Discover more from Joshua Gans' Newsletter
The aspiration needs perspiration
The new Biden Pandemic report has goals but no hard decisions
Welcome to Plugging the Gap (my email newsletter about Covid-19 and its economics). In case you don’t know me, I’m an economist and professor at the University of Toronto. I have written lots of books including, most recently, on Covid-19. You can follow me on Twitter (@joshgans) or subscribe to this email newsletter here.
A day after taking office the new US government released its Covid-19 plan. Given where we are coming from there it is, of course, a breath of fresh air. The 200-page report is a full acknowledgement of what all of the issues are facing the government and the US with respect to the pandemic. It is the first such report from the US government and so we can welcome it as a step forward.
But we don’t have time to grade these things with respect to the low standards of the previous administration. And, for 11 months into the pandemic, this report contains little in the way of hard decisions. It sets 7 broad goals that can surely be met because they don’t have anything in the way of objective or measurable scores. There are no targets. There is no timeline. And there is no specific direction.
Let’s just take my wheelhouse — testing. There is a whole section on it which is great. Here is an example.
And it goes on:
But that is it. In each and every one of these things, there are hard trade-offs. You can’t provide tests quickly everywhere. So you need to prioritise. What are those priorities? The report goes not say. But in setting expectations, this stuff will matter. I am grateful to see testing acknowledged at all and to see a Covid-19 Pandemic Testing Board.
Now, I know that it is Day 2. What should we expect? My strong assumption is that there is more going on here and that this is one step in a process of getting to the hard decisions. My point is we don’t have time. There is no honeymoon. The US is losing 3000 lives and $10 billion per day, every day this thing goes on. That has impacts, for better or worse, on the rest of the world and certainly the US’s neighbours.
People in the US. I know you are relieved but there is no time. This new administration must have their feet held to the fire on this. Put simply, hard decisions and priorities have to be made. They will have a political cost. There is no time to minimise that.