Joe’s thoughts on the Kung Flu

Joe is writing this post from quarantine at his cabin in the mountains. This will get Joe away from the chaos, but will also let me focus on my writing.

Here is a picture of Joe and his family driving to the cabin. 

And here I am hard at work, writing this post!

I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my family during this quarantine. It’s going to be great!

Anyway, let’s get into Joe’s thoughts on current events.

Totally Overblown

Let’s put things in perspective. The Swine Flu in 2009-2010 infected an estimated 60 million Americans and killed 12,000 Americans. The Flu Flu kills 30,000 Americans every year. In a bad flu season, like we had two years ago, it can kill over 60,000 Americans.

At the time of this writing, the Chinese Flu is known to have infected 163,000 Americans and killed 2,860 Americans. 

But Joe, experts agree that this will kill 100 thousand Americans.

I’m old enough to remember when it was going to kill 2 million.

So, let’s sum this up. Someone makes a computer model predicting DOOM. Everyone reports on this for weeks. Everyone is riled up, and public policy moves forward based on this evidence of DOOM. Then they come back and say, “Woops, actually there will be 95% less DOOM than we all predicted.”

I’m sure they are spot on this time.

But Joe, the death rate is 10 times that of the normal flu.

The reported death rate is based on positive test cases, not the actual number of people infected. Since 80% of infections show no symptoms, and most of the remaining 20% have only mild symptoms, nearly all infections will not be verified with a test.

This would explain why so many celebrities and high profile people have tested positive. A subset of the population with more access to tests would reveal a more accurate infection rate.

Therefore, the real death rate is significantly lower than has been reported. Probably lower than the normal flu.

What’s Joe’s prediction?

This will be the equivalent of a bad flu season, the kind nobody noticed two years ago because it didn’t have a fancy ethnic name.

Maybe I’m wrong. When 2 million Americans are dead, go ahead and leave a comment.

Why is everyone freaking out?

Different Circumstances

The Swine Flu came in the depths of the recession. Now, America is fat and happy. When you are wealthy, you have the luxury of worrying about things that don’t really matter.

New Technology

A complete shutdown was simply not possible ten years ago. Needless to say, live streaming, social media, remote working, and home internet bandwidths have come a long way since then.

The Media & TDS

You’d have to be pretty naive to think that the sitting president during each outbreak has nothing to do with the media coverage.

Nobody Understands Trade-offs

“Better safe than sorry”

-Women who don’t understand trade-offs

This virus is contagious. The plan is to cancel school, cancel “unessential” work, close churches, close restaurants and bars, and encourage everyone to stay at home. That will slow the spread, which will save lives and “flatten the curve” as everyone loves to say.

Naturally, anyone who questions this wisdom is putting the economy over human lives.

So says the IISOL crowd (pronounced ISIL, like the terrorists). These are the folks who say, “If it saves one life, then [terrible idea of the day] is worth it.” In this case, “If it saves one life, then closing everything and grinding the economy to a halt is worth it.”

Well, maybe closing everything and grinding the economy to a halt will have some unintended consequences.

First of all, closing colleges and sending students home to live with their older parents will increase exposure to their older parents, who are more at risk of the virus.

Closing all schools will force some working parents to stay home to care for their children. Some portion of these parents are nurses or doctors, so closing schools will actually reduce the number of active healthcare workers.

Many people will lose their jobs and paychecks. Money problems lead to more divorces, depression, and suicides. People who already have depression and are forced to spend more time in solitude will have higher rates of suicide.

In fact, social isolation has been shown to have negative health consequences for everyone. As does spending more time indoors because of the air quality.

If you’re still in the IISOL crowd, you should consider banning swimming pools. Did you know 3,500 people drown in swimming pools every year? Won’t someone please think of the children?

On the other hand, it’s not the top headline every day with a death counter on CNN. And I haven’t seen any colorful infographics that I can share on social media. So maybe we shouldn’t ban swimming pools after all.

Reasonable Precautions

For old people and people with no lungs, it probably makes sense to isolate yourselves to some extent. 

Nursing homes should obviously control and test everyone in their facility.

I’m sure there are other reasonable precautions that don’t have massive negative implications.

Price Gougers Are Heroes

This is a problem with both government and society. Sometimes governments crack down on price gougers, like gas stations when a hurricane is coming. But a far worse problem is that it is socially unacceptable, and we see social enforcement.

This was the case of the man who bought all the hand sanitizer in his area and tried to sell them on Ebay for a hefty markup. Ebay shut down his store, people found his real identity and harassed him until he “donated” his entire stock. 

Price gouging is beneficial to society. 

Here is a good illustrative video. 

Just know that this is not debatable. If prices are not allowed to respond to changes in supply or demand, it will lead to shortages. This is a law as sound as gravity.

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

– Murray Rothbard

An Interesting Pattern

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern on social media, which has only grown stronger with recent events.

Nobody loves themselves more than teachers and nurses. 

Teachers are so impressed with how teachers have handled the situation. After all, they are the smartest, most ingenious people on the planet. Who else could set up a webcam and microphone in under a week? We all know that they’re the real heroes.

Nurses have ascended beyond the human race, no longer concerned with food or rest. This allows them to work 24 hour shifts without complaint or mistake. Nurses are half fighter pilot, half supercomputer, and half Jesus Christ. 

And if you’re friends with any teachers or nurses on social media, you’re going to hear about it.

I’m not sure why this behavior is prevalent specifically in these two fields. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because both fields are largely dominated by men.

As a disclaimer, Joe also has a healthy level of ego. 

Winners Will Always Win

If you’re looking to profit from fear and disease and death, you’re in the right place.

In “The Intelligent Investor,” Benjamin Graham describes the stock market as an emotionally unstable person, often victim to violent mood swings.

We’re in one now, and it’s time to take advantage.

I would suggest investing in cruise lines and travel companies, which have dropped over 70% since the start of the crisis.

They have dropped this far not because a drop in the real value, but because of fear and the strong imagery of the quarantined passengers trapped on the ships.

When this is over, people will travel again. People will go on cruises again. People like cruises.

In six months, the news will be all about the election, and the China Flu will be ancient history. The world has a short memory.

Do you remember World War 3, when Iran launched missiles against US bases? That was less than three months ago.

I am genuinely confused that nobody is talking about these severely undervalued stocks. People seem thrilled to buy Apple or Intel at a 10% discount. But this is a far greater return. The money is laying there, you just have to pick it up.

We may have hit the bottom already, but there are still deals to be found if you have the cash.

Joe likes using the Robin Hood app to buy and sell stocks. There are no fees for trades and it’s easy to use. Use Joe’s link to create your account. It helps you, they give you a free stock. It also helps Joe, they give me a free stock too.

One final note to anyone who lost a job during this time. Just keep in mind that you’re in good company. Even Tom Brady was job hunting during the crisis.

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