Just look around
This is Not Pretty, Not Rich, a newsletter meant to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the markets and economy, and what you can do to take advantage — if anything.
A reminder that I’m now sending this out on a Tuesday/Friday schedule for the time being. If any of you would like to see it more or less, let me know.
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It’s Friday, April 24
More stimulus on the way
It looks like more government help is on the way, as Congress is primed to pass (and may have done so by the time you read this) a $484 billion bill and send it to the president to sign. According to CNBC’s reporting, here’s what’s in it:
A fresh $310 billion in new funds for the Paycheck Protection Program. That program gives small businesses loans that could be forgiven if they’re used to pay employees’ wages, benefits, rent, and utilities. $60 billion of that money is earmarked for small lenders.
$60 billion for Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans and grants.
$75 billion in grants to hospitals.
$25 billion to improve coronavirus testing.
That last bit, in my opinion, is the most important. There are a lot of people itching to open up the economy again, but the main issue is that we still aren’t testing people at a level that we need to. We’ve locked everything down so that we could, presumptively, set up testing systems and isolate those who are sick. But we haven’t really done that in most parts of the country.
Despite that, it looks like 16 states are primed to start reopening — and it makes sense for some of them. But overall, we’re still a long way from the end of the outbreak. I think it’s okay to be optimistic, but cautiously so.
What do things look like in a few months?
Again, everybody wants this damn thing to resolve itself. But even the president is considering extending social distancing guidelines until the summer — or even later. That obviously means that things like attending sporting events, concerts, eating in small restaurants, or going the movies is out of the question for some time.
With that in mind, it’s really hard to say what the U.S. will look like in a couple of months. We’re still getting conflicting signals, for one.
The good news: The stock market keeps going up (though it’s been volatile).
The bad news: The ranks of the unemployed keep growing — the latest weekly unemployment report shows that another 4.4 million applicants, bringing the running total up to 26 million.
The good news: The government is bolstering unemployment systems, passing stimulus packages, and business aid.
The bad news: A lot of that aid meant for small businesses is being pilfered by large companies.
So, it’s tough to really make sense of it all and get a feel for how this is all going to shake out. Lifting restrictions slowly will allow some people to go back to work, but as some have said, it’s not going to be like flipping a light switch.
But again, stay cautiously optimistic.
Just look around
I came across an interesting essay on Forge (a Medium publication), written by a guy named Julio Vincent Gambuto. The title: “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting.”
Gambuto talks about how, at some point, there will be large-scale, though not necessarily coordinated attempts at making us forget all about what’s been happening over the past couple of months. Here’s a slice:
“What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels.”
A little more:
“And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems.”
It’s an interesting thought, and I think he’s right — the powers that be will try to spin this even for the rest of our lives. So open your eyes, look around, remember what’s happening. Take mental notes, and don’t forget. Because at some point, this will happen again. And we’ll need some experience to help us make sure we handle it better in the future.
See you next week,