Let the Blame Games Begin

Below are excerpts from and links to recent articles regarding coronavirus.  As the economy opens up, we will hear more and more politicians, business leaders, and talking heads try to assign blame for the spread of coronavirus and the reactions government officials took.  Humans like stories that have a good guy and a bad guy.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus story is complex.  Is China to blame?  Sure.  Should hospitals, particularly in densely populated areas, have equipment on hand?  Of course.  Should our political leaders have taken different actions?  Absolutely.  It is easy to look back at a situation with hindsight and criticize decisions.  It is much harder to offer constructive solutions that prevent problems in the future.

Leaders have a responsibility to think about lessons learned from this crisis.  I have now had the opportunity to learn from 2 crises in the last few years.   Here are a few lessons that I have taken. 

  1. Debt is great.  Until it isn’t.  I saw a great quote a few weeks ago.  “Asset values are contingent.  Debt is forever.”  (That might not be true if you can print money but that’s an argument for a different day.  Live within your means.  Capitalize your business within your means.
  2. Flexibility is valuable.  We have always let office personnel work from home.  Our IT department was able to ramp up allowing everyone to work from home relatively easily.  They did a great job partly because they had experience doing it. 
  3. Your employees’ risks are your risks.  What are you doing to help them?
  4. Your customers’ risks are your risks.  You better understand them.  You better help solve them.
  5. Your suppliers’ risks are your risks.  You better understand them.  You should work with them to mitigate those risks. 
  6. Every minute invested in developing relationships with your employees, your financial partners, your suppliers, your customers, is worth its weight in gold. 

I recently subscribed to a newsletter, The Daily Dirtnap.  I highly recommend it.  Jared Dillian, the author, brings a unique perspective to investing and human psychology.  He recently wrote, “(It’s) Too much fun complaining about stuff.  Solving problems is much harder.”  That sums up the world we currently live in.  Instead of casting blame, our leaders should be solving problems. 

Select excerpts and article links

At his daily briefing, Cuomo faulted a raft of other forces, including the World Health Organization, various federal agencies and the news media, for not doing their part to caution the world of the pandemic threat.

Specifically, Cuomo targeted the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — “the NIH, the CDC, that whole alphabet soup of agencies,” he called them — and the nation’s intelligence community for not issuing more urgent advisories late last year, before health officials in China had even publicly identified the virus.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/governors-dont-global-pandemics-cuomo-120741785.html

A Wall Street Journal examination found:

—The hospital industry, in a bid to increase profit, slashed inventory of all supplies. Rather than bulk up after the swine flu, hospitals turned to inventory-tracking software to winnow stocks of protective gear and other supplies, hoping to be able to replenish it as needed.

—Manufacturers got bitten during the swine flu, ramping up production only to be left with few buyers when that crisis abated. Many mask and other device makers rebuffed later calls to build back emergency capacity, ceding a chunk of the market to overseas makers.

—The U.S. government focused more on preparing for terrorism than for a pandemic. Despite the severe 2009 flu, the government lacked a permanent budget to buy protective medical gear for its Strategic National Stockpile of supplies for health emergencies.

—The Trump administration further weakened the safety net as it rejiggered the Health and Human Services Department’s main emergency-preparedness agency, prioritized other threats over pandemics, cut out groups such as one that focused on protective gear and removed a small planned budget to buy respirators for the national stockpile, according to former officials.https://www.wsj.com/articles/miscalculation-at-every-level-left-u-s-unequipped-to-fight-coronavirus-11588170921?mod=hp_lead_pos5

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