NPR recently reported that Florida’s official disease monitor was fired for not cooking the COVID-19 statistics as ordered by state authorities. She refused to lower the number of positive test results and other statistics to the threshold the governor had set for opening the economy. The state hired a consulting firm to replace her. The firm immediately came up with the exact numbers the governor wanted in order to declare the state open for business.
With its poll numbers tanking, the Republican Party has only the possibility of an improved economy to hang its hopes on. So, there is reason to believe that key Republican governors around the country have been requested by the Trump administration to open their economies at any cost. If the cost seems too high in terms of COVID-19 deaths, simply stop counting. We now see that premature opening of Florida’s economy, based on invented numbers, is taking a horrendous toll in human life.
Official fiddling of statistics is something we expect from corrupt governments. In the 1990s, Newsweek reported that Chinese municipalities, which are responsible for much of China’s economic growth, would rent out sheep to neighboring municipalities to make their agricultural numbers soar at sheep-census time. One municipality that ran a cigarette factory paid its workers in cigarettes to swell its production numbers. Why? Those production numbers were the basis for revenue sharing by the national government, which collects taxes.
“Evidence-based” decision-making is now touted as good practice in American public administration. Every level of government has set up some kind of mechanism to monitor and analyze data important to the decision-making process. But, who is monitoring the process? Who is protecting the objectivity and professionalism underlying decisions we must live – or die – with?
Trump’s Republicans are saying, “Find those people and fire them.”
Bozeman Daily Chronicle Letter to the Editor 7/19/20