The More Things Change…?

It feels as if I’ve been on “lockdown” forever, and I know others are equally “over” a pandemic that is anything but over. There just aren’t that many rooms to be deep cleaned, that many books to be read, or–in my case–that many blogs to be written.

The rest of the time, then, becomes available for worrying.

I’ve been particularly concerned about what will happen to the center of my city in the wake of Covid-19. My husband and I moved to downtown Indianapolis in 1980, when things were still pretty sketchy, and we’ve celebrated the subsequent rebirth of a flourishing urban core. We’ve been excited to see new homes and apartments being built, we’ve marveled at our inability to patronize all of the new restaurants and bars (although we really tried!). We’ve worried as online retailing has reduced the number and variety of shops.  And we were heartbroken when we drove past all the boarded-up windows in the wake of the one protest that included such destruction.

Predictions about “what will come next” are everywhere. Most aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on (or the bytes they represent), but I tend to respect the scholars at the Brookings Institution, who’ve weighed in with their analysis.

The Brookings report suggests that COVID-19 will accelerate or intensify many trends that are already underway, which makes a lot of sense to me.

The report noted that retailers, along with their landlords and suppliers, were already “responding to multiple industry-wide  trends” (aka “in a world of hurt”) before the coronavirus. Trump’s tariffs hurt an industry that was already reeling from shifts in consumer demand from products to experiences, e-commerce, and the sharing economy. The pandemic is accelerating an already pressing need to embrace new models.

The report is light on specifics, but does predict that profit-sharing leases will be an “increasingly important tool to help new businesses get started, survive slowdowns, and provide a return to landlords who invest in their tenants’ success.”

The report’s predictions about food really comforted me. (Comfort food? Sorry…)

Convergence and hybridization will accelerate in food retail, which will return to be a “revitalizing force in urban life.” IKEA was already a furniture showroom, warehouse, and restaurant. High-end grocers were encouraging shoppers to have a beer. Restaurants were increasingly not just dine-in, but fast-casual or mobile food trucks. Whether through app-based delivery or prepared foods from wholesalers such as Costco, Americans will return to eating much of their food prepared outside the home. In 2017, jobs in leisure and hospitality (which includes all bars and restaurants) grew to outnumber jobs in retail trade. The pandemic is a setback, but not a reset.

On the negative side, the researchers expect that the 50- million- plus low wage workers will continue to face unsupportable housing costs– and that households that previously strained to pay rent will find it impossible. They also see worse labor market outcomes for older workers who lose their jobs.

So what does all of that portend for cities?

Some urban dwellers who have decamped to less dense areas will undoubtedly stay there permanently,  “irrespective of the many amenities and agglomeration economies urban centers have to offer.” But the researchers note that the period following the Great Recession saw major metros gain more population than their suburbs

Why was this happening in a tepidly recovering economy? A good deal was attributable to young adult millennials. Unable to find jobs and housing in large stretches of the country, they found urban centers attractive. Eventually, the economy rebounded, jobs dispersed and many young adults dispersed with them. But large metro areas still prospered even with slower growth, as Brookings’s Metro Monitor 2020 revealed.

What does this mean for the post-COVID-19 period? Much will depend on Gen Z, an educated and racially diverse generation with strong urban roots.

In other words, if Gen Z  wants and needs what urban life has to offer, they’ll opt to remain.

We will face huge challenges once the pandemic is over and Trump is (fingers crossed) a  horrific memory. We will need to restore a functioning and ethical federal government, address our enormous inequalities with social investment and a comprehensive, adequate social safety net–and continue the work of making our cities  vital, livable places to live and work.


  1. Essential is that we flip the Senate on November 3rd. Our Kentucky brethren must install anyone except Mitch McConnell who sadly, has converted to Trumpism in a bromance that defies understanding and threatens the survival of our country as we knew it.
    Disgusting is that Mitch, Trump’s bitch, seems to revel in embarrassing patriotic Americans.
    We must also adios Trump, the mistake Rex Tillerson called a “moron” and thereby make America Great and Happy again.

  2. The first Pence Coronavirus Committee press conference in two months yesterday was more a peaceful debate on conditions and what needs to be done; another epic example of the lack of leadership in this country. The MSNBC White House reporter this morning stated Trump said, “There won’t be regular coronavirus meetings because he doesn’t want all of the oxygen in the air used up by coronavirus.” (I immediately wrote that down to get it right.) Wonder what that means? He also reported the press was already on their plane to accompany Trump to New Jersey for his weekend golf outing when they got word the trip had been canceled. When they asked if it were due to the coronavirus situation, they were told it was not but were not told why the sudden cancellation. What is in store for us this weekend?

    The deconstruction of our government continues at an escalating rate and Trump has no plans for a campaign foundation. When asked on Fox News what his aims were; he gave a rambling speech about him not being from Washington, D.C., he was a New Yorker, but experience isn’t important and John Bolton only wants to bomb somebody. I pre-ordered Bolton’s book on June 9th; the original order confirmation gave me a July 7th delivery date, the 2nd reported delivery date was July 22nd, the 3rd delivery date is currently July 27th. What is going on behind the closed doors of the White House and does this have anything to do with Trump canceling a golf date? I’m sure it is obvious to others that Bolton’s book is more important to Trump than Covid-19 Pandemic cases and deaths in this country.

    “The More Things Change….?”

    We are now living the reality of the Republican’s promised “trickle down” conditions as their version of life in America is trickling away from us physically and economically. Will SCOTUS put the final nail in our coffin by supporting Trump’s full end to the ACA?

  3. Jo Ann. Trickle-down is a good analogy for what is going on. Humbert Humphrey once described trickle-down economics as “When you feed the horses, eventually the sparrows will get something to eat.” That seems to be the guiding philosophy of the Trump administration.

  4. According to today’s blog, the poor will have even less hope and less opportunity to break the poverty cycle. The inner city “ghettos” will continue to deteriorate until they stamp themselves as part of the third world.

    Why are there no initiatives to put the idle to work cleaning up and re-building the pockets of poverty? Pay the idle people to do that. Give them the supplies and equipment to turn their boarded up and rat-infested horrors into livable domiciles while teaching skills such that a respectable living can be made WITHIN the communities they just re-built.

    But, no. Everyone will just wring their hands and cluck their tongues about “those people” being hopelessly lost to our capitalistic experiment. I guess the 15% of Americans who are “those people” and have been “those people” for over a century is just the price we have to pay so the 1% can keep hiding their money in the Cayman Islands.

    Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s true. The more things change, the more they stay the same… at least for the 15%.

  5. Pascal, that has been the “guiding philosophy” of all administrations in the past forty years, if not longer.

    The USA is not alone, which is why millions are marching in the streets across the globe. Don’t expect the media to televise it all though — it’s not in their best interests.

  6. Unless we turn both 45 and McConnell out of office, none of this will matter. Given four more years, we won’t even recognize the United States.

  7. Until the majority of Americans look beyond our political structure which is nothing more than a box in our oligarchic hierarchy, we will only change the names of our oppressors.

    While it is certainly true that some politicians are more palatable, only a handful work for the people.

    AOC in New York has been under constant attack by Wall Street-funded politicians. That’s a clue…

  8. Vernon Turner –“Why are there no initiatives to put the idle to work cleaning up and re-building the pockets of poverty? Pay the idle people to do that. Give them the supplies and equipment to turn their boarded up and rat-infested horrors into livable domiciles while teaching skills such that a respectable living can be made WITHIN the communities they just re-built.”

    WOW, Vernon, You’re asking the question that was answered in the Democrat 1930’s over the wild objections of the Republicans.

    It’s time to re-introduce John Steinbeck and his gripping novel “The Grapes of Wrath” to show readers and moviegoers just how bad conditions can get if we neglect our civic duty.

    The watchword by the GOP was “ROOT, HOG, OR DIE”, then along came Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his progressive Cabinet (and the Congress) with legislation for problem-solving programs some of which are now so important to the people that the GOP wouldn’t dare to condemn them as before.


  9. Vernon,

    Right on! There is so much work to do that can include training for more….cleaning up National Parks, making homes/buildings more energy efficient, urban farms, etc. and so many bodies to do it needing jobs and new career paths.

  10. I’m sure that if we went back through all of the previous posts here we would see very little surprise in the last four years in our expectations, now turned reality, for this administration. They have redefined incompetence and inexperience and corruption but we expected them to do that. The unimaginable plot of Trump as President could have been written in any year of the last 50 based on the kind of person Trump is and was destined to become but who would have fallen for such a story that had to be unimaginable fiction.

    The coronavirus is to Trumpublicans what they are to America. The entire cycle is complete now and the next administration takes on the almost inconceivable task of restoring and rebuilding for the future that’s coming on the ashes of Trump’s celebration of the 50s.

    It could have been oh so different if a few more voters had made the effort in 2016 to take back the country from Putin’s only suspected back then plot.

  11. “It could have been oh so different if a few more voters had made the effort in 2016 to take back the country from Putin’s only suspected back then plot.”

    Pete; more than SEVEN MILLION voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson; we will never know how many were actually voting against Trump or against Hillary but I believe we can be sure those voters aided Trump with the Electoral College members who appointed him to the presidency. Rudy grinned as he warned us the last two weeks prior to the election that the Republicans “…have something up their sleeve and have sewn up the Electoral College and Trump will win the election”. This November there are not two additional parties to deter votes from those who don’t want either Trump or Biden…will that help or hurt our chances with the EC?

    “Unless we turn both 45 and McConnell out of office, none of this will matter. Given four more years, we won’t even recognize the United States.”

    Peggy knocked it out of the ballpark! The future of this country is actually in the hands of the voters in Kentucky because without McConnell, Trump will be stopped in his tracks even from the presidency. If Biden wins the presidency and McConnell stays in the Senate, we will be back where we were when McConnell controlled President Obama’s administration and SCOTUS.

  12. My time has been taken up with forwarding blogs such as Sheila’s to others, and learning about wonderful things which were not in my mind fields prior to this time……there is so much opportunity, Sheila, to “listen and learn” as well as “doing” that clean up, reading those books, telling others what I think. I am “shovel ready” when people quit just talking and wringing their hands and come up with perhaps new ideas and the desire to see some solutions attempted. Until then I will just keep “tripping” with Roads Scholar and other opportunities available now.

  13. Barbara – we would welcome you to check out our solution, CommonGoodGoverning. Sheila can give you my email address. We are not on social media.

  14. Actually voting McConnell out of office is unlikely. (I think Trump’s buddy Lindsey Graham might lose, however.) Kentucky is a very Trumpy state, much more so than even Indiana. If the D’s take control in the Senate, he would have much less power as minority leader…assuming he’s able to hold onto that position. Don’t get your hopes up that McConnell loses however. Booker is probably too far left for KY, although he is a much better candidate than McGrath. Last I checked, Booker was about 2,000 votes ahead of McGrath. Still counting votes there.

  15. Vern writes of redoing the ghettos and thereby giving “those people” a boost which, along with a realistic safety net, would vault them into competition with us white people, BUT, Vern (per racist Republicans), that would be socialism! Horrors! Can’t have that! (As though it’s not socialism their bought and paid for members of Congress aren’t already doling out to the rich and corporate class by the trillion – with a few bones thrown to the rest of us to keep us out of the streets with our piitchforks).

    We need what Vern has recommended (such improvements for a good start to be made as much as possible by employment of those who live in such areas) along with a new New Deal in a redo of our entire infrastructure as well. Rich Republicans will say we can’t afford it, which is shorthand for don’t spend money for the common good; spend it for me via tax cuts and other giveaway to the rich programs. If FDR could build roads, dams, ports, bridges, airports, buildings etc. during a hair-raising depression when the government had next to nothing revenues, we can do it now, and as to how to finance it, we can borrow a lesson from the French, who came up with a resources bank devoted to infrastructure repair and renewal, a bank which issued government-guaranteed bonds to get the needed funds in lieu of revenues, bonds that as a practical matter will be renewed into eternity in a market all their own, and with a non-taxable clause for interest earned by bondholders in order to keep the interest rate low – like muniipal bonds today.

    The foregoing is just one of the initiatives we can pursue once Trump is gone and governing comes back into vogue. There are other programs we can develop that will simultaneously and positively affect needed reforms in how to gain full employiment and reduce if not end such social ills as racism, misygomy, class and other such artificial distinctions – but first things first > getting rid of Trump come November. That by any standard is numero uno.

  16. Sheila, I don’t think you meant to relieve my angst about the failure of America to educate its citizens, but something you said today has numbed it a bit. lol

    First some background: For months I’ve been reading posts on this blog about how poorly educated American citizens have become, how each succeeding generation is getting worse, and how that one fact spells doom for our great democratic experiment.

    And just two days ago, your blog was about the proliferation of “civic ignorance” and loss of “elementary logic” among American citizens. It elicited long riffs from readers devoted to enumerating the ways we all shall perish from this virus of ignorance.

    But today, happily and much relieved, I read that “…Gen Z, (is) an EDUCATED (caps mine) and racially diverse generation…”

    Am I wrong to surmise that I need not worry anymore about American education doing its job? And what is it about this Z generation, which cannot make change without a $5,000 computerized cash register system, have I missed that clinches the deal on measuring up to being “educated”? lol

    Curiously, I have noticed that for several recent generations, a small minority of teen students seems to be very smart and sophisticated, presumably taking full advantages of those elements of American education that have not deteriorated. But the great majority of American students fit exactly the descriptions of two days ago.

    Thus there is a monster of an education gap, not between generations but within generations. And I see the gap growing in exponential proportions. I could not characterize any one generation as educated, but I could identify a portion of every generation that is educated. The gap within every generation between the educated and the ignorant however is widening. And I think that monstrous gap has much to do with the horrendous income gap, maybe more than any other factor. I think most academia are missing that relationship.

    And I think solving that gap-problem is very difficult. Maybe impossible. Somehow, I do think that the factors causing the education gap and the income gap are very close to being the same factors causing the Political Gap. Just identifying them would be a grand start to fixing them. The problem is that the causes are well camouflaged, and some are rooted in the matrix of intractable myth.

    The end.

  17. Corona has certainly revealed the flaws in system here in the USA. We have to rely on foreign countries to manufacture medical equipment and even medications. All these retail and service industry jobs provide poor wages and few or no benefits. Medical care is in the hands of a for profit healthcare system. Lose your job, lose your healthcare.

    Red tape designed to either prevent or discourage people from filing for unemployment.

    Part of the plan for a pandemic should have not only included the health aspect but, also the economic aspect, i.e., a safety net.

    The Trumpet and Pastor Pence have engaged from the very early beginnings of Corona a cover it up and stonewall approach. The bad news and warnings were there. The Trumpet just wanted to ignore it and/or lie about it. It had worked in the past for him. Corona could not be intimidated by The Trumpet’s bombastic bluster.

    The Trumpet and Pastor Pence made Corona political and the GOP ever the lapdogs followed along.

  18. That New Jersey gold weekend Trump canceled at the last minute with no reason given to the press; Trump Tweeted he was staying home to monitor the protests.

    Mike Pence’s last minute cancellation of his trip to Arizona he reported was due to the coronavirus situation.

    Good to know they are both “on the job”.

    How long has it been now since Saturday Night Live has found anything humorous in this administration? That is something to ponder; politics and politicians have been their favorite targets for decades.

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