Eric Morath, “The Job Market’s Long Road Back,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-job-markets-long-road-back-11590206400
Eric Morath, “The Job Market’s Long Road Back,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-job-markets-long-road-back-11590206400
I can’t tell you how reluctant I am to share newsletters in this space. First, I don’t trust the URLs. I wonder if they will be broken for others now, or generally in the future. Second, I’d rather get the original stories.
Ishaan Tharoor with Ruby Mellen, “The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?trackId=5a39652eae7e8a58807f9446&s=5ec4aa54fe1ff654c2e1eea0&linknum=4&linktot=72
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Bob Moran of the Telegraph, May 14, 2020, via a newsletter, fair use.
When I wrote “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority” and “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity’,” I essentially thought of a possible vaccine for COVID-19 as one might in terms of the old admonition against counting your chickens before they’ve hatched and didn’t bother to look into it further. I was more optimistic in the latter post than the former. It turns out that, as with the antibody-based protection that arises from being exposed to the disease, and that some rely on for “herd immunity,” there are nuances, including the possibility that a vaccine isn’t possible. This, in addition to that it will take time to mass produce and distribute a vaccine should it be found, should be absolutely unsurprising, and I’ve updated these posts accordingly.
The ugly truth here, and it’s not one I want to hear either, is that we as a species may well have to live with the novel coronavirus for many years to come. There’s a lot that needs to be rethought, including how we treat each other as human beings, should this prove to be the case, that we really need to be rethinking anyway, and—I don’t care what your political predilections are—our present political and economic order is simply not up to this task.
Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/
Tony Romm, “3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million,” Washington Post, May 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/14/unemployment-jobless-claims-coronavirus/
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Pennsylvania county map showing yellow or red phase taken from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.
Most of western and north central Pennsylvania (figure 1) will be in “yellow” phase (figure 2) as of May 15. The bright red exception in western Pennsylvania is Beaver County, where the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center is quite a hot spot.
Fig. 2. Graphic converted from portable document format (PDF) to a jpeg, May 8, 2020. Original from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.
In the meantime, I am suddenly out of work and now subject to the lockdown. Both Uber and Lyft require occasional background checks. Mine have come due. In the past, these have taken maybe two or three days. This time, it might be several weeks. But the pandemic is only indirectly to blame—it’s slowing down the background checks—so I don’t think I’m eligible for unemployment insurance and people are still having trouble getting through to file claims.
Do not expect me to handle this well.
Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
Today, the real jobless rate is probably somewhere in the low twenties, which would put it on a par with the peak rates seen during the Great Depression.
But what really worries John Cassidy is that no one knows how many people will really get their jobs back as the lockdown is lifted.
John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history
As usual, the headline unemployment figure is bullshit:
As horrific as the April unemployment figure, economists say the official government rate almost certainly underestimates the extent of the job losses. The Labor Department collected the data in mid-April. Layoffs have continued to mount since then, and the unemployment rate only measures people actively searching for a job, which is difficult during an era when Americans are being encouraged to stay at home.
The labor statisticians think that a lot of people who are unemployed right now didn’t say they were. If they had, the unemployment rate would probably be 20%.
Broader unemployment, U6, is 22.8%. pic.twitter.com/Ob2H9lcXyZ
— Matt O'Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) May 8, 2020
For a whole bunch of reasons, it will likely be a long, slow road to recovery. In real terms, this translates to many people being unable to pay rent, pay mortgages, pay credit card bills, pay utility bills over a long haul. They’re not going to be able to catch up on those bills when the bans on evictions and utility shutoffs expire. And they won’t be buying much so producers face curtailed markets. This, in turn, means more homeless people and more layoffs as businesses continue to go under. That means more desperation.
Worst of both worlds: didn’t lockdown, test and trace properly and didn’t protect economy/workers properly. Everything half-assed or worse. https://t.co/K0g6OIVTx2
— Thomas Chatterton Williams 🌍 🎧 (@thomaschattwill) May 8, 2020
Unless serious action is taken to relieve these folks, we face a downward spiral, and it’s hard to see how the recent white supremacist gun nuttery in support of reopening the economy and letting the old and weak die won’t intensify.
Allegedly, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will propose a major relief package. But this is like the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s really a sham, meant to placate the Left, but dead on arrival in the Senate, thus no threat to neoliberal principle. Pelosi can return to her ice cream unperturbed.
Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package
Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
Bernie Sanders is a good man with a good heart. He’s fought for the people more than any politician we know. This was his time to be president! But he’s a good man with bad judgement of folks to listen to. Your biggest hater could be your closest friend, people pretend well.
— Ja’Mal Green (@JaymalGreen) April 28, 2020
My question here is, to what extent does it now matter whether @BernieSanders “is a good man?”
— David Benfell, Ph.D. (@n4rky) April 30, 2020
So how does a potential vice presidential candidate credibly claim to believe Christine Blasey Ford, whose accusation rocked Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and not Tara Reade, who alleges rape against Joe Biden? I guess it helps to be a politician:
“‘Believe the woman’ didn’t mean believe all women, all the time. But this is an era of slogans and we’re paying the price for that,” said an adviser to one of the women under consideration [for the vice presidential nomination], noting Reade’s story changed over the time.
Because you know I know some other folks whose stories have “changed over the time.”
Marc Caputo, “Tara Reade allegations rattle Biden’s VP search,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/30/tara-reade-biden-vice-president-224945
Ann Colwell and Rob McLean, “Meat plant workers to Trump: Employees aren’t going to show up,” CNN, April 29, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/29/business/meat-processing-plant-workers-reaction-executive-order/index.html
A lot of state unemployment insurance systems still run on COBOL, a programming language I eschewed in the 1970s because I saw the load even a single COBOL compile put on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11/70 RSTS/e system and judged the cost of its verbose syntax to be much too high.
The language has, since then, been routinely derided as obsolete and programming technique has gone through at least two iterations of evolution, since then, away from the spaghetti code that was the norm in COBOL’s heyday. Which, of course, helps to explain the shortage of COBOL programmers needed to fix state unemployment insurance systems. Most of them have long since retired or died and I can’t imagine anyone seeing this as a project they would particularly want to take on. It’d be difficult work even if (a pretty big if given that many, if not most, programmers burn out at around the five-year mark) your head is still in this kind of space.
But there are a lot of ‘legacy’ systems, both in and out of government, still running COBOL. And unemployment insurance systems are crumbling under the load. I heard from a passenger just yesterday that she was still trying to navigate the system in Pennsylvania. So I’m pretty clear that even as some 30 million folks have managed to navigate those systems, we still don’t have a complete picture.
Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004
Anneken Tappe, “30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March,” CNN, April 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html
Today marks the completion of my 61st journey around the sun. There is, as there has been on numerous previous such milestones, absolutely nothing to celebrate.
Mitch McConnell continues to play the ‘bad guy,’ helping to defend neoliberal priorities. This enables Democrats to pretend to want much more spending—they don’t and would be sounding a very similar note to what we hear from McConnell if they controlled the presidency and the Senate—in the name of economic recovery, for which read, reasserting economic power relationships. This way, the Republicans continue to appeal to so-called “fiscal conservatives” (mostly capitalist libertarians and neoconservatives) while Donald Trump holds on to his authoritarian populist and social conservative base, the Democrats appeal to functionalist conservatives, neoconservatives, and progressives, and both parties are happy, at least through November, no matter who wins. But as usual, workers will get stiffed and the environment will get stiffed. In other words, politics as usual.
What remains to be seen is how well it all works and what happens when, as now seems almost certain, we plunge over what Ben White calls the ‘coronavirus cliff’ because neither party really wants the stimulus that is needed.
On May 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its monthly unemployment report. Watch this report and the one in the following month, on June 5. These are the first reports that will fully reflect the ‘cliff’ we have in fact already fallen over and are still tumbling down. As these numbers sink in, watch the reaction. That will tell you much more than what we’re hearing right now.
There is a new blog post entitled, “On a baffling presumption of goodwill toward ‘essential’ workers.”
Martina Hund-Mejean and Marcela Escobari, “Our employment system has failed low-wage workers. How can we rebuild?” Brookings, April 28, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/04/28/our-employment-system-is-failing-low-wage-workers-how-do-we-make-it-more-resilient/
Ben White, “Trump faces the risk of a coronavirus cliff,” Politico, April 28, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/28/trump-reopening-coronavirus-213535
Justin Lahart, “Why the Economy Was Even Worse than the GDP Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-economy-was-even-worse-than-the-gdp-report-11588176851
Heather Long, “U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in first quarter, biggest decline since the Great Recession,” April 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/29/gdp-coronavirus/
I’m guessing there is going to be a run on four-ply microfiber cloth.
Matthew Cox, “Army Says It Has Found the Best Fabric for DIY Face Masks,” Military.com, April 28, 2020, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2020/04/28/army-says-it-has-found-best-fabric-face-masks.html
Taylor Telford and Kimberly Kindy, “Trump to order meat plants to stay open in pandemic, person familiar with action says,” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/28/trump-meat-plants-dpa/
In March, the History Channel published an article on the Spanish Flu—this is what they’re talking about when you hear about 1918 in reference to hasty reopenings of the economy. The story then is complicated by war with troops being sent even as, it turned out, they were infected, spreading a deadlier mutation of the virus disastrously to Europe. But the rationale for the lockdown has peer reviewed backing in the Journal of the American Medical Association. History may not repeat, but it rhymes, and it’d be smart not to repeat the mistakes some U.S. cities made with the Spanish Flu. As a country, we seem unwilling to learn from that history.
The trouble, of course, is the economy, and an unemployment rate estimated at between 15 and 20 percent. But what this really says is that we are unwilling to actually take care of people, to give them money to tide them over, even, allegedly, to save their lives. Because neoliberalism, you know, is more fucking important than anything.
So be sure to whisper your devotion to the “invisible hand” as you or your loved ones get sick, as you or they drown in their own lung fluids, in a panic, desperately trying to breathe. The capitalist god demands your sacrifice and theirs.
William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
Zoë Hu, “A New Age of Destructive Austerity After the Coronavirus,” New Republic, April 23, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157417/new-age-destructive-austerity-coronavirus
George Packer, “We Are Living in a Failed State,” Atlantic, June 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/underlying-conditions/610261/
Meanwhile, if, as I am, you are worried about a “slippery slope” in reopening the economy, one thing to watch out for is complexity. Complexity improves the likelihood of loopholes, thus leading to a wider reopening than expected, thus leading to more contagion. It remains to be seen whether Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s plan is simple enough.
Rebecca Ballhaus and Stephanie Armour, “Health Chief’s Early Missteps Set Back Coronavirus Response,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/health-chiefs-early-missteps-set-back-coronavirus-response-11587570514
Aaron Rupar, “Trump and Fox News want to send their hydroxychloroquine hype down the memory hole,” Vox, April 22, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/4/22/21230982/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-trump-fox-news-hype
Kara Seymour, “Gov. Wolf Unveils 3-Phased, Color-Coded Reopening Plan By Region,” Patch, April 23, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h3av0/gov-wolf-unveils-3-phased-color-coded-reopening-plan-by-region
Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html
It’s the fifth-straight week that job losses were measured in the millions. From March 15 to April 18, 26.5 million have probably been laid off or furloughed. Jobless figures on this scale haven’t been seen since the Great Depression. The number of jobs lost in that brief span effectively erased all the jobs created after the 2008 financial crisis.
Meanwhile, it’s a classic double-bind: If you refuse to return to work, because you want to avoid the contagion, you will risk your unemployment benefits. But, of course, you’re also damned—and may face tragedy yourself—if you go back to work and wind up being a vector in the contagion:
State unemployment laws generally do not allow workers to collect jobless benefits if they refuse work available to them, said Thomas Smith, an assistant finance professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. That could force workers in Georgia back to their jobs at a time when it is not clear whether the risk of infection has abated, he said.
Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, “4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States,” Washington Post, April 23, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/23/economy-coronavirus-unemployment/
Andy Sullivan, “Americans too scared to go to work risk losing unemployment aid, experts say,” Reuters, April 23, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-georgia-worker/americans-too-scared-to-go-to-work-risk-losing-unemployment-aid-experts-say-idUSKCN2251RD
Haviv Rettig Gur, “‘Monstrous’ coalition deal neuters Knesset. Should judges intervene? Will they?” Times of Israel, April 23, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/monstrous-coalition-deal-neuters-knesset-should-judges-intervene-will-they/
There is a new blog post entitled, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now.”
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 14, 2020
Nancy Pelosi attached a video to her tweet revealing she has some very nice looking (apparently each costing over $11,000) large refrigerators/freezers in her kitchen, exposing her hoarding capacity.
every food bank in the country is swamped with miles-long lines of cars, the House is somehow still on recess, and Dem leadership is bantering about freezers full of gelato pic.twitter.com/lBpQYl4piB
— wideofthepost (@wideofthepost) April 14, 2020
You have two of these while people can't afford food. Did it ever occur to you to – oh, I dunno – maybe NOT broadcast video of your bougie-ass kitchen while millions are out of work and you aren't doing shit to help them? https://t.co/wwBW2Q3Bt7 pic.twitter.com/7RA0o4MXfb
— Plain Ol' Johnny Graz Isn't Voting For Blue Trump (@jvgraz) April 15, 2020
She has like 150 dollars worth of ice cream in that fridge and the centrists were getting mad because I said it was privileged. pic.twitter.com/m0hzn0tKeu
— Fuck Biden Fuck Bernie vote 3rd party (@Red___son) April 15, 2020
Even forgiving the fact of the ice cream, and the fact of a brand of the stuff I’ve never even heard of, more than one commented that there’s far better ice cream to be had in San Francisco (Pelosi’s house is in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, overlooking the Marina district and almost certainly with a view of the nicer parts of the San Francisco Bay, including Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin County).
Eric Morath, Harriet Torry, and Gwynn Guilford, “A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-second-round-of-coronavirus-layoffs-has-begun-no-one-is-safe-11586872387
David Harrison, “Lack of Savings Worsens the Pain of Coronavirus Downturn,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lack-ofsavingsworsens-the-pain-of-coronavirus-downturn-11586943001