Winter is Coming

(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

With the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all of the idiotic #BlackLivesMatter disturbances, a lot of people have forgotten the biggest problem: the economy. At least CNN Business has not:

The economic recovery hangs in the balance as winter approaches

By Julia Horowitz, CNN Business | Updated 8:20 AM ET | Sunday, September 20, 2020

London (CNN Business) Months after top economies first enacted strict quarantines, the Covid-19 pandemic is approaching a bleak milestone: there have been 30 million coronavirus cases around the world, and almost 950,000 deaths.

What’s happening: Even as the situation appears to be stabilizing in the United States, the case load remains elevated. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe.

Policymakers are nervously eying the fall and winter, when people will spend more time indoors, risking additional coronavirus infections at a time when colds and seasonal flu typically stress health systems. Outbreaks are also putting economists on high alert, with the chance for renewed harsh lockdowns in some regions just as the recovery is gaining strength.

Israel kicked off a second general lockdown on Friday. The UK government isn’t ruling out another national lockdown, though the health secretary has said it would be “the last line of defense.”

There’s much more at the original, but the numbers ate stark: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development changed its projections for world economic contraction to 4.5% for this year, which is at least better than its guesstimate of 6%, made last June. OECD revised its economic growth projection for 2021 down to 5.0%, from 5.2%, which may be a reflection of its estimates for fewer losses this year.

The article also focuses on what kind, if any, economic stimulus plan is passed by Congress; Congress has to act quickly, as the fiscal year ends on September 30th, and without action, the federal government will be shut down.

The real question is: will there be a vaccine developed for COVID-19, the virus which started all of the economic shutdowns? As we noted just 18 days ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has indicated that he will not allow indoor dining to resume in the greatest restaurant city in the world until a vaccine is developed:

The resumption of indoor dining in New York City hinges on a “huge step forward” — like the development of a coronavirus vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

The mayor sounded less than optimistic that eatery owners and workers would be able to start earning a living again — and diners able to enjoy a meal inside an eatery — before the June 1, 2021, return date, set earlier this month.

“We do expect — and pray for and expect — a vaccine in the spring that will allow us to get more back to normal,” he said at his daily press briefing, “but I will absolutely tell you, we’re going to keep looking for that situation where we can push down the virus enough where we would have more ability to address indoor dining.”

Mayor Jim Kenney (D-Philadelphia) allowed the resumption of indoor dining, but at just 25% of seating capacity, on September 8th. Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) announced that, in the rest of the Keystone State, restaurants could open for indoor dining at 50% of capacity beginning on September 21st.

This action by the Governor came before federal Judge William S. Stickman IV invalidated many of Governor Wolf’s executive orders. The Governor said that he would file an appeal with the Third Circuit and ask for a stay on Judge Stickman’s order, but if he has done so yet, I have been unable to find it, and no stay on the Judge’s order has been issued.

Restaurants cannot survive if operating at 25% capacity, and while some have claimed that restaurants can break even at 50% capacity, even that number seems shaky.

As the CNN Business article headline noted, winter is approaching. That might seem like an odd point to make, given that there are still two days left of summer, but cold weather arrives before the technical beginning of winter. It was 51ºF on the farm this morning, and if we have a forecast high of a pleasant 75º today, tonight’s low is forecast to drop to 46º.¹ Restaurants which have managed to survive thanks to outdoor dining are going to be moving into a fall in which evening temperatures can easily drop into the forties. Mayor de Blasio, with an estimated net worth of $2.5 million, might be completely blasé about thousand s upon thousands of New Yorkers being out of work, but to the people without jobs, it’s deathly serious. Governor Andy Beshear (D-KY) said, back in July:

I’m not confident that every bar can survive the next two weeks. It’s not fair to those that have done it responsibly, and I’m not going to pretend now that it’s fair, and I’m not going to pretend like there are some small businesses that they won’t make it through this.

He acted like he cared, but he didn’t really care when he threw bar owners and employees out of work. The politicians who don’t have to worry about their jobs don’t seem to care all that much about people who do.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, in response to a question by ABC’s David Muir as to whether he would shut down the economy if “scientists” advised him to do so, replied, “I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.” He tried to ‘clarify’ his statement, claiming that “There’s going to be no need, in my view, to be able to shut down the whole economy,” but that’s mealy-mouthing on his part.

COVID-19 is serious, but people’s livelihoods are serious, too. Government measures throwing people out of work, of throwing businesses onto the scrap heap, are going to produce, are already producing situations in which people are thrown deeply into poverty. To do that in the middle of winter is to condemn people to homelessness in life-threatening weather. People dying from freezing weather are no less dead than those who perish due to COVID-19.
¹ – Obvious point: my farm in Kentucky is south of every point in Pennsylvania and New York.
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