Friday, April 17, 2020

David Stockman Asks Governor Cuomo the Big Question

David Stockman writes:

We are getting sick and tired of the CNN/Cuomo Brothers inquisition and the Covid- death Cavalcade. Their relentless, morose, partisan coverage of the coronavirus pandemic is the single greatest campaign of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, scaremongering and elitist prattle we can recall in our entire lifetime...

The New York data, in fact, show that Covid-19 almost pinpointedly attacks the old, the frail and the medically vulnerable, not the general population. 

In turn, that means that public health measures should be focused on identifying, isolating, protecting, treating and supporting the very small sub-population that is bearing the brunt of the illness and deaths, while allowing the vast bulk of the population to get back to normal social and economic life forthwith. 

As we document below, the peak of new cases and deaths is now in the rear-view mirror. So what we can glean from the New York stats through April 13th reporting is definitive and will only get even more definitive in the weeks ahead...

 As of Wednesdday afternoon, New York had reported 10,834 corona deaths or 45% of the national total. But when you look at the break-out by age categories and rates relative to population, the numbers are simply stunning:

• Under 50 years: 642 deaths or 4.9 per 100,000; 
• 50-69 years: 3,174 deaths or 65 per 100,00; 
• 70-79 years: 2,888 deaths or 272 per 100,000; 
• 80 years+: 4,130 deaths or 1,086 per 100,000. 

In short, 18% of all the Covid-19 nationwide deaths crawling across the CNN screen today have been among New Yorkers 80 years and older; and 7,018 or 30% of national deaths and 65% of New York Covid-19 deaths have been among those 70 years and older. 

To be sure, as a member of the 70+ class of New York residents, we don’t begrudge anyone the longest and happiest life possible. But we are here talking about the appropriate public policy response to a bad winter flu and suggest that when the mortality ratio for the over 80 population is 222 times higher than for those under 50 years old, then one size surely does not fit all. 

Indeed, when it comes to quarantines and contact tracing, the Cuomo brigade has it ass- backwards. To wit, leave the general population alone where quarantine is unnecessary and contact tracing is a ridiculous needle-in-the-haystack waste of time, and target protection measures on the vulnerable, instead. 

After all, in the entire state of New York there are only 382,000 souls age 80 or over. Would it not have been far more rational for Governor Cuomo’s health department minions to track down these 382,000 vulnerable elderly rather than to shutdown the entire economy of the state in order protect 13.05 million folks under 50 years from a death risk which amounts to a minuscule 4.9 per 100,000? 

In all honesty, that latter figure is a rounding error in the scheme of things. Every year in New York state, 11,760 persons under 50 years or 91.3 per 100,000 suffer an untimely death—including 3,428 from auto and other accidents and 917 from suicides. 
Since the infection wave, hospitalizations and death numbers have now clearly peaked and will be falling sharply in the weeks ahead, we can say with some considerable confidence that when the Covid is gone, it is doubtful whether more than 917 New Yorkers under 50—the normal year suicide population— will have died WITH the coronavirus. 
That’s 7.0 souls per 100,000—and its just plain insane to got into plenary Lockdown on their account—especially because the predominant share of under 50 year-olds who have succumbed WITH the coronavirus were also suffering from one or more morbidities, especially hypertension, diabetes and COPD (see below). 
Indeed, that gets us to the even more damning stats in the New York data. To wit, only 1,242 or 11% of New York’s 10,834 Covid-deaths (as of April 13) were not accompanied by at least one of the top 10 co-morbidities. 
By contrast, of the 9,592 cases with these conditions, the total co-morbidities were 19,280. That means the New Yorkers among this group died with an average of 2.01 co- morbidities, and some with three or four. 
Again, when you stratify by age, the injunction to identify, trace, isolate and treat by indicated vulnerability could not be more dispositive. Among the 4,130 persons aged 80 or older who have died in New York, 
2,489 or 60% had hypertension; 
1,264 or 31% had diabetes; 
845 had hyperlipidemia (blood disorder); 
605 had coronary artery disease; 
819 had dementia; 
425 had renal disease; 
534 had COPD; 
366 had cancer; 
386 had congestive heart failure. 

So Governor Cuomo, riddle us this. In lieu of your daily reality TV show and presidential campaign audition, why didn’t you mobilize the doctors and health authorities to identify these 10,834 medically imperiled among the thousands more with like and similar conditions among the 382,000 octogenarians in your state in order that every possible precaution could have been taken weeks ago?

Read the rest of Stockman's analysis here.

David Stockman was Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.


  1. Good comment I read on another blog:

    “I’m a CPA & we’ve stopped preparing tax returns for over 2 weeks now to assist our small business clients obtain SBA loans. We’re overwhelmed and our clients’ businesses are dying. There’s the child care operator – an “essential” service, but she has zero customers & calls daily crying. There’s the 50 year old independent RV sales & servicing firm that survived 9/11 & the 2007/2008 bank crash, but now they’re going under. Dad founded it & the three children, now in their late 50’s / early 60’s, are watching their legacy & live’s work crumble. As one told me: “even if we can get a loan we’ll spend the rest of our lives paying it back, leaving no funds to complete our retirement savings”.

    Then today we find out that the SBA funds for small businesses have been depleted, with Congress in a stalemate on replenishing the fund.

    I simply cannot believe what it happening. Never, ever, did I think our governments & leaders, federal, state, & local, Republicans & Democrats, would ever actively destroy our economy. Who ever thought that shutting down the economy was even an option? It’s never been done. You can’t swing a dead cat & not hit a COVID-19 projection model, but did anyone at all model the economic impact of such a radical strategy?! I’m a Christian, but even Easter could not relieve the bitterness I feel, & I suspect it will never go away.

    I appreciate the risks taken by our medical professionals, although I question why those at greatest risk (older nurses & physicians) were put in action given that the strain on the system (other than for a short time in NYC) has not materialized. But with all due respect, they are getting paid. So while I’ll gladly tie a white ribbon around my trees to show my support, I’ll also be tying a black ribbon around those same trees to mourn those who have sacrificed their jobs & businesses.

    This must stop now. Everyone must go back to work. Assistance for small businesses must be passed now. All the judges, governors & “experts” who supported the shut down should stop taking salaries now. Finally, we must never again divide our country into “essential” & “nonessential” work – there’s no such thing as a non-essential job or business, if for no other reason than they pay the taxes that support our great healthcare system.”

  2. A few facts to counter you & Stockman's mostly political argument:

    1. Just because the 80+ group have deaths at a higher rate than 30 - 50 year-old group, does NOT mean that it "pinpointedly attacks the old, the frail ..."

    You each act as if you have discovered some new principle. Other than wars & related, every year since Adam & Eve, 80 year olds die at a much, much higher rate than those much younger.

    From the Austrian epistemological works, I would hope you each would consider more than the mere "apparent" historical facts.

    Not only has covid-19 resulted in cases & deaths of much younger people, but RNs & MDs, whom are generally younger, healthier, & use to heavy stress, have not only contacted, but also died from covid-19.

    It seems the amount of contact / load / exposure to covid relates to ability for an individual to survive.

    From that perspective, it is also no miracle that with stay-at-home orders / actions in most of the Country, those 30-40 year olds are "safer." I have no doubt after the new Trump guidelines, as areas "open up," the virus will spread dramatically to other age groups.

    To further underline: we do not know even those whom have recovered, how much protection that provides. There seem to be a number of cases of re-infection.

    2. Calling this just a "flu," is as wrong as when Trump dismissed it for weeks in that manner. It is "novel" for a reason: mankind has never seen this. We are just learning how deadly, etc. It has little in common with the common flu.

    3. You both assume that if we are not in the 80+ group, we should not be concerned. First, other things being equal, most 30-40-50-60 year-olds, will one day be 80.

    But more significant, humans generally value life, including the life of others. Few want to be responsible to spreading an illness that causes death, even to an 80 year-old.

    Related, is that the main reason for the stay-at-home orders was NOT to stop covid-19, but merely to avoid the health care system from being unable to handle the load. Most people consider it an essential value to be able to go to an MD/hospital if necessary.

    4. Politically & economically, why don't you & Stockman focus on Fed Reserve actions & the "stimulus" actions. Even more impt, the FDA, CDC, "public" hospitals, and medically licensing generally. Cuomo has "permitted" some medical students to work in hospitals. Many jobs do not have to be performed by MDs, RNs, etc. For years I've maintained that Hippocrates would not be legally permitted to practice medicine!

    5. I'm an Ayn Rand follower, but understand why you & Stockman are generally opposed to all Gov't actions, but IMO, one of the legitimate functions of Gov't is to protect individual rights, including from foreign attack. I doubt Rand then considered a virus as an "attack," but I think it fits in that epistemological category. (Perhaps more so because IMO it likely was created by the only level 4 lab in China, where they experimented with coronaviruses.) I strongly disagree with many of the actions by Trump, Congress, & Cuomo , but conceptually consider a response to covid-19 a very legit Gov't endeavor.


    1. Re #5, how can a government have any credibility in the quest to "protect individual rights" when it tramples on these rights to finance itself through taxes and to seize land with violence?

  3. For Anonymous at 7:20 AM :

    You promised a few facts. Can you please provide some facts for your statement:

    >> Not only has covid-19 resulted in cases & deaths of much younger people, but RNs & MDs, whom are generally younger, healthier, & use to heavy stress, have not only contacted, but also died from covid-19. <<

    And this one:

    >> Calling this just a "flu," is as wrong as when Trump dismissed it for weeks in that manner. It is "novel" for a reason: mankind has never seen this. We are just learning how deadly, etc. It has little in common with the common flu. <<

    And one comment on your statement

    >> Few want to be responsible to spreading an illness that causes death, even to an 80 year-old. <<

    You may want to think a bit further about your definition of responsibility in this example. The current culture proliferates spurious notions of "responsibility" in an attempt to make everyone - especially successful individuals trying to operate in a free PPS - culpable for the difficulties or failings of others. Are we "spreading" harm to others by our "racist," or "sexist," or "classicist" views? It has been argued, "Yes."

    For a great argument on the question of responsibility as the rationale for the clampdown:



    1. Thanks for reading / thinking about my comment.

      1. Have you searched re health care workers & covid deaths? Just a couple:

      Sadly, most of the health workers / deaths were due to Trump, etc., dismissing this as just another flu, & not providing adequate protective equipment, which is still not available.

      2. Re another "flu?" Seriously, do some homework: it is more contagious & far more deadly. There is no natural immunity; not clear that one can not be re-infected, etc. "Novel" has a real rational meaning in the medical / scientific realm.

      3. I did not mean "responsible" to be in the legal sense. One does not hit a pedestrian crossing "illegally" just to make a point, even though the accident would not be your fault: humans actually prefer NOT to harm others, given options.

      4. The sole purpose of the lock-down was to save the health care system, regardless of what may have been said by some. Had that not occurred, in opinion of many, all hospitals would have been over-run by covid patients. That did not occur at least largely because of lock-down. Look at situation such as Italy for actions prior to any lock-downs. I would maintain that hospitals are crucial for U.S. citizens, as are health-care works / MDs. The lock-down has avoided that potential catastrophe -- but just for now.

      I think esp U.S. Gov't -- all levels -- did not focus on various testing for covid. Despite Trump claims there is still less than 1% testing, vs much higher % in many other countries. Testing --even antigen testing -- does not solve the problem, but could help to identify high risk / contagious people.

      I don't expect my comments will influence you, nor Robert, nor Stockman in any significant manners. However, likely there are some readers whom have not considered other factors.

      Let's see how you et all respond should infections spread even areas / states as they relax lock-downs. A vaccine will take likely 18 months, & although Gilead's anti-viral is now showing some positive results, that is a hospital infusion, as one approaches death, & the full trial results will not be in for about a month. But that will only help a few.


    2. Yup, the vaccine 18 months, while the microchip is ready now courtesy of Mr. Wm. Gates.
      So we can be thankful for that.
      Now they just have to make both mandatory.
      (Bill's working on it, so no worries.)

  4. Just out, re health care workers & covid, including ages, etc:

  5. "Ninety percent of the infected health care patients were not hospitalized. Of the 8% to 10% who were, up to 5% were admitted to intensive care. Among the 27 who died, 10 were 65 years old or older."

    1. So more than 60% who died were less than age 65. Everyone certainly should feel safe now.

  6. 1) It seems to me that David Stockman's assessment is not brought into question by the articles you cite; he is using official numbers, and is not refuting them, but simply interpreting them to show that the situation is not what it is being portrayed to be by the politicians. In fact, the first article you cite does not support your statement, as it points out the large number of hospital workers who had died were over 65 years of age!

    2) If you are familiar with the many (well referenced) posts to this site, you would have ample reason to be skeptical of establishment main stream sources, such as CNN. I and many here, do a lot of serious searching for information beyond the main outlets. I had hoped you would have presented better sources for your facts.

    3) I did not write or imply anything about "legal" responsibility, so I don't follow you on that.

    Lastly, I don't much appreciate, in your response to my reasonable and polite question to you, that I am to "do your homework," (especially since there are countless doctors and people experienced in related fields who are arguing that this is like many flues - see here:

    I'll be signing off now - but all the best.


  7. Sorry if you feel offended by any of my comments; I tried to stick to facts, but communicating in terse comments is awkward, at best. But for you to ask questions, clearly without investigating indicates to me your goal is likely more to present an agenda, rather than gather facts. If wrong, I apologize.

    For the record, I've read this blog, several times daily, for at least 15 years. I consider Robert one of the best Austrian economists; same with Stockman. My Austrian background goes back to college days, when I read every work by von Mises in English, & later attended some of the "Friends of Mises" meetings at NYU whenever I returned to NYC area.

    I'm skeptical of the media generally, but many facts can be confirmed from various sources.

    I obviously could not, nor did I try to present a full case. That the old are the first to suffer infections and deaths with covid is no different than impact of almost every disease.

    One of my points is just because that group is first to be impacted, does not mean one could conclude they are the only endangered group. World-wide many age groups below 65 have died; including many otherwise very healthy individuals.

    Absolutely nothing has been done to resolve covid infections. That hospital admissions have lessened is the result of lock-downs. Let's see what happens as Michigan (likely first) and other areas / states open-up per whims of Trump. Almost everyone wants to re-start economic activity; that is not the question. How best to do that, with safety is the issue. To even consider that that when 1% of the population has been tested is very dangerous, IMO.

    1. If by "almost everyone" you mean both parties to transactions not just businesses, then I'll trust the business owners, employees, and customers over the government to assess the risks and benefits to engage in any transactions. Too often we strive for perfection (impossible) when excellence (as perceived by customers) will suffice because everyone learns from everyone's mistakes thanks to social media. Let's start bottom up and because each individual, neighborhood, city, county, region is demographically unique, the risk levels re different, better for them to decide what works for them.

  8. OK, I lied: another post:

    I'm not a fan of WHO, but some of their output may be useful. Just out: no evidence antibody tests show immunity

    1. Antibody tests don't show immunity, they show past or current infection.

      Also, antibodies are the alarms of the specific immunity, they detect the infected cells and pathogens. They actually comprise (with immune cells like T-cells and B-cells) the mechanism of specific immunity.

      Given that several countries already have the epidemic nearly gone, it is VERY safe to assume that there's immunity to COVID-19, and that the presence of antibodies indicate that it is working.

      And CNBC is a propaganda outlet working hard to make you scared and stupid.

    2. averros, could you please explain how your first two paragraphs relate to one another (pathology is not my area)? If antibodies comprise the mechanism of specific immunity, then isn't that as good as showing immunity from a past or current infection? Are you saying that you could have antibodies but not be immune?

  9. Suggestion - comments should be made by real people with real names who have an active interest in economic discusion and debate. Posting as "anonymous" or using other sobriquets diminshes intelligent and informed discourse. We should all know who we are conversing with regarding economic topics. Over to you, Bob.....

    1. Suggestion - use your real name yourself first before berating others.

      As for me, I'm keeping my professional persona separate from my personal life and opinions. After all, I work among leftist humaniform hamsters, and don't care to spook them, as it will cause material damage to my ability to make a living.