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/

You won’t be relieved

Recession

With confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbing swiftly to over 67,000 Wednesday with more than 900 deaths, lawmakers acknowledged that no amount of economic relief from Congress could stop the pain for the American public.[1]

Therefore, even as a record number of people file for unemployment benefits,[2] Congress will barely even try.[3]

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/

Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and Paul Kane, “Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/senate-trump-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/


Pennsylvania

Your regularly scheduled racism and white supremacy[4] will be permitted to resume.[5]

Seriously, let’s be clear what this is about. On the outskirts of Clairton, on Miller Road near North State Street, in a wooded area not very far from the banks of the Monongahela River, there is a weathered sign proclaiming that the property owner there owns both a firearm and a backhoe, implicitly threatening to use the former to shoot a person for arbitrary reasons and then to use the latter to cover up the evidence. The second part of that implies a resistance to accountability for the first part.

In praising the decision, the Firearms Policy Coalition noted a strongly worded opinion by Supreme Court Justices David Wecht, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty in favor of protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

“The right and ability to protect yourself and your family, particularly in times of crisis, is the very definition of ‘life-sustaining’ and unquestionably protected by both the Second Amendment and the state’s constitution,” said Adam Kraut, the coalition’s director of legal strategy.

“As we have said before, there is no ‘except-in-emergencies’ clause in the Constitution and the government cannot shut down the people’s right to keep and bear arms,” coalition President Brandon Combs said.[6]

It should be noted that

On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged [Tom] Wolf’s authority to close businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining.” The lawsuit claimed Wolf’s edict violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms and other constitutional rights.[7]

Tom Wolf is allowing gun shops to reopen anyway,[8] mocking those who see guns as life-depriving rather than as life-sustaining.

Fig. 1. ‘Cause you know that artillery round aimed right at Carrick High School (left) and the camouflage-painted dump truck owned by a locksmith (right) along with all that other weaponry mostly in or near areas with high proportions of Blacks in their populations (figure 2) don’t mean anything at all. Clairton is such an area (figure 3). Photographs by author, December 31, 2019, (left) and November 22, 2019, (right).


Fig. 2. Map of gratuitously displayed weapons, compiled by author.


Fig. 3. Tank outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Clairton (left) and a rocket and artillery piece on a public square in Clairton (right). Photographs by author, September 20, 2019.

Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” TribLive, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/


  1. [1]Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, and Paul Kane, “Senate passes $2 trillion bill to blunt coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact, as households and businesses gasp for relief,” Washington Post, March 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/26/senate-trump-coronavirus-economic-stimulus-2-trillion/
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh,” Not Housebroken, October 12, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/09/20/the-banners-and-the-guns-flagrant-racism-in-pittsburgh/; David Benfell, “Militia territory,” Not Housebroken, November 22, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/11/22/militia-territory/
  5. [5]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” TribLive, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  6. [6]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” TribLive, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  7. [7]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” TribLive, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/
  8. [8]Brian C. Rittmeyer, “Wolf allows gun stores to reopen on limited basis during coronavirus shutdown,” TribLive, March 25, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/wolf-allows-gun-stores-to-reopen-on-limited-basis-during-coronavirus-shutdown/

Scary times

Pennsylvania

It’s scary every morning now since Tom Wolf’s “stay at home” order,[1] now expanded to three more counties,[2] took effect Monday evening, as I have both the Uber and Lyft driver apps online and get no orders. But so far, the bottom hasn’t really dropped out. I’m still making the numbers come out, in part with tricks I used in the San Francisco Bay Area but wouldn’t use here if Pittsburgh traffic were normal.

I don’t know how long that will work.

In the meantime, if you want to understand how coronavirus will play out with western Pennsylvania Donald Trump supporters, read Jason Togyer’s piece.[3] You won’t get the story you’re looking for, but his writing rings true to me.

Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa

Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225


  1. [1]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786
  2. [2]Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa
  3. [3]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225

Money from the government, maybe

Recession

Assuming it all passes, it appears each adult will get up to one check for up to $1,200 and there will be up to four months of unemployment benefits to be extended even to self-employed workers.[1] My advice remains, believe nothing until you have the U.S. Treasury check in your hot little hands. And it’s likely a long ways short of what’s really needed.[2]

What is needed is not a “stimulus,” as the rescue package announced early Wednesday was called, or one-time payments to businesses and workers, but rather an across-the-board suspension of private debt payments and a nationwide program under which the government directly reimburses pay to laid-off employees, as other countries have done, some critics say. Only such an unprecedented government intervention can prevent permanent economic devastation from the virus-induced work stoppage, even if U.S. President Donald Trump manages to reopen parts of the economy in the next several weeks in defiance of his health experts, as he said Tuesday he was eager to do.[3]

Manu Raju et al., “White House, Senate reach historic $2 trillion stimulus deal amid growing coronavirus fears,” CNN, March 25, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/25/politics/stimulus-senate-action-coronavirus/index.html

Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/


  1. [1]Manu Raju et al., “White House, Senate reach historic $2 trillion stimulus deal amid growing coronavirus fears,” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/25/politics/stimulus-senate-action-coronavirus/index.html
  2. [2]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/; Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/; Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/; Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/
  3. [3]Michael Hirsh, “Is $2 Trillion Too Little, Too Late?” Foreign Policy, March 25, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/us-congress-2-trillion-rescue-package-too-little-too-late/

And by the way, baptism doesn’t work

Abortion

The good news is that I can offer understanding here. The bad news is that it won’t make you feel better:

The argument is actually a bit more nuanced than this. Anti-choice folks reconcile their position opposing abortion rights and embracing the death penalty—and, I infer, a willingness to sacrifice human life to save the neoliberal economy—with an implicit claim that they’re protecting innocent life.[1] And it’s real clear that once we literally or figuratively pass through the birth canal—the vagina—we can never be “innocent.” Not even with baptism.[2] By this logic, the old, “grandparents,” whom the Texas lieutenant governor suggested will gladly sacrifice themselves[3]—will have been the greatest sinners of all, as our sins accumulate and can never be washed away. Which, yes, absolutely, is still a pretty disgusting position to adopt.

But you weren’t really expecting this to make you feel better, were you?

Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/


Coronavirus

So, as the United States risks becoming an epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic,[4] the Trump administration contemplates loosening restrictions on account of the economy.[5] The trouble is, there’s a real problem with the economy,[6] especially for gig workers[7] and the poor,[8] and it’s unlikely anything coming out of Congress will really address it.[9]

Meanwhile, Tom Wolf’s latest order[10] seems to be having an impact on my business that earlier versions did not.

Reuters, “U.S. has potential of becoming coronavirus epicentre, says WHO,” March 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-usa/u-s-has-potential-of-becoming-coronavirus-epicentre-says-who-idUSKBN21B1FT


Recession

One of the great clues that the U.S. is not really a Christian country is that even fundamentalists, who claim a literal reading of the Bible, overlook that part about a jubilee, mass debt forgiveness.

Isabel V. Sawhill, “The middle class faces its greatest threat since the 1930s,” Brookings, March 20, 2020,https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-middle-class-faces-its-greatest-threat-since-the-1930s/

Michael Hudson, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression,” Washington Post, March 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/21/debt-jubilee-is-only-way-avoid-depression/


  1. [1]George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The connection between ‘original sin,’ misogyny, and white supremacism,” Not Housebroken, November 25, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/25/the-connection-between-original-sin-misogyny-and-white-supremacism/
  3. [3]Isabel Togoh, “Texas Official Suggests ‘Lots’ Of Grandparents Would Be Willing Risk Coronavirus Death To Keep Economy Going,” Forbes, March 24, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2020/03/24/texas-official-suggests-lots-of-grandparents-would-be-willing-risk-coronavirus-death-to-keep-economy-going/
  4. [4]Reuters, “U.S. has potential of becoming coronavirus epicentre, says WHO,” March 24, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-who-usa/u-s-has-potential-of-becoming-coronavirus-epicentre-says-who-idUSKBN21B1FT
  5. [5]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
  6. [6]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; Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304
  7. [7]Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation
  8. [8]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
  9. [9]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/
  10. [10]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786

Josef Stalin’s purges might not look so bad

Recession

I haven’t really been taking this dilemma seriously on the assumption that shutdowns to preserve “social distancing” to try to limit the spread of coronavirus would rule the day, but:

“What is clearly not a viable option is to keep the economy shut down for the next seven to 10 weeks,” [Stephen Moore] added. “People will lose their life savings, and the unemployment rate will go to 35 percent.”[1]

This has its own health impacts. We have seen with “deaths of despair”[2] and suicides under austerity[3] what happens when people cannot support themselves and their families.[4] And this isn’t just about capitalists wanting to go on making money. The economic shutdown will devastate the poor.[5] On the other hand,

“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on social media, and shown all around the world,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, tweeted on Monday. “There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.”[6]

Ignore that these are Republicans. This is a real problem (and I’m only looking at the United States here) and neither side is wrong:

As Congress haggles over a multitrillion-dollar coronavirus rescue package, analysts are warning the U.S. could be facing a prolonged depression rather than the kind of short recession and swift bounce back that President Donald Trump and his top aides expect. And they’re raising questions about whether current government efforts to cushion the economy from the damage will be anywhere near enough.[7]

Which means the paradigm—capitalism—is wrong. But the nature of a paradigm is that it is unquestioned and so it is with capitalism: Capitalism is unquestioned.

So within this paradigm, we can only ask how many people will die with either choice. I’ll hazard a guess, however, that against the toll of capitalism, not just in this crisis but in historical aggregate, Josef Stalin’s purges might not look so bad.

All that said, I’ve been wondering whether it’s even reasonable to expect humans to comply with these lockdowns. I can’t help but think that people will go stir-crazy and resist. We’re a social species. “Stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders go against who we are.

Against that, we’re also a fearful species: Social psychologists argue that conservatism likely has at least some roots in that fear and in insecure attachment.[8]

It’s really a bizarre mix of factors and I really can’t tell you how it all plays out.

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

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

Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304


  1. [1]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
  2. [2]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/
  3. [3]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
  4. [4]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/
  5. [5]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
  6. [6]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
  7. [7]Ben White, “Great Depression 2? Worries about a coronavirus-induced calamity pile up,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/great-depression-coronavirus-induced-calamity-145304
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

The repeat-offending corporate felon

Pacific Gas and Electric

Somehow, “problem child” just doesn’t cover this: Pacific Gas and Electric had already been found guilty of felony charges and remains under probation for the San Bruno gas line explosion.[1] The utility will now plead guilty to felony charges stemming from the Camp Fire that leveled nearly all of Paradise in 2018.[2] The company had just gotten California governor Gavin Newsom’s approval for a reorganization plan in its bankruptcy.[3] I still think it should be considered incorrigible.

Katherine Blunt, “PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Deadly California Wildfire,” Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-to-plead-guilty-to-involuntary-manslaughter-charges-in-deadly-california-wildfire-11584962649


Pennsylvania

As near as I can tell, the list of life-sustaining businesses is unchanged, so I apparently am able to continue to drive for Uber and Lyft. But fewer people will have places to go.

WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786


Recession

Eric Levitz, “Coronavirus Exposes the Virulence of American Conservatism,” New York, March 23, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/senate-gop-puts-ideology-above-workers-in-coronavirus-bill.html


  1. [1]Jarod Cassidy, “PG&E Guilty of 6 Felony Charges in San Bruno Pipeline Explosion,” Thomas J. Henry, October 5, 2017, https://thomasjhenrylaw.com/blog/premises-liability/pge-guilty-6-felony-charges-san-bruno-pipeline-explosion/; Richard Gonzales, “Federal Judge Imposes New Probation Terms On PG&E To Reduce Wildfire Risk,” National Public Radio, April 2, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/04/02/709248544/federal-judge-imposes-new-probation-terms-on-pg-e-to-reduce-wildfire-risk; Lyanne Melendez and Katie Marzullo, “Federal jury finds PG&E guilty of obstructing investigators,” KGO, August 10, 2016, https://abc7news.com/news/federal-jury-finds-pg-e-guilty-of-obstructing-investigators/1463352/
  2. [2]Katherine Blunt, “PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter Charges in Deadly California Wildfire,” Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pg-e-to-plead-guilty-to-involuntary-manslaughter-charges-in-deadly-california-wildfire-11584962649
  3. [3]Dale Kasler, “PG&E makes deal with Gov. Newsom on bankruptcy demands. ‘End of business as usual,’ he says,” Sacramento Bee, March 20, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article241379336.html

Neoliberals fiddle while the economy burns

Elon Musk

So yesterday, I posted a blog entry expressing skepticism about Elon Musk’s promise of N95 masks and respirators,[1] badly needed especially in the state of Washington for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The respirators remain to be seen, but Musk came through with the masks on schedule.[2] I’m sure there’s a backstory that isn’t covered here and if Musk actually comes through on the respirators, there will be much more of one that desperately needs covering.

Because in the world I know, things just don’t turn on a dime like this. They can’t.

Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/


Gig economy

There is a new blog entry entitled, “While neoliberal hot air floats over gig workers’ heads, here’s the Trump administration.”

Ian Kullgren, “Congress should bail out gig workers, Cohn says,” Politico, March 22, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/22/congress-gig-economy-workers-cohn-141886


Israel

Gershom Gorenberg, “With a pandemic as cover, Netanyahu is carrying out a coup in Israel,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/19/with-pandemic-cover-netanyahu-is-carrying-out-coup-israel/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Elon Musk, groan, again,” Not Housebroken, March 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/22/elon-musk-groan-again/
  2. [2]Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/

As we tumble not so gently into the abyss

Coronavirus

I’ve been assuming for days now that I will be exposed to the novel coronavirus sooner or later if I have not already been.

The number of cases testing positive for the covid-19 has been doubling nearly every two days since the state [Pennsylvania] began processing them, [Rachel] Levine said.

“It’s not just increased testing,” she said. “We are actually seeing a spike in (covid-19) cases because more people are ill.”[1]

But I have had no symptoms and therefore no reason to seek out testing.

Then there’s this weirdness:

We’re on new ground here. … But I also know that Pennsylvanians are strong and resilient, and that our communities will get through this if we do it together.[2]

I don’t know what communities she’s talking about. I really don’t.

Next, David Remnick has a blast at not only Donald Trump, whose malfeasance on coronavirus is already well-documented,[3] but his entire enabling Faux News bubble:

[Donald] Trump cannot be forgiven for his preening and his belatedness. And yet this least trustworthy of Commanders-in-Chief is entrusted by the authority of his office to make a series of critical decisions. In order to “flatten the curve,” we have rightly set in motion a set of edicts that, while necessary to control the pandemic, will continue to batter the economy, create deep atomization, and cause all manner of suffering. The human need for solidarity is frustrated by the need for social distancing. An economy that seizes up entirely could, in theory, produce nearly as much suffering as the virus itself, particularly for the most vulnerable among us. A host of well-judged policy decisions must be made and executed effectively if the country is to be spared the worst. As recently as Friday, however, the President spent much of his briefing berating a reporter and further alarming the public. It is better to be lucky than good, the old saw has it. Trump is not good; we must hope that he will be lucky.[4]

I’m remembering a lyric by Albert King: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”[5]

Finally, on March 20th, I wrote,

What if Donald Trump’s initial diminishing and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic[6] was meant to cover a retreat from the stock market by his allies?[7] They all deny it, of course. But also, it just looks to me like, for all that earlier denial and minimization, the Republicans are better prepared to present proposals than the Democrats.[8] For a lot of folks, this will be just putting two and two together. Or as Watergate’s “Deep Throat” was famously portrayed saying, “Follow the money.”

Consider this: After a decade of Republicans obstructing Democrats, suddenly on this singular issue, it is Democrats who are cast in the role of obstructing an urgent Republican proposal.[9] Something is surely up and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that Nancy Pelosi is smarter than Mitch McConnell.[10]

Now, here’s Kevin Williamson at the mostly neoconservative National Review:

If you want to know why people are so vulnerable to conspiracy theories and to misinformation, it is in part because they believe that they are being lied to by those with whom they have entrusted great power, that the truth is being kept from them by design. They are not wrong about that: The New York Times has the emails explicitly directing state authorities to keep the facts — “numeric values” — from “the public.”

Right now, the question for Trump, et al., is whether they will be reelected. But there are military hospital ships anchored off both coasts, and ventilators and other necessities are in short supply, for a reason. Perhaps we will be successful at “flattening the curve” and avoiding a pandemic that is as bad as it has the potential to be. These clowns in Washington had better pray perfervidly that we are successful. Senator Burr is not expected to run again in 2022. His retirement is understood to be a foregone conclusion. But the world is going to remember that when history called, Senator Burr called his broker, and it will take more than stock profits to ensure that his retirement is a comfortable one.[11]

This quote and the headline on Williamson’s article slightly mislead: Williamson points to a number of data points implicating a number of politicians. Earlier in his piece, he writes,

The senators’ explanations run the gamut from the more or less plausible, at a glance, to the barely plausible. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that these stories may be plausible on a case-by-case basis but that that plausibility requires a level of trust that Washington as a whole has not earned. And maybe Hunter Biden has some special charm known only to Ukrainians.[12]

I have little use for neoconservatives as a general rule. And Williamson’s appearance in the National Review only suggests he is probably a neoconservative. I’m more suspicious than he is—I think—but he lays out the evidence.

Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/

David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence


  1. [1]Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  2. [2]Rachel Levine, quoted in Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  3. [3]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  4. [4]David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence
  5. [5]Albert King, “Album: Born Under A Bad Sign,” Song Facts, 1967, https://www.songfacts.com/lyrics/albert-king/born-under-a-bad-sign
  6. [6]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  7. [7]Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html
  8. [8]Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  9. [9]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic;  Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html;Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/20/why-do-republicans-seem-better-prepared-to-present-proposals-on-coronavirus-relief-than-democrats/
  11. [11]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/
  12. [12]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Elon Musk, our rich white knight in shining armor

Elon Musk

There is a new blog post entitled, “Elon Musk, groan, again.”

Tim Higgins, “Elon Musk’s Defiance in the Time of Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musks-defiance-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-11584733458

Jack Morse, “Ventilator manufacturers aren’t impressed by Elon Musk’s offer,” Mashable, March 21, 2020, https://mashable.com/article/experts-doubt-tesla-elon-musk-manufacture-ventilators/

Zachary Shahan, “Elon Musk: Should Have 1000 Ventilators Next Week, + 250,000 N95 Masks For Hospitals Tomorrow,” CleanTechnica, March 21, 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/03/21/elon-musk-should-have-1000-ventilators-next-week-250k-n95-masks-for-hospitals-tomorrow-cleantechnica-exclusive/


Coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is looking for power to, among other things, abrogate habeas corpus.[1] Just so we know where their priorities lie.

Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023


  1. [1]Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023