The Economics of Death

Goldman Sachs got $37 billion dollars in the government bailout (Bloomberg, September 28, 2008).

What’s that got to do with the pandemic? As it turns out, plenty.

Next to movement restrictions, the most effective way to stop the spread of pandemic flu while we wait for an effective vaccine is school closures. Yet, the US seems determined to keep them open. Why is this? The answer is money, in my opinion. If people stay home because the schools are closed, the amount of money that businesses make will be less. How much less? The Brookings Institute tells us:

We find that closing schools in the United States for four weeks would reduce U.S. GDP by between $10 and $47 billion dollars, a cost equivalent to 0.1% to 0.3% of 2008 U.S. GDP.

Well gosh, looks like the bailout that Goldman Sachs got, courtesy of the US taxpayer, would have covered school closures nicely. So, we had a choice, we could have let Goldman Sachs go bankrupt and spent the $37 billion dollars compensating companies for the effects of school closures. But that’s not what we did is it?

And how is Goldman Sachs spending the money it got from the taxpayer? Why on bonuses of course! They are doing so well, after all (Slate, September 25, 2009).

You’ll recall the howls of outrage earlier this year when onetime ward-of-the-state Goldman Sachs (GS) announced that it was setting aside $11.6 billion in compensation for the first half of the year. Surely, given that public outcry and given the bureaucratic gnashing of teeth going on now at the Pittsburgh G20, Goldman has learned its lesson, right?

Apparently not. A Bloomberg story today, citing a research report from Citigroup, says that Goldman may find a way this year to pay its employees more.

Lost in the economic forecasts of the Brookings Institution and the “good news” for Goldman Sachs employees is something I think is more important.

Children died because the schools weren’t closed.

The Brookings Institution did not mention one of them.

We don’t know what Goldman Sachs says to the politicians it has bought and paid for, but probably it is not “We want to give back the money we got from you so you can close the schools”. Not their style you see.

If you can stand it to look at it, Homebody has a list, with pictures of some of the children who died because the schools were kept open. It’s a long list, and getting longer every day.

But let me tell you about just one child: Chloe Lindsey.

Chloe lived in Fort Worth, Texas. She was 14 years old.

From NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, September 30, 2009

A 14-year-old Fort Worth girl who was “perfectly healthy” her entire life died suddenly Sunday after getting the swine flu, her mother said.

Chloe Lindsey died hours after she was rushed to Cook Children’s Medical Center.

Tests confirmed she had the H1N1, or swine, flu, the Tarrant County Health Department announced on Tuesday.


“She was perfectly healthy,” said her mother, Tammy Osborne. “I think she had been sick twice since she was 2 years old.”

She first felt ill on Wednesday and went to the doctor Friday, Osborne said.

“They did the swab test, and it was positive for the flu,” she said.

On Saturday night, her breathing became labored, and by Sunday morning, she could barely breathe.

“She was just gasping for air,” Osborne said. “I asked her, ‘Baby, why are you breathing like that?’ And she said, ‘Momma, it hurts.”

Her mother rushed her to the emergency room.

Doctors tried to put her on a ventilator and another machine to help her breathe. The fluid in her lungs was so thick, it was pressing on her heart, doctors told her mother.

“Before they could get her hooked up to the machine, she arrested,” Osborne said between tears.

She counted 24 doctors and nurses working frantically to give her CPR for more than 40 minutes, but they could not save her.

“It was just like she had the flu, and she was gone,” her mother said.

The Fort Worth Independent School District released a statement that did not name Chloe’s school for privacy reasons, but said custodians had thoroughly cleaned the school with sanitizers.

Chloe was in the eighth grade at Leonard Middle School, her mother said.

Osborne said school administrators should be more open about flu outbreaks so parents will be informed.

“It’s just like when a kid gets lice,” she said. “They send home a letter saying, ‘There’s a kid in the class that had lice. Please check your kids.’ Lice won’t kill you, but the flu killed my baby.”

This is the human cost of keeping schools open. They probably don’t know Chloe Lindsey’s name at Goldman Sachs.  Or at the Brookings Institution. Or at the CDC.

But they should.


One thought on “The Economics of Death

  1. Taxpayers and parents and essential employees aren’t seeing articles about this, either:

    Found in

    “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study, 1999
    Considered medical costs and lost labor value

    1. Medical Impacts
    90,000 – 200,000 deaths

    300,000 – 700,000 other hospitalizations

    18 mil. – 42 mil. outpatient visits

    20 mil. – 47 mil. other illnesses

    2. Costs
    Total costs to U.S. economy

    between $100 billion and $215 billion (2005 $)”
    References: Congressional Budget Office,
    “A Potential Influenza Pandemic: Possible Macroeconomic Effects and Policy Issues”, December 8, 2005

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
    “The Economic Impact of Pandemic Influenza in the U.S.: Priorities for Intervention”, 1999″

    CDC & US officials have been hiding that panflu H1N1 has always been able to be as bad as H5N1 in ‘severe” cases, (see the “WHO Epidemiological Report” for “May 22”, first 5 pages)
    and even though only about 5% of cases may not be able to get better without effective antivirals at onset & hospital care, just allowing the number of cases to grow will crash our systems.
    Who benefits?

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