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The Lost Year

In 2020's unrelenting assault, an unexpected thing is happening. My phone isn't complaining about running out of space. While that is a relief, it underlies a distressing truth - how much can I chronicle the inside of a cocoon?! Even as I whine about such a trivial thing, I am acutely aware of how lucky we are in light of the disaster unfolding around us.

Some of the losses are quantifiable like the number of fatalities and job losses. What is impossible to fathom are intangibles like the emotional toll of isolation.

According to Pew Research, 25% of US adults say that someone in their household lost their job due to coronavirus. A third say they've had to take pay cuts or work reduced hours. And half of adults at the lower income levels are having trouble paying their bills.

When rah-rah news from Wall Street emerges, I cringe because it obscures the sorry state of our economy.

The American Hospital Association released this staggering statistic - hospital losses from coronavirus will top 323B in 2020 alone. Imagine the prospect that hospitals could shut down while airlines are bailed out.

Ah, but the lockdowns and social distancing. They are the root causes of economic loss, right?

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published an article on the economic loss from the different approaches used by Denmark and Sweden for lockdowns and social distancing. Denmark has very strict rules and Sweden does not. Sweden's loss of aggregate consumer spending is 25%, a mere 4% lower than Denmark's. This means that the loss from lockdowns and social distancing is not all that significant and the virus itself is causing massive economic contraction. Try explaining this to the anti-maskers!

Nature did a series on the intangible effect of the pandemic on research productivity in the form of lower grant funding and output, inability to travel, and loss of graduate support for research projects There is no doubt that the recovery from this will be challenging.

The most unnerving statistic comes from McKinsey - one in four women is considering reduced hours or dropping out of the workforce entirely. Regardless of where we land with the final numbers on this, there will be seismic repercussions for years to come.

While populist politicians paint the pandemic as an attack on liberty and freedom, the microbe continues gnawing at the foundation of our economy. And like ostriches with our heads in the sand, we are focusing on our 401Ks rallying on the back of FANG - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. These stocks aren't making the economy stable, they are preventing a complete meltdown.

The man with a long history of bankruptcies has brought the country to its knees and made a year vanish into ether.

Let’s pray we don’t lose 2021 too!

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