Tag Archives: recession

Elections Have Consequences

Monday, the Dow fell 1000 points due to fears of Coronavirus contagion. Yesterday,  it continued to decline–to the tune of more than 800 points.. News outlets are suggesting that fears of a worldwide pandemic have dramatically increased the likelihood of a global recession.

According to one business publication (lost the link), what begins in China doesn’t stay in China.

As the COVID-19 outbreak disrupts economic activity – owing partly to the unprecedented quarantining of huge subsets of the population – there is reason to expect a sharp slowdown this year, with growth falling significantly below last year’s official rate of 6.1%. During the recent meeting of G20 finance ministers, the IMF downgraded its growth forecast for China to 5.6% for 2020 – its lowest level since 1990.

This could hamper global growth considerably, because the world economy is more dependent on China than ever. In 2003, China constituted only 4% of global GDP; today, that figure stands at 17% (at current exchange rates).

If the grim forecasts prove accurate, it will cost the economy a great deal more than Donald J. Trump “saved” by summarily terminating a promising research project aimed at predicting and minimizing pandemics (he undoubtedly terminated it simply because the Obama administration supported it.)

 The Hill recently reminded readers of Trump’s ongoing attacks on healthcare and medical research.

Last year Trump shut down a federal program called Predict that was established ten years ago as a response to the H5N1 bird flu outbreaks. Predict investigated and provided surveillance of infectious diseases and viruses, studied and discovered new diseases that are able to jump from animals to humans, developed testing to detect these viruses, and trained “medical detectives” on the ground across the globe. This federal ability to avert pandemics is now mostly gone, making our ability to contain diseases worldwide significantly more difficult.

Figuring out how to contain potential pandemics is obviously a high priority for rational public servants. In addition to concerns about public health, the specter of contagious disease tends to have a significant impact on economic activity, because fear causes healthy people to avoid traveling, shopping, and even going to work.

In 2018, federal public health workers had their paychecks slashed because of alleged “government delays” in setting up a payment system Congress had ordered and allocated money for years ago. Following the pay cuts — which were eventually restored, but still caused significantly and understandably decreased morale in the service corps — Trump announced that he would be cutting nearly 40 percent of the uniformed federal public health professionals who are deployed to disease outbreaks, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

A beleaguered, demoralized and reduced U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will cripple our ability to respond to Coronavirus and other diseases like it. Overall, Trump is proposing to cut the doctors, nurses, engineers and public health professionals working for the federal government from 6,500 officers to “no more than 4,000 officers.”

There’s more–much more–as The Hill concluded.

Trump is also proposing drastic cuts this year to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health — key federal agencies that research and respond to public health emergencies — including a $838 million cut to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. A proposed $2.6 billion cut to the Environmental Protection Agency would eliminate crucial programs that address climate change, which would be detrimental to public health as rapidly warming environments create petri dishes for the spread of viruses, and would also cut programs that monitor and restore water quality.

These cuts are unacceptable in the face of a growing global public health emergency.

It’s no wonder the Health and Services Resources Administration is in a panic and scrambling to develop an adequate response to the growing Coronavirus health emergency. A constant barrage of cuts, deterioration, weakening and outright elimination of America’s historically robust public health infrastructure has made us vulnerable.

While Coronavirus is our current concern, we should always be prepared to deal with public health concerns…. The Trump administration’s insistence on cutting programs that keep us healthy not only put people living in the United States at risk — it makes the world more dangerous for everyone.

The Trump administration should immediately reverse cuts to critical federal agencies in order to protect public health worldwide, and Congress should allocate more funds to combatting the current virus of concern.

Meanwhile, as we have starved the agencies that work to keep us safe and/or healthy, Trump’s payments to farmers–necessitated by the damage caused by his idiotic tariffs–now total twice as much as the automobile bailout. (And don’t get me started on what his incessant golf outings and children’s extravagant travel have cost us.)

Yesterday, from Fantasyland, Trump pooh-poohed concerns, and assured the world that America has it all under control.

Voting for an ignoramus because he resents the same people you do can really get expensive….

Lock, Stock and Bottom of the Barrel

Like so many Americans, I’ve been waiting for that promised light at the end of the economic tunnel, but I’ve come to the conclusion that all we are going to see for the foreseeable future is the bottom of the economic barrel. Today’s massive stock market drop is, I am afraid, the sort of swing we will see more and more.

Unlike all the pundits, left and right, who know with absolute certainty just why we can’t shake off the recession, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a tangled and complicated number of things, some of which we could control if we had political will, some of which is global in nature and difficult or impossible to manage, and some of which is structural. The structural elements can be ameliorated but not reversed.

The question that scares me is this: if, in fact, my suspicions are correct and the economic picture is going to be fairly bleak for several years, what effect will that have on our political and social systems? We don’t have a very good track record of dealing rationally with economic adversity.