, 02.05.2021 07:46 AM

The failure of the Left

It pains me to agree, but I’m not alone. This report is by the New York Times.

“Early in the pandemic, countries with populist, right-wing governments were suffering some of the worst outbreaks. These countries had big differences from one another — the list included Brazil, Britain, Russia and the U.S. — but their problems all stemmed partly from leaders who rejected scientific expertise.

More progressive and technocratic countries — with both center-left and center-right leaders, like Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — were doing a better job containing the pandemic. The pattern seemed to make sense: Politicians who believed in the ability of bureaucracies to accomplish complex jobs were succeeding at precisely that.

But over the last few weeks, as vaccination has become a top priority, the pattern has changed. Progressive leaders in much of the world are now struggling to distribute coronavirus vaccines quickly and efficiently:

  • Europe’s vaccination rollout “has descended into chaos,” as Sylvie Kauffmann of Le Monde, the French newspaper, has written. One of the worst performers is the Netherlands, which has given a shot to less than 2 percent of residents.
  • Canada (at less than 3 percent) is far behind the U.S. (about 8.4 percent).
  • Within the U.S., many Democratic states — like California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and tiny Rhode Island — are below the national average. “The parts of the country that pride themselves on taking Covid seriously and believing in government are not covering themselves in glory,” The Times’s Ezra Klein has written.

At the same time, there are clear success stories in places that few people would describe as progressive.

Alaska and West Virginia and have the two highest vaccination rates among U.S. states, with Oklahoma and the Dakotas also above average. Globally, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have the highest rates. Britain — run by Boris Johnson, a populist Conservative — has vaccinated more than 15 percent of residents.

International patterns are rarely perfect, and this one has plenty of exceptions (like Iowa and Idaho, two red-state laggards, or New Mexico, a blue state that’s above average). So far, though, it’s hard to find many progressive governments that are vaccination role models.

Why? A common problem seems to be a focus on process rather than on getting shots into arms. Some progressive leaders are effectively sacrificing efficiency for what they consider to be equity.

The European Union has taken a ponderous, risk-averse approach that tries to avoid upsetting its member countries, Kauffmann points out. Similarly, many U.S. states have delegated decisions to local health officials and have suffered from “confusion and competition among localities,” William Galston of the Brookings Institution has written. State leaders in Alaska and West Virginia have taken a more top-down approach, Elaine Povich of Stateline has reported.

Some blue states have also created intricate rules about who qualifies for a vaccine and then made a big effort to keep anybody else from getting a shot. These complicated rules have slowed vaccination in both Californiaand New York.

“Across New York State,” my colleague Dana Rubinstein has written, medical providers have had “to throw out precious vaccine doses because of difficulties finding patients who matched precisely with the state’s strict vaccination guidelines — and the steep penalties they would face had they made a mistake.”

The world has one new, and very high-profile, progressive government with a chance to show it can do better: the Biden administration.

The Trump administration fell far short of its own goal for vaccination speed, but by its final days it did get the country close to President Biden’s stated goal of 1 million shots per day. Biden has since suggested his new goal is 1.5 million per day.

To make this happen, the administration is pushing Moderna and Pfizer to accelerate production, as well as helping states open mass-vaccination clinics and expand drugstore programs, according to The Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg. If the government gives Johnson & Johnson permission to begin distributing its vaccine this month, as appears likely, that will help, too.

The trade-offs between equity and efficiency are real: Rapid vaccination programs will first reach many relatively privileged people. But the trade-offs may be smaller than that sentence suggests. Covid has exacted a terribly unequal toll partly because people in vulnerable groups have suffered more severe versions of the disease, as a result of underlying health conditions.

The most effective way to save lives is probably to vaccinate people as quickly as possible.

32 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    This analysis is so fraught with simplicities and forced pigeon-holing that the “but, but…”s keep bursting out. In the first place, the simplistic division of the world into progressives and conservatives (or authoritarians or whatever) says more about how Americans self-identify in these politically overheated times than it does about how national and sub-national governments around the world can be described. Progressive governments were quicker off the mark in controlling the virus? By what measure could China, Taiwan and Singapore be described as progressive? The ones who were slow were science-deniers? Nonsense, they purposefully (and unwisely) chose to prioritize the economy. Remember when Trudeau dragged his heels on banning international travel because that might be seen as racist? Isn’t it science-denial to think the virus subscribes to the UN Declaration On Human Rights?

    Whether a country responded sharply and quickly at the very beginning, whether it is a small or smallish unitary state as opposed to a far-flung federal state, whether it is an island, whether it has efficient healthcare and whether it has a culturally compliant population are more important, I think, than whether it can be described as either progressive or something the NYT doesn’t like.

    All that said, there is something to the argument that a crisis demands an efficient, top-down, speedy response with as few bodies as possible in charge. When your country in invaded, it’s not the time to engage in widespread community consultations, try to use the occasion to right collective historical wrongs or worry about how you are tracking in the polls or on Twitter. Mussolini really did make the trains run on time and Hitler solved chronic unemployment in record time. Remember when progressive voices wanted everybody to send gazillions to the WHO so they could develop a vaccine? We’d still be waiting. You don’t get a vaccine through a far-flung international bureaucracy, you put a couple of the most brilliant minds in a lab, give them lots of resources and keep them isolated from any political currents flowing around them.

    Finally, if the Times really does think progressive governments are better at governing, perhaps it could try to explain why so many tens of thousands are fleeing large Dem-controlled cities suffering from crumbling infrastructure, broken services, high taxes and crazy woke politics for the heartland.

  2. Ken Newman says:

    Canada’s most effective way to save lives is to get rid of Trudeau. He is incompetent, and should focus on leaving office for the good of Canadians

    • Peter says:

      I’ve never liked Trudeau, and I’ve never been short of reasons to want him gone, but Ken, that is pure cant. Save lives? It seems to me that some Canadian “cons” are taking a page from the Dems’ playbook down south. When Trump/Trudeau is gone, the angels will weep, the sun will burst from the clouds and the people will be happy, free and sing as one. Ain’t going to happen to them and it wouldn’t happen to us.

      • Ken Newman says:

        Peter, The way I look at it is that it is a good start. What happens after is unclear, but this must happen first. You are probably one is these liberals who will vote for Trudeau no matter what he does. So tell me, what would Trudeau have to do to make you not vote for him??

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Ken,

          Peter has a long history here and elsewhere and he is by no stretch of the imagination a Liberal. He wasn’t even a Liberal when I was a Liberal. LOL.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Peter,

            I’m with you to the extent that calling a spade a spade should be the only marker and it should be based solely on overall government performance in fighting this virus to date, period.

            In my book, Trudeau is an abject failure at top down management while the provinces and territories are, to put it kindly, a mixed bag. We badly needed Jesus to run the show and strangely enough, he never showed.

          • Peter says:

            Ronald:

            Thanks for the props. I guess the lesson is that he virus is an independent, non-aligned voter. 🙂

          • Mark D says:

            Ronald:

            I can forgive a poor rollout, although like most I cringe at doses expiring or being wasted because of ideological paralysis. We identify the problem, fix it, and get back to vaccinating people.

            But as we have discussed in another thread, what I find truly horrifying is the discovery Canada’s political left are taking vaccine doses intended for developing nations that struggle to afford it on their own.

            For me this goes beyond incompetence, Effectively, we are stealing life-saving medical treatment from those who can least afford it. I don’t like where this puts us morally as a country.

    • PAMELA LEVY says:

      Trudeau will not focus on leaving office for the good of Canadians. He is counting on that Canadians generally behave like sheep. This Canadian will refuse the vaccine connected with COVAX. I am embarrassed to be Canadian.

      • Ken Newman says:

        Pamela- I agree, I am embarrassed to be Canadian, Trudeau is the most divisive leader to ever sit in the PM chair, as well as the dumbest

        • Phil in London says:

          And now I’m agreeing with NDP stalwart Stephen Lewis who is calling Canada immoral for drawing on Covax taking urgently needed vaccines from countries who can’t afford them. Can someone please take Twitdeau and get him the hell out of our country? People who say Singh and O’Toole are not better alternatives are absolutely Brainwashed – Honestly Christ-Almighty, where’s the Tylenol?

  3. Ted says:

    Our problem right now is we don’t have any supply because the people who have supply aren’t sharing, (including the Biden administration) and we don’t have manufacturing capacity.

    Lack of manufacturing capability turns out to be a grave national security issue that is only now being addressed. That problem goes back a long way and you can blame both Liberal and Conservative administrations.

    Soon, in a few months, there will be supply. Is there going to be a good job done rolling out the program when the doses arrive? I’d like to think we’ll be well prepared, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • Fred J Pertanson says:

      I beg to differ. It is well documented that JT put all his eggs in the China vaccine basket. He ignored home-grown solutions. He knew in May that China wasn’t going to deliver. However, he waited until August to approach the other producers. Result: We are way back in line.

      Israel doesn’t seem to have a supply problem.

      • Ted says:

        We have no ability to manufacture. I have no idea how Israel got their leg up. But we have to wait. That is our reality. Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper have regrets I’m sure. But the fundamental problem is longstanding. The China deal was a joke for sure.

  4. Washington Irving says:

    Canada has the most magnificently effective Social Justice Warriors in charge of every aspect of the public service. Our Liberal Party political commissars are appointed and controlling any subversive capitalist pigs who dare spread their obvious racism and misogynic beliefs about our most brilliant vaccine plans from PM dear leader.

    The dear leader and his most brilliant team at the PMO will deal with you later Mr. Kinsella. YOU WILL BE CANCELLED FOR STEPPING OUT OF LINE SO GET READY FOR IT NO SYMPaTHY FOR THE DǝVIL!!! (and more !!!!)

    We are leading the world in vaccines. IN fact, we do not even have any cases of COVID because our vaccines are so extremely effective. Only our friends in North Korea are even close to Dear Leader Trudeau’s amazing, incredible, super fantastic vaccination program.

  5. Gord says:

    I’m not sure it’s a left/right issue so much as a competent/incompetent issue.

    That said, we’ve seen where this sort of “He made the trains run on time” narrative has led to in the past.

    • joe long says:

      I’m not sure if it is a competent/incompetent issue if we talk about individuals. I suspect bureaucratic inefficiency and inertia play an equal if not greater role.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Joe,

        The horse was always ready and more than willing to drink as effectively and efficiently as possible in government circles. Trouble is, this PM had absolutely no frigging idea how to lead it to water, much less how to make it drink. The UEs of the PS are already way beyond livid.

    • Phil in London says:

      Exactly! Competence, substance and leadership. The only thing “left” about our situation here in Canada is that is what’s happened to these attributes. Only thing “right” about it is that we could use some.

    • faithless elector says:

      OK well…. THE TRAINS ARE NOT F%&KING RUNNING ON TIME. A casual stroll through my home town is sickening to the soul. Usually busy places are just boarded up. The businesses that keep everything humming are throwing in the towel. Now look, no one should be *blaming* Justin for this mess, but the stark reality is that there is no hope until he and his tiny group of desperate clingers on finally take a walk, FFS. Canada needs serious leadership, not a default fake Liberal who barely hung on just because he wasn’t Conservative.

  6. Robert White says:

    Th exodus of taxpayers out of New York City can be attributed to the emptying out of commercial office space in high rent districts like Manhattan where even the Retail sector is all boarded up indefinitely.

    NYC will continue losing tax base because of their lockdowns on commercial business & Retail too. Ergo, those that can afford to move away are moving away because of the lifestyle choice and the work from home policy forwards promulgated via governments at all levels.

    The crazy ‘woke’ politicians were always there before and the disaffected Republicans have likely not given up alienating everyone on planet earth with their right-winged fringe uneducated attitudes just because they moved to join their rural right-winged lunatic fringe for gun practice at the local gun shooting ranges where they hope to find Q and his brain trust cooking up the next insurrection of a legislature.

    RW

    • Peter says:

      You’ve talked to them, right, Robert? Can we assume that characterization is based on empirical evidence stemming from solid research?

      • Robert White says:

        I’ve been following Finance Capitalism since 1971 when I watched Nixon close the gold window with my Senior Rulings National Revenue Canada Oil, Mines, and Resource Taxation dad lecturing me on the finer points of Finance Capitalism as I watched, and asked questions at the age of 11.

        I’m 61 today and follow Behavioural Economics, Day-Trading, and Finance bloggers like Lawrence Summers. I am formally trained in Social Science with an Honours B.A. Experimental Psychology from Carleton University, and I consider myself to be a veteran Finance Analyst, but no, I don’t have any solid empirical evidence other than anecdotal.

        I did major in Personality Theory if that counts for anything these days.

        RW

        • faithless elector says:

          …actually, what RW is saying fits in exactly with what I’ve been casually observing in my my home town. Its not just NY, its everywhere. Its going to be 10 years + to recover the municipal tax base in cities.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            FE,

            Governments are going to have to practically tax us right out of existence just to meet their current fiscal and social obligations. It won’t be pretty as the rich increasingly tax haven and the middle-class weep. Pedant likely can chime in on that.

    • joe long says:

      New York politicians will solve the problem by raising taxes.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Joe,

        It’s basic math: 1 + 2 always equals 3. People increasingly want more government services, especially in a flat-lined economy. And who has the capacity to pay for all that? Certainly not just the rich. Translation: taxes necessarily have to go up across the board or cut massively in programs and services. Those are our ONLY two choices. Corp and personal will soon be on the rise once again no matter who forms government.

  7. joe long says:

    Interesting. Trudeau apparently paid $38 per dose for vaccines.

    USA paid $24.80 per shot for Pfizer, and $35 for Moderna.

    The EU paid $22.91 for Moderna, and 18.47 for Pfizer

    All figures are Canadian $

    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/amp/politics/article-december-covid-19-vaccine-deliveries-cost-canada-about-16-million/?

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Joe,

      I guess Katie didn’t get to do the hard bargaining. Must have left it to the boss. Brilliant, that.

      Should have drawn up one of those famous Magic-Liberal mandate letters…

    • Martin says:

      We have 400 million shots on order so, potentially, it will cost us over 15 billion.

  8. Shane says:

    Wouldn’t call myself a fan, but in this assessment I’d say he hit the nail on the head:

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9559312-why-for-example-is-it-still-acceptable-to-profess-the

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