Life After Corona: The Economic Hangover
It's clear now the coronavirus will leave many permanent effects on society and be remembered for generations.
Like 9/11 or the financial crisis of 2008, we will tell future generations about a time before coronavirus ("B.C.") and compare it to the new social order.
Many have already begun speculating about what a post-lockdown world will look like. Speaking on a Wall Street Journal podcast, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Dr. Anthony Fauci said the coronavirus might be the end of the handshake!
Fauci told host Kate Linebaugh:
When you gradually come back, you don’t jump into it with both feet, you say, what are the things you could still do and still approach normal? One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing. The other is you don’t ever shake anybody’s hands.
I'm not so sure about that. I think it's very likely people are going to be apprehensive about shaking each other's hands for a long time once the lockdown is over. But shaking hands is older than history. It's going to be a hard habit to break for us Westerners.
I do think, though, we'll see Americans wearing masks in public become more common. Concerned over catching "the next coronavirus," I expect there will be many Americans wearing face masks for years following the lockdown.
Additionally, there's always a demand for clothing that hides the face. Whether it's a baseball cap pulled down real low or a hoodie covering the eyes, some Americans like to hide their face in public... for whatever reason. And with growing concerns over facial recognition technology, I can see the face mask becoming the must-have fashion accessory for a long time to come.
The fashion industry was ahead of the curve with these masks on the runway at Paris Fashion Week at the end of February.
What's certain to follow the coronavirus in America, however, are lawsuits. Corporations, governments, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies... everyone is gonna get sued. Whether it's for failing to take proper precautions or limiting access to health care or basic needs in some way or whatever, rest assured, the lawsuits are coming. In fact, it has already started.
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A Walmart in Chicago is now facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a worker who died of coronavirus complications. The legal complaint alleges the store's “willful and wanton misconduct and reckless disregard,” which led to the man's illness and death on March 25. I expect there will be much more of these such lawsuits in the near future.
Also, the political blame game will certainly follow the coronavirus in America. Democrats will blame republicans for not responding fast enough. Republicans will blame democrats for fear mongering and being too easy on immigration. Everyone's fingers will be pointed at each other. No one will walk away happy. Same old, same old...
The worst part of life after corona, however, will most likely be the economic hangover.
The economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is already estimated to be in the trillions. Think about this: Every restaurant and bar... every shopping mall and outlet... every movie theater and tourist attraction... they've already been closed to the public for nearly a month now!
Meanwhile, the same goes for almost every office building, manufacturing plant, retail store, or any place where people can crowd up — many are completely shut down or have pivoted their business drastically. Fine dining restaurants, for example, are now offering carryout. Meanwhile, some retailers now have scheduled and private shopping.
Then consider all the workers who aren't getting paid right now. Among just waiters, waitresses, and bartenders, there are 3 million people just in America who haven't been to work in weeks. And that's just one small sector of workers!
As just one result of this kind of work disruption, people aren't (or can't) paying for basic things like rent. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, nearly a third of all apartment renters in the U.S. didn’t pay any of their April rent during the first week of the month.
Global economies are facing their biggest challenges since the financial crisis of 2008. Only this time, those challenges aren't the result of banker folly and false assets. These challenges will follow a truly impactful disruption in economic activity.
Until next time,
As an editor at Energy and Capital, Luke’s analysis and market research reach hundreds of thousands of investors every day. Luke is also a contributing editor of Angel Publishing’s Bull and Bust Report newsletter. There, he helps investors in leveraging the future supply-demand imbalance that he believes could be key to a cyclical upswing in the hard asset markets. For more on Luke, go to his editor’s page.
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