The impact of statewide stay-at-home orders, or lockdown, in the US has thus far resulted in 36.5 million people losing their jobs.
“The pandemic shutdown has piled on the economic agony, with 52% of lower-income adults saying they or someone in their household have lost a job or taken a pay cut during the outbreak, according to the Pew Research Center."
About 1 in 5 small businesses may not make it into a post-pandemic market. While some economists suggest nearly half of all small businesses will close permanently by the end of this year due to the coronavirus crisis response.
It’s a Humpty Dumpty economy if there ever was one.
“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.”
So here we are now, trying to phase in reopening but facing a Humpty Dumpty economy that “had a great fall, i.e., was broken by over-zealous politicians, particularly state governors and big city mayors in their desire to make people safe by quarantining healthy people.
I’ve noted before, we’re suffering from inverted logic. To date about 1.6 million C-19 cases have been recorded in the US, with about 90,000 deaths. Meanwhile, 36.5 million have lost jobs since February—some economists saying less than half of these jobs won’t come back—which will result in greater personal and societal suffering. Many unemployed haven’t seen a nickel of unemployment benefits or federal relief funds. And this says nothing about delayed “non-essential” medical care.
So, with an understandable, maybe even compassionate, and give some the benefit of the doubt and say humane, desire to protect people from a pandemic, politicians acted with the advice of public health and medical “experts.” Problem is, many of them acted in unprecedented overreach, walked over civil liberties as if these historic ideals, principles, and legal guarantees didn’t really matter, strong-armed citizens and churches, and much more of considerable concern.
Meanwhile, there was another way: South Dakota never enacted a lockdown. The state recorded four cases per 100,000 people, lowest in the nation and the lowest job losses in the nation. And South Dakota citizens gave Gov. Kristi Noem a well-deserved parade. She took media abuse but stuck to her well-articulated position. She is a too rare, independent thinking politician, one I hope we hear more from in the future.
Jobs provide not only income but focus and purpose. Long-term unemployment is a crisis in itself. But in a Humpty Dumpty economy people suffer from more than loss of income. Some face more domestic abuse at home and a host of other social pathologies increase, including suicide.
Stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, lockdown policies, though possibly helpful in slowing the spread of C-19 or flattening the curve in some areas—the jury is really out on whether this is scientifically demonstrable—has nevertheless created a host of ripple-effect-problems of their own.
Any chance of successfully putting our Humpty Dumpty economy back together is certainly dependent upon reopening as quickly as possible.
State governors need to get people back to work, meaning rescind stay-at-home orders ASAP.
The American people can rise to the occasion of this layered crisis…if they are given the opportunity to do so.
For governors to insist upon extending lockdowns into June is to flaunt their legally suspect authority and to tempt increasingly angry, desperate individuals to go “too far” in protests that can create contexts for violence.
With the advent of warmer weather in the North people are going to reach the end of their rope and allow frustration to boil over, or they are simply going to ignore “orders” and thus be in a position of civil disobedience whether or not they chose to do so. Some county sheriffs and local police chiefs are already defying governors, mayors or councils, saying they will not enforce stay-at-home orders. This may be understandable in terms of a point of view, but it is a development fraught with potential disorder and violence.
Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again but for this to happen, we need pandemic governors to help not hinder us.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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