Random Thoughts – Randocity!

The U.S. in Peril

Posted in economy, government, Health, politics, security by commorancy on March 19, 2020

book-burn-1920I really didn’t want to write this article, but it must be written. Unfortunately, the US (and probably other countries) have come to a crossroads. As they say, the truth will out…. and here it comes. Let’s explore.

Brutal Truth

These lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders have caused many, many small and medium businesses to shutter their doors and lay off staff. They’re not closed for only a few days, but for potentially weeks and possibly even a month or two.

Practically no business is prepared to run without income for weeks, let alone months. It’s no wonder, then, that business owners and operators are laying off so many of their workers. You can’t continue to hold onto staff when you can’t even pay your own business’s lease and bills. This is just the tip of this iceberg.

You just wait. It gets worse. Much, much worse.

Unemployment

It is theorized that as many as 20% may become unemployed due to COVID-19. I’d guess that this is a conservative estimate and it will go much, much higher than this. 99% of businesses in the US are considered small businesses. This is the highest failure group for an extended lockdown scenario.

JP Morgan Chase writes:

Over 99 percent of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses. The vast majority (88 percent) of employer firms have fewer than 20 employees, and nearly 40 percent of all enterprises have under $100k in revenue.

What does this mean for the US? This means that potentially 28.4 million businesses are at risk of permanent closure due to the COVID-19 crisis. That means potentially up to 568 million jobs are also at risk of loss due to COVID-19.

Some small businesses may be able to weather a few weeks of this storm, but not much after that. Again, this situation can (and likely will) get much worse the longer it lasts.

Survival and Economy

With up to 568 million people without jobs, this means that the economy will not only tank, it will implode. The stock market won’t even exist. There will be nothing left of the US economy.

I did say that this can get worse. Yes, it can. And… it can even go beyond this.

Apocolypse

This word is actually defined as “catastrophic change”… with the word catastrophic being the key word here.

Turning out this many people to unemployment means desperation. As people’s ability to feed, clothe and house their families and themselves dwindle, desperate actions will become necessary (at least for some). Once the newly turned Robinhood thugs turn out en-masse to shake down those who “have” to feed those who “haven’t”, it’s going to get ugly. Really, really ugly. In fact, COVID-19 will likely become the least of everyone’s worry.

It will then become mostly about survival of the fittest and who has the “necessary force” to get what is needed to survive.

We haven’t yet reached this level of desperation as people still have small stock of food, water and can live out their remaining rent, but our society is quickly coming to a turning point. Once rents can no longer be paid, food can no longer be bought and gas can no longer be afforded (or even found), the niceties of our former social world will come to a grinding halt. Then, desperation takes hold.

What will ensue is looting, gangs and these folks being forced to obtain food, water and shelter by force. The currency will no longer be the dollar, but the bullet or knife. Violence is in the US country population’s nature. When it becomes necessary to survive (and it will), then all bets are off.

Martial Law

Yes, the Government can roll its military through and declare martial law to attempt to stem the tide of the new age of lawlessness that will begin, but that can’t last. Eventually, the government itself will break down and fail to be of any use. Those in the military will be conflicted about where to take orders and, indeed, where if any place can they even use the money they are being paid.

If small businesses fail, what can you spend your money on? Will that money even be worth anything? Larger businesses like Target and Walmart may be able to last for a bit longer, but eventually the supply lines will dry up as the small business suppliers close. It will become a vicious cycle that won’t end until the country has entirely unraveled.

Making the hard Choice

The country is at a serious perilous crossroads. It can keep everything closed in order to stem the COVID-19 tide or it can immediately lift the lockdown and shelter-in-place orders and let businesses reopen to save what’s left of the economy.

With COVID-19, we may be forced to let the chips fall where they may. We can’t keep society closed forever. We can’t even keep it down for a few weeks. For the US to continue its way of existence, it must be unlocked and allowed to resume.

Yes, we need to be cautious and vigilant to avoid getting COVID-19, but we can’t let COVID-19 grind the US to a halt and, subsequently, to completely unravel the US’s entire way of life.

We have to consider what’s worse? Perhaps 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 or millions of deaths due to a bankrupt US economy leaving millions homeless? Without an economy, the US can’t survive as a country. Having a president preside over a dead country is like not having a president at all.

Believe me when I say that if the US is forced into martial law, it won’t be long before there’s bloodshed… and that won’t have anything to do with being infected with COVID-19.

As I said, I really dislike writing this article, but the outcome of what can become a very real possibility must be said. Right now, the president is basically saying, “everything’s going to be okay”, but that’s not reality. If these lockdowns continue beyond a week or two, much of our country’s way of life is doomed to vanish forever. Even Hollywood may never be able to recover from this… the biggest entertainment producer in the world will be lost. Without Hollywood and the music business, this country will plunge into a second dark age.

With all of that said, cities, counties and even the federal government needs to reconsider these lockdown actions pronto. Staying locked down for months will tailspin the US into unrecoverable territory. This will force many families into the streets without the means to obtain food, clothing or shelter. The homeless shelters will be forced to shutter because even they can’t afford to stay in business. Literally, the entire country will fall back to “the wild, wild west”. People will be forced to take matters into their own hands to survive.

Now, it is difficult to foresee exactly how all of this plays out, but no matter the sequence of events, the end result will be failure, death and loss of the US way of life. We will turn back into small communities together using local services. We will have to barter to live. The technology we so actively thrive on will cease to exist. The computers will still function, but the internet may effectively shut down as more and more businesses are forced to close. Even cell phones may become a thing of the past as lawlessness and anarchy begin driving survival. Even money may become worthless paper.

Alarmist?

This article may seem a bit alarmist. In part it may be, but it is also grounded in current lockdown reality and is based on where we are headed today, while still in the early stages of these lockdowns. Simply reviewing Twitter, you can already see just how many people have been furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. News articles show restaurants and other businesses with their doors shut and lights out.

Right now is a perilous time and our government leaders needs to weigh what’s coming if we remain on this course. If we don’t change our course now, there may not be any time left to change this downward spiral.

COVID-19 may, in fact, turn out to be the least of society’s worries. Our society isn’t currently prepared to live and work at home on a semi-permanent basis. It hasn’t ever considered or prepared financially for this eventuality. There are just no work-at-home jobs that pay enough to live. Most businesses can’t afford (nor are they willing) to begin paying people the salaries they were getting when they worked in a company office. I’m not even sure that companies can recover enough at this point to pay those former salaries anyway.

Tailspin

We only need to look at the stock market to understand the ramifications of business closures, layoffs and lockdowns. Clearly, people are selling because they know they will need that money to live. The stock market can’t handle this kind of mass sell off. But, it’s inevitable and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

This means way less investing overall and that means less investment capital for businesses to stay in business. Businesses will also need to recover any investments they currently have to pay their own bills also, which means more selling. And, unless this COVID-19 lockdown business is unlocked soon, there won’t be an economy left to save or investments worth holding.

Only the currently richest businesses may be able to weather this storm for any length of time, such as Apple and possibly Google. That is, those businesses with billions in the bank. That also depends on how worthless the dollar becomes. Even then, these rich companies will have to start trimming their own workforce or face a cash hemorrhage crisis.

This situation will likely also tumble salaries massively. It will tumble everything including home values, multifamily rent and even phone bills. Not only will it be a recession, it may become a depression forcing major deflation across the board. One might think deflation is a good thing, but it’s not. When few will be able to afford to pay for much, even at deflated prices, we’re in for a rough and violent road ahead.

Prevention?

Can this combined economic and societal tailspin be prevented? It depends entirely on our governmental leaders. If they can find ways to prop up the local economies while allowing businesses to reopen in safe and effective ways, then perhaps. Unfortunately, I doubt that propping up everything is possible. There are far too many people to attempt to prop up every man, woman and child in the nation. Even the measly $1000 grant from the government can’t possibly help to stem this quickly overflowing tide. The only thing it will do is, in fact, make the situation worse.

How can we reopen safely? That’s the million dollar question. The first thing that needs to happen is to find a way to disinfect people’s clothing and surfaces before they enter any large gathering. This way, when they touch any surfaces within, there’s no chance of leaving latent virus behind or picking one up. Second, we need near instant viral load testing. It doesn’t matter the virus. What matters is that the person has a high viral load of any kind. If a person is carrying a high viral load of any kind, they will be denied access to all social gatherings. It doesn’t matter if the virus is COVID-19, HIV, the flu or a simple cold. We can’t be specific here. Testing needs to be general because it’s too complicated to try to determine COVID-19 specifically. This will weed out super spreaders.

With any high viral load, you can’t fly, you can’t get on a bus and you can’t enter a restaurant, store or any other business. If you’re carrying a high viral load, an isolated medical transport will come to collect you and take you home where you must stay until you can be tested viral load free. If you’re found out and about a second time, you may be jailed. HIV positive people may be a problem in this. But, HIV is also a virus and it does count under viral load. It’s not necessarily spread as easily as COVID-19 appears to be, but it is spreadable.

These actions are the only way we can protect citizens against COVID-19 and still operate society in some kind of normal fashion. Without some semblance of normality resuming quickly for our every day lives, there will be no hope of recovery for not only the economy, but for society in the US as a whole. When TV shows can’t film, when music performers can’t perform, when you can’t go to the movies, a restaurant or even an amusement park and when everyone is scared to even walk out their front door, society grinds to a halt… and that’s where we are now. Society has stopped dead in its tracks.

The things that the US is so known for can’t even be done. All business that revolves around those activities and linked to activities plus the activities secondarily and tertiarily linked will equally suffer. It’s a huge supply chain, with emphasis on the word ‘chain’. When one link breaks, the entire chain fails.

Unless we can figure out a way to kick our society back into gear, fix the chain and keep it going, we’re at the cusp of situation that is bad… very, very bad. So bad that it’s practically impossible to understand or predict just how bad it can really get. Though, we can most certainly guess.

Lawlessness

When there is a large contingent of the working force that becomes not only unemployed, but hungry and homeless, where do we go from here? As the saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” What that means is that many people will get desperate to feed, clothe, house and protect their families… and many will attempt to take matters into their own hands to make that a reality, using necessary force if needed. This means I’d expect gun violence and looting to drastically increase.

This lawlessness will drive the government into declaring martial law. Right now, we’re at the cusp. We are teetering on the precipice. But, it won’t take much for that edge to collapse and then society falls in. In fact, we’re currently on the verge of collapse.

Government, Survival, Society and Hard Choices

I urge the governmental leaders to reconsider these lockdowns. Instead, we need to find alternative workable solutions that allow businesses to resume normal operation while attempting to keep them safe from COVID-19.

If we can’t resume a semblance of normal societal operation, we will likely end up in bloodshed. We might even have anarchy on our hands. We could even have more deaths due to unemployment and a deep depression than from COVID-19.

Governments must weigh these risks carefully. COVID-19 is a known quantity. It will kill a number of people just because of what it is. But, attempting to protect every person from it may end up collapsing society as we know it. This collapse could very easily bring about unnecessary violence as people attempt to survive. A societal collapse could even bring about more death, violence and destruction than even COVID-19 and the Flu combined.

When people get desperate enough, they will break into houses, steal food, clothing and use it for shelter. They may even consider killing others to get what they need. They will break into stores and loot. They will break into stores to steal necessities. Is that where we want society? Is that what we want to see? Is that what the current government really wants for its people?

All told, the death toll from violent survivalists could actually kill more people than COVID-19. This risk must be weighed! Letting the virus run its natural course while allowing society to operate may be a better (and safer) choice than having to declare martial law, while attempting to lockdown an entire nation. There are simply not enough troops to do that, which will lead to an even worse outcome. This situation could even trigger a second civil war, except this time it will be between governmental forces and its out of work citizens.

If we let society collapse, all bets are off on how many deaths may occur… not necessarily directly because of COVID-19, but this virus may certainly contribute in some way to that death toll.

This is a serious decision that governmental leaders must consider and they must decide NOW. Complacence and apathy doesn’t work. Strong decisive change must be implemented quickly. It may not be happy news for some, but society can’t be ground to a halt for the 18 months (as some organizations have predicted) for COVID-19 to subside. The US can’t survive an 18 month lockdown. It can’t even survive a 1 month lockdown. We must craft an alternative solution. We must craft and implement that solution NOW, while there’s still time to bring us back from the precipice. There is no other choice.

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2 Responses

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  1. commorancy said, on March 24, 2020 at 7:07 am

    Here’s another update that I think better remains out of the body of this article.

    Trump is considering reopening the economy. Let’s just draw a line here like this: A | B.

    A = economy is shutdown
    B = economy is opened up

    The line between the two is an exclusive OR. We can’t really have both at the same time. Right now we’re firmly on the A side. However, Trump would like to move back to the B side. Since we can see where the A side is heading, I’ll first discuss…

    The B Side

    The death prediction with an open society is anywhere between 1.25% and 2.5% casualty rate across the board. Right now, the death toll in the US stands at 500 from 40,000 cases. That’s a 1.25% fatality rate. That rate is also because people are able to get treatment in hospitals, with most on ventilators. This means that this rate probably would have been higher from COVID-19 had hospital care been unavailable.

    Let’s consider A for just a moment. On the ‘A’ side, self-isolation keeps the numbers of infected down to a manageable level by hospitals. If we move the to ‘B’ side, the numbers of cases will skyrocket… eventually overloading the ability for the current 6,000-7,000 hospitals in the nation to handle. Of those numbers of hospitals, there are around 924,000 hospital beds. That seems like a lot, but it gets worse for COVID-19 when we’re on the B side. There are around 65,000 total ventilators across these hospitals. That means that hospitals can concurrently treat 65,000 COVID-19 patients in need of a ventilator. Considering that there are around 827 million people in the US, we will need to further consider that the 1.25% casualty rate is likely to increase as hospitals become overloaded. With a 50-70% infection rate (that’s 413-579 million eventually infected), we’re talking anywhere between 7 million and 14 million people dead (1.25% – 2.5%) on the B side of the fence once the infection rate peaks.

    Make no mistake, the infection rate WILL peak with an open economy. There’s no way around it. Social distancing is a fantasy where public transportation is concerned. In NYC, the subway moves around 840,000 people every day. If 1.25% of those subway riders are infected (10,500 people riding infected per day), these people will infect probably 2-3 people every day. Let’s just say that that becomes an exponential infection in a matter of a week or less. You can’t social distance on a subway car. It just can’t be done. You can’t social distance on a bus. You can’t social distance even walking down New York City’s busy avenues. It’s simply not possible.

    No, if the economy reopens, expect the worst possible infection rate. The economy may begin to recover in the short term, but eventually people will succumb to being infected, forcing them to stay home anyway. This will force a second ‘A’ side, but involuntarily. Businesses will close because their majority of their staff are sick and so are many other people who might consider shopping. The one commonality among COVID-19 is severe lung distress. You can barely walk to the bathroom without getting winded. There’s no way you could man a store front, a restaurant, wait tables, cook meals in kitchen or work on the Wall Street trading floor when you can barely stand. No, once the infection rate reaches peak, and it WILL with an open economy, there will be a second involuntary lockdown because the majority of the infected can’t work. Many of these people will die simply because the hospitals will by then be so overwhelmed they have to turn patients away. This will greatly raise the death toll. People who could have been saved simply can’t be because there are no beds with ventilators. People will be turned away and told to go home which is effectively a death sentence.

    The A Side

    On the ‘A’ side of the fence, though, we have a whole different bag. If we stay here, the economy is effectively dead. Businesses may go bankrupt. People won’t have jobs and many millions will become unemployed. It could effectively lead to a depression… potentially a depression worse than the one that began in 1929 and lasted 10 years. How many will die as a result of being on the A side? No one can say. But, the virus will still peak, wreaking havoc on the population along side a severely depressed economy. This may lead to even more deaths in addition to COVID-19. The B side may actually lead to this outcome anyway.

    Is there a Solution?

    Unfortunately, I believe we are in effectively a no-win scenario. The economy will tank regardless. It will tank on the A side because everything is closed. It will, likewise, tank on the B side because so many people become infected, it will put the economy on hold again, but for a completely different reason. There’s no way to prevent either outcome.

    Does the A side buy us anything?

    Depends. Shutting down the economy will slow the spread of COVID-19, but it can’t stop it. There are still people who must work in critical industries. There are those flippants who also don’t believe the virus is that dangerous and are still choosing to run around doing whatever they please. On the A side, the infection will eventually work its way through the critical professions and the flippant alike, taking lives along the way, but more slowly.

    On the B side, the infection rate will peak much, much faster allowing the virus to burn itself out sooner, but not before it kills millions of people. When the dust settles, there may not be much of a lower end work force left to man many of the store fronts. Stores may end up closing even on the B side when they can’t hire new staff quickly.

    I guess it all comes down to how fast the leaders want their economy running again… and which is more important. Citizen health or economic health. Clearly, the leaders are leaning toward economic health over the welfare of its citizens in the short term. In the long term, there is no correct answer. Only history can make judgements about what happened during this time. This is a time for the history books and this time will be written in the books, of that you can be certain. Basically, this is a nightmare scenario with no correct answer either way. Both outcomes are bleak. B becomes bleaker faster and then potentially allows the economy to recover a bit faster. However, the economy will suffer on both the A and B sides.

    There’s just no way to know at this point which side is the worst side to be on. The leaders are simply best guessing that the B side might be better, but I don’t see it. Both sides have some pluses and heavy minuses. For me, neither side looks more appealing than the other.

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  2. commorancy said, on March 19, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    Here’s an add-on. I debated heavily about adding this section due to its inciting nature and decided it was best to leave it out. On the one hand, it does need to be said. On the other, instead of writing it into the article body, I’ve decided to write it as an add-on comment so that this section must be read on this site separately.

    Looting

    The difficulty with small stores and shops being closed, unmanned and locked for weeks is that they become ripe for theft. It’s only a matter of time before petty criminals get the idea to go shopping with a revolver and a crowbar. Consider that the police are just as scared of catching COVID-19 as anyone else. We’re all human. Criminals may begin to see these closed shops as opportunities (regardless of COVID-19) due to the lack of people out and about. While they may not be able to get money, they can still grab goods from the stores.

    Looting will also be the beginning, not the end. When enough store owners come back to find their stores ransacked with much lost inventory, then not only must the police intervene, so will the military. This is when martial law will most likely be declared. This will see troops deployed onto the streets to protect these small businesses from looting along with local police. Anyone found out and about will, at best, be jailed. But, don’t kid yourselves. Military folks holding automatic weapons may have itchy trigger fingers… particularly when it comes to looters.

    Martial law may escalate very quickly into violence on US soil. No one wants this, but criminals have ways of pushing buttons to force situations to escalate. Once martial law is declared, all bets are off.

    At present, we’re still pretty much status-quo. But, looting has yet to begin because of shelter-in-place… at least on US soil. Petty thieves haven’t yet gotten to the necessary level of desperation needed to kick this all off. Unfortunately, it’s a ticking time bomb. Eventually, the hand will reach 0. It’s not a matter of ‘IF’, it’s a matter of ‘WHEN’.

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