COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

The COVID-19 story keeps developing. At first, everyone listened to epidemiologists telling us that a great deal of social distancing, and even the closing down of economies, would be helpful. After trying these things, we ended up with a huge number of people out of work and protests everywhere. We discovered the models that were provided were not very predictive. We are also finding that a V-shaped recovery is not possible.

Now, we need to figure out what actions to take next. How vigorously should we be fighting COVID-19? The story is more complex than most people understand. These are some of the issues I see:

[1] The share of COVID-19 cases that can be expected to end in death seems to be much lower than most people expect.

Most people assume that the ratios of deaths to cases by age group, computed using reported cases, such as those included in the Johns Hopkins Database, give a good indication of the chance of death a person faces if a person catches COVID-19. In fact, the cases reported to this database are far from representative of all cases; they tend to be the more severe cases. Cases with no symptoms, or only very slight symptoms, tend to be missed. The result is that ratios calculated directly from this database make people think their risk of death is far higher than it really is.

The US Center for Disease Control has published Planning Scenarios, based on information available on April 29, 2020.* Using this information, the CDC’s best estimate of the number of future deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms is as follows:

Ages 0 – 49    0.5 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 50-64    2.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

Ages 65+       13.0 deaths per 1000 cases with symptoms

The CDC’s best estimate is that 35% of cases have no symptoms at all. Thus, if we were to include these cases without symptoms in the chart above, the chart would become:

Ages 0-49   0.5 deaths per 1,538 cases (including those without symptoms), or 0.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 50-64  1.3 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

Ages 65+    8.5 deaths per 1000 cases with or without symptoms

A recent study of blood samples from 23 different parts of the world came to a similarly low estimate of the number of deaths per 1000 COVID-19 infections. It reported that among people who are less than 70 years old, the number of deaths per 1000 ranged from 0.0 to 2.3 per 1000, with a median of 0.4 deaths per 1000.

The same paper remarks,

COVID-19 seems to affect predominantly the frail, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized – as shown by high rates of infectious burden in nursing homes, homeless shelters, prisons, meat processing plants, and the strong racial/ethnic inequalities against minorities in terms of the cumulative death risk.

[2] There seem to be things we can do ourselves to reduce our personal chance of serious illness or death.

General good health is protective against getting a bad case of COVID-19. Thus, anything that we can do in terms of a good diet and exercise is likely helpful. Staying inside for weeks on end in the hope of preventing exposure to COVID-19 is probably not helpful.

Continued exposure to huge amounts of disinfectants and hand sanitizers is likely not to be helpful either. Our bodies depend on healthy microbiomes, and products such as these adversely affect our microbiomes. They kill good and bad bacteria alike and may leave harmful residues. It is easy to scale back our personal use of these products.

There are recent indications that vitamin D is likely to be protective in reducing both the incidence of COVID-19 and the disease’s severity. Web MD reports:

Several groups of researchers from different countries have found that the sickest patients often have the lowest levels of vitamin D, and that countries with higher death rates had larger numbers of people with vitamin D deficiency than countries with lower death rates.

Experts say healthy blood levels of vitamin D may give people with COVID-19 a survival advantage by helping them avoid cytokine storm, when the immune system overreacts and attacks your body’s own cells and tissues.

While we don’t know for certain that vitamin D is helpful, there is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that it would likely be worthwhile to raise vitamin D levels to the amount recommended by the National Institute of Health (30 nmol/L or higher). People with dark skin living in areas away from the equator might especially be helped by this strategy, since dark skin reduces vitamin D production.

Masks seem to be helpful in preventing the spread of infection. A person’s own immune system can handle some level of germs. If two people meeting together both wear masks, the combination of masks can perhaps reduce the level of germs to within the amount the immune system can handle. Our immune systems are built to handle a barrage of small attacks by viruses and bacteria. Continued “practice” with relatively low combinations of good and bad bacteria (as occur with masks) will tend to build up our bodies’ natural defenses.

We see dentists and dental hygienists wearing face shields. These shields are readily available over the internet and can be worn with a mask or by themselves. We don’t yet know precisely how much protection they provide, but early models suggest that they can be helpful in two directions: (a) preventing the wearer’s droplets from harming others and (b) reducing the droplet exposure from others. Thus, they may be a worthwhile way to reduce exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, even when others are not wearing masks.

[3] The medical community’s ability to treat COVID-19 cases keeps improving.

There seem to be many small changes that are improving treatment of COVID-19. If patients are having trouble getting enough oxygen, having them lie on their stomachs seems to increase their blood oxygen levels. The cost of this change is pretty much zero, but it keeps people out of the ICU longer.

Originally, planners thought that ventilators would be needed for patients with COVID-19, since ventilators are often used on pneumonia patients. Experience has shown, however, that oxygen plus something like a CPAP machine often works better and is less expensive.**

The simple change of not sending recuperating patients to nursing home-type facilities for the last stages of care has proven helpful, as well. Many of these patients can still infect others, leading to infections in long-term care facilities. Tests to tell whether patients are truly over the disease do not seem to be very accurate.

Last week, it was announced that treatment with an inexpensive common steroid could reduce deaths of people on ventilators by one-third. It could also reduce deaths of those requiring only oxygen treatment by 20%. Using this treatment should significantly reduce deaths, at little cost.

We can expect improvements in treatments to continue as doctors experiment with existing treatments, and as drug companies work on new solutions. Looking at cumulative historical mortality rates tends to overlook the huge learning curve that is taking place, allowing mortality rates to be lower.

[4] More doubts are being raised about quickly finding a vaccine that prevents COVID-19. 

The public would like to think that a vaccine solution is right around the corner. Vaccine promoters such as Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates would like to encourage this belief. Unfortunately, there are quite a few obstacles to getting a vaccine that actually works for any length of time:

(a) Antibodies for coronaviruses tend not to stay around for very long. A recent study suggests that even as soon as eight weeks, a significant share of COVID-19 patients (40% of those without symptoms; 12.9% of those with symptoms) had lost all immunity. A vaccine will likely face this same challenge.

(b) Vaccines may not work against mutations. Beijing is now fighting a new version of COVID-19 that seems to have been imported from Europe in food. Early indications are that people who caught the original Wuhan version of the COVID-19 virus will not be immune to the mutated version imported from Europe.

Vaccines that are currently under development use the Wuhan version of the virus. The catch is that the version of COVID-19 now circulating in the United States, Europe and perhaps elsewhere is mostly not the Wuhan type.

(c) There is a real concern that a vaccine against one version of COVID-19 will make a person’s response to a mutation of COVID-19 worse, rather than better. It has been known for many years that Dengue Fever has this characteristic; it is one of the reasons that there is no vaccine for Dengue Fever. The earlier SARS virus (which is closely related to the COVID-19 virus) has this same issue. Preliminary analysis suggests that the virus causing COVID-19 seems to have this characteristic, as well.

In sum, getting a vaccine that actually works against COVID-19 is likely to be a huge challenge. Instead of expecting a silver bullet in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine, we probably need to be looking for a lot of silver bee-bees that will hold down the impact of the illness. Hopefully, COVID-19 will someday disappear on its own, but we have no assurance of this outcome.

[5] The basic underlying issue that the world economy faces is overshoot, caused by too high a population relative to underlying resources.

When an economy is in overshoot, the big danger is collapse. The characteristics of overshoot leading to collapse include the following:

  • Very great wage disparity; too many people are very poor
  • Declining health, often due to poor nutrition, making people vulnerable to epidemics
  • Increasing use of debt, to make up for inadequate wages and profits
  • Falling commodity prices because too few people can afford these commodities and goods made from these commodities
  • Gluts of commodities, causing farmers to plow under crops and oil to be put into storage

Thus, pandemics are very much to be expected when an economy is in overshoot.

One example of collapse is that following the Black Death (1348-1350) epidemic in Europe. The collapse killed 60% of Europe’s population and dropped Britain’s population from close to 5 million to about 2 million.

Figure 1. Britain’s population, 1200 to 1700. Chart by Bloomberg using Federal Reserve of St. Louis data.

We might say that there was a U-shaped population recovery, which took about 300 years.

A later example that almost led to collapse was the period between 1914 and 1945. This was a period of shrinking international trade, indicating that something was truly wrong. On Figure 2 below, the WSJ calls its measure of international trade the “Trade Openness Index.” The period 1914-1945 is highlighted as being somewhat like today.

Figure 2. The Trade Openness Index is an index based on the average of world imports and exports, divided by world GDP. Chart by Wall Street Journal.

Many of the issues in the 1914-1945 timeframe were coal related. World War I took place when coal depletion became a problem in Britain. The issue at that time was wages that were too low for coal miners because the price of coal would not rise very high. Higher coal prices were needed to offset the impact of depletion, but high coal prices were not affordable by citizens.

The Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed far more people than either World War I or COVID-19.

World War II came about at the time coal depletion became a problem in Germany.

Figure 3. Figure by author describing peak coal timing compared to World War I and World War II.

The problem of inadequate energy resources finally ended when World War II ramped up demand through more debt and through more women entering the labor force for the first time. In response, the US began pumping oil out of the ground at a faster rate. Instead of depending on coal alone, the world began depending on a combination of oil and coal as energy resources. The ratio of population to energy resources was suddenly brought back into balance again, and collapse was averted!

[6] We are now in another period of overshoot of population relative to resources. The critical resource this time is oil. The alternatives we have aren’t suited to fulfilling our most basic need: the growing and transportation of food. They act as add-ons that are lost if oil is lost.

If we look back at Figure 2 above, it shows that since 2008, the world has again fallen into a period of shrinking imports and exports, which is a sign of “not enough energy resources to go around.” We are also experiencing many of the other characteristics of an overshoot economy that I mentioned in Section 5 above.

Figure 4 shows world energy consumption by type of energy through 2019, using recently published data by BP. The “Other” combination in Figure 4 includes nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and other smaller categories such as geothermal energy, wood pellets, and sawdust burned for fuel.

Figure 4. World energy consumption by fuel, based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Oil has been rising at a steady pace; coal consumption has been close to level since about 2012. Natural gas and “Other” seem to be rising a little faster in the most recent few years.

If we divide by world population, the trend in world energy consumption per capita by type is as follows:

Figure 5. World Per Capita Energy Consumption based on BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy

Many people would like to think that the various energy sources are substitutable, but this is not really the case, as we approach limits of a finite world.

One catch is that there are very few stand-alone energy resources. Most energy resources only work within a framework provided by other energy sources. Wood that is picked up from the forest floor can work as a stand-alone energy source. Wind can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it is used to power a simple sail boat or a wooden windmill. Water can almost be used as a stand-alone energy source, if it can be made to turn a wooden water wheel.

Coal, when its use was ramped up, enabled the production of both concrete and steel. It allowed modern hydroelectric dams to be built. It allowed steam engines to operate. It truly could be used as a stand-alone energy source. The main obstacle to the extraction of coal was keeping the cost of extraction low enough, so that, even with transportation, buyers could afford to purchase the coal.

Oil, similarly, can be a stand-alone energy solution because it is very flexible, dense, and easily transported. Or it can be paired with other types of less-expensive energy, to make it go further. We can see our dependence on oil by how level energy consumption per capita is in Figure 5 since the early 1980s. Growth in population seems to depend upon the amount of oil available.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the economy is a self-organizing system. If there isn’t enough of the energy products upon which the economy primarily depends, the system tends to change in very strange ways. Countries become more quarrelsome. People decide to have fewer children or they become more susceptible to pandemics, bringing population more in line with energy resources.

The problem with natural gas and with the electricity products that I have lumped together as “Other” is that they are not really stand-alone products. They cannot grow food or build roads. They cannot power international jets. They cannot build wind turbines or solar panels. They cannot put natural gas pipelines in place. They can only exist in a complex environment which includes oil and perhaps coal (or other cheaper energy products).

We are kidding ourselves if we think we can transition to modern fuels that are low in carbon emissions. Without high prices, oil and coal that are in the ground will tend to stay in the ground permanently. This is the serious obstacle that we are up against. Without oil and coal, natural gas and electricity products will quickly become unusable.

[7] A major problem with COVID-19 related shutdowns is the fact that they lead to very low commodity prices, including oil prices. 

Figure 6. Inflation-adjusted monthly average oil prices through May 2020. Amounts are Brent Spot Oil Prices, as published by the EIA. Inflation adjustment is made using the CPI-Urban Index.

Oil is the primary type of energy used in growing and transporting food. It is used in many essential processes, including in the production of electricity. If its production is to continue, its price must be both high enough for oil producers and low enough for consumers.

The problem that we have been encountering since 2008 (the start of the latest cutback in trade in Figure 2) is that oil prices have been falling too low for producers. Now, in 2020, oil production is beginning to fall. This is happening because producing companies cannot afford to extract oil at current prices; governments of oil exporting countries cannot collect enough taxes at current prices. They hope that by reducing oil supply, prices will rise again.

If extraordinarily low oil prices persist, a calamity similar to the one that “Peak Oilers” have worried about will certainly occur: Oil supply will begin dropping. In fact, the drop will likely be much more rapid than most Peak Oilers have imagined, because the drop will be caused by low prices, rather than the high prices that they imagined would occur.

Amounts which are today shown as “proven reserves” can be expected to disappear because they will not be economic to extract. Governments of oil exporting countries seem likely to be overthrown because tax revenue from oil is their major source of revenue for programs such as food subsidies and jobs programs. When this disappears, governments of oil exporters are forced to cut back, lowering the standard of living of their citizens.

[8] What our strategy should be from now on is not entirely clear.

Of course, one path is straight into collapse, as happened after the Black Death of 1348-1352 (Figure 1). In fact, the carrying capacity of Britain might still be about 2 million. Its current population is about 68 million, so this would represent a population reduction of about 97%.

Other countries would experience substantial population reductions as well. The population decline would reflect many causes of death besides direct deaths from COVID-19; they would reflect the impacts of collapsing governments, inadequate food supply, polluted water supplies, and untreated diseases of many kinds.

If a large share of the population stays hidden in their homes trying to avoid COVID, it seems to me that we are most certainly heading straight into collapse. Supply lines for many kinds of goods and services will be broken. Oil prices and food prices will stay very low. Farmers will plow under crops, trying to raise prices. Gluts of oil will continue to be a problem.

If we try to transition to renewables, this leads directly to collapse as well, as far as I can see. They are not robust enough to stand on their own. Prices of oil and other commodities will fall too low and gluts will occur. Renewables will only last as long as (a) the overall systems can be kept in good repair and (b) governments can support continued subsidies.

The only approach that seems to keep the system going a little longer would seem to be to try to muddle along, despite COVID-19. Open up economies, even if the number of COVID-19 cases is higher and keeps rising. Tell people about the approaches they can use to limit their exposure to the virus, and how they can make their immune systems stronger. Get people started raising their vitamin D levels, so that they perhaps have a better chance of fighting the disease if they get COVID-19.

With this approach, we keep as many people working for as long as possible. Life will go on as close to normal, for as long as it can. We can perhaps put off collapse for a bit longer. We don’t have a lot of options open to us, but this one seems to be the best of a lot of poor options.

Notes:

*The CDC estimates are estimates of future deaths per 1000 cases. Thus, they probably reflect the learning curve that has already taken place. It is unlikely that they reflect the benefit of the new steroid treatment mentioned in Section 3, because this finding occurred after April 29.

**I have been told that disease spread can be a problem when using CPAP machines, however. Using ventilators at very low pressure settings seems also to be a solution.

 

 

 

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About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

2,824 thoughts on “COVID-19 and the economy: Where do we go from here?

  1. PLAN B

    “aThe 2015 Paris Accords and SDGs launched, a 3-decade, low carbon transformation, recognising “Climate Change is existential”. This is the rationale for SUN – the Strong Universal Network. Under the initial guidance of our friend and mentor, the late Maurice Strong – sustainable development pioneer, we are creating a “Plan For Our Kids” a global Training and Lifetime Learning program to create a movement of 100,000 STRONG Climate Champions by 2030. They will advance Climate Friendly Travel ~ measured: green: 2050 proof ~ to support the Paris Accords & SDG13, underpinned by our technology Portal and network of cloud-connected centres. This will help bring Travel & Tourism into the “New Climate Economy”.”

    • 3 more decades of bAU sounds good to me.

      I hope PLAN B works! 😉

      • “climate friendly travel” – i.e walking, donkey, cycling, rowing. anything else?

        • Riding in a chariot pulled by two horses. With scythes on the wheels for pedestrians who get too close.

      • I hope at least one of those 100,000 climate champions knows just how much fossil fuel it takes to run a network of cloud connected centres. And no, you cannot run them on “green” (read “intermittent”) energy.

    • This is the link:
      https://www.thesunprogram.com/
      If you have €5000 and nothing better to do with it, you can buy 50 of these young champions “under your brand or destination”, as well as sending a kid to The Institute of Tourism Studies in Malta.

      Above that sum, there are “global and national impact investment opportunities” to be discussed in private.

      • Sorry, the €5000 doesn’t cover the costs of study at the Institute, it just gives someone “the opportunity to enroll”.

      • “The Institute of Tourism Studies in Malta.”

        Are they hiring? I can fake being green as well as the next carpetbagger. And then I can hire the graduates to help build my bicycle powered internet.

    • The Virginia Chamber, a prominent voice for business, voiced dismay at the demise of a project it had supported because of the construction jobs it would create and the gas supplies it would offer to companies seeking to build or expand operations in Virginia.
      “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was an invaluable gas infrastructure investment that would spur economic development,” Virginia Chamber President and CEO Barry DuVal said Sunday.
      “Unfortunately, today’s announcement detrimentally impacts the commonwealth’s access to affordable, reliable energy,” DuVal said. “It also demonstrates the significant regulatory burdens businesses must deal with in order to operate.

      BAU has taken a setback and when the lights go out hope those environmentalists have their honeybee wax candles in place to keep them warm and lit.

      PS EARTHFIRST

    • https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/05/warren-buffetts-berkshire-buys-dominion-energy-natural-gas-assets-in-10-billion-deal.html

      “The conglomerate is spending $4 billion to buy the natural gas transmission and storage assets of Dominion Energy.
      Including the assumption of debt, the deal totals almost $10 billion.”

      Buffet is paying $4B for a company with $6B in debt, so he thinks the assets are worth it.

      he seems to know what he is doing?

      at least in the past?

  2. I am taking the liberty of interrupting the doom-pondering for a moment in order to bring you the Greatest President in my lifetime of the Greatest Country in the Universe has done it again!

    Donald Trump has given an absolutely wonderful speech at Mount Rushmore that comprises a history lesson, a warning against totalitarianism, and a worldview of the kind very seldom taught in American schools and colleges these days.

    It was quite difficult for me to find a video of this speech that hadn’t been “editorialized” by the censors. Big Media and Big Tech don’t want ordinary people to hear these words, which are to them like holy water, sunshine and garlic is to a vampire.

    • Bubonic plague – an infection, i believe, not a virus (assuming corona is a virus. no proof yet).

    • And two billion will buy a lot of rectangular bricks and pictures of Jesus soaked in urine. With enough left over for a banana tastefully taped to the wall.

  3. Just wondering if there is a financial collapse, what amount of precious metals do households hold?
    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-reveals-12-of-the-american-population-owns-gold-while-14-7-owns-silver-300942963.html
    New Survey Reveals 12% of The American Population Owns Gold, While 14.7% Owns Silver
    A new survey highlights what percentage of the American population owns precious metals.
    NEW YORK, Oct. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — A new survey of 1,500 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65+ was launched to explore precious metal ownership amongst the US population. Gold IRA Guide, an established gold magazine providing investors and retirees all pertinent information about investing in precious metals, commissioned the survey using Google Surveys, an independent survey provider.
    See the complete breakdown at: https://goldiraguide.org/12-of-the-american-population-owns-gold-while-14-7-owns-silver-according-to-a-new-survey/

    So, based on this survey, doubt precious metals will penetrate much of the local economy….probably revert back to some regional form of paper transactions….
    That does not mean Gold or silver won’t come in handy, especially if the Federal Government demands some kind of payment. In later Roman history, the Central Government did not accept it’s OWN currency as tax payments, but gold or silver bullion!

    • I wonder how they got a random sample. I also wonder how they got people to answer the question honestly. If I were a person with hoards of gold or silver coins, I don’t think I would answer a random question from an unknown telephone interviewer correctly.

    • That was the Chrysargyron of the Emperor Constantine, because the troops would no longer accept the almost totally debased denarius. But don’t be too hard on Constantine. President F D Roosevelt did even worse in 1933, when he took the US off the gold standard. The government not only refused to accept as legal tender the coins it itself had minted, but confiscated them without payment. Where was John Wilkes Booth when you really needed him?

      • Good to see another that enjoys Late Roman History…
        Just found this on the web… excellent
        Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire
        https://mises.org/library/inflation-and-fall-roman-empire

        …..First of all, Constantine issued two new taxes. One was on the estates of the senators. This was rather new because senators were usually free of most taxes on their land. He also issued a tax on the capital of merchants; not their earnings, but their capital. This was to be levied every five years and it was to be paid in gold. He also required that the rents from the imperial estates, which were rented out to tenants, were to be paid only in gold.
        Constantine took on the bullion reserves of his former partner Licinius, who had extracted, by force, bullion from the treasuries of the cities of the Eastern Empire. In other words, any city that had any gold bullion or silver bullion left in its treasury was simply requisitioned by Licinius. This gold passed on now into the hands of Constantine who had gotten rid of Licinius in a civil war.
        We’re also told that he stripped the pagan temples of their treasuries. This he did rather late in his reign. In the early days he was apparently still somewhat afraid of angering the gods of Rome. As his Christianity became more fixed, he felt greater ease at robbing templ
        Now, in one sense, Constantine’s reform began the reversal of the process: the gold coinage was sufficiently large that it began to take hold and to circulate more freely. However, the silver coinage failed and, what was worse, at no time in this period did the central government try to control the token coinage. The result was that token coinage was being minted not only by the imperial mints, but also by the mints of cities. In other words, if a city couldn’t pay its costs or pay the salaries of its employees, it simply struck tokens.
        ….Now, the merchants and the artisans were traditionally organized into guilds and chambers of commerce and that sort of thing. They now, too, came under government pressure because the government could not obtain enough material for the war machine through regular channels — people didn’t want all that token coinage. So merchants and artisans were now compelled to make deliveries of goods.
        …..This was not sufficient because, after all, death is a relief from taxes. So the occupations were now made hereditary. When you died, your son had to take up your profession. If your father was a shoemaker, you had to be a shoemaker. These laws started by being restricted to the defense-oriented industries but, of course, gradually it was realized that everything is defense-oriented.
        The peasantry, known as the coloni, were leaseholders on both imperial and private estates. They too were formerly a free class. Now under the same kinds of pressures that all smallholders were in in this situation, they began to drift away, trying to find better opportunities, better leases, or better occupations. So under Diocletian the coloni were now bound to the soil.
        Anyone who had a lease on a particular piece of land could not give that lease up. More than that, they had to stay on the land and work it. In effect, this is the beginning of what in the Middle Ages is called serfdom, but it actually has its origins here in late Roman society
        Seems, the Roman Swamp was something being done today in Modern America..

        • It sounds like too little return on human labor was the underlying problem. A larger and larger share of the population needed to become poorer and poorer.

        • Stay and farm, merry peasant!

          Makes one think of the Persian tribal chiefs who strongly objected to the building of railways in the early 20th century ‘because all our people will rum away!’

          Ah, the bliss of simpler more meaningful life….

        • Thanks, Herbie. Now I understand why the large stone farmhouses in the Italian countryside were often called “case coloniche”. The mechanism of professions being inherited is still very strong there.

    • We all seek affirmation and this is consistent with my observation that the wealth transfer from the young to the old is greater than the increase in oil costs when viewed as a ratio between nominal median income and nominal per barrel cost of oil. It is also consistent with the young revolting all over the world and tearing down symbols of the old.

      In the US the old are getting a good deal, look no further than Medicare which is a great deal if you can use it. Medicare pays better than Medicaid so medical services are better and more available for the old. We also get a guaranteed minimum income, Social Security where we have paid in less than we get out.

      Student debt is a transfer of future wealth from our kids to baby boomer educational experts whose ideas that don’t work, expensive, caring, soothing administrators, lavish dorm rooms in the form of private student housing, climbing walls and of course bars surrounding the campuses. In return our children get debt bondage that can’t be discharged by bankruptcy. As a young person, don’t take on debt and you don’t get a lottery ticket to a better life.

      The kids can no longer carry the load. It argues well for political change, if one group can have none of the fruits of society, then effort will be made to see than none have it, or the old adage misery loves company.

      Dennis L.

      • I would agree with you Dennis. Baby Boomers have gotten an extraordinarily “good deal.” Young people have mostly been left behind.

        It is amazing to me that two very much older presidential candidates could be running against each other. It seems like a much younger candidate is needed.

        • Here at least the wealthier Boomers have been great supporters of restaurants and the holiday industry – both at home and abroad – having some fun before the nursing home or chemo-therapy claims them.

          So, in a way, couldn’t we say that they have been redistributing the wealth to the younger generation that way? Now they are not out and about spending on leisure the deficit is huge. Restaurants here used to be a sea of grey hairs, or none at all.

          They spend more on fun than say a young family bringing up children with a mortgage to cover.

          I feel this is often over-looked in the inter-generational spite game.

          The killer is their medical and care costs: simply too great a burden for too long, no earlier society has had to bear such a burden.

          And the luring of the clueless young into student debt so that many academic parasites and student property speculators can live comfortably has been simply criminal.

      • Don’t forget the student debt fueled spring break trips to Mexico. I have seen airport lines with hundreds of students all boarding to fly somewhere for spring break.
        When I was a student I never went on a spring break trip.

  4. Posted over on David Stockman’s website. A very interesting take on the corona virus from a Swiss scientist:

    Coronavirus: Why everyone was wrong
    View at Medium.com

    • Very nice article, thanks! It is for broadsheet rather than tabloid readers, but is not too technical and is rather chatty too.

      As an immunologist I trust a biological model, namely that of the human organism, which has built a tried and tested, adaptive immune system. At the end of February, driving home from the recording of [a Swiss political TV debate show], I mentioned to Daniel Koch [former head of the Swiss federal section “Communicable Diseases” of the Federal Office of Public Health] that I suspected there was a general immunity in the population against Sars-Cov-2. He argued against my view. I later defended him anyway, when he said that children were not a driving factor in the spread of the pandemic. He suspected that children didn’t have a receptor for the virus, which is of course nonsense. Still, we had to admit that his observations were correct. But the fact that every scientist attacked him afterwards and asked for studies to prove his point, was somewhat ironic. Nobody asked for studies to prove that people in certain at-risk groups were dying. When the first statistics from China and later worldwide data showed the same trend, that is to say that almost no children under ten years old got sick, everyone should have made the argument that children clearly have to be immune. For every other disease that doesn’t afflict a certain group of people, we would come to the conclusion that that group is immune. When people are sadly dying in a retirement home, but in the same place other pensioners with the same risk factors are left entirely unharmed, we should also conclude that they were presumably immune.

      But this common sense seems to have eluded many, let’s call them “immunity deniers” just for fun. This new breed of deniers had to observe that the majority of people who tested positive for this virus, i.e. the virus was present in their throats, did not get sick. The term “silent carriers” was conjured out of a hat and it was claimed that one could be sick without having symptoms. Wouldn’t that be something! If this principle from now on gets naturalised into the realm of medicine, health insurers would really have a problem, but also teachers whose students could now claim to have whatever disease to skip school, if at the end of the day one didn’t need symptoms anymore to be sick.

      The next joke that some virologists shared was the claim that those who were sick without symptoms could still spread the virus to other people. The “healthy” sick would have so much of the virus in their throats that a normal conversation between two people would be enough for the “healthy one” to infect the other healthy one.
      At this point we have to dissect what is happening here: If a virus is growing anywhere in the body, also in the throat, it means that human cells decease. When [human] cells decease, the immune system is alerted immediately and an infection is caused. One of five cardinal symptoms of an infection is pain. It is understandable that those afflicted by Covid-19 might not remember that initial scratchy throat and then go on to claim that they didn’t have any symptoms just a few days ago. But for doctors and virologists to twist this into a story of “healthy” sick people, which stokes panic and was often given as a reason for stricter lockdown measures, just shows how bad the joke really is. At least the WHO didn’t accept the claim of asymptomatic infections and even challenges this claim on its website.

      Here a succinct and brief summary, especially for the immunity deniers, of how humans are attacked by germs and how we react to them: If there are pathogenic viri in our environment, then all humans — whether immune or not — are attacked by this virus. If someone is immune, the battle with the virus begins. First we try to prevent the virus from binding to our own cells with the help of antibodies. This normally works only partially, not all are blocked and some viri will attach to the appropriate cells. That doesn’t need to lead to symptoms, but it’s also not a disease. Because the second guard of the immune system is now called into action. That’s the above mentioned T-cells, white blood cells, which can determine from the outside in which other cells the virus is now hiding to multiply. These cells, which are now incubating the virus, are searched throughout the entire body and killed by the T-cells until the last virus is dead.

      • “Viri” means “men”. Since the word “virus” is neuter, its Latin plural would be “vira”. But since no such plural existed, let’s stick with “viruses”.

    • Classic “Reason” headline.

      “Coronavirus: Why everyone was wrong”

      But “everyone” wasn’t wrong. You were wrong. You, “Reason”. And there were lots and lots of people who at the time told you that you were wrong. And so now you want to CYA with another fake news headline.

      It all reminds me of that characterization of the restored Bourbon dynasty after the abdication of Napoleon. It was said that “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

      Certainly that is true of the media, bureacrats, experts and politicians. Their arrogance is total. And their gaslighting bs apparently never ends.

    • Nice find, interesting ideas.

      A quote from the article:

      “So if we do a PCR corona test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left. Correct: Even if the infectious viri are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough [to be detected]. That’s exactly what happened, when there was the global news, even shared by the WHO, that 200 Koreans who already went through Covid-19 were infected a second time and that there was therefore probably no immunity against this virus.”

      As a society we are both seeking answers and unfortunately also using a significant disease to forward agendas unrelated to it.

      We are going to make it, humans have been here for a long time which does not imply the journey will be a comfortable one.

      Dennis L.

      • We have tests that don’t tell us very much. There also seem to be people who have symptoms that come and go for months, so the cutoff on when the disease is infectious is unclear.

        We know from the experiment of sending apparently mostly well patients to nursing homes to recover that we really can’t tell when people are over the illness. This practice led to disastrously high death rates in nursing homes, particularly in New York and New Jersey.

  5. “The world economy is entering the second half of 2020 still deeply weighed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a full recovery now ruled out for this year and even a 2021 comeback dependent on a lot going right…

    “…the pandemic forced swathes of the global population into what the International Monetary Fund dubs “The Great Lockdown.” Central banks and governments responded with trillions of dollars in unprecedented support to prevent markets from melting down and to keep furloughed workers and struggling companies afloat until the virus passed.​

    ​”Even with those rescue efforts, the world is still suffering its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. While some gauges of manufacturing and retail sales in major economies are showing improvement, hopes for a V-shaped rebound have been shattered as the reopening of businesses looks shaky at best and job losses risk turning from temporary to permanent…

    ““There is a real danger of confusing rebound with recovery,” Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist, said at the Bloomberg Invest Global conference on June 23. “True recovery means you are at least as well off as you were before the crisis started, and I think we are a long way off that.””

    https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-07-05/economic-impact-of-coronavirus

      • But Gail, think of the fantasy films where the heroine shoots out the roof of the plunging elevator, jumps out and climbs up again in a flash!

        Let’s get some positive vibes going here.

        • The anime “Kite” had a most resourceful young heroine. Also lots of unnecessary S&V, so be sure to get the uncensored version.

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