Venezuela was a very different place in 1998. The company was very prosperous. Then, Hugo Chavez was elected. It sounded great. He established Bolivarian missions designed to provide public services to improve economic, cultural and social conditions. It seemed to work, for a while. Poverty was cut by about 20% between 1998 and 2008. But Chavez was also taking total control of everything. He was spending money he did not have and artificially suppressing inflation with price controls.
When oil prices dropped in 2010, Chavez, who had caused many of the problem with his mismanagement declared economic war. That took an economic crisis and made it worse. The economic war started by Chavez has been continued by Nicolas Madura to this day. The result is that in less than 20 years Venezuela went from a highly prosperous country to a complete disaster. Today, in Venezuela, toilet paper is valued more than gold.
We can be sure that many people living in Venezuela in 1998 never dreamed that things could deteriorate so quickly. For the first 10 years, it didn’t seem that bad. Now, everyone knows it is bad, but changing things now will come only at a great cost. Once socialists gain power, they take steps to keep power at all costs. It is a reminder that the government who can give you everything, can take everything away. The people in Venezuela understand that very well.
Think back to early March. While there were rumors of this coronavirus no one gave it much thought. Even those who predicted widespread contagion did not predict the shutdown of the U.S. Economy. Today, roughly one month later, the government has totally taken over. In Kentucky if you dare to attend church, your license number will be recorded by the State Police and you will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Ninety percent of the country has been shut down. Many of you are forbidden, by law, from going to work. You are absolutely forbidden from operating certain businesses, like a restaurant. The impact on this country is stunning, particularly when this happened so rapidly.
The liberal left and the MSM is demanding that every decision, every where is based solely on fighting COVID 19. They have seized the day. You have more government control of everything today than you imagined possible earlier this year. Every news broadcast is dominated by COVID 19. We are subjected to a daily drumbeat of terrifying reports designed to scare us into submission.
We do not know if the risk was real, but the actions taken as a result of panic are beyond obvious. We live in a different country today and if something does not change soon, the change will become permanent. Quite simply if we do not reverse course, sooner rather than later, we have a genuine risk of looking a lot like Venezuela.
The good news is that there are signs that public opinion is changing. While the MSM still talks about the rising death toll, in hushed tones, the reality is that as of today there have only been 20,061 deaths. Before we had COVID 19, there was an average of 7,452 deaths each day, from a lot of our causes. It is far from certain that all the COVID 19 deaths were caused by COVID 19. There are at least some cases of people already in hospice care who are being included in the COVID 19 statistics. But, by every estimate, the rate of new deaths appears to have peaked and it will start trending down. The number of new hospitalizations is already trending down. The number of people transferred to intensive care is down. The number of people being put on ventilators is down. In the meantime, if you have any other illness, you have been moved to the back of the line. All that matters is COVID 19, because only COVID 19 lets the government take total control of your life. Incredibly some are demanding that Trump expand orders to order the entire country to shut down. That is the problem with this environment. Things that would be considered totally unacceptable a month ago are increasingly part of the new normal.
The good news is that in addition to COVID 19 peaking, the tolerance of the American people is also peaking. Even better news is that our president is Donald Trump, who is focused on opening the country back up and reducing the impact of state and federal government on your lives. Things will change more in the next 30 days than they did in the last 30 days. By the first of June, the country will be largely back on track. Regardless of what the liberal left wants or needs, the COVID 19 crisis is going to end, no matter what anyone does. The ability to scare people into submission will leave as fast as the virus itself.
The question is whether enough people learn from this. We have had an important lesson here. We are more vulnerable than we thought. If we put the wrong people in charge, the next crisis will result in permanent change, the wrong kind of change. We already have people screaming that the funding to deal with this crisis must be re-directed toward illegal aliens. We have demands for widespread, unregulated vote by mail that will guarantee results very similar to Venezuela.
This crisis has given us all a vision of Venezuela. If we do not learn from this, that vision will morph from a nightmare into reality.