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.”

When last we checked in on Mr. Moore, he was asserting “Once we get this thing contained…the market and the real economy will burst back to life”. So, it is important to memorialize his prescriptions, to add to his forecast of Covid-19 “containment”.

  1. He states there is a tradeoff between lives saved and restarting the economy.
  2. He states the rate of infection to the economy is very similar to the rate of infection of the virus.

On point (1), it is hard to see how the tradeoff works. In Eichenbaum et al. (2020), you can restart the economy earlier and have a smaller recession, but in the longer term, hours worked are lower — because you’ve got more dead! Similar conclusions follow in other papers; see Atkeson (2020). I don’t know of a serious paper that says opening up early leads to a net positive outcome, given some positive weight on the cost of quality-adjusted-life-years. Of course, if you’re rentier who can avoid contact, and let workers take on the risk of dying, for those the benefit-cost ratio is likely greater than one.

In fact, empirical evidence as reported by Correia et al. (2020)  [link fixed 4/22] suggests no tradeoff from the 1918-20 influenza epidemic. Cities/states that implemented more aggressive and extended public health interventions had stronger recoveries. But empirical evidence has never bother Mr. Moore much.

On point (2), I have no idea what he means by the statement. It sounds very insightful, but seems absent of content.

Mr. Moore made these statements as the fatality rate was projected to have peaked (but by some measures had not yet). If there should be a second surge in fatalities — as seems likely in the absence of an extensive testing system — then some of the blame must be laid at the feet of Mr. Moore, apparently a member of Trump’s Council to Reopen America.

Note: On a log scale.







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

  1. Jake formerly of the LP

    Oh, and more from Stephen (Run The Other Way!) Moore.

    “Stephen Moore, a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member and visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said in a YouTube video that he was working with a Wisconsin group that planned to hold a drive-in event similar to the sit-ins of the civil rights era. He didn’t say if he was talking about Friday’s planned rally or another one.

    “They’re going to shut down the Capitol — shh, don’t tell anybody,” Moore said in the “Freedom on Tap” video.

    “We have one big donor in Wisconsin — I’m not going to mention his name — and I told him about this and he said, ‘Steve, I promise I will pay the bail and legal fees for anyone who gets arrested,’ ” Moore said.

    “So this is a great time, gentlemen and ladies, for civil disobedience. We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these government injustices.”

    Rosa Parks. For the right to….do dangerous behaviors that threaten the health of themselves and others?

    The oligarchs need the suckers to be forced back to work so they can profit and stop having the rubes think about things so much. It’s such obvious Astroturf

    1. 2slugbaits

      The oligarchs need the suckers to be forced back to work so they can profit and stop having the rubes think about things so much. It’s such obvious Astroturf

      Well, that’s it exactly. It’s the same old Tea Party maneuver run by the same old oligarchs fooling the same old rubes. I’ll note that our friend CoRev used to participate in the early Tea Party demonstrations. Same old props pulled out from central casting…”Don’t Tread on Me” banners, Confederate flags, MAGA hats, 2nd Amendment blather. The usual stuff. And almost entirely white crowds. And they’ll all deny that they’re being manipulated. Dumb as fenceposts.

      And this line from Stephen Moore is a knee slapper: 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

      I dunno, but I would say that increasing the likelihood that you’ll die might count as a loss of your living standard. Just saying. But there’s no good reason why people have to suffer severe economic hardship. Interest rates are ridiculously low, the US has its own currency and the government has plenty of ability to give people money to sit around for a few more weeks or even a few months. The problem is that the folks who fund Stephen Moore’s lifestyle don’t want the government to make life easier for people at the bottom. Closing down the economy for a few weeks will not destroy physical capital. Closing down the economy for a few weeks will not affect the multifactor productivity; i.e., workers won’t forget how to do their jobs when they do come back to work. Closing down the economy is intended to conserve future labor inputs. More deaths today means fewer workers tomorrow. And more health maladies from COVID-19 means less productive workers tomorrow. Stephen Moore should learn how to do some actual economics.

  2. baffling

    for those in a rush to reopen the economy, are you willing to forgo any medical treatment for you AND your family if you end up sick over the next year? why should medical personnel and others take on the risk for your reward of making more money today? i have yet to encounter a reopener who is willing to take a pass on medical care if they indeed get sick. i am sure mr moore is not exposing himself to the virus as he offers up these solutions.

    1. 2slugbaits

      I would also ask if those same folks are willing to assume all financial liability for the medical costs of those whom they infect. But you know how it goes…being a MAGA hatter means never having to say you’re responsible.

  3. dilbert dogbert

    Steve: You first.
    Show leadership. Gather the crowd of covidiots around you and march on the capitol. Show your cajones!!!
    Funny we don’t see him leading the charge. Nor the man in the Offal Orifice mingling with the hoi polloi. I don’t think he would let an untested person with in a mile.

  4. sammy

    The purpose of the lockdowns were to “flatten the curve” or slow the virus down so that the health infrastructure (ICU etc) doesn’t get overwhelmed resulting in more deaths from inadequate treatment. That danger seems to have passed, so we can start to unwind the lockdown.

    1. Baffling

      That danger is not even close to passing sammy. Unless you are to ignorant to understand, the virus spreads exponentially. Every time you reopen the economy without a virus remedy, you get an explosion of new cases. It is faster and worse than the first couple months of the pandemic, because you will have thousands of spreaders rather than tens or hundreds at the beginning of the pandemic.
      Sammy, flattening the curve only works if you restrict the exponential spread. You do not seem interested in doing that. At a minimum, you need large scale testing in action for some time before you ease social restrictions. By the way sammy, make sure you tell all the senior citizens your approach will be a death sentence for many of them, as flatten the curve is the nice way of saying herd immunity in the long run. It may help the younger ones, but does not spare the elderly.

    2. pgl

      “That danger seems to have passed”. You say a lot of really stupid things but this one takes the cake.

    3. macroduck

      Sammy has a hard time interpreting charts. The FT chart featured above shows the rate of increase in U.S. deaths slowing, not yet peaked. That is under stringent quarantine efforts in the hardest-hit areas. Of course, parroting Faux News means never having to say you’re sorry about the facts.

      The danger “seems to have passed” despite new reports that nursing homes are having a hard time storing the bodies until they can be sent to the morgue. Despite a number of states that were hit later than New York and Washington and California that are clearly on the upswing. Despite emergency rooms remaining overwhelmed in the hardest hit places. Despite testing even now at such a low level that tracking the course of the pandemic in the U.S. is a speculative venture.

    4. 2slugbaits

      sammy You might want to look at Sweden’s experiment with reopening the economy too soon. It’s not a pretty picture. The curve is bimodal.

    1. Ulenspiegel

      “Interesting story on current positive rates of infection. The implications are not great”

      If the virus operates on an exponential function and your resources (tests) have an constant order of magnitude then everybody with working brain expects that we see at one point a stagnation of new identified cases. If the number of deaths still increases 10 days after the number of new cases has become a constant, we have good indication that we have reached this point.

      BTW This was already predicted weeks ago, it was predicted that the apparent mortality rate (deaths / indentified cases) will increase in Germany. This does of cours not mean that the real mortality (deaths / all infected persons) is increasing too.

      1. baffling

        you will find most people do not understand what an exponential spread really means. this is why they think it is ok to open up the economy with a lot of sick and asymptomatic people out there.
        positivity rate is not exact, but can give us some good indicators. i think in germany you are better off than what we have in the us today.

        1. 2slugbaits

          I suspect sammy was that kid who had finished eating the marshmallow before the research psychologist left the room.

  5. Moses Herzog

    My question is why does the CBS rube Major Garrett (who they often assign to White House coverage) give Moore a platform?? Then the media wonders why donald trump views them as largely fools. Frankly, I even question Menzie’s link to the CBS podcast. When Moore makes it to some mainstream podcast the best course of action is to do a Barker Junior impression— behave like a geriatric and suddenly confused on how to do a copy/paste of a reference.

    1. Barkley Rosser

      Oh dear, once again I have succumbed to temptation and clicked on a link provided by Moses since he seemed to think that it showed Noam Chomsky supporting Moses’s claim that “the absurd notion by those desperate for web clicks and some senile professor in Virginia [presumably that is me], that the virus came from a Wuhan research lab. It’s ludicrous on the face of it.”

      So, what did I find? It did not do what Moses said it did.

      Yes, Chomsky denounces people (like Trump) who “blame China” and the WHO. But, guess what? Chomsky says not a word about the origin debate between a Wuhan lab and bats in a Yunnan cave. As it is, while he may downplay China’s culpability in blocking information from coming out for a few weeks in January, he is completely right that there is little reason to dump on the WHO, although they maybe should have begun to warn about possible human-to-human spread a week earlier or so than they did. The problem of course, with which I fully agree with Chomsky, is that Trump did nothing for several months despite lots of information coming in, which has certainly led to thousands dead here in the US who did not need to die. Trump is far guiltier than the Chinese and certainly than the WHO.

      A crucial point here, quite aside from Chomsky saying exactly zero about the origin debate, is that in fact the origin debate as it is currently going on is completely irrelevant here. Nobody serious (aside from some propagandists in China) is disputing that it started in China, however it did so. The problem with China is how they subsequently handled it after it began spreading out from that wet market in Wuhan, which was arguably a lot better than Trump has.

      The one story that would make it worse, and I suspect that it is because of this that Moses continues to get all bloviatory about this, is the now completely refuted claim put forward by Sen. Cotton and a few others that the Chinese consciously created the virus, possibly as a bioweapon. Nobody serious is accepting that story now. It is kaput, but Chomsky also does not mention that, only complains about people “blaming China and the WHO.”

      As it is, which looks more likely: that a lab 300 yards from the original center of getting out into the human population that was working on closely related viruses in repeatedly reported unsafe conditions accidentally spilled a mutation from what they were working on that infected somebody in the lab who walked the 300 yards into the wet market (that did not sell bats), or that the mutation happened hundreds of miles away in a bat in a cave in Yunnan that then infected an as yet unidentified mammal that then traveled those several hundred miles to the wet market in Wuhan to first infect a human?

      That is what we are looking at right now, and Noam Chomsky has nothing to say about this question, despite Moses’s implication that he did. Once again, Moses misrepresents the links he provides. I have yet to see one that was either accurate or said what he implied it said or was not just some completely silly irrelevancy.

  6. Baffling

    We are approaching 40,000 deaths from this “flu”, and that is with the benefit of a lockdown. How many americans are to be sacrificed to “liberate” the nation and return to an exponentially spreading pandemic? Until trump can get off his ass and improve our testing and ppe capabilities, his failures in leadership will continue to damage the nation.

  7. Moses Herzog

    Well, it’s not very hard to figure out why some Democrats that couldn’t possibly care less about working class people, and vocally support a woman who throws the lower middle class out to the wolves love her so much. Because when they look at what a fraud Pelosi is they’re looking at a mirror reflection of themselves. Democrats who love the righteous feeling of giving empty lip-service to helping the poor, but want no part in getting it done in a concrete fashion:

    I’d show you video of the snobby b*tch on the James Corden show, but you can search it out yourselves. I can’t imagine why people with no rent money, no food in the shelves going out farther than 2 weeks (or less in the case of many grade school children) and zero job prospects would hate Democrats watching a video like this, can you?? What on Earth could possibly cause animosity towards this woman, in the context of the last few weeks?? Maybe Barker Junior or some blog host who praises her immense intelligence can clue me in here.

    Which part of this video you think “greatly appeals” to people with monthly apartment rent debt accumulating and no income coming in for as far as they can see a horizon?? What secret plan of deep cerebral penetration am I missing here from our “high IQ” Speaker of the House?? Please lay it on me.

  8. Alan Goldhammer

    Why anyone gives Moore a platform is baffling to me unless they are trying to curry favor with the President. I’ve probably read more about the SARS-CoV-2 infection than most (and if anyone wants to read my musings there are here: I make no claims about any great insight other than about 30 years spent in the biopharma industry. All Moore has to do is look at the meatpacking industry that is in the process of losing 25% of it’s capacity through viral illness. Don’t get me wrong, we do need to start bringing people back to work, but efforts to minimize further infections have to be taken. Emanuel and Romer discuss testing here: If we are going to open retail, social distancing norms have to be enforced by controlling access so we don’t see big crowds in malls and stores.

    to Mr. Moore and all the loonies protesting – I suggest taking a trip to New York City and let them walk the streets or better yet hospital wards without masks. If variolation is a viable technique, they should be willing to be the pilot test study: (personally, I think this is a stupid idea but some of the Libertarian economists are touting it).

    I spend about 20 minutes a day reading blogs, the rest is research to see what’s going on and writing some papers to see I can make a modest contribution. My 20 minutes just expired.

    1. baffling

      as of yet i have not heard from a reopener who is willing to forgo medical treatment, or cover the cost of those they infect (ht 2slugs), as the risk they are willing to take to reopen the economy. of course they will sit in their homes telecommuting, or having groceries delivered, while OTHERS risk the increased interaction that will enable the virus to continue to spread. funny how that works. i bet corev, bruce, ed and dick striker will not congregate at the local tavern to discuss their ideas in person.

      alan have you read any more about remdesivir studies around the world? other than the recent chicago leak, not hearing anything. even less about hydrochloroquine. would be nice if a therapeutic could actually make a difference. if we get that, and the trump admin gets its act together to allow for large scale testing, then we have a shot at slowly reopening the economy. not until then.

      1. Alan Goldhammer

        China stopped the two remdesivir trials they had for lack of patients. It looks like the extreme efforts they took worked to tamp down the disease. The Chicago ‘leak’ was not all that important as it was not a definitive clinical trial. I’m working on a paper right now about how to conduct clinical trials during a pandemic. The current system is not working very well and lots time and effort are being spent looking at hydroxychloroquine which is leading to drugs that might work dropping off the edge of the map. What we need is a short course oral antiviral drug that can be given when somebody first comes down with COVID-19 and I don’t see much evidence that this is happening. Remdesivir is not a solution as it has to be given IV.

        1. Ulenspiegel

          ” I’m working on a paper right now about how to conduct clinical trials during a pandemic. ”

          That sounds very interesting and reelvant. One issue is that many studies, often performed not by virologists and under pressure, lack robust methodology, a few rules could improve the situation signifiicantly.

        2. baffling

          i heard about the trials shut down in china due to lack of patients. this is why we need to be careful about pushing snake oil solutions here. for every patient that gets a snake oil treatment, we have one less patient to assess more realistic therapeutics. we need well devised studies, or we end up with as many new questions as we have new answers.
          “What we need is a short course oral antiviral drug that can be given when somebody first comes down with COVID-19”
          as you said, that does not appear to be in the cards anytime soon. remdesivir is an IV treatment, but if it is as effective as the chicago leak implied, it probably takes the threat of death off the table for many folks. that would be a game changer. you may still get sick, but if you don’t die then we can be more aggressive in opening the economy. IV for a few days is much easier than caring for somebody on a ventilator. we need something, or all these reopeners are going to make america dead again.

  9. pgl

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is showing leadership in addressing the COVID crisis. Biden is considering her to be the VP running mate. So right on cue:

    “Whitmer has also drawn fierce attacks from Republicans. President Trump has consistently ridiculed the governor on television, calling her “that woman.” The Republican National Committee has launched an effort to dig up damaging information on Whitmer, submitting public records requests for information that would cast her coronavirus response in a negative light.”

    1. Moses Herzog

      Whitmer would be an extremely poor choice. I have no idea the probability of it happening as I cannot predict the actions of a person with early stage dementia. There’s no debating he needs a female running mate. Whitmer gives him zero pluses. He needs someone who ADDS to his final vote count, not someone who makes a great piñata.

      1. macroduck

        It would be unusual for a VP choice to add or subtract much from a presidential candidate’s vote count. Despite all the gossipy press coverage of VP selections, there is little evidence the choice matters to vote counts. Perhaps that’s because campaigns do a good job of picking running mates who don’t do any harm, in which case going for the wrong running mate (whatever that means) could hurt Joe. Didn’t seem to hurt Trump.

        1. Moses Herzog

          So you’re telling me you’re a big fan of Sarah Palin?? How about the sportscaster from Alaska on subtracting votes from McCain?? What you also seem to fail in understanding is when you have elections where you know the margin of victory is certain to be very small, the VP decision has much more consequence. No, Geraldine Ferraro didn’t kill Mondale in 1984. And in most elections it won’t. But when the margins of victory become smaller as they will be this year and were for Hillary when she chose a near complete unknown (A good politician on policy, but a milquetoast running-mate)—the decision becomes VERY consequential. And you’re living in an echo chamber of your own thoughts if you think it doesn’t tilt a lot of people.

          Now I realize she wasn’t a U.S. Senator at the time of 2008, but I would argue a choice such as Kelly Ayotte, after she had won her U.S. Senate seat, would have done much better in interviews (think Palin’s “what magazines/publications do you read??” gaffe with Katie Kouric here) and in a debate with Joe Biden.

          1. pgl

            McCain miscalculated with Sarah Palin. First of all – her Tea Baggers were already going to vote Republican as the last thing they wanted in the White House was an intelligent and competent black man. And Palin was a complete nut job who kept embarrassing the ticket. Of course McCain’s #1 misstep was to ignore his own economic advisor Mark Zandi and pay more attention to other Tea Baggers and their opposition to do anything in light of the weakening economy back in 2008.

          2. macroduck


            Palin is, in fact, a case of a poor choice hurting a candidate:


            My statement was too broad. Palin does stand, I think, as an exception to the point that VP choices don’t matter. The exception highlights my point about campaigns generally doing a good job of picking running mates. The researched referenced in the link indicates that Palin was more influential than any other VP candidate by a huge margin.

            I’m not sure Palin has much application to evaluating Whitmer. Whitmer is not a wannnabe reality TV starring, helicopter wolf-hunting goon. Her overall voter approval rating in Michigan is fairly high, and among independents, she enjoys a 20% margin of approval for her handling of the pandemic.

            Personally, I’d welcome a lefty in a Biden administration. However, choosing Abrams over Whitmer would be rather like McCain going to the right of his own position to shore up support among the Republican right. I can’t imaging Abrams backfiring on Biden the way Palin did on McCain, but even so, Your point about Palin seems to argue for Whitmer, not against her.

        2. pgl

          Whitmer might give Biden Michigan. Then again Stacey Abrams would give Biden Georgia. And Abrams is a rising star.

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Why would Abrams give Biden Georgia? She failed to get elected herself there. Frankly, I think she is overrated for VP slot. She is smart bet has nearly zero relevant experience for the job. There are several other women candidates who have a lot more than she does.

  10. Moses Herzog

    Today is the anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing. I have long contended that if you want to understand what happened, Stephen Jones’ book is the place to go:

    It’s funny that Michigan has been in the news lately, because I believe the biggest, largely unsearched answers (unsearched due to the federal government’s fear of failing in prosecution of the crimes, and eagerness to speed up the trial) lay inside Michigan, around the Case City/Saginaw area of Michigan:

    Because of the federal government’s eagerness to end the proceedings and declare “success” by the federal courts, those answers are now in a grave, never to be uncovered. Stephen Jones took a case nobody native to Oklahoma wanted. Yes, Jones is a slight “attention whore”, but I believe he is a man of strong ethics, strong conscience, and a strong sense of duty to his country, and took the case, largely because of these 3 latter traits:

  11. Moses Herzog

    I was going to put a video link of Weijia Jiang up, exhibiting what real broadcast journalism is, and how her and Paula Reid are using something known as a “follow-up question”, which is a dying art among TV journalists that used to be used by Sam Donaldson when TV journalists had a more diversified skill set than the ability to put mist on a mirror when breathing on it. It’s just kinda a hassle putting links up, so, you can search it out.

    1. pgl

      “President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence”.

      Delaying 6 days was criminal. Trump delayed 70 days. Yea I know – others in this nation knew this was a problem but Trump kept telling the public to pay no attention to them.

      1. baffling

        i will add that there was more uncertainty to the danger of the virus during xi’s slower reaction than during trump’s slow reaction. we understood the dangers far more while trump slow walked.

  12. Moses Herzog

    I wish I still lived in an America where women behaving like this one in the pick-up truck surprised me.

    Somehow I have the feeling it wouldn’t have surprised my father either, yet somehow I feel greatly relieved he didn’t live long enough to see it. More shocking than a PhD holder in essence bragging about his ancestor’s rank in the Confederate Army?? Probably not.

  13. Necia L Quast

    The link marked Correia et al actually took me to the Atkeson paper. Can I get a link to Correia?

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