worthless.

My parents lived through the first Great Depression from 1929 to 1938 when the economy went on a wartime footing and spending spree. They became known as “The Greatest Generation” because out of the crucible of economic hardship came a generation that put 16 million hardened men and women in uniform who simultaneously fought and won wars in the European and Pacific theaters of operation. Here, millions of workers became the “arsenal of democracy” and everything from meat and butter to gasoline was rationed.

It remains to be seen how this generation will respond to hard economic times.

Richard J. August

North Kingstown


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Thanks for your thoughts and insight.

4 days ago

It is unfortunate that reporting news these days is more about supporting a narrative than informing the public. That applies to MSNBC as well as Fox, which I view as the two extremes. Your letter is well-written and interesting.

6 hours ago