The politician’s response to the coronavirus is the medical equivalent of the 10 percent across-the-board budget cut where politicians faced with a budget shortfall take the coward’s way out and cut every budget.

Thereby treating the useful just as harshly as the useless.

Real leaders would eliminate the useless while protecting the useful, but down that path lies criticism about “fairness.”

The virus shutdowns operate on the same principle and are equally short-sighted.

Anyone under age 55, without an underlying health condition, has an infinitesimal chance of dying. And the entire U.S. population has a smaller chance of catching the Kung Flu than breathless reports would have one believe.

Figures for Wuhan were even better. There about 1 out of every 200 people exposed became infected. Of the infected, 99 out of 100 recovered. As former President Barack Obama’s former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden observed, “The bottom line is, this is not the zombie apocalypse. We’re not all going to die.”

This is not the end of the world, but panicked politicians may make it the end of the economy.

The sensible approach is not closing the schools. Even the CDC says washing your hands has more impact on disease transmission than closing schools. There was no difference in the spread of the disease between Hong Kong, which closed schools, and Singapore, which didn’t.

And it certainly isn’t sensible to close restaurants, retail stores, government offices, shopping malls and everything else petty bureaucrats drunk on power and panicked by a disease have shuttered. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told the Washington Post, “Right now, we’ve got people literally just following each other off the edge of a cliff because they’re not thinking.”

Even in Italy, where fatalities are increasingly high, the news doesn’t justify nationwide shutdowns here. Journalist Sharyl Attkisson writes: “Italy has the oldest population in Europe and more elderly per capita than the U.S. Most of the Italian deaths are in patients in their 80s and 90s.”

Instead of industrywide shutdowns and curfews, authorities should order everyone ages 55 and above to self-quarantine. Keeping those under 55 on the job would greatly mitigate the impact on the economy and the taxpayer.

Citizens under a self-quarantine would telework. If that option was unavailable, then they should be able to apply for already existing unemployment insurance programs — supplemented by federal funds and not by new federal programs. The over 55s would be joined by the under 55s with an underlying health condition that would make the virus more dangerous to them.

This step would vastly reduce the disruption to the economy and concurrently reduce the cost of federal stimulus’ programs. More important, it would let people take control of their own disease prevention measures.

Our current one-size-fits-all quarantine is misdirected, poorly targeted and becoming universal.

Michael Shannon’s columns are distributed

by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.