Did you hear the one about the barrel of oil selling for -$37.63? There’s really no punchline here, just the fact that producers in some parts of the world are actually paying buyers to take oil for storage.
But don’t worry, everything is going to be OK.
Now as much as all of us have become armchair epidemiologists and virologists over the past couple of months, so too are we all working on our doctorates in global economics. And mostly what I gather from those Ph.D. candidates who also don’t want the COVID-19 lockdown to end until they’re not frightened anymore is the great economic bromide, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be OK.” I think it was John Locke who first uttered the phrase.
Petroleum companies paying people to take their oil? That’s not exactly an omen that “everything will be alright.” It frankly portends the kind of economic devastation that has me thinking about life as a hobo riding the rails and eating beans out of a can. I’m much more worried about our country’s long-term sustainability than a virus with a survival rate that will probably be greater than 99 percent once we have a clear idea of all the people who carry the antibodies.
Talk has begun about “re-opening the country,” but anytime someone gets a little bold about that, they scuttle back quickly to talking about how public health is the thing that matters most. Suddenly it doesn’t look like this thing is going to totally end quickly.
Should it end quickly? If you read the headlines, there’s a lot of doom, gloom and more frightening warnings. One story says the virus has already mutated 30 times. Another quotes the World Health Organization Head saying the worst hasn’t hit yet. Dr. Fauci says we’re moving too fast. The talk of the “even worse” SECOND WAVE is now dominating the boob tube.
That may sound familiar, because it’s more or less the same panicky rhetoric that got us where we are now.
Here are some things we know or think we know:
- Regardless of whether it was because of extreme social distancing and lockdown measures or overinflated guestimates at the beginning of this crisis (probably a combination), we don’t appear to be coming anywhere near the claims of 1 or 2 million people dying, or even 240,000 that was being kicked around a few weeks ago.
- As I write this, just over 40,000 people have died nationwide — essentially one percent of one percent of the total population.
- Just over 177,000 people have died worldwide, out of a population of 7.5 billion.
- By the time you read this, close to 30 million Americans will have filed for unemployment.
- Many of those 30 million are finding unemployment agencies so overwhelmed it’s taking weeks and weeks to start getting money.
- The government plans to save small businesses have so far left the majority of small businesses in this country with nothing.
- The longer we wait, the more economic damage will occur.
- When we open the country back up, some people are likely to catch COVID.
- Every one of those people will have been made very aware of the virus.
- Every person who lost a job, who loses a home, who loses a business and who can no longer take care of a family had no idea this was coming.
I get that it’s not an easy decision to make politically. Those who want total lockdown until two weeks after the last COVID death has taken place are certainly going to highlight every death, regardless of the circumstances.
But does anyone really think the country AS A WHOLE — the 330 million who haven’t caught COVID or died from it — can take another three weeks or month of this lockdown? Everything is coming apart at the seams. Our very way of life is in danger. We are playing with fire.
In Alabama, the dire death predictions evaporated overnight. We’re on track for 290 deaths, only 18 of which would supposedly occur after May 1, according to the U of W chart that has guided every good or bad decision. We’re talking 290 people out of almost 5 million. It’s not getting struck by lightning rare, but it’s about a 200th of a percent of our entire population. The flu normally kills over 1,000 a year, according to Department of Health numbers.
This morning Mobile County has suffered 38 deaths out of a population of 413,000 people. We’ve had 24,000 new unemployment claims, which is nearly 6 percent of the population.
I’m certainly not trying to downplay the horrors of losing family members to COVID, and I am very happy the early projections of 7,500 people dying statewide appear to have been created from fairy dust. But I’m also not going to downplay the horrors of tens of millions having their entire lives destroyed as if it’s just an inconvenience.
With 30 million people out of work, foreclosures, homelessness and hunger will absolutely increase. Probably in numbers far larger than those who perish from COVID-19. Those people will lose healthcare and will have nowhere to “shelter in place” during future outbreaks. Why is this acceptable?
Is it just because we’re too dumb to see the tragedy that’s unfolding on top of the tragedy that is winding down?
States are running out of unemployment money rapidly. What happens when there’s no money? This next round of PPP could be gone in days, leaving hundreds of thousands of businesses teetering on the edge of disaster, ensuring not only that their employees have nowhere to go, but also that cities lose funds important to maintaining proper police and fire protection and all that entails.
Alabama is a state that leans on sales tax like a big, fat crutch that’s been patched together 100 times. The state is about to see its money go away. Cutbacks are coming. Mobile is lucky to have a rainy day fund, but sales tax revenue losses are going to set us way back as well.
It’s time for Gov. Ivey to open the state back up. It’s time for Mobile and Baldwin to reopen. People will just have to make it through the end of this pandemic doing what’s smartest for them. Those with underlying conditions will probably need to quarantine until they get the all-clear. Obviously we should all practice proper hygiene and distancing.
But we cannot keep digging a deeper and deeper hole. A healthy economy is part of having a healthy life. Tough decisions must be made. It’s time, Governor Ivey.
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