The Nasty Tradeoff: COVID-19 and Poverty.

Author:Smith, Richard

A decade ago, Columbia University's School of Public Health found that poverty was the underlying cause of 172,000 U.S. deaths, or 4.5% of total deaths. "Social causes can be linked to death as readily as can pathological and behavioral causes," the study stated.

Over the past two centuries, aggregate history and empirical evidence have shown that the best anti-poverty program is a multiparty, libertarian-capitalist political economy functioning at full capacity. First introduced by the U.S. 250 years ago with other nations following suit to varying degrees, this political-economic system lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty worldwide and saved millions of lives.

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. To slow the spread of the virus, public officials had little choice but to shut down major portions of the economy for an indeterminable period, but there is a high cost, not only in the obvious monetary sense, but in lives. Job losses will be in the millions, and the poverty rate will skyrocket. Each day, the damage gets worse and more irreparable. There is a solid argument that the loss of life due to shuttering the economy for weeks, possibly months, will be a significant multiple of COVID-19 deaths-and this is the nasty, dreadful tradeoff.

Deaths related to the virus are direct, immediate, tragic. A bright national spotlight is on them. Deaths related to poverty are indirect, lagging, and sadly, a foggy distant statistic. Lives lost to poverty are, of course, just as tragic, but seem less noteworthy, part of the passive national fabric.

In the short run, there are measures being taken attempting to stop, or at least slow, people falling into the abyss of poverty. If ever there were a time to aggressively draw on our storehouse of national capital, it is now. The alternative may be a second Great Depression, which is not an overstatement.

The total six trillion dollar monetary and fiscal stimulus is staggering, both meant to provide short-term liquidity to the consumer and businesses, with many small businesses needing it to remain solvent; it is about three...

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