Are we ready to respond to hard economic times?

Posted 3/26/20

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 "e;Spanish"e; as being racist.) Then there was no 24-hour news cycle on cable TV and the internet to fuel the

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

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


8 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Thanks for your thoughts and insight.

Thursday, March 26

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.

Sunday, March 29

Mr. August, a very good letter, The issue with this virus is its death rate which, so far, has held at 1.7% in the US, exponentially higher than the rate of the swine flu or, for that matter, the regular flu. As we test more people then, presumably, that rate should come down but for the last week or so, it's remained steady - and the US is testing more people. So if 70 million are diagnosed and that rate stays the same, then we're looking at 1.1 million deaths. Even if the rate falls to 1%, we're looking at 700,000 deaths in this country. Hopefully, the social distancing and other measures will limit the spread. We all need to be concerned with the economic cost of this, There are many businesses that will just not reopen when this is over.

Monday, March 30

We will unfortunately see many business close and many people lose their jobs. As far as weathering an economic depression, well, people will do what needs to be done to survive. The decade, pandemic, issue doesn't matter. I would like to say, don't count the younger generation out because they are not used to hardships. They have a way of looking outside the box to solve problems. The entire landscape of our world is going to look very different. It is exciting!

Tuesday, March 31

Cat, it is exciting? What the heck is wrong with you?

Wednesday, April 1

Taro Aso, who serves as Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister, refuses to use the PC Covid-19 name and continues to call it what it is "the Wuhan Virus". Pres. Trump calls it the Chinese Virus which I don't believe is exact enough.

@ KimLorene, Scary can be exciting.

Thursday, April 2

@Wuggly...I'll take boring, thank you.

Thursday, April 2


I do not mean that death and loss of business is exciting. That we will look to do things in a new way and develop better solutions. We are adapting and changing even now which in quarantine. Out of hardship and times of need, we change how we approach life. The changes will be exciting to see.

Tuesday, April 14