Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Wisconsin ex-Dane and Milwaukee Counties

In comments to NDD’s post, Terry says:

Wisconsin—except for Milwaukee and Madison —basically opened up with no restrictions as a result of the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling 4 weeks ago and much to the delight of the late night comics people flocked to taverns without regard of masks or social distancing. I certainly expected to see numbers bump up by now but in fact they have fallen steadily

Cool if true, but, as Warner Wolf said, let’s go to the video tape data:

author calculations from NYT County-level data

I’m seeing a pop in cases about two to three weeks after the ruling, which rather matches Terry’s (and the world’s) initial expectations.

If you look at the time after those two well-predicted spikes, they look as if they might—best case—return to the mid-May, still pre-“reopening” levels. This is most likely because large firms and stores and most non-alcoholics (unlike the gerrymandered abomination that is the lame-duck Wisconsin Supreme Court) are taking a cautious approach to returning people to work and restaurants and shops to full capacity (assuming they still have disposable income).

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Coronavirus update for June 8: declining trend in new infections has stopped

Coronavirus update for June 8: declining trend in new infections has stopped

 by New Deal democrat
I haven’t updated the Coronavirus Dashboard in awhile. Last time I indicated I would do so if there was a significant change in trend.

Well, there has been. New infections are not declining anymore. In the last week, the 7 day average has increased slightly, and there has been only a 1% decline of the 7 day average in the past 2 weeks:

On Saturday, the 7 day average was 21.4k new infections, higher than the 21.0 cases of 10 days ago. Two weeks ago there were 21.7k new infections.


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Random Acts of Counties, and Some Malice

Chattahoochee County, Georgia, had a significant increase in cases from a relatively high (ca. 50) base. Fort Benning’s new cases appear to be the source, even as those are not fully reported in the NYT data yet.

Scurry County, Texas, is more typical; a 1200% (not a typo) increase—but from a base of two (2). Curiously, the Snyder, TX, website still lists 33 cases in the county, while the NYT data indicates about seven of those have been removed.

This is independent of the Huntsville, Texas, prison facility with significant issues, which is in Walker County. There have been more than 900 new cases there in the past eight days.

Arkansas has been a microcosm of what not to do, so it’s no surprise that both Jackson and Nevada Counties there are showing huge increases, though from relatively small bases. I can find no online explanation for the growth in either location.

Cache County, Utah, is home to Logan, now showing one of the fastest growth rates in cases—including nearly a ten-fold increase since Memorial Day: “The growth in northern Utah is driven by the increase of cases at the JBS meat packing plant in Hyrum.” I’m going to tell my students next semester that being an omnivorous human, in addition to decreasing your lifespan, creates negative externalities.

The State of Virginia may well be trending in a positive direction, but Greensville County is an exception, with a four-day increase of just under 70%, and more than a 400% increase since Memorial Day. There is a prison facility there, but local authorities say that isn’t the reason for the increase.

As a final note for today, Otero County in New Mexico, is the home of an “immigration detention facility.” Those cases were previously allocated to Otero and Doña Ana counties, have been treated as State only for the past month, but another prison (one authorities admit is one) is still counted as being in the county. Given the data, it seems likely that the NYT source is still counting the ICE black ops site as part of Otero county.

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Pure Coincidence


Protecting Your Business From Legal Liability During Reopening
May 15 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

In this brief 30-minute webinar, we will step business owners through the liability concerns when reopening following the COVID-19 shutdown. Bobbi Berkhof will inform entrepreneurs why following local, state, and federal recommendations may help protect the business from lawsuits, potentially stemming from employees and customers.


Or, in table form:

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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    .    .    . 

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Healthcare Insurance Coverage Information

The Kaiser Family Foundation has put up  comparisons of one new way (if passed) to obtain healthcare coverage and two existing ways of obtaining healthcare coverage (subsidized coverage) for those who lost job-based health insurance since in the Covid-19 pandemic. I had talked about two of the ways previously.


The two existing options (besides over priced Cobra) are:

  • Medicaid, for which 47% of those lacking insurance are eligible (Kaiser’s estimate) and,
  • ACA Subsidized Marketplace Coverage, for which 31% may be eligible dependent on income.

A third possible option alluded to above is the subsidization of 100% of the cost of COBRA (now 65% subsidized of cost of employer sponsored healthcare) premiums as provided in the House  HEROES Act recently passed. This new bill could win some Republican backing in the Senate even with McConnell blocking it and calling for a stipulation to be inserted in the bill to release companies, providers, hospitals, etc. of liability. As written, the Heroes Act would be a windfall for employers, healthcare providers and insurers as well as individual recipients. The first three pluses favoring Republicans are likely to support.


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Coronavirus dashboard for June 2: the US has settled into a depressing status quo

Coronavirus dashboard for June 2: the US has settled into a depressing status quo

– by New Deal democrat

The US seems to have settled into a status quo where it accepts 20,000 new coronavirus infections and 1,500 deaths each day. This is what I forecast about a month ago, as lockdown regimens were abandoned in much if not most of the country: periods of waxing and waning waves of infection because there simply isn’t the political or social willpower to “crush the curve.”

Meanwhile Vietnam, a developing country with a 90,000,000 population, which immediately went on a regimen of testing and tracing per the WHO recommendations, and has nearly universal wearing of masks, has not recorded a single coronavirus death. Below I show cases, because there are no deaths in Vietnam to show!:

Domestically, it continues to be the case that only Oregon, with a population of about 4.5 million, in addition to several rural States and the island State of Hawaii, has “crushed the curve”:


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Coronavirus dashboard for May 31: comparing US States and regions with European countries

Coronavirus dashboard for May 31: comparing US States and regions with European countries

 by New Deal democrat

Among all countries in the world, Sweden has the worst death rate from coronavirus: 5.9 per million per day over the past week. But, even with massive declines from their peaks, most of the States in the US’s eastern megalopolis are worse.

To begin, here’s Kevin Drum’s dashboard of major European countries, plus Canada, as of May 27:

He doesn’t show it, but since Spain had the worst outbreak among major Western European countries, here it is:


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Meanwhile, As Minneapolis Burns

Meanwhile, As Minneapolis Burns

So now we are all focused on the recent horrific murder in Minneapolis and now the subsequent events that are happening in many parts of the nation, with Minneapolis the epicenter.  This is serious, and I have an idea how it will end.  This has even distracted us from the usual pandemic and economic issues, which are historically serious.

But while all this has been going on, just in the past week or so our president has been engaging in a series of serious actions that will have long run serious consequences people are barely aware of if they are not undone.  It is almost as if he is just outright melting down his presidency and taking the nation with him, although we are too busy looking at the flames in Minneapolis to notice.

Here is a list without comment. The US will withdraw from the Open Skies  agreement, first proposed by President Eisenhower, that has 35 other signatories.  The administration claims the Russians are breaking the treaty, although the specific offenses publicized seem to have nothing to do with this treaty at all.  This follows Trump withdrawing us from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement, the Paris Climate Accord, the the TPP, and the Iran JCPOA nuclear deal that Iran was adhering to.  Today it was announced that the US will withdraw from the World Health Organization. The administration is proposing changing the status of Hong Kong in connection with the US as well as possibly forcing Chinese corporations to leave the New York stock exchange, not to mention that the daughter of the CEO of Huawei is about to be extradited to the US to be prosecuted for fraud in connection with violating US sanctions against Iran. Another round of EPA regulations are to be ended. Trump refuses to provide aid to the US Postal Service, which might go bankrupt later this year, with Trump declaring that voting by mail is a rigged fraud. He has also issued an executive order to allow the FTC to make social media subject to lawsuits by his conservative allies. And then also today it was announced that his official pandemic task force is now effectively not functional.

There  is more, but all that is more than quite enough.

Barkley Rosser

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Death And The Pandemic Economy

Death And The Pandemic Economy

The relation between death and the pandemic economy is a fraught one that has become hotly debated, although with not much clear empirical evidence.  I note that recently over on Econbrowser Menzie Chinn has had a series of posts on this matter in various forms.  Obviously a big issue has been the claim by the anti-lockdown crowd that not reopening the economy quickly will lead to an increase in suicides by the increasingly large numbers of unemployed people out there.  There certainly have been many studies in the past showing a variety of bad social outcomes from high unemployment, including suicides, domestic abuse, drug abuse, depression, and more. There does seem to be some strong evidence of several of these notably higher domestic abuse and depression.

When it comes to suicide and death more broadly, the empirical picture is very murky.  Menzie in one of his recent posts reported on a regression he ran covering monthly data from 1998 to very recently that used dummies for months and then unemployment rates and suicides (in the US) and found the an unexpected “wrong sign” with lower suicides correlated with higher unemployment, although this was not a statistically significant result. He provides no explanation for why this odd result seems to be there, but it does show that this is not a simple matter.

Regarding current data on the main question, so far there does not seem to be any data showing a noticeable rise in suicides in the US since the pandemic, with only reports of some increases among medical personnel, who have suffered from overwork, stress, and even guilt, along with fear.  That we might be seeing that out of them is completely understandable.

So why might we not be seeing much increase in suicides so far despite all the things going on such as increased depression as well as unemployment and more that would suggest we might expect to see it?  Some have suggested a “wartime” effect: people are suffering, but they know others are as well and so rally around the flag to hang in there. This rally around the flag effect even worked for awhile to boost Trump’s polls for a few weeks in late March and early April until people saw how we was botching things, and now his polls are lower than they were before, even as those of some generally unpopular leaders in other hard hit nations like Italy, France, and Spain have seen their poll numbers continue to be noticeably higher than they were previously.

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