For 19 days, I lay in my bedroom, shades drawn, very still. I wasn’t sick, least not physically. This is just something I do when I need to think in times of crisis. Like a snake molting its skin, I must shed old ideas to come up with new ones.
From down the hall, I could hear the endless hacking cough of my beleaguered manservant, Roger, punctuated by occasional moans and creakings in the hall, like he was Marley’s ghost rattling his chains. Poor Roger, sickened by his Trader Joe’s runs.
Then, one morning, a bowl of defrosted hot and sour soup slid through my door slot. Roger had recovered from his battle with COVID-19. Now that someone could feed me again, it was time to emerge from self-isolation so I could offer my expertise.
For more than a century, I’ve provided vast and knowledgeable advice to governments and private entities, on a variety of topics, and for a reasonable fee. Whether those entities took my advice has varied, but it has always been expert.
I helped the city of Philadelphia navigate the tricky waters of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and served on Herbert Hoover’s Council of Economic Advisors in 1930. I stayed in the background while advising Kennedy and LBJ on Vietnam, and even further in the background in the Oval Office in 1973. From the AIDS crisis to Iran-Contra to both Gulf Wars, 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, and beyond, I have been there, offering expertise, and getting paid.
But pandemics are definitely my specialty. In August of last year, I wrote in The Atlantic, “It is very clear that someone in China is going to eat a bat and fall sick and that China is going to cover that up and then hold a big Lunar New Year celebration and then Chinese people will travel all over the world. Old people in Italy will begin dying, the U.S. president will call it a hoax, and then it will spread to our shores. We will run out of toilet paper. Then we will all have to stay in our houses indefinitely while the police arrest children on playgrounds.”
Did anyone listen to me? No. But they’re listening to me now. And I’ve suddenly become quite expensive.
As The Greatest Living Pandemic Expert, I believe that we should all stay self-isolated for as long as possible to help flatten the curve. On the other hand, we need to reopen the economy as quickly as possible while staying socially distant and never touching anyone, including ourselves. I believe we can reach these goals very quickly. Soon everyone will have a job and no one will ever die again.
My models indicate that unless we do everything I propose, 60 million people will die with the next 10 minutes. If we take my recommendations into account, keeping in mind that they are only recommendations, I believe that we can lower that number to 60,000 in the next two months, or maybe just 16 in the next five minutes if we’re really careful.
The next two weeks are the most important weeks, other than the previous two weeks and all the two weeks to come, or maybe two months. Look at these charts, put together by someone with no political agenda whatsoever. They feature some dotted lines and some straight lines, and some curvy lines. Also, they have the names of countries on them.
It’s very clear to me that the government is overreaching its authority, which is why we need to give the government more authority, but also less. If we inject $2 trillion directly into American veins, it will help ease the economic pain caused by the fact that we’re not allowing anyone to do anything and by the fact that our entire economy revolved around people paying too much to eat at crummy restaurants. We must remain under indefinite house arrest until morale improves, while also preserving our essential freedoms.
All of this is true, and also false. We are doing too much, but also not enough. Regardless of what happens, it doesn’t really matter to me. I will still be here, offering my expertise. Now, does anyone know where I can get some eggs? Roger can’t make me an omelet without breaking some.