Jobpocalypse Now

Recession

Yes, that was an eye-poppingly huge number of unemployment insurance claims this morning,[1] but the unemployment picture is highly likely to be far worse than these statistics show.[2]

The actual scope of the job losses won’t be known for some time. Even measures such as the unemployment rate won’t entirely capture it since people must be seeking work to be counted as unemployed. How many people are doing that in a coronavirus shutdown?

But for all that, the weekly claims report did give an early reading on the sheer awfulness of what is happening and a sense of the magnitude of the challenge the U.S. economy faces. Many of the people who have lost their jobs will struggle to stay afloat even with unemployment checks and the additional money they will receive under the Senate’s relief package. They will reduce spending, as will workers who worry that they will be next. That will in turn pinch businesses so far relatively unaffected by the crisis. In the worst-case scenario, business failures could cascade through the economy, leaving many workers without jobs to return to once the threat from the coronavirus has passed.[3]

As I have previously noted,

This has its own health impacts. We have seen with “deaths of despair”[4] and suicides under austerity[5] what happens when people cannot support themselves and their families.[6] And this isn’t just about capitalists wanting to go on making money. The economic shutdown will devastate the poor.[7][8]

The point here isn’t that we should do what Donald Trump suggests, prematurely letting up on lockdowns, likely infecting many more people, likely killing many more people.[9] It’s that we need to recognize, not minimize, the terrible toll these restrictions demand and to recognize that as a society, we are allowing a socially constructed economic system, capitalism, to dictate our relations with each other, to create this terrible dilemma, where no matter what we do, we are killing people.

Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110


Israel

Benny Gantz looked at his hand, folded, and split his Blue and White party in the process.[10]

Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu and Gantz said forming unity government; Blue and White collapses,” Times of Israel, March 26, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/gantz-and-netanyahu-said-forming-unity-government-blue-and-white-collapses/


  1. [1]Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers, “A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slams economy,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/unemployment-claims-coronavirus-3-million/
  2. [2]Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110
  3. [3]Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110
  4. [4]Anne Case and Angus Deaton, “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century” [draft], Brookings Institute, March 23, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/bpea-articles/mortality-and-morbidity-in-the-21st-century/
  5. [5]Charles C. Branas et al., “The impact of economic austerity and prosperity events on suicide in Greece: a 30-year interrupted time-series analysis,” British Medical Journal 5, no. 1 (2015): doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005619; Paul Corcoran et al., “Impact of the economic recession and subsequent austerity on suicide and self-harm in Ireland: An interrupted time series analysis,” International Journal of Epidemiology 44, no. 3 (2015): 969–977, doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyv058
  6. [6]John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, November 20, 2013, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/
  7. [7]Kim Hart, “The coronavirus economy will devastate those who can least afford it,” Axios, March 23, 2020, https://www.axios.com/coronavirus-economy-layoffs-children-families-bad-d588cc93-ff26-4031-8be8-5654cce05a15.html
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Josef Stalin’s purges might not look so bad,” Irregular Bullshit, March 24, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/24/josef-stalins-purges-might-not-look-so-bad/
  9. [9]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222
  10. [10]Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu and Gantz said forming unity government; Blue and White collapses,” Times of Israel, March 26, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/gantz-and-netanyahu-said-forming-unity-government-blue-and-white-collapses/

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