We don’t lie to ourselves about the extent of the flu but use this information to extrapolate its true extent. And though the government’s annual influenza estimates may not be perfect, they certainly are not off by an order of magnitude.
I introduced this subject Wednesday and will keep pounding away as one must with obvious truths that, for some reason, are psychologically resisted. Not adjusting Americans’ understanding of how far and wide the disease has likely spread, perhaps to as much as 20% of the population, was once fine but soon will become unsupportable. I get emails almost every day from angry readers accusing me of covering up a case fatality rate of almost 3%, as reported by numerous newspaper and university web sites using deaths (which are reasonably ascertainable) divided by a “confirmed” case count that is statistically meaningless and grossly understates the virus’s true spread.
Ironically, this is partly a story of success. If Washington were brave enough to start publishing realistic coronavirus estimates, we’d have much better data to go on than we have with the flu. Our testing is vastly more extensive. Serological studies are starting to provide excellent evidence on the true extent of the epidemic. We have a better handle on asymptomatic spread. And yet we continue to publish and promote a “confirmed” case count that is statistically meaningless and catastrophically misleading and can only become more so as the virus grows in prevalence.
The Michigan conspirators are receiving vastly more coverage than a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision, which effectively labeled Whitmer a lawless dictator who had extended a “state of emergency” far beyond what an unconstitutional state law allowed. Instead of obeying the ruling of the highest state court, Whitmer responded by having the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issue “new COVID-19 emergency orders that are nearly identical to her invalidated emergency orders,” as the Mackinac Center noted.
Four months earlier, the Michigan Court of Claims condemned Whitmer for contorting a Michigan workplace safety law to unjustifiably inflict additional penalties on businesses and individuals who failed to submit to her pandemic commands.
But, according to the media, locking down Michigan isn’t tyranny – it is public service.
Like many people who have been appalled by some of Trump’s tweets, I had assumed that he was up in the wee hours carelessly knocking out his bombastic messages. I’m still not a fan of many of Trump’s tweets, but a chapter titled “I Wish That He Would Stay Off Twitter” tells two important things about the economics tweets. First, Trump’s economic advisers gave him a lot of input on the economics tweets. Second, whereas I had thought that Trump’s exaggerations undercut him, Mulligan argues, with evidence, that they were part of a strategy for getting good news covered. If Trump told the truth about good economic news, the media would often not cover it. But if he exaggerated, “the press might enjoy correcting him and unwittingly disseminate the intended finding.” My Hoover colleague John Cochrane, in a recent post about the book, notes that Trump’s tweets are his version of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. Recall that, hard as it is to imagine today, FDR faced a largely hostile conservative press. Trump faces hostile left-wing media.