“President Trump said he wanted the U.S. ‘opened up and just raring to go by Easter,’ a goal top health officials have called far too quick.” — New York Times, 3/24/20
A few weeks from now…
I am so glad President Trump ended social distancing and said we could all go back to work. The economy is booming again. Stores have re-opened, restaurants are serving meals, and millions of Americans have returned to their jobs. Shame about all the death, but just look at the Dow! Opening stuff back up at Easter was absolutely the right move.
Sure, a pandemic is not ideal, but that doesn’t mean the economy should needlessly suffer. My daughter didn’t learn about the Black Death in history class this year because her teacher died. Still, I assume that, had Ms. Gordon been alive, she would have taught my daughter that during the Black Death, the economy was okay because people accepted the risks and just got on with their work. The same was probably true during the Spanish Flu — something my daughter will hopefully learn next year if her school can address their staffing issues.
Admittedly, there have been a few hiccups. Occasionally, my co-workers have to miss weeks of work because there is a considerable waiting list for formerly routine medical procedures. Most doctors right now are quite busy for some reason, which has been great for healthcare stocks, but less great if you need someone to take out your appendix. A few other doctors are less busy, but that is because they are dead.
Unnecessary work absences and this thing where people get a weird look in their eye and start crying, “Everyone I loved is dead!” during business meetings, are the only things keeping us from maximum efficiency in the workplace.
Those are just minor issues, though. We structured our economy in such a way as to avoid the brunt of the virus’s impact. The victims of the virus, while surely lovely people and dearly missed or whatever, were takers not makers. The bulk of the fatalities were elderly people and city residents. Thankfully, we had the foresight to make young people in rural areas the driving force of our economy. It’s good we hadn’t set up structural inequities, institutional barriers, and experience requirements such that 90% of our economic activity took place in a few dense metropolitan areas, and the decision-makers tended to almost exclusively be elderly men who loved international travel. All of our Fortune 500 companies with young CEOs sprinkled a safe distance apart from each other across Wyoming are doing great.
While most of the economy is crushing it right now, there are a few small sectors that haven’t been thriving quite as much. It turns out that the recent experience of seeing loved ones die needlessly from a communicable disease has put a damper on some people’s desire to be in crowded areas, even though they are now permitted to and should do their patriotic duty to boost the economy by doing so. We hope they will come around, but fortunately, this has only affected a few mom-and-pop businesses, such as movie theaters, museums, restaurants, bars, clubs, amusement parks, gyms, state fairs, county fairs, Renaissance fairs, zoos, aquariums, Disneyland, Disneyworld, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, the MLS, the PGA tour, the NFL, the XFL, casinos, malls, and Coachella.
We probably have to do something about the looting, though. It turns out that when a majority of your police force is incapacitated by illness and a sizable chunk of those not incapacitated are dead, it’s hard to get a speedy response to 911 calls. However, once we get our local militias set up, and our international supply chains stop being interrupted by other countries’ unwillingness to come in contact with our wildly contagious population, I’m confident the retail sector will fully recover.
Still, a few challenges aside, a cursory glance at the NASDAQ vindicates our decision to end this horrible economic slowdown and get back to work. Sure, we may have lost a couple of million people, but we gained something even more priceless in return: a return to economic normalcy in time to partially preserve some stock options.