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Don midwest
Don midwest

The U.S. Economy Is Uniquely Vulnerable to the Coronavirus
Why America’s Growth Model Suggests It Has Few Good Options

The U.S. growth model is built in such a way that it simply cannot shut down without inflicting catastrophic damage on itself. Because the model is designed to adjust through reduced wages and employment rather than increased welfare outlays, political leaders can contemplate temporary unemployment benefits for a banking-induced shock, but not semipermanent cash transfers—which is what the British are doing—and a near-total collapse in asset values. The British solution is too politically toxic to be anything other than a short-term expedient in the American context. So, once it became clear that—at least according to the Imperial College London model—the epidemiologically correct response was to put the economy in hibernation for several months, U.S. leaders started looking for other solutions.




More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — a new record — as political and public health leaders put the economy in a deep freeze to keep people at home and try to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Job losses have skyrocketed as restaurants, hotel, gyms, and travel have shut down across the nation, but layoffs are also rising in manufacturing, warehousing and transportation, a sign of how widespread the pain of the coronavirus recession is.

In March alone, 10.2 million Americans lost their jobs and applied for government aid, according to the latest Labor Department data that includes claims filed through March 28. Many economists say the real number of people out work is likely even higher than that since a lot of newly unemployed Americans haven’t been able to fill out a claim yet.

As landlords demand April 1 rent, tenants across the country are going on strike

“We’e never seen anything like this,” said Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist at the University of Minnesota. “The scale of the job losses in the past two weeks is on par with what we saw in two years during the Great Recession.”

Many people say they weren’t even able to apply for unemployment benefits because the phone lines were so swamped they could not get through. Gig and self-employed workers like barbers and hairdressers were also not eligible to apply until the end of March after Congress pass the $2.2 trillion relief bill to expand who qualifies for aid. These workers are only just beginning to file out applications.

The U.S. government has not released an official unemployment rate yet, but economists say it has likely jumped to about 8 percent, a massive and sudden spike from February, when the rate was at a half century low of 3.5 percent. The nation has not seen unemployment over 8 percent since 2012.

Economists and policymakers fear even more Americans will lose their jobs in the coming weeks and companies that have been trying to hold on to workers have to let them go or reduce their hours to almost nothing.


For weeks, people in Spain have been ordered to remain in their homes unless they had an urgent reason for going outside. But outside a social security office in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona on Thursday, hundreds of people said they had no choice but to join the line.

“I have one week left of savings to buy food for my family,” said Mafus Rohman, 33, who said he had opened a bar a week before Spain went into lockdown on March 14.

Mr. Rohman said if the owner of his apartment had not frozen the rent, he would have been on the streets with his wife and their 5-year-old twins. “I don’t have anything else but a huge loan to reimburse,” he said.

Similar scenes played out across the country, where more than 10,000 deaths have been reported. On Thursday, the country recorded its highest daily toll: 950 dead.

The unemployment numbers released on Thursday suggest that the impact on Spain’s work force could be greater than that of the 2008 financial crisis. Over 800,000 workers withdrew from the Spanish social security system in March, the highest monthly drop in modern history.

“The conscious decision not to take measures to protect production is leading us to a crisis without precedent,” said Daniel Lacalle, an economist who is forecasting that Spanish unemployment could reach 35 percent, up from 14 percent before the coronavirus outbreak.

Myrna Mosca, a 42-year-old housekeeper, waited in line with two friends for food credits. Ms. Mosca said her two employers had asked her to stop coming. “We’ve all been thrown into the unknown,” she said. “All of us.”


The future of both businesses, and hundreds of thousands more around France, spiraled into uncertainty. Instead of sinking, though, they are being thrown lifelines as the French government deploys a targeted plan aimed at sheltering companies and keeping every worker possible employed.

“We’re using the government’s whole toolbox to get through this crisis,” Mr. Paul said, eyeing the company’s empty Armenonville Pavillon on the edge of Paris, where just weeks ago chefs and waiters served delicacies like scallop carpaccio for glittering events. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

As the coronavirus wallops the world’s economies, France is rapidly emerging as a test case of whether a country can hasten the recovery from a recession by protecting businesses from going under in the first place, and avoiding mass joblessness.

In the United States, the coronavirus has already provoked millions of layoffs. While the $2 trillion rescue package signed by President Trump sends extensive relief to American workers and businesses, France and other European Union countries are deploying a more encompassing state-led approach in the event that the epidemic takes months, rather than weeks, to contain.

“There’s a very different strategy in Europe than in the United States about how to manage this recession,” said Patrick Artus, chief economist of Paris-based Natixis Bank. “The idea is to have no layoffs or company closures, so that when the coronavirus is finally under control the economy can start right back up.”

France is hoping to learn a lesson from the 2008 financial crisis, when it didn’t take aggressive steps to support workers and businesses. Unemployment soon jumped to around 10 percent and stayed high for half a decade. By contrast, the rise in joblessness in Germany — which kept companies from collapsing by subsidizing furloughs in a system known as Kurzarbeitergeld, or short-time work — lasted less than a year before falling steadily.

“France has decided it’s not going to make the same mistake with the coronavirus,” said Simon Tilford, director of the Forum New Economy, a research institution in Berlin. “That approach is going to be much less devastating.”


In the sweeping economic recovery package that Congress passed last week, the federal government promised payments of up to $1,200 to most American adults, including those with little income or none at all.

But many of those most in need of help will face hurdles to getting the money they’ve been told is on the way.

Automatic payments are guaranteed only to those whose information is already in the computers at the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. Everyone else must follow instructions posted by the I.R.S., which says many low-income people and others who aren’t usually required to file tax returns will need to do so if they want their payments.

Until an abrupt reversal on Wednesday night, the guidance also applied to Social Security recipients who did not submit tax returns. That had been a surprise to policy experts and advocates for seniors, because the legislation signed by President Trump gave the Treasury explicit permission to use Social Security databases — and the payment information they contain — to push payments to people automatically, without their needing to do anything else.

The Treasury Department backtracked on Wednesday and said Social Security beneficiaries who did not typically file returns would receive their payments automatically after all.

The Treasury said the I.R.S. would use the information on Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. They will get these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, depending on how they normally get their benefits, Treasury officials said in a statement.

That reversal should be a relief to millions of people: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that at least 15 million Social Security recipients would have had to file a return to get their stimulus payments.

There will be an extra layer of difficulty for people who don’t normally file a return and lack a standard checking account.

The Financial Health Network, a research and advisory group, estimated that 12 million people earning less than $30,000 per year were among the so-called unbanked. But the guidance issued Monday says people who are filing returns just to receive their stimulus payment must supply direct-deposit information.

“There are a surprisingly large number of people who are unbanked in the U.S.,” said Michael Graetz, a Columbia University law professor and former deputy assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department. “They cash their checks at check-cashing facilities and do lending through credit cards or payday loan operations.”

Mr. Mnuchin has said he expected automatic payments to begin arriving this month. But the I.R.S. guidance will almost certainly mean longer waits for those who must file new returns to be eligible to receive a stimulus payment.

Policy experts worry that payments will be slow to reach those who need them. But the bigger fear is that some eligible people might not get payments at all.


After a wave of backlash from advocates and Democratic lawmakers, the Trump administration late Wednesday abruptly reversed policy guidance that would have required millions of Social Security recipients to file a tax return in order to receive the one-time $1,200 relief payment to which they are entitled under the newly passed coronavirus stimulus package.

But critics were quick to warn that the administration’s reversal—announced in a statement by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin—does not cover low-income recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and veterans benefits. Leaving the roadblock in the way of these vulnerable groups, said advocates, could mean millions will not receive desperately needed relief.

“Under pressure, the Trump administration has reversed the cruel and needless requirement for Social Security beneficiaries to file a tax return to receive their $1,200 payment,” tweeted advocacy group Social Security Works. “Now, they need to do the same for recipients of SSI and Veteran’s Pensions.”

In a tweet accompanied by a smiling elderly couple, the Internal Revenue Service Wednesday night publicized the Trump administration’s policy change, noting that “Social Security beneficiaries who are not typically required to file tax returns will not need to file to receive an economic impact payment. It’s automatic.”

However, the IRS concedes in its fact-sheet on coronavirus relief that “some people who typically do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the stimulus payment.”

While the Trump administration has portrayed the filing as “simple,” Democratic lawmakers and journalists have reported hearing complaints from dozens of seniors who say they have been unable to file the required return online because they have no taxable income. Volunteer tax clinics across the U.S. that help people navigate the filing process are closed due to the coronavirus crisis.

“Since my printer isn’t working, I’m not able to print it out to send it in,” Sue Bohl, a 63-year-old Social Security Disability Insurance recipient in De Pere, Wisconsin, told HuffPost. “It’s hard for me, because I don’t think it’s smart to be going out to do anything right now, so I’m stuck!”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that “beyond the tax-filing hurdle, millions of other Americans are realizing that they don’t qualify for a coronavirus relief check” as mass layoffs continue across the United States.

“Most high school seniors and college students won’t get any money,” the Post reported. “The bill gives nothing to families for their children older than 16, a shock to many households already reeling from canceled graduations, and college students readjusting to life at home with so many universities shut down. Many immigrant families are also learning that they are ineligible. In order for anyone in the family to receive a payment, each person in the household—including children—is supposed to have a valid Social Security number.”


T and R, la58!! How do you cut & paste from YouTube? LD taught me how to do it, but YT’s been updated since then.


remember to call your student loan provider and request the interest free forbearance. then you have to check in each month to make sure the government didn’t end the interest free part.


The growing lethality of the American workplace is fueling a wave of strikes, both union-led and spontaneous wildcat protests. Greenhouse listed a few of these workplace actions:

Last Tuesday, after a mechanic tested positive for the coronavirus, more than half the workers at Bath Iron Works, a shipyard in Maine, stayed home from work to pressure their employer to thoroughly clean the shipyard. Workers walked out at a Fiat Chrysler truck plant in Warren, Mich., because there was no hot water for washing up. Bus drivers in Birmingham, Ala., went on strike because they felt not enough was being done to protect them from contracting the coronavirus from infected passengers, and bus drivers in Detroit staged a sudden sickout for the same reason. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh engaged in a work stoppage over their coronavirus worries.

This wave of protests is only likely to grow, not just because of the coronavirus but also because of the breaking of the social contract by the rich. By crafting bailouts that favored corporations and millionaires amid a pandemic during which blue-collar workers are being forced to work in life-threatening conditions, the American political elite is playing with fire. We could well see social strife far more intense than even the turbulence of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement that emerged in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.

The very collapse of American unions in recent decades means that the stabilizing force of organized labor is gone, making wildcat strikes the weapon of choice in this new class war. America may be heading into a period of working-class militancy unlike anything it has experienced since the 1930s and ’40s


several sub topics in this article. The whole thing is worth a read, mixing very personal stories with the larger picture.

Biggest effects among low-paying jobs

“Much bigger job losses are coming,” warns Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. Some 56% of U.S. counties, representing 80% of the nation’s GDP, are in some form of lockdown, he says, although many employees continue to work from home. In all, about a quarter of the economy is shut down, he estimates, so he expects the unemployment rate to hit 10% to 13% this month.

That would be as bad or worse than at the height of the Great Recession. Some economists expect even higher levels of unemployment. The data also suggest that workers in some of the lowest-paid occupations were among the first to be laid off. “Low and low-middle income households are being hit hardest by the crisis,” Mr. Zandi says.

In Massachusetts, one of the top five states reporting first-time jobless claims last week, the biggest surge came in the health-care and social assistance sector. These workers run the gamut. Nearly half of them are home health aides, delivering care to the home-bound and earning nationally an average $24,000 a year. The rest are licensed nurses (earning twice as much) and medical and health services managers (earning four times as much). Last week, more than 18,000 of them filed for unemployment in Massachusetts, up from 440 the week before, a mind-bending 4,000% increase.

“Over 37 million U.S. jobs may be vulnerable to potential layoffs in the short term,” conclude researchers at Cornell University’s law school. That’s assuming that the current crisis does not result in wider-spread, long-term layoffs. Of those 37 million nonsupervisory jobs, all but 2 million are low-quality, low-paid ones paying less than $28,000 a year, as measured by the researchers’ U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index. The biggest group, more than a quarter of those at risk: workers in restaurants and other food-service positions