April 5, 2020
The first use of the headline Look Out Ahead! (of an article about the future American economy) I could find was in the 1825 (Volume III) edition of the New England Farmer’s Letter which, I assume from the layout and content, was a weekly (?) posting reporting crop and farm animal prices along with articles on general farming, orchard tending and animal husbandry—with an occasional poem, or an essay of general interest thrown in for ‘color’. Unfortunately, when I first found that article, the print was so small I couldn’t read it on my computer screen and then I ‘lost’ it trying to scroll down to determine the exact date it was printed. Then, days later, I was able to find it again and, finally read most of the story. I was half-way through the article when it, again, vanished from my screen. Perhaps a ‘Trumpian’ ghost inhabits my computer? Or, more likely, my old computer just has a faulty memory—just like its’ owner.
Regardless, seeing that there were only 24 significant economic down-turns in that century worthy of the title Recession, Panic, or Depression, it would seem likely that this old wagoner’s shout was an appropriate adaptation for anyone writing about their view of the economic future—either immediate or distant. The fact that it appeared in 1825, after a Depression lasting 6 years (1815-1821), followed by two one-year Recessions (1822 and 1825) makes it seem to me to have been ‘a day late and a dollar short’—a probably southern expression that gained wide usage during our last Great Depression (1929-1933). The fact that there were only 19 Recessions and 1 Great Depression in the Nineteen Hundreds suggests that we shouldn’t ever take our eye off of the economic ball. We started the Millennium with a brief recession in 2001 followed by what has been labeled a Great Recession in 2007 lasting well into 2009 and the economy has been euphoric for the approximately 11 years thereafter. Quite a bit too euphoric, a few economic pundits who were paying attention to the enormous build up in world government, corporate and personal debt, were saying.
Very early in maybe December of 1999 or early January of 2020, something happened in China that was to be as equivalent to the world economy in 2020, and probably for many years thereafter, as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over her milk bucket was to the great Chicago fire in 1871. A new mutation of an old virus was starting to make people very sick in and around a live animal market in the city of Wuhan. That city, with a population of over eleven million residents, the ninth largest city in China and four times the population Chicago, is located almost midway between Beijing (Population 20.46 million) to its’ north, Guangzhou (Population 13.3 million) to its’ south, Shanghai (Population 27.1 million) to its’ East and Xi’an (Population 8.0 million) to its’ West. Just imagine a new virus starting in a commercial hub (Wuhan) and quickly radiating out its’ trading spokes to all surrounding market areas and that would give you an idea of how quickly the corona virus could, and did, infect an entire country. And then, you must imagine China, the entire country, as the industrial hub of the world economy and you will realize that its’ commercial ‘spokes’ radiate all over the world and you have the answer as to how a local virus can become a Pandemic.
The only remaining question might be: ”How could this all happen in less than 90 days?” The answer, my friends, is: The speed of Air Travel. Wuhan today, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an tomorrow, then Kirkland (Washington State), New York City, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo, and Seoul the day after and the rest of the world the day after that. Why Kirkland, Washington? Costco Headquarters is there and a constant stream of sales agents, designers and suppliers are going back and forth from China to that city every day. Why all the other cities: students, business people and tourists are going back and forth to China and those cities all over the world every day. Flight time Shanghai to Seattle –about 13 hours, Shanghai to New York City –about 15 hours, Shanghai to Wuhan –just over 2 hours. An air traveler can be healthy today and infected with the Novel CV-19 virus tomorrow.
Since the United States of America’s President and his cronies had disbanded the agencies charged with preparing for an epidemic (not to mention a pandemic!) we citizens were ‘sitting ducks’ just waiting to be infected. To compound his error in lack of preparedness, our “Perfect” President and his cronies pretended for over a month that the virus wasn’t really serious and it would “just go away” and so, nothing needed to be done to stop its’ spread or implement testing, because, shucks folks, testing kits just weren’t available because I/we thought they were a waste of money and wouldn’t ever be needed.
And now, just over 90 days since this new virus was detected, the economy and almost all social interaction in America and most of the world over have come to a halt. Our factories are closed or closing, restaurants are closed, theaters are closed, sporting events have been either cancelled or delayed until we don’t know when, churches and bars are closed and the newly un-employed numbers are setting new records every day. The cruise lines, air lines and any tourist related business are waiting for government handouts to delay bankruptcy. And, our government, which is already technically bankrupt, is going to start handing out money like it was popcorn, adding trillions to our national debt. And where is our economy going? I believe it is already headed into the largest and longest Depression in our history. If there was ever a time to shout, “Look Out Ahead!, this is it! I’m only afraid that I’m ninety days too late.
Sorry, and Adios! Until next week,
Copyright, April 3. 2020, Louis J. Christen