Branches from the Idiot Tree

Ted only represents those wealthy enough to afford him

Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz is nothing if not a beacon of truth telling. Unless that truth doesn’t benefit him directly. Amid stalled negotiations between Congressional lawmakers hoping to secure a relief package for Americans struggling under the economic challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cruz took to Twitter on Monday to make light of the dire situation.

After Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey suggested that every American receive “$2000/month for the duration of the pandemic, $2000/month for 3 months after that, and $2000/month retroactive to March,” in order to offset the economic challenges caused by the pandemic, Cruz derided the plan by invoking a tried-and-true Republican trope: the soy latte.

“Why be so cheap?” Cruz asked. “Give everyone $1 million a day, every day, forever. And three soy lattes a day. And a foot massage. We have a magic money tree — we should use it!”

Cruz, who made light of mass economic despair plaguing millions in America, is, of course, just among the many Republicans to push back against any sort of reform aid. Conservatives have long used sensationalist rhetoric around the spending of middle and working class Americans to sidestep inconvenient truths about just how hard it is to stretch a dollar in today’s current economic climate.

And it’s not just politicians who rely on dangerous ideas about laziness and frivolous spending in order to dismiss concerns about wage stagnation: In a widely ridiculed “sample budget” designed to show how its employees could easily sustain themselves on a minimum wage salary, McDonald’s famously allotted only $20 a month to health insurance spending, and also used money earned at a second job to calculate net income.

“It’s not a goddamn joke Ted,” Markey, who is currently campaigning against Rep. Joe Kennedy III ahead of Massachusetts’ September 1 primary election, replied. “Millions of families are facing hunger, the threat of eviction, and the loss of their health care during a pandemic that is worsening every day. Get real.”

Cruz, for his part, is one to talk about money growing on trees, especially when considering that he supported the Republican-backed plan to earmark $500 billion in loans from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to be used in order to revive struggling businesses. It’s also worth noting that Cruz himself even personally spearheaded an initiative to expand that program to include much larger companies, and sought to increase the maximum loan amount from $150 million to $200 million for struggling companies.

Texas GOP Chairman Allen West claims coronavirus has a ‘99.9% recovery rate’ in Texas

Texas Republicans selected a new party leader at last month’s virtual state convention, overwhelmingly supporting retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, a former one-term U.S. House member from Florida as chairman over incumbent James Dickey.

West described some state-level actions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in the state as tyrannical during his address to delegates during the convention — a criticism that he has carried over to media appearances following his election.

West described the same recovery rate during an interview with a television station in Dallas on Sunday, stating: “99.9% of Texans are able to recover from COVID-19.”

Is that accurate? West’s numbers for positive cases and deaths are outdated and his figure for the recovery rate is wrong.

“The statement that COVID-19 “has a 99.9% recovery rate” is something I would characterize as false,” said Cory Zigler, an associate professor of statistics and data sciences and of women’s health at the University of Texas.

Coronavirus figures in Texas

At the time of West’s statement on July 27, Texas was reporting 385,923 positive COVID-19 test results from molecular tests and 5,713 fatalities connected to the coronavirus. The state has since corrected the number of fatalities for July 27 as 5,489.

West said the numbers he used in his calculation were from mid-July. When asked about the formula he used to calculate his recovery rate — recoveries versus the state’s population — he said it was meant to show the impact of the virus in the state.

“I chose that comparative means because we would use the same methodology to assess any illness affects against the greater population,” he said in a statement (which was later posted to the Texas Republican Party’s Facebook page).

But that’s not true.

Zigler said calculating the recovery rate would involve a count of the people who have been infected with COVID-19 and the count of those who recover — which in West’s definition is all those who did not die. The latest numbers would put that rate closer to 98.7%

Comparing recoveries to the population at-large does not produce a recovery rate.

“You don’t recover from something you’ve never had,” Zigler said.

Oh but wait…..

From Aug. 10 to the end of the month, UT-Austin’s model suggests Texas could see a 177% increase in deaths.

Texas is predicted to see a steep increase in coronavirus deaths by the end of August. By Aug. 31, the model predicts nearly 23,460 Texans will have died from coronavirus. As of Aug. 10, 8,459 people have died.

For this prediction to become reality, that means more than 15,000 people would die from coronavirus in the next 21 days. That means that more than 700 people would die per day on average during the next three weeks. The predicted escalation of new deaths would be a 177% increase in 21 days. KVUE reached out to UT regarding the model’s prediction. After this story was published, UT told KVUE a data point from July 27, where the State reported 1202 deaths that day, “may be affecting the model’s projections.” 

Several news outlets have reported today on the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium’s projections for deaths through the end of August in Texas. The model uses anonymized cell-phone mobility data alongside historic death data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University to project future deaths at the Metropolitan and State level.  Additionally, the model is projecting increasing numbers of deaths in the coming weeks based on recent upticks in deaths across the state coupled with elevated mobility patterns. The mortality data do not yet reflect the slowdown in transmission that occurred following mid-June changes in COVID-19 policies and behavior.

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