COVID-19 task force missing one key voice

Virginia covid-19

(© Ingo Menhard – stock.adobe.com)

“The economy” isn’t the stock market.

It isn’t, as one blue check noted derisively today, walking “past piles of corpses to go buy a f—ing burger.”

Twenty-two million Americans who were gainfully employed a month ago are now out of work.

That number is only going to get higher in the coming weeks, assuming that Virginia and other states continue with their COVID-19 lockdowns.

The last thing on any of these folks’ minds: the Dow Jones.

As for the burger: considering how our food banks are running out of supplies, anything edible would sound nice.

It’s disingenuous for people to suggest that the lockdowns can continue into perpetuity without long-term consequences that are at least as great as what would have resulted from blatant inaction to try to stem the tide of the virus.

This isn’t an either/or situation – heads, we lock down until we get a working vaccine, which would take a year, could take 18 months, could take five years, or may never come, and somehow make it through this with any semblance of a working society afterward, we win; or tails, we let the virus run rampant, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, die, but somehow keep it all together otherwise, we win that way.

What’s noticeably missing in Virginia, when you watch Gov. Ralph Northam’s every-other-day press conference/Biden administration HHS secretary auditions, is anyone anywhere near the microphone who represents the hundreds of thousands of Virginians now out of work, the hundreds of thousands more who soon will be, the small-business owners who aren’t being acknowledged at all in any of this.

This much we know about economic recessions: that the impact on those directly affected is lifelong.

Life expectancy for people who lose jobs in a downturn decreases a full year and a half, according to one study analyzing the impact of the 2007-2009 recession.

And the impact on future earnings can be as far out as 15 years for those who lose their jobs in a recession, according to another study.

Educators are anticipating a dramatic increase in the dropout rate in high schools and community colleges, with impacts on the earning potential for those who will as a result be competing in the job market with less in their skills arsenal.

Suicide rates are also expected to ratchet up significantly. One study of suicides in the US and UK in the 2007-2009 recession put the increase at more than 10,000 deaths by suicide over that time frame.

And these aren’t just numbers in studies gathering dust on shelves.

I can speak from experience here.

My father had a good job at the General Electric plant in Waynesboro that went away at the depths of the 1982 recession.

He was laid off from GE for nearly two years before being called back to work in late 1984.

Unemployment benefits and odd jobs only go so far.

My parents divorced during this period, and the result for my family was: poverty.

Free lunch at school, during the school year. Ketchup sandwiches for dinner.

Back-to-school shopping was one new pair of jeans and a couple of shirts, because that’s all we could afford.

My sister became a teen mom.

My father died at 54, after losing his job again in a later downturn.

Never drank, smoked, did anything you’re not supposed to do, was healthy as a horse, then, just died.

My mom died at 62.

Her parents had both lived well into their 80s.

I don’t know any billionaires, any millionaires.

I don’t own a single stock.

When I talk about “the economy,” I’m talking about the 40 percent of us who were an unexpected $400 expense away from calamity before the current reality.

Just one person on the panel who represents those who are going to be fighting uphill for what is left of their shortened life spans would be nice.

Just. One.

Story by Chris Graham


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