Guns vs. Butter. On its simplest level this economic graph represents the country's need to produce guns during wartime versus the need for butter. With a finite amount of resources, which is more important to produce? Do we sacrifice national defense in lieu of household supplies? When the model was promulgated around the time of WWI, it was one or the other. 

Today, face masks vs. toilet paper is the new guns vs. butter. The more masks we need, the less toilet paper on the grocery shelves. 

When Coronavirus was limited to the Wuhan region and there were signs of it starting to spread around Asia, I bought a box of N95 face masks from Home Depot. There were 15 in the box and it cost about $25. I offered to give most of them to a friend who is a nurse. She told me to keep them as I would need them. She was right. I have since given them away to friends and family, saving one for me and one for mom. I also have two bandanas in the wings. 

The CDC and the federal government originally discouraged us from wearing masks but I never jumped aboard that ship. How many times have we heard it's okay to eat this and then are told it causes cancer? Or we have been encouraged to buy that and then learn it's a dangerous product? As a nation, we are now being encouraged to wear masks. Some counties, like mine, have gone even further. In Broward County, beginning today, the wearing of masks while in public is requested. Not a decree but hopefully all will comply. 

Instructional videos on how to make masks have popped up all over the Internet. This reminds me of when I was in elementary school and we'd have to hide under our desks during bomb raid exercises. Similar to the mass shooter drills our current school age students had when schools were off-line. It's a different kind of war we face now, but war all the same. Face masks, other PPEs and ventilators are our weapons.

My friend is a long time patron of Morton's Steakhouse and collects Morton Reward Points. He went there the other day to use his points and didn't emerge from the restaurant with a take-out steak or burger, but with toilet paper. When my neighbor goes to Publix during the morning hours designated for those over sixty-five years old, she contacts me first to ask if I need anything. Toilet paper, I say, knowing it is unlikely to be on the shelves. She has yet to bring home a square. I've taken to using paper towels -- a folded quarter sheet -- for after I urinate. I throw the paper towel in the garbage, stretching out the toilet paper I have left. Five rolls remain. Toilet paper is our butter.

There is a legitimate shortage of PPEs and ventilators. The onset of Covid-19 that has spread across the continents like cancer--and that we are woefully and tragically unprepared for but hopefully starting to catch up--has made the demand for PPEs far outsized by the supply. 

On the other hand, it is reported there is no shortage of toilet paper. Only hoarding. So, the century-old economic model of guns vs. butter still holds true with a modern twist. As we fight the Beast and need more weapons to do so, people are turning to what they can control: filling their bathroom cabinets with rolls of Charmin.

Perhaps with the new directive that homemade masks can prevent the Beast from sickening and killing us, and with more local governments directing its citizens to wear masks in public, we will feel a little more in control of our abilities to avoid this modern-day plague. As a result, we will no longer need to buy all the toilet paper off the shelves but rather will save some for our neighbors. 

A lack of toilet paper is a trivial inconvenience in light of the shortage of ventilators, masks and gloves, in view of the need for a unifed effort to coordinate obtaining supplies and getting them to where they are required in order to save lives, and in recognition of the need for a short-term federally mandated stay-at-home order. But viewed as the forest and not as the trees, the dearth of toilet paper is representative of a new graph. When the day arrives and my friend goes to Morton's and emerges with only a belly full of beef and beer, and when my neighbor goes to Publix and finds Snuggle bears staring back at her, then we will know the curve has been flattened and the Beast has been thwarted. 

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Joanne Lewis Blog


joanne lewis

When Joanne Lewis is not practicing law, she is writing. She pens murder mysteries, historical fiction and historical fantasy books and is the author of several award-winning novels. As an author, she hopes to entertain, to educate, and perhaps to enlighten. As an attorney, she is most proud of her work as an assistant state attorney and as a guardian ad litem representing the best interests of children.

Her books are available on Kindle, as paperbacks, and as audio books.

Her latest release is Bee King, a historical novel that is about the first person in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and takes place from the start of the Civil War until 1910. Just like the people who inhabited Five Points in lower Manhattan during the 1800s and the turn of the century, Bee King traverses the pentagonal streets where abolitionists battled copperheads, immigrants clashed among social, religious and political strife, and doctors and psychologists strained to help patients. Told in Five Points (sections), Bee King is dramatized through conventional literary devices as well as through newspaper articles, a manifesto, and other non-traditional tools.

The Forbidden trilogy consists of the novels: Forbidden Room, Forbidden Night, and Forbidden Horses. Forbidden Room is her best-selling novel.

In Forbidden Room, the first book in the Forbidden trilogy, new attorney Michael Tucker has few clients, yearns to be like his famous grandmother and cannot afford to move out of his parents' home. Sara Goldstein is an heiress accused of killing her uncle. When Sara hires Michael, he gets the chance to defend an innocent person, a beautiful lover and notoriety like his grandmother. But is it more than he asked for? Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer?

Forbidden Night, the second book in the Forbidden trilogy, delves further into Michael and Sara’s complicated relationship, as well as into Soldier Boy’s psyche, into their family histories, and into the creation of the carousel horses. The question posed in Forbidden Room, the first book of the Forbidden trilogy—Is Sara innocent or is she a murderer—is answered.

Forbidden Horses, the final book in the Forbidden trilogy, travels to the eighteenth century and takes place in Austria to reveal the troubled history of the creation of the carousel horses.

Michelangelo & Me is a series of five novellas in the genre of historical fantasy.

In the first book of the series, Michelangelo & the Morgue, seventeen-year-old Michelangelo defies religious and political powers in order to capture a serial killer who is murdering the artists of Florence. In Sleeping Cupid, the second book, Michelangelo’s believed-to-be lost statue narrates his journey from fifteenth century Florence, Italy until the present day where he lives in an attic in a sleepy Florida town. Future books in the anthology include Space Between, School of the World and Michelangelo & Me.

The Lantern is a historical novel about a modern-day woman's search to find a girl from 15th century Florence, Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Across time and space, three lives collide as they battle abuse, disease, fear and prejudice in pursuit of their dreams. Along the way, they intersect with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance including members of the Medici, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.

Wicked Good, a different kind of love story, begins in Bangor, Maine. Fifteen-year-old Rory is not defined by his diagnoses of Asperger's syndrome and Bipolar Disorder and lives life to the fullest. Archer, his adoptive mother, is Rory's biggest fan. Rory searches for his birth parents to find out why he is the way he is. He discovers his roots in Salem, Massachusetts where the Salem Witch Trials had occurred, and in Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishermen went down with the Andrea Gail during the Perfect Storm. He also learns his true roots are closest to his home in Bangor. As Rory discovers truths about himself, Archer learns about herself too.

Make Your Own Luck is the unforgettable and moving novel of Remy Summer Woods, a young attorney who refuses to believe thirteen-year-old Bonita Pickney killed her father, Patrick Pickney. Remy risks her relationship with her own father as well as her life to prove Bonita's innocence. Along with learning what happened the night Patrick was murdered, Remy discovers hard truths about her family and herself.

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