Archives for category: Economy

Dana Milbank is a regular writer for the Washington Post. He writes in this column about Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy.

The Trump administration and House Democratic leaders are in striking range of a deal to send $1,200 stimulus checks to American families and to pump $2 trillion into the flagging economy.

But Rich Mitch is having none of it.

As The Post reported, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — anti-Trump Republicans have taken to calling him “Rich Mitch” because of his $34 million net worth — told Republican colleagues Tuesday that he had warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on a coronavirus relief package before the Nov. 3 election.

Who cares if tens of millions of Americans are in increasingly desperate straits? Even if negotiators reach agreement despite McConnell’s sabotage, he refused to commit to voting on it before the election.

Then, on Wednesday, McConnell had the chutzpah to stand on the Senate floor and claim he was looking out for the little guy. “Maybe coastal elites who can practically find a million dollars in their couch cushions are indifferent about whether we get an outcome here,” he said, alleging that “blue-state billionaires” are Democrats’ top priority — not “working families like the Kentuckians I represent.

Yet McConnell claims he’s fighting elites to “get an outcome” for working families. What outcome? Bankruptcy?

It’s a timely reminder, a dozen days before Election Day, that removing President Trump won’t repair dysfunction in Washington as long as McConnell remains in charge of the Senate.

Peter Franchot, the State Comptroller of Maryland, wrote in the Washington Post that many small businesses are failing and need government aid to survive. Main Street, he warns, is at risk of turning into a ghost town.

He wrote:

The scene on Main Street America is bleak.

Darkened storefronts adorned with “Closed” and “For Lease” signs have become common sights in both urban and rural areas.

Maryland is no exception. From my hometown in Takoma Park to the bucolic charm of Chestertown, many businesses have shuttered or are hanging on for dear life.

But wait! Didn’t the first and only bailout include $660 billion to rescue small businesses? It was administered by the Small Business Administration. What happened to the money?

Thanks to ProPublica, there is a link to a search engine to see where the money went. You will be surprised to see that billions went to religious organizations, private schools, and charter schools.

In the search engine, type in “religious organizations.” You will see that federal aid went to churches and synagogues representing a wide variety of sects. One of the largest grants–$5-10 million–went to Joyce Meyer Ministries. I scanned the site and noticed that her educational background consists of three honorary doctorates from religious institutions of higher education. She is a “charismatic Christian” who spreads the gospel. Is her ministry worthier and needier than hardware stores, restaurants, and other Main Street businesses? I don’t object to Mrs. Meyer, but I do object to federal aid for religious groups.

What happened to separation of church and state? Why was the Trump administration dispensing millions to religious groups while small businesses were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy? When did it become the role of the federal government to bail out churches, synagogues, religious schools, and religious organizations?

Kendall Deas, a political scientist at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, has worked in the field of economic evelopment. In a recent article, he warned the leaders of the state that investing in food schools will do more for the state than corporate tax breaks.

He is responding to a recent study by @GoodJobsFirst showing that South Carolina had cut education by $423 million to subsidize corporations.

Deas begins:

When I was in graduate school I worked for an economic development group that recruited companies to the metro Atlanta area. And time and again when executives would visit, this question would be among the first they’d ask:

“How good are the schools?”

It was very clear to me then that the quality of schools matters a great deal when it comes to attracting investment and jobs.

I’m now back in my native South Carolina where I am an educator and advocate for public education. And I am concerned about the subpar, uneven quality of our state’s public schools.; U.S. News and World Report, for example, ranks South Carolina’s schools No. 43 among the 50 states.

The state’s “Corridor of Shame.” a nickname given to a string of rural, impoverished and poor-performing school districts along South Carolina’s Interstate 95 corridor, serves as a stark reminder that much work needs to be done to improve our national standing in education.

This region of the state, with flat farmland and remnants of industries that have relocated overseas, needs to attract jobs — and it also needs employers who want to invest in our future. But by disinvesting in their school systems many South Carolina counties are undermining their ability to compete.

To revitalize these economies we need to invest in traditional public schools — yet this need to improve the quality of our public education system is too often ignored by state political leadership.

We have growth in some areas. And when jobs grow, people move in — and that means more families with school-age children. But then we abate the companies’ taxes, which puts stress on the tax base we need to keep our schools modern and healthy.

A SEVERE PROBLEM

Until now we did not know how severe this disinvestment has become.

Under state law counties award massive economic subsidies and tax incentives — even though school districts lose the most revenue. Last year these corporate tax breaks cost South Carolina public schools $423 million, an astonishing increase of $99 million from FY 2017.

This fact was revealed recently by Good Jobs First — a nonprofit think tank — along with the South Carolina Education Association; they found that millions in property tax abatements have been granted to companies like Boeing, BMW, Volvo, Amazon and dozens of other businesses operating in the state.

The biggest aggregate losers were Berkeley County ($54 million) and Greenville County ($41 million); meanwhile, poorer counties such as Orangeburg, Dorchester, Calhoun, Greenwood and Barnwell lost more than $2,000 per pupil.

Good schools attract good jobs.

Donald Trump, stable genius, claims that Joe Biden is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, that is, when he’s not claiming that Biden is a tool of the “radical left.” Watch this conversation and make your own judgment. Ask yourself how Trump would fare without a script on a teleprompter. The film also serves to remind us of another Trump characteristic: He is utterly without empathy. He despises what he calls “losers.” It is impossible to forget the time he mocked a disabled journalist at one of his rallies. It’s easy to remember that he called John McCain a “loser” because he was a POW.

This is a most interesting unscripted discussion between Joe Biden and Ady Barkan.

Ady is a brilliant progressive activist who was a supporter of Sanders, Warren, and Medicare for all.

In 2016, he was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and is completely disabled. He is dying by the day.

He asks tough questions.

I recommend the conversation.

Jan Resseger reviews here a new book that explains the full-blown triumph of plutocracy. Trump is the culmination, not the cause. Wealth and power are now concentrated, more than ever, in the hands of a small minority, and Trump has persuaded his followers that plutocracy works for them!

She begins:

For ten years Jacob Hacker, the Yale political scientist, and Paul Pierson, the Berkeley political scientist, have been tracking exploding economic inequality in the United States. In this summer’s book, Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson explicitly identify our government as a plutocracy. And they track how politicians (with the help of right-wing media) shape a populist, racist, gun-toting, religious fundamentalist story line to distract the public from a government that exclusively serves the wealthy. In a new article published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Journalism’s Gates Keepers, Tim Schwab examines our plutocracy from a different point of view: How is the mainstream media, the institution most of us look to for objective news, shaped increasingly by philanthropists stepping in to fill the funding gaps as newspapers go broke and news organizations consolidate?

In their 2010 classic, Winner-Take-All Politics, Hacker and Pierson present “three big clues” pointing to the tilt of our economy to winner-take-all: “(1) Hyperconcentration of Income… The first clue is that the gains of the winner-take-all economy, befitting its name, have been extraordinarily concentrated. Though economic gaps have grown across the board, the big action is at the top, especially the very top… (2) Sustained Hyperconcentration… The shift of income toward the top has been sustained increasingly steadily (and, by historical standards, extremely rapidly) since 1980… (3) Limited Benefits for the Nonrich… In an era in which those at the top reaped massive gains, the economy stopped working for middle-and working-class Americans.” Winner-Take-All Politics, pp. 15-19) (emphasis in the original)

Hacker and Pierson’s second book in the recent decade, the 2016 American Amnesia explores America’s loss of faith in government, our massive forgetting about the role of government regulation and balance in a capitalist economy: “(T)he institution that bears the greatest credit often gets short shrift: that combination of government dexterity and market nimbleness known as the mixed economy. The improvement of health, standards of living, and so much else we take for granted occurred when and where government overcame market failures, invested in the advance of science, safeguarded and supported the smooth functioning of markets, and ensured that economic gains became social gains.” (American Amnesia, p. 69)

In their new Let Them Eat Tweets, Hacker and Pierson no longer avoid the label. They now call America a full blown plutocracy: “This is not a book about Donald Trump. Instead, it is about an immense shift that preceded Trump’s rise, has profoundly shaped his political party and its priorities, and poses a threat to our democracy that is certain to outlast his presidency. That shift is the rise of plutocracy—government of, by, and for the rich. Runaway inequality has remade American politics, reorienting power and policy toward corporations and the super-rich (particularly the most conservative among them)… The rise of plutocracy is the story of post-1980 American politics. Over the last forty years, the wealthiest Americans and the biggest financial and corporate interests have amassed wealth on a scale unimaginable to prior generations and without parallel in other western democracies. The richest 0.1 percent of Americans now have roughly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent combined. They have used that wealth—and the connections and influence that come with it—to construct a set of political organizations that are also distinctive in historical and cross-national perspective. What makes them distinctive is not just the scope of their influence, especially on the right and far right. It is also the degree to which the plutocrats, the biggest winners in our winner-take-all economy, pursue aims at odds with the broader interests of American society.” (Let Them Eat Tweets, pp. 1-2)…

But there is another hidden element of the power of plutocrats. Philanthropies led by the wealthy make charitable gifts which subtly shape news reporting itself. And the subject here is not merely Fox and Breitbart and the other right-wing outlets. Tim Schwab’s important report from the Columbia Journalism Review is about one of America’s powerful plutocrats, Bill Gates. Schwab explores, “a larger trend—and ethical issue—with billionaire philanthropists’ bankrolling the news. The Broad Foundation, whose philanthropic agenda includes promoting charter schools, at one point funded part of the LA Times’ reporting on education. Charles Koch has made charitable donations to journalistic institutions such as the Poynter Institute, as well as to news outlets such as the Daily Caller, that support his conservative politics. And the Rockefeller Foundation funds Vox’s Future Perfect, a reporting project that examines the world ‘through the lens of effective altruism’—often looking at philanthropy. As philanthropists increasingly fill in the funding gaps at news organizations—a role that is almost certain to expand in the media downturn following the coronavirus pandemic—an unexamined worry is how this will affect the ways newsrooms report on their benefactors.”

Those of us who have been following public education policy over two decades know that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in policy itself—funding think tanks like the Center on Reinventing Public Education—which brought us “portfolio school reform” charter school expansion—which led to Chicago’s Renaissance 2010— which led to Arne Duncan’s bringing that strategy into federal policy in Race to the Top. We know that the Gates Foundation funded what ended up as an expensive and failed small high schools initiative, and, after that failed—an experiment with evaluating teachers by their students’ standardized test scores—and later experimenting with incentive bonuses for teachers who quickly “produce” higher student scores. We remember that the Gates Foundation brought us the now fading Common Core. And we remember that Arne Duncan filled his department with staff hired directly from the Gates Foundation.

I urge you to read it all. It’s important!

One of Trump’s newest and most influential advisors on COVID has urged Trump to emulate the Swedish model, keeping the economy open while waiting for the population to develop “herd immunity.” The advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas, denies that these are his views, but his advice mirrors them. Trump has said repeatedly that the pandemic will magically “disappear,” which might happen at some point. But how many lives will be needlessly lost while waiting for that magic moment? The United States has 4% of the world’s population, and nearly one-quarter of the world’s infections. Trump’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic has not slowed its spread. There is a human cost to putting the economy over health and safety.

One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial “herd immunity” strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.

The approach’s chief proponent is Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist from Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, who joined the White House earlier this month as a pandemic adviser. He has advocated that the United States adopt the model Sweden has used to respond to the virus outbreak, according to these officials, which relies on lifting restrictions so the healthy can build up immunity to the disease rather than limiting social and business interactions to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sweden’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticized by public health officials and infectious-disease experts as reckless — the country has among the highest infection and death rates in the world. It also hasn’t escaped the deep economic problems resulting from the pandemic.

But Sweden’s approach has gained support among some conservatives who argue that social distancing restrictions are crushing the economy and infringing on people’s liberties.

How does immunity against coronavirus work? New research shows how antibodies can block infection.
That this approach is even being discussed inside the White House is drawing concern from experts inside and outside the government who note that a herd immunity strategy could lead to the country suffering hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lost lives.

“The administration faces some pretty serious hurdles in making this argument. One is a lot of people will die, even if you can protect people in nursing homes,” said Paul Romer, a professor at New York University who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2018. “Once it’s out in the community, we’ve seen over and over again, it ends up spreading everywhere.”

Atlas, who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has expanded his influence inside the White House by advocating policies that appeal to Trump’s desire to move past the pandemic and get the economy going, distressing health officials on the White House coronavirus task force and throughout the administration who worry that their advice is being followed less and less.

Atlas declined several interview requests in recent days. After the publication of this story, he released a statement through the White House: “There is no policy of the President or this administration of achieving herd immunity. There never has been any such policy recommended to the President or to anyone else from me.”

White House communications director Alyssa Farah said there is no change in the White House’s approach toward combatting the pandemic.

“President Trump is fully focused on defeating the virus through therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine. There is no discussion about changing our strategy,” she said in a statement. “We have initiated an unprecedented effort under Operation Warp Speed to safely bring a vaccine to market in record time — ending this virus through medicine is our top focus.”

White House officials said Trump has asked questions about herd immunity but has not formally embraced the strategy. The president, however, has made public comments that advocate a similar approach.

“We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and to school, and we want to see so many of those great states be open,” he said during his address to the Republican National Convention Thursday night. “We want them to be open. They have to be open. They have to get back to work.”

Atlas has fashioned himself as the “anti-Dr. Fauci,” one senior administration official said, referring to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official, who has repeatedly been at odds with the president over his public comments about the threat posed by the virus. He has clashed with Fauci as well as Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, over the administration’s pandemic response.

Atlas has argued both internally and in public that an increased case count will move the nation more quickly to herd immunity and won’t lead to more deaths if the vulnerable are protected. But infectious-disease experts strongly dispute that, noting that more than 25,000 people younger than 65 have died of the virus in the United States. In addition, the United States has a higher number of vulnerable people of all ages because of high rates of heart and lung disease and obesity, and millions of vulnerable people live outside nursing homes — many in the same households with children, whom Atlas believes should return to school.

This is the most important post you will read this month or maybe even this year. It refutes the basis of American education policy.

This is major study of the relationship between scores on PISA and economic growth. It demonstrates that there is none.

It was written by Hikaru Komatsu (Associate Professor at National Taiwan University) and Jeremy Rappleye (Associate Professor at Kyoto University, Graduate School of Education) for the Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training. The authors criticize the work of Hoover economist Eric Hanushek and demonstrate how his theories of human capital development were widely adopted by American and European organizations and became the convention wisdom.

Komatsu and Rappleye demonstrate the flaws in Hanushek’s theories, which have led to unprecedented emphasis on improving standardized test scores in many nations.

They begin by reviewing a paper published by the European Commission, based on Hanushek’s human capital theories. Open the link to see the graphs.

The EC report was written by Eric Hanushek (Hoover Institute, a think tank on the campus of Stanford University) and Ludger Woessmann (University of Munich, ifo Center for Economics of Education). It laid out the same findings, methods and arguments that can be found in a range of publications in the United States dating back to the early 2000s (e.g., Hanushek & Kimiko, 2000), and reaching back even – with a bit more historical awareness – to the heady Anglo-American neo-liberalism of Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s (e.g., Hanushek, 1981, Hanushek, 1986). These claims were articulated strongly in a 2013 book by the same authors, published by the Brookings Institute and intended to reach US policymakers, entitled Endangering Prosperity: A Global Look at the American School. These same findings were also publicized in major reports by the World Bank (2007) and the OECD (2010, 2015), both of which commissioned Hanushek and Woessmann to write their findings into development policy. The World Bank would later officially adopt the model as the underpinning logic of Learning for All (2011) (see Auld, Morris, and Rappleye, 2019), while the OECD’s 2010 report entitled The High Cost of Low Educational Performance – The Long-Run Impacts of Improving PISA Outcomes would be virtually transferred carbon copy into the EC’s 2019 report. That is, the EC 2019 Report claims that an aggressive, focused 15-20 year reform push to raise scores by 25-points would “add €71 trillion to EU GDP over the status quo” and which “amounts to an aggregate EU gain of almost 3 times current levels of GDP and an average GDP that is seven percent higher for the remainder of the century”. Based on the Hanushek and Woessmann numbers, Andreas Schleicher enticed European leaders with precisely that same narrative in 2010, as shown here in a slide from his presentation below (Slide 34 in the original presentation). Schleicher claimed that a PISA-improvement reform add 30% of the current GDP in 2100, which makes the total economic value of this reform is equivalent to 340% of the current GDP – the exact value shown in Figure 2…

For quite some time, we and others (here, here, here, and here) have pointed out that the Hanushek and Woessmann “findings” are deeply flawed. Our work includes a number of published papers, newspaper articles, and blogs published since 2016. We have tried to call attention to this situation in two previous NORRAG blog pieces here and here. Our argument in the main 2017 paper was simple. Hanushek and Woessmann used a relationship between students’ performance in international tests and economic growth for estimating the economic value of improving 25 points of PISA scores. However, Hanushek and Woessmann surprisingly compared students’ performance for a given period and economic growth for the same period. However, as it logically takes several decades for that cohort of students to occupy a major portion of workforce and then contribute to economic growth. We logically compared students’ performance for a given period and economic growth for a subsequent period. Surprisingly, in doing so we discovered virtually no relationship between them, casting strong doubts on the purportedly strong causal claims (Komatsu & Rappleye, 2017). While we find it disheartening that there has been no response to our work, it is far more disappointing that find that now the EC have turned to Hanushek and Woessmann, paying them hefty consultancy fees to write policy recommendations for Europe. We wonder aloud: Why does the EC Directorate for Education, Youth, Sport, and Culture need to turn to American think tanks to generate new policy ideas?…

Returning again to the larger picture, it seems that now the EU and OECD, alongside the World Bank, OECD and often highly influential figures in UNESCO, are now utilizing the same Hanushek and Woessmann Knowledge Capital claims. What makes this ‘Western consensus’ so alarming – at least to us – is not simply that education and economics are being so tightly coupled or that PISA is being embedded deeply into policymaking goals through these works. It is, instead, that so many leading minds in the West seem unable or unwilling to think differently.

A decade ago, when I wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I quoted a study by Keith Baker, a statistician who worked for many years in the U.S. Department of Education. Baker pointed out that the U.S. had placed last in the first international assessment in 1964, yet over the next half-century had outperformed the eleven nations with higher scores. He concluded then that test scores do not predict economic growth or anything else. Every time the results of a new international assessment are released, whoever is in charge says that the performance of the U.S. students is horrible, shameful, alarming, and proclaims “a new Sputnik moment.” And every time I point out that the U.S. has never been number one on international assessments and that these scores are meaningless. But the press reports the lamentations without contradiction anyway.

Everyone wants schools to open but Congress and the Trump administration don’t want to pay for it. That cost includes reduced class sizes for social distancing, additional teachers, cleaning services, nurses, ventilation improvements, personal protective equipment, and whatever is recommended by CDC.

In places where the disease is out of control, reopening will not be possible. First control the disease, then reopen schools. Trump could start the process by wearing a mask in public, whenever he is in public. His refusal to do so has spread the virus by encouraging his admirers to do as he does, which violates the strong advice of medical professionals.

Where reopening is possible, Congress must foot the bill because the stayes’s coffers have been depleted by the economic toll of the pandemic.

Thus far, Congress has been generous to high-income individuals and employers, but stingy with the nation’s schools, as David Dayen of “The American Prospect” explains here. To see the links and open them, go to his post here.

Dayen writes:

As we head into crunch time on coronavirus relief, the demands coming from the White House threaten to upset the entire deal. Donald Trump remains obsessed with a payroll tax cut, which nobody in Congress, really, wants. Any payroll tax cut with any real impact on people—a three-month holiday would run around $300 billion—would cut deeply into the other White House demand for a relief bill topping out at no more than $1 trillion.

The proper amount of spending for this bill is “whatever it takes.” If you don’t like the cost, maybe you shouldn’t have completely botched the policy response such that major regions of the country have to shut down again. The same people whining about expense are the ones who drove the country into despair. The cost of a continued runaway virus is much higher than the cost of emergency measures to ensure millions of people have adequate food and shelter during this crisis.

But if you really, really must constrain the response, and you really, really must have this payroll tax cut, then I have an idea: get rid of all the other long-term tax cuts mostly targeted toward the rich, many of them passed in the very last coronavirus relief bill.

They don’t get much discussion but there were a host of tax provisions in the CARES Act, passed in March. In fact there was a payroll tax holiday, but for the employer side, not the employee. Not only can employers delay payroll taxes to next year, they can eliminate them if they retain employees. The two measures are estimated at about $66 billion, and the savings falls on the business.

A bigger tax break has been termed the “Millionaire’s Giveaway” by Americans for Tax Fairness. This $135 billion tax break allows people with partnerships or other structures to carry forward losses from previous years and offset gains in their taxes in future years. It only affects people making half a million dollars in income from the partnership or more. The same type of deduction for businesses costs another $25 billion; the oil and gas industry in particular has been using that one, converting their losses in recent years into corporate welfare checks. There’s also an interest deduction available to larger corporations ($13 billion). Certain aviation taxes were suspended ($4 billion); see if that shows up in a lower ticket fare.

Add it up and that’s $243 billion in tax giveaways to rich people and corporations in the CARES Act. If the White House wants a payroll tax cut it can come out of that. Most of the benefits from those changes don’t hit until next year and the payment of 2020 taxes, and beyond. It makes sense to pull up spending (tax breaks are spending through the tax code) to when it’s needed now.

The Heroes Act, the House Democratic bill, actually accomplished a form of this, by cancelling the Millionaire’s Giveaway permanently, as it was due under the Trump tax cuts to come back in 2026 anyway. That brings in $246 billion overall, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, enough for a decent-sized payroll tax holiday.

And as long as we’re talking about the Trump tax cuts, we could eliminate the measures most tilted to the rich and powerful—the corporate tax cut, the S-corporation pass through for rich people who set up partnerships, the deducations for dividends on foreign earnings, and the inheritance tax cuts—and take in about $3 trillion. If the next relief bill simply has to be capped at $1 trillion, then you could do $4 trillion in spending and add these measures in and hit that number.

Again, I think it’d be ridiculous to offset anything for emergency relief. But playing by the rules set up by the White House isn’t an obstacle, thanks to the trillions of dollars in offsets Trump created with his tax law. There is also a case to be made that rebalancing the inequality baked into the tax code is good public policy anyway, and if it can facilitate critical crisis spending under the stupid strictures of straitjacket budget politics, all the better.

Unfortunately, Chuck Schumer is trying to leverage the new bill to get a tax cut for well-off people, particularly in his own state, by removing the cap on the state and local tax deduction imposed in the Trump tax cuts. That was also in the Heroes Act (albeit just a two-year suspension). There’s no need whatsoever for this kind of long-term help for people who itemize when the unemployed and the poor are in desperate trouble right now. Wealthy people don’t need another champion to engage in special pleading for them.

Most nations in Europe imposed strict quarantines, masking, and social distancing. They eventually got the virus under control.

Not Sweden. It took a different route, relying on the good sense of individuals and the hope of “herd immunity.” It didn’t work, according to this story in the New York Times.

LONDON — Ever since the coronavirus emerged in Europe, Sweden has captured international attention by conducting an unorthodox, open-air experiment. It has allowed the world to examine what happens in a pandemic when a government allows life to carry on largely unhindered.

This is what has happened: Not only have thousands more people died than in neighboring countries that imposed lockdowns, but Sweden’s economy has fared little better.

“They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”

The results of Sweden’s experience are relevant well beyond Scandinavian shores. In the United States, where the virus is spreading with alarming speed, many states have — at President Trump’s urging — avoided lockdowns or lifted them prematurely on the assumption that this would foster economic revival, allowing people to return to workplaces, shops and restaurants.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson — previously hospitalized with Covid-19 — reopened pubs and restaurants last weekend in a bid to restore normal economic life.

Implicit in these approaches is the assumption that governments must balance saving lives against the imperative to spare jobs, with the extra health risks of rolling back social distancing potentially justified by a resulting boost to prosperity. But Sweden’s grim result — more death, and nearly equal economic damage — suggests that the supposed choice between lives and paychecks is a false one: A failure to impose social distancing can cost lives and jobs at the same time.

Sweden put stock in the sensibility of its people as it largely avoided imposing government prohibitions. The government allowed restaurants, gyms, shops, playgrounds and most schools to remain open. By contrast, Denmark and Norway opted for strict quarantines, banning large groups and locking down shops and restaurants.

More than three months later, the coronavirus is blamed for 5,420 deaths in Sweden, according to the World Health Organization. That might not sound especially horrendous compared with the more than 129,000 Americans who have died. But Sweden is a country of only 10 million people. Per million people, Sweden has suffered 40 percent more deaths than the United States, 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark.

The moral of the story: Social discipline and leadership are necessary to get the disease under control. In the absence of both, the virus will continue to spread and destroy lives.

This post will propose a GRAND BARGAIN for reopening the schools.

There is a great demand to reopen the schools for the sake of the economy, and there is great resistance to reopening the schools due to fears about the safety of children and staff.

Parents and teachers are worried that if schools open too soon, they won’t be safe. Students won’t be safe if classrooms are crowded. If students don’t wear masks, they will be in constant confrontations with teachers. How do you keep very young children six feet apart? What about safety measures to protect the staff? These are all genuine problems.

What makes this entire discussion surreal is that Congress and the Trump administration have thus far refused to pass legislation that would send the aid needed to help schools reopen safely and help local and state governments cope with drastic reductions in revenues due to the shutdown of the economy.

Some states are planning to cut school funding by large amounts. They are willing to lay off teachers and support staff, including nurses. Under these conditions, schools cannot possibly reopen safely and should not.

A few states, like California, plan to hold the school budget where it is, with no cuts.

But to reopen, schools need MORE funding. They must reduce class sizes drastically to have safe social distancing. Depending on room sizes, classrooms should have no more than 10-15 students. To do that means hiring MORE teachers.

The Council of Chief State School Officers has estimated that it will require up to $244 billion in additional federal aid to reopen schools safely. It might be even more. If that is the cost of reopening schools and reopening the economy, it is a price worth paying.

Since the federal government has failed to take the lead in controlling the pandemic, the number of cases of coronavirus continues to rise, unlike the EU or Canada or many other nations. Where the virus is still rising, as in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states, schools cannot open safely.

But where the virus has been contained, schools can act on reopening plans only if they are adequately funded.

The only way to reopen schools safely, whether in the fall or months later, is by a dramatic increase in the budget so that there will be enough staff to protect the health and safety of the children, the teachers, and other staff.

Schools will need to hire additional nurses and health aides to monitor the temperature and health of everyone in the school as well as psychologists and social workers to aid students who have suffered trauma in recent months.

Some advocates of distance learning think it should become “the new normal,” but the past few months has demonstrated that not much learning is going on, that students are bored and long to be with their friends and teachers, and that distance learning is at best only a temporary fix.

Parents, business leaders, and everyone concerned about reopening the schools and the economy should together demand that the federal government provide whatever funds are needed to reopen schools safely so parents can return to work knowing that their children are safe. It may or may not happen in September, and there will be regional and local variations, depending on whether the coronavirus has been controlled.

But whenever it happens, the highest priority must be the safety and well-being of children and school staff.

It will not happen safely without a massive increase in funding from the federal government.

It should not happen until that funding has been approved.