Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trump’s Implicit Valuation of Life: Back of Envelope Calculations from the Pandemic Response

According to researchers at Columbia University, implementation of shelter-in-place/social distance measures one week earlier would’ve saved 36,000 lives. Given the GDP that was generated in that one week, this implies Trump’s implicit valuation of one life is $1.16 million (compared to typical Value of Statistical Life of about $11 million).

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How the (Soybean) Trade War Was Won

By the rest-of-the-world, i.e., countries that China did not retaliate against. Thanks, Trump!

See also Carter and Steinbach (2020).

Our reduced-form regression results indicate large and statistically significant trade effects of retaliatory tariff increases for the United States and non-retaliatory countries. The identification is robust to pre-existing trends and anticipatory effects and reveals substantial heterogeneity between products and trading partners. We find that the United States lost more than USD 15.6 billion in trade with retaliatory countries. Soybeans, pork products, and coarse grains recorded the most substantial trade destruction effects. These losses are only partially compensated by additional exports to non-retaliatory countries. At the same time, non-retaliatory countries were able to considerably expand their trade with retaliatory countries. The analysis shows that these countries gained USD 13.5 billion in additional trade with retaliatory countries. The trade diversion effects are dominated
by increasing exports of soybeans and pork products. The primary beneficiaries of retaliatory tariff increases are countries from South America such as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Retaliatory countries also increased their imports from Eastern Europe and the EU. These results indicate that the 2018 trade war had substantial redistribution effects for global agricultural and food trade.

Tracking the State Economies during the Pandemic

A couple years ago, Ryan LeCloux and I were cataloging the ways in which to track the individual state economies, at higher than annual frequency (paper here). I think that topic will be of interest again. State employment figures for April will come out on the 22nd, Philadelphia Fed coincident indices on the 27th.

For now, consider the evolution of the coincident indices going from February to March.

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Beware of Definitive Statements

Reader Steven Kopits disputes the idea that the US per capita fatality rates can approach those of Italy:

Reporting for the day May 8, the US had the 5th highest death rate (for this day alone, not cumulatively), at 6.8 per million. Interestingly, Sweden was No. 2 at 9.7 per million.
Here’s the top fifteen in order (worst at top) of 84 countries reporting deaths today:

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What Could’ve Been: Population Adjusted Covid-19 Fatality Rate

Question: Shouldn’t we be doing a lot better than Italy and Spain? Could we have implemented a system of social-distancing combined with testing and tracking that would not have entailed an economic shutdown of the current magnitude (i.e., could we have implemented something closer to  what S. Korea did, had we had a competent administration and leader not-in-denial?).

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When Non-Specialists Predict Outside of Their Expertise

A reader, Ed Hanson, critiques the flagging of the fact that there were three waves of the 1918-20 flu:

You may not be a fortune teller, but you do tend toward being a panic monger.

Case in point, never knew that the Spanish flu was coronavirus. Maybe, that is because it is not.

While not being a doctor, a little research shows that there have been 7 identified coronaviruses causing human disease. 4 associated with the common cold, and 3 known for acute respiratory syndrome. These being MERS, SARS, and the covid-19.

OF the first 6, none shows the the wax and wane you write of in the topic.

That leaves covid-19. certainly the most deadly of the 7. I would rate a Spanish flu like wax and wane, far down as a possibility but still possible. More likely it won’t because the other coronoviruses have not shown that tendency.

Now Mr. Hanson is merely a random commenter; I quote him because he is representative of a group of individuals who are happy to predict with apparently no expertise, and without any apparent reference to mainstream scientific analysis. So, from The Hill:

A potential second wave of the novel coronavirus late in the year would likely be more deadly, as it would overlap with flu season, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) head Robert Redfield told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told the Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”

Mr. Trump has tried to whitewash the statement; from WaPo today:

In a tweet Wednesday, Trump alleged Redfield had been misquoted. But he accused CNN of having done so, even though CNN merely relayed the comments published by The Post.

“CDC Director was totally misquoted by Fake News @CNN on Covid 19,” Trump said. “He will be putting out a statement.”

In yesterday’s press conference, he indicated he’d been correctly quoted by WaPo.

Benefit Cost Analysis with Steve “Kansas is doing just fine” Moore

From ABC News yesterday:

“I think we lean way too much in the direction of keeping the economy shut down to try to save every life, not realizing that we’re causing huge hardship for citizens — again, people at the bottom and businesses — and we’re going to suffer a big loss of living standards because of this,” he said.

While Moore acknowledged that robust testing is essential, he argued the U.S. cannot wait until it becomes more widespread to start reopening the economy.

“I don’t think we can wait two or three or four more weeks for testing….The rate of infection to the economy is very similar to the rate of infection of this disease.”

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