1. Trump in travail
POTUS Donald Trump who has contracted COVID-19. This US Today report has a video of him telling us he is doing well. I saw the same on SBS news the other night, and he looked very ill indeed.
We must not make fun of a sick man, but Trump has a way of turning things into a joke himself. Seriously! His Sunday motorcade drive-by was described an an act of insanity:
“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity,” Dr. James Phillips tweeted.
Trump’s medical people were dutifully brightsiding, but did admit that Trump required supplementary oxygen twice. Even episodically, this by definition makes the case serious.
As to Trump’s behaviour, there is perhaps some insight from his niece in Mary Trump Says Trump Family Saw Illness As ‘Unforgivable Weakness’:
- Attitude about illness is looming large over the president’s coronavirus treatment. White House physician Sean Connelly said on Sunday that he didn’t initially disclose that the president was given oxygen on Friday, despite multiple questions about it from reporters, because he was trying to “reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president.
Trump’s estranged niece, Mary Trump, says members of the Trump family have viewed illness as “a display of unforgivable weakness.”
Apparently Trump’s father was during his life never ill, could not tolerate pain in his wife. Trump saw his brother’s alcoholism as moral weakness.
Now he knows the virus better than the doctors, because he has learnt from the book of life. And now as he looks like recovering quickly, he says, “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” This is a disease that has killed 209,000 of his fellow citizens and is currently killing one every five minutes.
Many think Trump brought his sickness upon himself, and the nation. David Corn at Mother Jones doesn’t miss in With COVID Hitting the West Wing, What Happens When the President Is a Liar? (Thankyou John D for the heads-up.)
One of the best weapons to deploy against a killer virus is accurate information—that is, the truth. If the public is fully and well informed about the dangers and the best countermeasures, the better the chances this threat can be arrested. Donald Trump, who with his wife, Melania, has tested positive for COVID-19, recklessly chose not to adopt this fundamental strategy in the face of a pandemic that has claimed over 207,000 American lives and that has yet to be tamed. You know the list: He downplayed the coronavirus (comparing it to the flu), he pronounced it was under control (it wasn’t), he said it would miraculously disappear with warmer weather (it didn’t), he promoted unproven and crackpot remedies (bleach, light, and hydroxychloroquine), he denigrated the most basic means to stop the spread (mask-wearing), and he refused to encourage safe practices (holding rallies with thousands of unmasked supporters).
Trump has mounted a disinformation campaign since COVID-19 landed in the United States. He has undercut and contradicted the guidance provided by his own government’s public health experts. He has fueled the passions of the misguided anti-maskers and provided ammo to fools who believe the pandemic is a hoax. This week a Cornell University study that analyzed 38 million English-language articles about the coronavirus concluded that Trump was the largest driver of the “infodemic.” In other words, he is the chief spreader of the virus of disinformation. That was hardly a shocker.
When Trump’s key adviser Hope Hicks had been diagnosed with COVID, Trump should have isolated. Yet he didn’t, nor did his press secretary say anything. Then he apparently went to a fundraiser when symptomatic.
2. Is Trump really smart?
Trump keeps telling us how smart he is. Is he really smart, and if so why does he keep doing dumb things?
Definition.org has a Ranking [of] United States Presidents by Their IQs which they say will definitely surprise you. To perhaps save you from scrolling through here is the ranking of some that interested me from the smartest first.
They didn’t rank Trump and Obama but gave them 1??? and 2??? respectively.
Then we have:
3. John Quincy Adams 175
4. Thomas Jefferson 160
5. James Madison 160
6. John F Kennedy 159.8
7. Bill Clinton 159
8. Jimmy Carter 156.8
9. Woodrow Wilson 155.2
11. Theodore Rooseveldt 153
14. Franklin D Rooseveldt 150.5
15. Abraham Lincoln 150
23. Dwight Eisenhower 145.1
28. George H W Bush 143
29. Richard Nixon 142.9
30. Ronald Reagan 141.9
33. Lyndon B Johnson 140.6
34. Gerald Ford 140.4
35. George Washington 140
37. Harry S Truman 139.8
43. George W Bush 138
44. Ulysses S Grant 130
To explain, IQ puts the whole population on a bell curve with 100 by definition the midpoint. ‘Average’ IQ is said to be 85-115. Anyone who is 130+ is in the Mensa category of the 98-100 percentiles, so none of these people are deemed dumb. I had another list I can’t find which I think had the same scores. It ranked Obama at 156 and Trump at 145.
So Trump is around mid-range for presidents and could be borderline genius.
There are other lists with similar ranking order, but scores can be different:
The main thing to remember about an IQ result is mainly it tells you how you went on that IQ test.
BBC has a useful entry about Trump and the concept of IQ in Can we tell if Donald Trump has a high IQ?
- There is no single “IQ test” – Mensa accepts results from more than 200 tests, including its own. Some tests last an hour, while some have no time limit.
Dr Frank Lawlis, the supervisory psychologist of American Mensa, says they usually test spatial, quantitative, and verbal skills.
Broadly, spatial questions are about shape and measurement; quantitative questions are mathematical; and verbal questions are about words – for example, how one word is similar to another.
With Trump this is the salient point:
Professor Fred I Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University, lists six qualities that bear on presidential performance.
They are: public communication, organisational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.
“Trump scores low on emotional intelligence, cognitive style, vision, and organisational capacity,” says Dr Perry.
“Where he has been superb, in order to win the presidency, is public communication and political skill.”
No mention of IQ as such.
Trump has mental ability as measured by IQ tests, but is not the best person to make use of it.
3. Frydenberg’s budget
I’m not planning to spend too much time on Josh Frydenberg’s budget due tomorrow night, but here is some background.
This is a chart of the budget deficits since Federation, from around Frydenberg’s economic statement in July:
There is a similar chart with more detail in Stephen Hail’s Big budget spending isn’t new: it’s a return to what worked before:
We are in World War 1 territory, but debt was more than twice as deep in WW2.
Hail is a Modern Monetary Theory exponent who believes deficits can be extended until they cause inflation.
This graph shows how much was injected into the cash splash by measures taken as reflected in the July statement:
This measure helped people who lost their jobs, and virtually eliminated poverty by increasing the dole (JobSeeker), except for the 2.1 million who were not considered worthy of support.
Frydenberg has been roundly praised for this injection of demand into the economy. Apart from those it did not help, the payments fall off a cliff around now:
That comes from Five things you need to know about today’s economic statement, today meaning 23 July.
Obviously the budget needs to reshape the economy as COVID is suppressed and before we get a vaccination. Peter Martin summarises what priorities 49 economists saw in Top economists back boosts to JobSeeker and social housing over tax cuts in pre-budget poll:
I think the budget will be underdone on the first four, on aged care, child care and most of all on energy, climate change, the greening of the economy, university funding and research and development..
Michelle Grattan says the Morrison government needs to improve, rather than defend, its poor COVID aged care performance. Almost certainly they will come up short.
There are alternative plans aplenty, one of the first the Grattan recovery book.
There are plans too on tackling climate change, which I haven’t examined in detail. Here I’ll cite Adam Morton’s
Plan that tackles recession and climate change could create 76,000 Australian jobs, report says, Lenore Taylor’s Our world is facing irreversible destruction – and still there’s no urgency in Australian climate policy and David Spratt’s When climate risks are so high, short term actions matter most.
How can we say we are serious about climate change when 1.5°C will cook the Great Barrier Reef, drown many of our Pacific Island neighbours, seriously threaten the viability of the Murray-Darling Basin, imperil the great ice sheets and forests of the world, and institute an Armageddon-like fire regime?
Yet we must have tax cuts, which the economists rated a low priority: