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Friday, February 28, 2020

COVID-19 "Pandemic?" Wall Street freaks out.

Click the Hopkins Coronavirus graphic to enlarge. Defintely spreading worldwide. Update of my prior post.

Whatever the actual current and likely projected severity of the virus impact, the panicky economic upshot has been significant this week. We've quit checking our IRAs. Probably down "on paper" about $35k at this point. Glad we don't need to take any distributions right now. Ugh. Below, DJI year-over-year as of Feb 28th 2020..

Again, whatever the present clinical / epidemiological severity of COVID-19 and I am not a virologist), the supply chains' disruptions are indisputably exigent and worsening. Irrational?
How a Coronavirus Case in Korea Instantly Hit a Small Business in the US
Everyone is trying to figure out how to get around the sudden hurdles.

A small US company that specializes in exporting US frozen and refrigerated food products to Asia, including to South Korea, suddenly got hit by the coronavirus-spread-prevention machinery that is now screwing up businesses around the globe, according to an employee who doesn’t want to be named – and doesn’t want the company to be named – because they’re not authorized to discuss the matter.

The person said that one of their customers in Korea had ordered some frozen product. The US company — let’s call it Company X — in turn ordered it from its supplier in the US, and the supplier shipped it to Company X’s freight forwarder’s cold storage location at a California port. The freight forwarder was waiting for the instructions to place the product in a refrigerated container and ship it to Korea.

Meanwhile, Company X tried to get the letter of credit from its customer in Korea. It won’t ship the product without a letter of credit. With a letter of credit, the buyer’s bank guarantees that the seller gets paid the correct amount on time. It’s a fundamental tool in international trade.

But the person then got an email from the Korean counterpart who explained that there was no letter of credit, that he tried to go to the bank to obtain the letter of credit, as he normally does, but that he couldn’t leave the office building to go to the bank because someone in the building had tested positive for the coronavirus. That was the first email…
Buckle up, folks. We're doin' a stockup CostCo run, making sure all of our meds supplies are adequate, and topping off the gas tanks.

Meanwhile, the President is off to South Carolina today to hold his latest MAGA Rally and brag some more about how great he is (UPDATE: And where he just called the COVID-19 outbreak severity a Democrat and media "hoax").
No, I don't like him. Need one explain? Seriously?
Covid-19 Will Mark the End of Affluence Politics
The possibility of a global pandemic will reveal our inability to make and distribute the things people need—just in time for a presidential election.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump dismissed concerns about Covid-19. As he put it, the virus is "under control" in the US and the “whole situation will start working out.” But according to Politico, Trump is privately voicing worries that the impact of the virus will undermine his chances of reelection. His panicked actions of late—including preventing an American from being treated in Alabama, at the request of a fearful Senator Richard Shelby—confirm that this virus is a political event of the first magnitude. While few in Washington have internalized it, the coronavirus is the biggest story in the world and is soon going to smash into our electoral politics in unpredictable ways.

…we will, in all likelihood, be locking down travel in some areas of the US for several weeks, as they did in China. People may be advised against gathering in large groups. It's not clear what any of this will mean for campaigning or primary voting, whether most of us will vote by mail or have our votes delayed.

Moreover, the coronavirus is going to introduce economic conditions with which few people in modern America are familiar: the prospect of shortages. After 25 years of offshoring and consolidation, we now rely on overseas production for just about everything. Now in the wake of the coronavirus, China has shut down much of its production; South Korea and Italy will shut down as well. Once the final imports from these countries have worked their way through the supply chains and hit our shores, it could be a while before we get more. This coronavirus will reveal, in other words, a crisis of production—and one that’s coming just in time for a presidential election.

Under the siren song of affluence, we began offshoring critical production capacity in the 1960s for geopolitical reasons. In 1971, economist Nicholas Kaldor noted that American financial policies were turning a "a nation of creative producers into a community of rentiers increasingly living on others, seeking gratification in ever more useless consumption, with all the debilitating effects of the bread and circuses of imperial Rome." Still, Bill Clinton and George Bush accelerated this trend throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Affluence politics is not the politics of being wealthy, though, but rather the politics of not paying attention to what creates wealth in the first place. That is to say, it’s the politics of ignoring our ability to make and distribute the things people need. With the banking collapse in 2008, the election of Trump in 2016 and his mourning of empty factories, and now with Bernie Sanders dominating the early primaries, that era may at last be passing. A pandemic disease outbreak would only hasten this progression and force us back into the politics of production.

With potential shortages of goods, and restrictions on people’s movement, both parties are heading into unknown territory. It is likely Democrats will use this opportunity to further their case for Medicare for All. Pandemic surveillance and medical bureaucracies focused on billing do not mix well—stories about astronomical out-of-pocket costs for Covid-19 testing are already circulating. Republicans are likely to take a more xenophobic approach, emphasizing restrictions on foreigners and infected Americans. When it comes to managing shortages, however, both parties are split, just as they were in 1932, between their Wall Street factions that assume affluence and the less mature populist factions that seek assertive public power…
"Is there gas in the car? Yes, there's gas in the car..."

Erratum: I'm the local ASQ Volunteer Coordinator for the 2020 Baltimore Science Fair, 3 weeks out. Just emailed them to inquire as to whether they have a COVID-19 contingency plan.

Four Reasons Why the Coronavirus Is Such a Terrifying Economic Menace

The financial markets plunged into a state of abject panic this week, thanks to the novel coronavirus. As the rising number of COVID-19 cases fanned fears that a recession could be on the way, stocks fell at record speed. Investors also piled into government bonds, sending yields to new lows, a sign that the world’s money guys are desperate for safe bets as the possibility of a true pandemic becomes real.

Why is the coronavirus such a menacing economic threat?…

Amazon blurb:
"Here is a volume that should be required reading for policy makers and health professionals." - Kirkus Reviews
After four decades of assuming that the conquest of all infectous diseases was imminent, people on all continents now find themselves besieged by AIDS, drug-resistant tuberculosis, cholera that defies chlorine water treatment, and exotic viruses that can kill in a matter of hours. 
Based on extensive interviews with leading experts in virology, molecular biology, disease ecology and medicine, as well as field research in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, Central America and the United States, The Coming Plague takes readers from the savannas of eastern Bolivia to the rain forests of northern Zaire on a harrowing, fifty year journey through our battles with the microbes, and tells us what must be done to prevent the coming plague.


Wocka, wocka. I'm sure the brewer is not amused. Reports are that Corona beer sales are down 35%.

More to come...

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