At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our leaders were faced with a frightening exponential projection of possible COVID-19 infections and resulting deaths. To minimize loss of life, the decision was made to pursue an unprecedented campaign of mass prevention, versus a reactive campaign focusing resources on persons who became ill and the supporting health apparatus that would treat them. Working under federal guidance, most U.S. governors shut down parts of their state’s economies with the understanding (or at least hope), that the federal government would print or borrow more money to ease the pain of a shutdown.
The federal government did come to the rescue with a three trillion-dollar package, the bulk of which has been added to the federal debt. While there is no way to determine the number of lives saved, to understand the scale of the federal response let’s assume it was 300,000.
Dividing the $3 trillion federal response by 300,000 yields an expenditure of $10 million per saved life (if the House proposal for an additional $3 trillion passes, that number becomes $20 million).
Since the federal government’s debt is our debt, each American’s share of the new debt is roughly $9,000. While many of our politicians (and a few misguided economists) feel the debt level doesn’t matter, the annual interest charges on the debt take up a significant amount of our national budget. Since our federal annual budget deficit is larger than the annual interest payments, we are in effect not making payments on the debt, and are just letting the interest due be added to the principal each year.
At some point, there will be a reckoning for that large balance due. Our young people who are just starting out in life are the ones who will get to deal with that.
In addition to the monstrous and haphazard federal rescue package, the mass prevention campaign has resulted in restrictions of personal freedoms, job losses and businesses closures. Neither the financial cost, nor continued modifications to daily life are sustainable.
We have been told we are in this together and share equal sacrifice and risk. Yet we now know after two months that is not the case. Eighty percent of COVID-19 deaths have been persons 65 and older. Between 30-40% occurred in a nursing home. That means the number of individuals under 65 who have lost their life to COVID-19 in the U.S. is under 17,000 at the time of this writing.
With only 71 US COVID-19 deaths for persons under the age of 24, the fatality rate for our roughly 71 million kindergarten through college students is less than one in a million. A person’s odds of being struck by lightning are one in 700,000. Yet, our kids have been told they are no longer allowed to go to school, see their friends, participate in sports, go to prom, have a high school graduation and work toward building a future for themselves. A total of 4,133 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the 25 to 54 year-old cohort, showing teachers to be at greatly reduced risk as well. Yet schools remain closed and talk of further restrictions this fall is the norm.
The continuation of COVID-19 restrictions around education and related extracurricular activities will be catastrophic for our youths. It needs to stop. Will our leaders and health care advisers be courageous enough to recognize the difference between abundance of caution and excess of caution?
Our youths are being asked to bear an inordinate amount of the burden of the COVID-19 response, even though they are at minimal risk. It is not fair to mortgage their future, take their jobs, education and personal freedoms away to save others. It is not right to destroy millions of small businesses to extend the life span of fellow citizens. The irony is it is highly unlikely very few of our elders would have dreamed of asking our younger generations for this sacrifice. I am closer to 80 than 18. I would prefer not do die anytime soon, but when I do, I want to know I have done everything I can to set my son up for success. Loading him up with debt, taking him out of school, and losing his summer job isn’t it.
What our future looks like going forward is up to us, not the people we hire to implement our wishes. I encourage everyone to make your opinion known to our leaders.
Russell Ross grew up in Colorado Springs, attended CU Boulder, and began his career working as a certified public accountant. He is a small-businesses owner and serves as vice president of the Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 Board of Education.