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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,363

Journal Archives

The Covid-19 Slump Has Arrived. But we're already botching the response.

Over a normal two-week period we’d expect around half a million U.S. workers to file claims for unemployment insurance. Over the past two weeks we’ve seen almost 10 million filings. We’re facing an incredible economic catastrophe.

The question is whether we’re ready to deal with this catastrophe. Alas, early indications are that we may be handling fast-moving economic disaster as badly as we handled the fast-moving pandemic that’s causing it.

The key thing to realize is that we aren’t facing a conventional recession, at least so far. For now, most job losses are inevitable, indeed necessary: They’re a result of social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That is, we’re going into the economic equivalent of a medically induced coma, in which some brain functions are temporarily shut down to give the patient a chance to heal.

This means that the principal job of economic policy right now isn’t to provide stimulus, that is, to sustain employment and G.D.P. It is, instead, to provide life support — to limit the hardship of Americans who have temporarily lost their incomes.


Lawsuits Swell as Owners, From Gun Shops to Golf Courses, Demand to Open

Blueberry Hill Public Golf Course & Lounge became a community institution almost the day it opened in western Pennsylvania in 1961, with one generation of players succeeding the next on the wooded, undulating course bordering the Allegheny National Forest.

It had its share of misfortune — last spring a tornado roared through its 400 acres, leaving $100,000 in damages across its 18 holes. With spring now budding early, Jim Roth, the general manager, anticipated a boom year even as coronavirus fears escalated — people still needed exercise, didn’t they?

“I thought I had a little bright light starting to shine, then somebody turned the light bulb off,” Mr. Roth said.

That somebody, as far as he was concerned, was Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. On March 19, Mr. Wolf introduced an initiative to categorize businesses as “life-sustaining” or not, shuttering golf courses among the latter.

So Mr. Roth sued, joining a lawyer, a realtor, a logger, a politician and a laundry owner in demanding that the governor not hold absolute power to open and shut segments of the Pennsylvania economy like a spigot.


Decade of Job Growth Comes to an End, Undone by a Pandemic

The longest stretch of job creation in American history came to a halt last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, another reflection of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the economy to a virtual standstill.

Compared with the astounding numbers of people recently applying for unemployment benefits — nearly 10 million in the previous two weeks — the figure announced Friday was less striking: a loss of 701,000 jobs. But the data was mostly collected in the first half of the month, before stay-at-home orders began to cover much of the nation. With that, what had been a drip-drip-drip of job losses turned into a deluge.

“As bad as this report is, next month will be many orders of magnitude worse,” said Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays. “This is the initial slippage of the labor market.” He said the March unemployment rate of 4.4 percent could rise to 13 percent in April.

The decline in employment last month represents the biggest monthly drop since the depths of the Great Recession in 2008-9. It was paced by a net loss of 459,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector.


Trump Practicing Distancing from All His Prior Statements About the Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Issuing a new distancing guideline on Wednesday, Donald Trump said that he was now practicing distancing from all of his previous statements about the coronavirus.

“As of today, I will be keeping a great distance between myself and anything I said about covid-19 in the months of January, February, and March,” he said. “I will be staying at least six feet away from those statements, and probably more like ten thousand feet.”

Trump said that he could not predict how long his new practice of distancing would continue, but indicated, “Next week, I will probably be distancing myself from things I said this week. This could go on for a long time.”

He urged all Americans to distance themselves from his previous statements, as well. “If you’re watching CNN or MSNBC and they start showing things I said in February, leave the room immediately,” he advised.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the esteemed virologist, expressed approval of Trump’s new policy. “Personally, I have been distancing myself from his statements for months,” he said.


This Fireball Ignored the Solar System's One-Way Signs

It’s not unusual for meteors to illuminate night skies over southwestern Australia’s desolate landscapes. But the fireball of July 7, 2017, was different. For a full minute and a half, it just kept burning and burning and burning. The object carved a trace of light as wide across as Texas, then faded.

Many meteors disintegrate in our atmosphere, or slow down and crash into the soil. But after its light show, this one kept going, departing our planet with a celestial “thanks, but no thanks.”

Next stop: Jupiter, at the beginning of 2025. And after tangling with that giant planet’s gravity, it will most likely be ejected into interstellar space, said Patrick Shober, a graduate student at Curtin University in Western Australia who led a team that studied the event.

The July 2017 event is known as a grazing fireball, a rare type of meteoroid that hits Earth’s atmosphere at a low angle, then skims like a skipping stone on a lake.


Republicans were warned. Yet they persisted in defending Trump.

That notorious cut-up Mitch McConnell got an early jump on April Fools’ Day this year, blaming Democrats for the Trump administration’s failure to prepare for the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It came up while we were, you know, tied down in the impeachment trial,” the Senate majority leader said Tuesday. “And I think it diverted the attention of the government.”

In addition to implicitly acknowledging that President Trump wasn’t paying attention to the growing danger, it was a curious entry into the blame game for the Kentucky Republican, who recently said this isn’t “a time for partisan bickering.”

If anybody was diverted, it was McConnell, who, along with most of his GOP colleagues, again put lockstep defense of the president ahead of the national interest. During the three weeks of the impeachment trial, public health experts gave stark warnings about the growing biological threat. In that same time, several Senate Democrats (and a few Republicans) urged a more robust mobilization.


Republicants own this crisis.

For the first time in my life, I think a depression is conceivable

When I began writing about economics in the early 1970s, I made a private vow that I would never use the word “depression” in describing the state of the economy. The economists and politicians who occasionally did so were, I thought, engaged in partisan hyperbole. Their game was to scare people into thinking the end of the world was at hand or to pressure Congress to enact a favored piece of economic legislation.

Well, times change. I revoke my vow.

It’s not that I’ve concluded that we’re already in a depression. But we could be. For the first time in my life, I think it’s conceivable. This obviously would be a big deal. It implies permanently higher levels of unemployment (though joblessness would still fluctuate), greater economic instability and a collision between democracy and the economic system.

Since World War II, business cycles have been — with a few notable exceptions — mild and relatively brief. From 1945 to 1990, there were 10 recessions averaging about 10 months each, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), an academic group that dates recessions and recoveries. Some slumps were severe. The monthly postwar unemployment rate peaked at 10.8 percent in late 1982; gluts of workers and products put an end to double-digit inflation.

But even the harshest postwar recessions were tame compared with the Great Depression of the 1930s. There are at least three characteristics that define the Depression and set it apart from postwar recessions.


Decades of Republican political and economic policies are now coming home to roost. They've been yearning for a return to the past, but it's the 1930s instead of the 1950s.

Why the Global Recession Could Last a Long Time

The world is almost certainly ensnared in a devastating recession delivered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, fears are growing that the downturn could be far more punishing and long lasting than initially feared — potentially enduring into next year, and even beyond — as governments intensify restrictions on business to halt the spread of the pandemic, and as fear of the virus reconfigures the very concept of public space, impeding consumer-led economic growth.

The pandemic is above all a public health emergency. So long as human interaction remains dangerous, business cannot responsibly return to normal. And what was normal before may not be anymore. People may be less inclined to jam into crowded restaurants and concert halls even after the virus is contained.

The abrupt halt of commercial activity threatens to impose economic pain so profound and enduring in every region of the world at once that recovery could take years. The losses to companies, many already saturated with debt, risk triggering a financial crisis of cataclysmic proportions.


In new campaign ad, McConnell touts role in passage of 'biggest economic rescue package in history'

Source: Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seeking to turn the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic to his political advantage with a new campaign ad that touts his role in passing “the biggest economic rescue package in history.”

The 30-second spot, airing in support of McConnell’s reelection bid in Kentucky, says that “in times of crisis, we look to leaders” and features images of him striding through the Capitol and standing behind President Trump as he signed the measure into law last week.

The fact that a Republican incumbent is touting his role in passing such a massive spending bill underscores how significantly the pandemic has reshaped this election season and adds to the drama the issue has injected into the Kentucky race.

In 2009, McConnell joined most Republicans in voting against the $787 billion package passed during the Obama administration in response to the economic crisis. At the time, Republicans argued that it was too large and not focused enough on creating jobs.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-new-campaign-ad-mcconnell-touts-role-in-passage-of-biggest-economic-rescue-package-in-history/2020/04/01/16df8f78-740b-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html

The environmental upside of the virus shows the green way ahead

In the midst of the economic and health tragedy posed by the coronavirus pandemic, there is an unexpected bright side: the marked improvement in our environment as a result of the massive slowdown. With that comes a responsibility as well — to recover and rebuild in a way that helps deal with the challenge that will persist once the virus is under control.

The environmental changes, in so short a time, are already evident and dramatic. In Los Angeles, people are home from work, but they can see the blue sky above. In Venice, the canals are not brimming with tourist-filled gondolas, but the water is running cleaner, if not clean. People are taking time to be in nature because it is the best way to get out of the house and comply with social distancing requirements. And they are reaping health benefits because pollution levels across the country are plummeting as a result of humans staying home.

Indeed, the most surprising headline recently is that the reduction in our activity that is intended to reduce the spread of the disease may have saved tens of thousands of lives around the globe — in addition to those that are saved by social distancing to avoid getting the virus. A Stanford University researcher conservatively estimates that the reduction in air pollution for two months in China saved more than 50,000 people who would have otherwise died prematurely.

But we fear that instead of appreciating what we had been missing in our consumption-driven, plastic- and fossil-fuel-addicted world, we will rush to rebuild it just as it was. If the first three stimulus bills are any indication, that is exactly what we will do. The last bill was stripped of anything deemed to be “green,” even to the detriment of our health. State and local water authorities were denied needed assistance to keep water flowing so people can wash their hands, even though the water authorities are expecting as much as a 40 percent loss in revenue. We cannot imagine why dredging our harbors (which got funded) was more important than keeping clean water flowing to homes, hospitals and essential businesses.

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