I can’t help but agree with President Trump when he cast aspersions on the newly increased death toll attributed to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year.
In a tweet, Trump said: “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000.”
. . .
That number was produced by public health experts at George Washington University in Washington in a report commissioned by the U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rossello.
The study found that those deaths could be attributed directly or indirectly to Maria from the time it struck in September 2017 to mid-February of this year.
The report compared predicted mortality under normal circumstances and deaths documented after Maria.
Rossello said Puerto Ricans “do not deserve to have their pain questioned” and backed the study.
There’s more at the link.
Just read the comments above, and think about them. The study did not count actual bodies on the ground, or look at how they died. It calculated the total number of deaths in the period under discussion, and compared them to death tolls in the same period in previous years, then classified the discrepancy as “hurricane Maria deaths”. It did so without actual, physical evidence that the hurricane or its aftermath had actually caused the deaths in question – it simply assumed that. This was a purely statistical analysis.
What’s more, the emphasis on emotion rather than fact – “Puerto Ricans do not deserve to have their pain questioned” – is complete and utter nonsense. You can’t quantify emotion. You can – and should – quantify facts. If you don’t, and you act according to wrong information, then on your own head be the consequences. Heinlein’s dictum comes to mind.
I find this study highly suspect. One can find similar increased death tolls in other areas, but with autopsies, witness statements, etc. that make it possible to analyze them properly. Example: the opioid epidemic that’s ravaging several US states at present. Death rates due to the misuse of opioids are climbing dramatically, but in every case, the cause of death can be measured, medically confirmed, and verified. How do we know that opioids weren’t responsible for at least some of the “excess” deaths in Puerto Rico? What about deaths caused by vehicles? How do you know whether an accident was due to increased traffic, caused by aid distribution after the storm, or a drunk driver? The first might be blamed on the hurricane; the second, certainly not. Without medical and other evidence, one can’t assign a definitive cause to each casualty; but the study conducted there did not examine such evidence. It only looked at numbers, and made assumptions.
Furthermore, there’s a very clear indication of why Puerto Rico would want to inflate its death toll as high as possible. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The release of the George Washington University study comes as the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria approaches on Sept. 20, and Congress considers the island government’s request for federal aid to rebuild from the storm.
. . .
In the document that Puerto Rico’s government filed to Congress earlier this month, island officials detailed an ambitious reconstruction proposal. The 531-page plan included requests for $139 billion worth of projects, including housing initiatives and energy investments.
Since Oct. 1, 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has designated more than $13.7 billion for Puerto Rico. There is no money specifically to help Puerto Rico in the government funding bills that both chambers are considering for next year. The bills would appropriate $7 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, some of which would go to Puerto Rico. But that funding isn’t intended to help with the long-term projects that the island is requesting.
Again, more at the link.
You don’t suppose there might, just possibly, be a link between a dramatically higher claimed death toll on Puerto Rico, and its demand for billions upon billions of US taxpayer dollars to spend on itself? I wouldn’t put that past the island’s notably inefficient and corrupt government. Based on their track record, I’d even say it’s likely. What’s more, the amount of aid “for projects” that the island is requesting is – surprise, surprise! – “only” $16 billion more than its total government debt of $123 billion. You don’t suppose much of that taxpayer money – if we’re so unwise as to give it to them – might be used, not for “projects”, but to dig the island out of the financial hole it’s dug for itself over the past few decades? Perhaps with the excess billions diverted into the pockets of greedy, corrupt politicians and their cronies? Say it ain’t so!
As always, “follow the money“. I’d say the odds are very good that President Trump’s skepticism is entirely justified.
EDITED TO ADD: It’s nice to see that others have noted similar issues with the new death toll claims – and not just for local reasons, but national politics as well.
EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Nice to have you here.