COVID has slowed down the global economy. Some economies were forced to grind to a halt to control the transmission of COVID and slowly reopened. They are guided by science. (And they wear masks) Those are doing ok, given the conditions. Others, the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, are another story. We have three countries where the response has veered from denial to the bizarre. This has made things like wearing a mask a political statement, not a public health measure. It is one of the three tools to go back to normal, but people resist.
This dance, open and close the economy to control the virus, will continue for some time. This also makes closing and reopening more damaging as it will increase fear. We also need to be honest with ourselves. Given the experience of previous pandemics, we are in for this dance for at least eighteen months, but realistically two years. We know the science that can guide us to a safer spot where we can indeed coexist with the virus, go back to school, and open the economy. Yet, we are not doing this. And we are not alone. Brazil and Mexico have national leaders that are also not getting it. Both Presidents Jair Bolsonaro and Manuel Lopez Obrador are following their own path. It’s one based on populism, and distrust of experts. And we need to understand what this will do to the future and the economy.
We may see the end of populism as we know it, post-pandemic. But for the moment we need to deal with the present reality. So first we need to see what is happening. Specifically, the United States, Mexico, and Brazil are entering a deep recession, perhaps in time, a depression.
Both the United States and Mexico are joined at the hip through trade obligations, with Canada. Brazil has become important to the United States as well, as both a market to export and one to trade with the United States. All three are basing their response not on public health, but on populist believes of their political leaders. All three men are far more concerned about the economy than the health of their citizens. They care far more about their political future than their nations.
There are a few things to take into account. A bad response and higher death rates will translate into a sicker population. It will also lead to fear that will make resuming…