Around the 10th of each month, The Bulletin runs a guest column from Rich Belzer …month-in, month-out. Local guest columnists selected by The Bulletin typically have an undeniable expertise in the subject matter they write about either through work experience, credentials, education, or all of them.
On the other hand, Belzer writes about subjects for which he has no apparent direct experience, credential, or expertise.
His columns, overwhelmingly political, are nothing more than thinly veiled hit pieces targeting Republicans and conservatives.
This time is no different. In his July 10 column, Belzer praises Gov. Brown for Oregon having the fifth lowest COVID death rate nationally, which is commendable. However, he attributes that achievement, without proof or citation, to the restrictions Gov. Brown imposed on the Oregon economy and its citizens.
In an attempt to prove his point, Belzer cherry-picked three states with Republican governors (Texas, Florida, South Dakota) that had higher COVID death rates than Oregon, but where less restrictive social and economic measures were enacted. Using this perceived correlation of death rates and restrictions as his premise, Belzer goes on to calculate how many more Oregonians would have died using those three states’ death rates; 4,900 more Oregonian deaths using Texas rates; 4,700 more using Florida rates; and 6,900 more using South Dakota rates.
Belzer then declared Gov. Brown a hero for imposing those severe restrictive measures on the Oregon economy.
But he did not stop there. He also stated those Republican governors made purely political calculations in deciding to use less restrictive measures as quoted from his column: “those who survive are likely to complain about a shutdown of the economy while dead people don’t have much to say.” How patently callous, absurd, and sophomoric, but not surprising.
So let’s play Belzer’s game and run the same comparison using states enacting very restrictive COVID measures, even more restrictive than Oregon’s. We should expect to see very low death rates as a result according to Belzer’s thinking and premise.
I’ll choose New York, New Jersey, and California, all with Democrat governors. According to the death rates published by the Becker Hospital Review, these Democrat states’ COVID death rates when applied to Oregon would have produced 8,700 more Oregonian deaths using New York death rates; 4,000 more using California rates; and 9,700 using New Jersey rates.
If he were intellectually honest, Belzer would insist we believe these Democrat governors to be even more craven than the Republican governors he chose in his analysis.
Fortunately, rational thinking people know better. Science tells us that the demographics of age and other underlying health factors were the main drivers of COVID deaths. States with different demographics require different responses.
Did more restrictions save more lives? According to the Becker Hospital Review, the data would appear to be inconclusive. But typical of his past guest columns, Belzer’s once again displayed his pattern of cherry-picking data, foisting a false premise, and then spinning a fanciful yarn resulting in an out-of-context, one-sided guest column. Pushback is required.
Was Gov. Brown’s COVID response as heroic as Belzer believes? Perhaps. I guess we’ll hear come next election from “those who survived and are likely to complain about a shutdown” and the relatives of “dead people who don’t have much to say.”