Trump’s Marshmallow Dilemma

In 1972, Professor and Psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University set into play a study on delayed gratification using children. A child was offered a choice between one immediate reward or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. During this time after the announcement of a reward, the researcher left the room for ~15 minutes and then returned.

The reward was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick dependent upon the child’s preference and if they waited. Follow-up life time studies of those children, discovered those who had waited longer for the additional and preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures. When a replication of the original study was done with a more diverse sample population 10 times larger than the original study, the later study revealed half the effect of the original study. The later study suggested economic background, rather than willpower, explained why some took the reward sooner.

Washington Monthly’s Anne Kim suggests America is now facing something akin in a national Marshmallow Test. States are pushing to reopen their economies, even with the evidence (as NewDealdemocrat points out in a June 2 post) the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Summer is almost upon us and as restrictions loosen; citizens will have to determine how far they will react to a choice of pre-pandemic normalcy such as a trip to a salon, a cookout with friends, or a night out at the theater rather than remain isolated at home longer and reap the reward of greater safety besides freedom. If they choose to take the reward now, another issue will be whether they continue to maintain the discipline of social distancing until the virus is genuinely under control for greater safety. It will be challenging to forego the summer’s most sought-after activities such as a trip to the beach; but, the more abstemious people and countries who stay at home and socially distance themselves as well will reap greater rewards and safety later. No doubt, those countries persevering in taming the virus will claim the prize of a potentially lasting economic stability.

Another view and the politics    .    .    . 

President Trump would have us all eat our “marshmallow now” and return to a pre-pandemic life to ensure a better economy in Fall for his election. He is willing to risk igniting a second wave of Covid-19, sacrifice thousands of lives, and squandered a chance for a better and more durable post-pandemic economy so he can improve his chance of being re-elected. It may not be that easy for him to be re-elected but he will risk us and in order to get that just out of reach brass ring. In any case and if we do return to an unhindered open economy, he gains a marshmallow and a chance of a second marshmallow of being re-elected as the population spends the economy into growth again

Worse than the preschooler who succumbs to the temptation of a single marshmallow, supposed adult Trump will stuff his face now with endorsing freedom from isolation and then smash the economic plate later (as we sink into a second wave to ensure his return to the White House) at the expense of the population and the economy. To add to the issues faced by the states which is forcing an early reopen, a Republican Senate majority led by McConnell is holding up additional funding for states which would alleviate the pressure on the states to open up the economy in order to secure  needed tax revenue.

It is also not just state economics forcing the decision to open up (forgoing Trump’s self indulgent reasoning). Some states have not experienced the level of infection rate as what a Michigan or Pennsylvania has had claiming they and have kept much (if not all) of the economy open. As  Angry Bear’s NewDealdemocrat has also pointed out in his latest Coronavirus dashboard for June 2;” the US has accepted and settled into a depressing status quo” of 20,000 new coronavirus infections and 1,500 deaths each day as being the norm. What many are forgetting or ignore is even the younger citizens can suffer from a lifetime of severe complications resulting from Covid-19 besides death.

The George Floyd and “equality under the law” protests occurring nationwide will add to the numbers of Covid-19 infections 10-14 days out.

Trumps failure to soothe the injury and sorrow sustained by a “protesting” nation due to the willful murder of George Floyd at the hands of authorities has diminished any chance of crushing the curve as NewDealdemocrat has determined to be necessary to open the economy. Trump’s greed and impulsive behavior to open up the economy to have his plate of marshmallows now to ensure his re-election at our expense later will mostly fail due to a lack of empathy towards minorities and citizenry and an unwillingness to lead a struggling nation.