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  • March 12th, 2020



By Joel M. Vance


Considering the precipitous plunge of the stock market, I have a tip for would-be investors. Our savvy business leader Donald J Trump, who used to spend more time practicing bankruptcy than he did at anything other than playing golf, recommends that investors, rather than running for the exits, spend more money buying stocks.


Okay, so I don’t know squat about the stock market, but I do have a surefire investment tip. You may have read that people, in blind panic over the potential spread of coronavirus, have been stockpiling toilet paper. Our son-in-law recently went shopping in Colorado Springs and the shelf normally containing Charmin and other paper products euphemistically titled toilet tissue, was bare.


Now, here’s my stock market tip: those of you with country roots may recall or have heard that in the absence of toilet paper and when the Sears and Roebuck catalog got down to the last few pages, our rural forebears resorted to more primitive methods of cleaning up after a trek to the little house out back. Among those emergency sanitary measures was the corncob— the very thought to a modern mind is enough to cause incipient hemorrhoids, but in olden times you made do. You see where I’m going with this don’t you? Here is a chance (assuming there is on the futures market an entry for corn byproducts) to clean up so to speak (I probably should apologize for that pun, but won’t).


There always has been a thriving market for corncobs in my home state, Missouri. Washington Missouri, a charming town on the Missouri River, blissfully and thankfully far removed from the similarly named seat of insanity located far to the east but with the same name, is the home of the corncob pipe. Corncob pipes have been made in Washington for 150 years at the Missouri Meerchaum Corncob Pipe Company, handcrafted for six generations.


The company grows its own corn on 150 acres, from corn hybridized, in cooperation with the University of Missouri’s agricultural school to create the best cob to be crafted into a smoking implement. Pipes range from about $17-$50 depending on how fancy you want the finished result to be. The company does not, nor would I expect them ever to advertise a secondary use of their cobs for you-know-what.


So now we come to the situation which everyone is sweating (hoping that the sweating is not a symptom) that of coronavirus becoming a pandemic of the magnitude of so-called Spanish flu which killed millions of people worldwide in 1918. That death toll seems unlikely, given the statistics that 80% of coronavirus victims have only a mild case, another 14% something more severe, and a final 5% suffer a fatal case. So an infected person has a 95% chance of surviving. Sounds like good odds, unless you’re in that 5% category.

I don’t know where I read it or heard the comment but considering the incompetent bumbling of the government in organizing efforts to contain coronavirus, it seems appropriate “they couldn’t organize a fart after eating a can of beans.”


The key to finding out if you have coronavirus, flu, or the common cold of course is testing. But testing so far in the United States has been a bureaucratic nightmare, a tangle of red tape and confusion symptomatic of most efforts by the Trump administration to do anything. Trump says anyone can be tested if they want it while doctors struggle to get test kits despite promises that millions will be available within days (they aren’t and won’t be). The United States has tested about 5000 people so far in contrast to other countries where twice that number are tested every day.


Trump recently and reluctantly visited the Centers for Disease Control before enjoying a weekend playing golf at Mar-a-Lago and gladhanding his adoring big-money donors. Considering that frequent handwashing is the most often quoted defense against coronavirus, it’s somewhat astonishing that Trump would allow himself within shouting distance of a virus but he was quick to assure the public that he is the healthiest president in the history of the United States and since he has had no symptoms, he doesn’t need to be tested. No sniffles, no foul.


And to further assure his mindless base that he has the situation under control, he bragged that “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of the doctors said, “how do you know so much about this?” Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should’ve done that instead of running for president.” Aside from smarmy praise from Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, who obviously gets paid more to be an ass kisser than he does to be a CDC director, I suspect that rather than being “surprised” by the president’s medical knowledge, health professionals on hand were, to choose a better word, “appalled”.


“I don’t think it’s gonna spread. I think it probably will, it possibly will. We’ll have to see. It might spread a little, it might be a lot, I really think it won’t… Ebola makes you dissolve but this is like the flu—did you know that thousands of people die every year from the flu? I bet you didn’t know that, but we are ready.”


Amid this babel of nonsense is the fact that most people do know that thousands of people die from the flu every year and the Healer in Chief really should also because his own grandfather died from it in 1918. An essential difference between the two diseases is that there are vaccines and treatments available for the flu, but it will take a year or more to develop a vaccine for coronavirus, if indeed we ever can. To minimize coronavirus by saying that more people die from flu than do from the emerging virus is irresponsible and misleading. Many more people die from auto accidents than do from coronavirus…. So far. But the threat from a global coronavirus pandemic is obvious to virtually everyone except Trump and his dimwitted base.


Haven’t had enough Trump goofy speak? Here’s Trump is keeping up with coronavirus: “I’ve been briefed on every contingency you could possibly imagine. Many contingencies. A lot of positive. Different numbers, all different numbers, very large numbers, and some small numbers too… It’s really working out and a lot of good things are going to happen.”


One of the late-night comedians theorized that Trump will solve the threat of coronavirus from Mexico by moving the slats on his mostly nonexistent wall closer together so the virus can’t get through. It got a laugh, but don’t discount Trump proposing something every bit as ridiculous. Actually, Mexico has reported six coronavirus cases, unlike our northern neighbor Canada which has so far identified 93 cases and one death. As I write this United States case total has topped 1000.  Trump’s illlogic is mindbending. Criticized for not consulting with foreign leaders before announcing a travel ban from their countries, he equated the lack of contact with them to them raising taxes on American products without letting him know.


In case you have forgotten, now that Trump has declared himself a medical expert who amazes the nation’s healthcare professionals, he also is master of nuclear physics: “You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons, and other things, like lots of things are done with uranium, including bad things.” And in case you also have forgotten, this is the person who has his finger on the nuclear button and a quick temper. We may not have to worry about a coronavirus pandemic if Trump gets up some morning, watches Fox and Friends, and decides to rid the world of their mutual enemies.


At least Trump doesn’t have to worry about closing down Trump University as Harvard and other major educational institutions have done or are threatening to do—TU is as defunct and as decomposed as a Trump steak. You could lift a glass of Trump wine to mourn the failure of yet another Donald Trump business foray…. Oh, wait! That failed also.


So, until Trump (or more likely) healthcare professionals come up with effective treatments for coronavirus, stick with the widely recommended preventives: 1. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds; 2. Avoid crowds; 3. Stay home from work if you’re sick; 4. It’s probably impossible but the recommendation is to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; 5. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care. And I would add, frequently use hand sanitizer—if you can find any (apparently it has widely gone the way of toilet paper).


If you’re worried about your retirement income spiraling down the drain as the stock market continues to tank, you might follow Trump’s advice and invest in a diverse and time-honored way, cherished by all con artists. Gather your Trump loving acquaintances and offer them the deal of a lifetime. Tell them you own a bridge in Brooklyn that just happens to be for sale for a nominal amount. You will let them in on this one time offer before the stock market recovers. Tell them Trump has been pulling similar scams for many years and they will be scuffling among themselves to buy in.


But, just in case, don’t forget to stock up on corncobs.


P.S.: our local grocery store is out of toilet paper.

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1 Comment

  1. Susie Coxj

    March 12th, 2020 at 8:44 pm


    You always get excellent points across. Keep writing.

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