Don’t give in to the morons

Oh my this made me mad:

Citing safety concerns, Lowe’s Home Improvement said Tuesday it will not allow its workers to enforce the company’s new mandate that all shoppers wear face masks or facial coverings to combat COVID-19.

“Safety has been and continues to be our priority,” the company said in a statement to The Charlotte Observer. A handful of shoppers complained to the Observer and on the Lowe’s website about the lack of enforcement of the new mandate.

“We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks, so we are consistently requesting that customers wear masks for the safety of everyone in our stores,” according to the company statement.

What about the fact that these maskless morons are what’s really putting their associates at risk?!  If I walk into Lowe’s barefoot and am just an angry jerk about it, I get to stay?  Is the point here that you get your way by being a belligerent asshole?  Obviously, it’s not great for Lowe’s associates to have to deal with these people, but giving in sure ain’t the answer.  It’s like buying all the candy in the grocery store for a tantruming toddler (which is what many of these maskless folks essentially are).

America has a risk budget and we’re spending it all wrong

Yglesias has started his own newsletter in support of his book coming out and he’s got a great post up on how we’re failing America’s children.  My school system (Wake County, NC) just decided we’re starting on-line only, so, hell yeah, we’re failing America’s children.  And parents!

Love the way he uses the idea of a risk budget and how we’re horribly mis-allocating it:

A lot of The Discourse on the school reopening question has focused on questions like “is it safe to operate schools?” or “how can schools be operated safely?”

But of course there’s no such thing as a safe/unsafe binary. You and a friend sitting outside in your back-yard seven feet apart while sharing some drinks is pretty safe. But it would be safer if you were 10 feet apart and wearing masks. It exists on a spectrum.

And it also exists in a social context. I’m in Maine right now where there are very few Covid cases and in particular I’m in Hancock County where 19 people have tested positive for Covid ever of whom one is dead and 16 have recovered. Under the circumstances, your odds with the back-yard drink are extremely good because not only is transmission fairly unlikely under those circumstances the baseline probability that there will be any virus to transmit is extremely low.

This means that as a society we should be thinking not so much about safe vs unsafe as about a risk budget. If the virus is under control, then letting a bit of moderately risky stuff happen is still pretty safe. But allowing a dozen different forms of moderately risky stuff happen ends up creating a large amount of risk. And the basic issue with schools is that however you slice it, school is definitely riskier than not-school. Mask compliance is likely to be imperfect. Students and staff need to eat and drink over the course of the day. The school day itself goes on for hours and hours. And while there’s plenty of steps you can and should take to maximize safety (in particular by shifting stuff to outdoors whenever possible), the basic reality is that in-person instruction is inherently risky.

But to me that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. What it means instead is that we should be allocating a very large share of our risk budget to schools. And we’re not...

t’s not a huge secret why cities and states have gone in this direction — bars and restaurants generate tax revenue. States and cities don’t want to go without it.

But of course the fiscal “saving” from prioritizing restaurants over schools is just a way of (a) pushing uncompensated labor onto parents, and (b) compromising children’s long-term future. That seems like a bad choice to me. But it’s one that elected officials from both parties are making all across the country.

Needless to say, the federal government could have made the whole situation a lot better by using its own fiscal powers more responsibly. A big targeted bailout of the food service sector conditional on states barring unmasked indoor activity + provision of financial aid to state and local government would have made everything better. But Republicans don’t like spending money on domestic programs even when doing so would advance the conservative movement’s nominal interests in childbearing and family life. That’s something you see over and over and over again in American public policy — market capitalism is very hostile to human beings who want to raise children, and when push comes to shove the Republican Party never wants to do much of anything about that.

Democrats are much more open to spending money on stuff, including on kids, but they don’t prioritize it.

Great points and a great way to think about these issues.  And so, so frustrating.

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