The Bureau of Economic Analysis announced today that seasonally adjusted U.S. real GDP was 9.5% lower in the second quarter than it had been in the first quarter, which they reported as a decline at an annual rate of 32.9% (0.9054 - 1 = -0.329). That is four times as large a quarterly decline as anything since the BEA began reporting quarterly GDP in 1947, and represents a 10 sigma (10 standard deviations) event.
I’ve been reporting a GDP-based recession indicator index each quarter since we started the blog in 2005. What I’ve been doing up to this point is re-estimating the parameters of the model (the numbers that describe what happens in a typical expansion or a typical recession) every time a new GDP observation gets released. If you try that with the data set from 1947:Q2 through 2020:Q2, the latest drop is so dramatic that the maximum likelihood estimates would put 2020:Q2 in a class all by itself, a severe recession unlike anything seen previously. What I have done to keep the index going is to fix parameters at the values estimated as of 2020:Q1 and interpret the 2020:Q2 data from the perspective of the historically observed patterns. This calculation results in a value for our recession indicator index for 2020:Q1 of 97.1. In other words, based on the historical record of GDP growth, the current numbers would lead us to conclude that there is a 97.1% probability that the twelfth postwar recession in the United States began in the first quarter of this year. This is not surprisingly the same conclusion that the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research reached on June 8. The NBER declaration is a judgmental interpretation, whereas our index is a purely mechanical summary of the GDP data alone. As usual, the two approaches reach a very similar conclusion, though ours needed to see the 2020:Q2 GDP release to be able to make a definitive call.
The drop was across the board in terms of the traditional components of GDP. Consumption spending was the single biggest factor in the drop, offset a bit by the fact that a significant part of the lower consumption spending came in the form of lower spending on imported goods. But even if consumption and imports had held constant, lower fixed investment alone would have led to a -5% annual GDP growth rate, and lower exports by itself would have produced a GDP annual growth rate of -10%.
It’s also helpful to break down the consumption spending. Spending on consumer services accounts for 47% of GDP. Service spending is usually quite stable even in severe recessions, while durable spending takes the brunt of the cutback. Not so this time. Durable spending was about the same in Q2 as in Q1, while services fell 43.5% at an annual rate.
Investment spending is usually the biggest factor in a typical recession. The drop in residential and nonresidential fixed investment this time is similar in absolute size to what we see in other recessions. It only looks small in the graphs above in comparison to what happened to services consumption.
The biggest single factor in lower services spending was health care, as people stayed away from doctors, dentists and hospitals as much as possible. That presumably will rebound. But other categories of spending, such as restaurants, hotels, recreation, and air travel could take quite a while to recover.
Where do we go from here? The increase in the unemployment rate in April was the biggest increase on record. But the drop in June was also the biggest decrease on record. I would not be surprised to see something similar with GDP. Almost mechanically, real GDP in the third quarter has to be a bigger number than the second quarter. So, we may have seen the bottom, at least as far as GDP is concerned. But it could be a long time before we’re looking out over the top again.
Deplorably, the Trump Movement Is Made Up of Grifters, Ghouls, & Their Victims
Deplorably, a large number of easily-grifted morons thought Trump was their friend—or at least that the people lower down in the Trump base were their prey to be scammed…
Back in 2015, I concluded that the Donald Trump campaign was a deplorable multi-level marketing scam. At the top, a few grifters running lots of cons. In the middle-levels, a bunch of people who thought that they could take advantage of the situation to get rich—or richer—but who were actually easily-grifted morons themselves. And at the bottom, people who thought that Trump was their friend, rather than viewing them as suckers he could take.
Nothing I have seen since has changed that opinion of mine.
Deplorably, one of the easily-grifted morons in the middle was former Godfather’s Pizza executive and Republican politician Herman Cain:
On June 20, 2020, Herman Cain was boasting that he was having a “fantastic time” at Donald Trump’s massless, non-social distancing Tulsa rally:
Trump had required attendees to: “acknowledg[e]… that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury…”
On June 24, 2020, Herman Cain wrote, with respect to the public-health emergency measures of March and April: ‘Never again. We now have the evidence it didn’t help at all…’
On July 1, 2020, Herman Cain wrote very approvingly of Trump’s next rally: ‘Masks will not be mandatory for the [Mt. Rushmore] event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!: South Dakota Governor: “We will not be social distancing. We’re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country, and to talk about our history…’
Also on July 1, 2020 Herman Cain was hospitalized for coronavirus. On July 30, 2020, life support measures were discontinued, and Herman Cain died.
At some point the ‘Masks will not be mandatory… PEOPLE ARE FED UP!’ Post on twitter was deleted from Herman Cain’s account.
After his hospitalization, Herman Cain’s twitter account was run by a rather cynical gang of ghouls.
On one track:
2020-07-02: There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus…. With God’s help, we are confident he will make a quick and complete recovery…. Dan [Calabrese] here: Herman has just begun the process of kicking COVID-19’s ass…. 2020-07-03: Good morning! @RobertLaurie here with good news. We just received a message from HC. His oxygen levels are improving, he’s had no complications from the meds, and he’s in no pain. We’re grateful to God and for your prayers. Keep them coming! We’re confident Herman will back soon!… 2020-07-05: Update: Herman wants to thank everyone for praying for him. It’s making a difference. He’s still in the hospital but he’s making progress and we expect to hear more encouraging news…. Keep them coming! God is listening…. 2020-07-07: He’s still in an Atlanta-area hospital, where doctors are trying to make sure his oxygen levels are right. This is a tough virus, but we serve a tougher God…. Please continue praying…. 2020-07-10: Herman… describes the current process as “cruise control” because the progress is slow but his breathing is getting stronger every day. Make no mistake: He is improving!… 2020-07-15: We want to give you a quick update…. The doctors like the progress he’s making—although it’s still slow and requires much patience. If he continues to progress at the same pace, they will probably get a little more proactive today…. Also, he was irritated they wouldn’t let him have a Snickers bar. That’s our boss!… 2020-07-27: He is still in the hospital being treated with oxygen…. His other organs and systems are strong. Re-strengthening the lungs is a long and slow process, and the doctors want to be thorough about it…. We’re glad the doctors are being thorough and making sure they do the job right…. He really is getting better, which means it is working…
Progress, all the time, since July 1. So much winning.
On the other track, we had lots of things like these:
2020-07-03: There are magic-bullet drugs to fight coronavirus that the so-called experts do not want you to have: ‘More being discovered about the positive results from Hydroxychloroquine…’
2020-07-06: We have to take the hit: accept lcoronavirus deaths for the sake of jobs, profits, and businesses: ‘White House’s new message on COVID: We need to live with it, because we can’t keep shutting everything down…. This is the right message…. Power-mad governors… restrict everything from gardening to singing in church. It’s destroyed tens of millions of jobs…. Trump said early on (and was blasted for saying) that we had to be careful not to make the solution worse than the problem. That is exactly what we did…. The so-called experts were people who know about infectious diseases and not much else. They didn’t care about jobs being lost and companies going under. They didn’t care about the price people would pay…
2020-07-06: The leftist Jews are coming to take your stuff away: ‘The patron saint of anti-American leftists has loosened up his purse strings: Soros is doubling down on election influence…’
2020-07-07: The so-called experts are wrong: the coronavirus plague is almost over: ‘Maybe it’s not true that no one had immunities. In fact, it would explain a lot. #Coronavirus: Some studies suggest we’re much closer to herd immunity than the ‘experts’ think, because of T-cells…’
2020-07-08: Stop thinking about having the government support the economy to keep unemployment from going higher: ‘More free money! Even Mitch McConnell appears resigned to it. #MitchMcConnell #Stimulus…’
2020-07-15: Joe Biden is a mental vegetable: ‘Joe Biden is a barely coherent puppet that will do the bidding of whoever the real President is. He will say, or do, whatever the Marxist base of his party tells him to do…’
2020-07-15: Gavin Newsom is overreacting to coronavirus because he hates religion: ‘Unconstitutional. When will the people of California have had enough?: “Newsom shuts down California churches indefinitely…’
2020-07-22: Canada’s Justin Trudeau is overreacting to coronavirus because he hates Donald Trump: ‘Canada denied the Blue Jays’ request… [for] frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging…. Some people are speculating that Trudeau turned the Blue Jays down as a way to stick a finger in the eye of Donald Trump, as if to say, “We’re not letting people into our country from that dirty place where Trump is letting the virus get out of control!” That seems like an awfully petty motive for denying your country’s one Major League team the chance to play…’
2020-07-23: Really: Stop thinking about having the government support the economy to keep unemployment from going higher: ‘What’s another 1 trillion among friends? #Coronavirus #DonaldTrump #KevinMcCarthy #MitchMcConnell #NationalDebt #Stimulus: White House, Senate Republicans agree on another 1 trillion spending blowout: Well, this should rocket the 2020 federal budget deficit…. Keep in mind that, when Republicans are willing to spend 1 trillion they don’t have, Democrats are going to want to spend 3 trillion. They’ll probably meet in the middle somewhere, like, say, 2.9 trillion. Since Republicans are such great negotiators…’
2020-07-24: The important violations of liberty that I am concerned about are that MLB players are kneeling for the National Anthem: ‘If any player is brave enough to dissent from this, he will need lots of prayer. #ColinKaepernick #LosAngelesDodgers #MajorLeagueBaseballMLB #NationalAnthem #NewYorkYankees #PoliceAbuse #Protests #SanFrancisco49ers #SanFranciscoGiants #WashingtonNationals…. I would hate to have to deal with the isolation (and public condemnation) that would come with being the one guy on the team refusing to kneel for the anthem…’
2020-07-27: Really, truly: Stop thinking about having the government support the economy to keep unemployment from going higher: ‘Better idea: Repeal the 16th [Income Tax] Amendment and stop doling out mountains of cash that isn’t yours in the first place…’
2020-07-29: The experts have been so wrong so many times!: ‘Our government, and our media, have incinerated their credibility. So, is it any wonder that people are skeptical? #Coronavirus…’
Dan Calabrese 2020-07-31: Let’s Clear Up This ‘Herman Was a COVID Denier’ Nonsense https://hermancain.com/clear-herman-covid-denier-nonsense/?ff_source=twitter&ff_medium=thenewvoice&ff_content=2020-07-02: ‘Never said COVID was a hoax…. Said… Democrats and the media would perpetrate a hoax by lying about the administration…. Herman was kicking off every broadcast by asking people to wash/sanitize their hands, social-distance (when did that become a complex verb?) and yes, wear masks…. Did he wear it everywhere and in every situation? I don’t know…. He was not one of these people who was running around telling everyone masks aren’t necessary… or complaining about his “rights” being violated…. A lot of people have mentioned that he was photographed at the Tulsa Trump rally without a mask on. That’s true…. [But] he was on planes…. It’s not impossible he contracted it at… Tulsa…. Most of us… think it happened on… the plane… the inherent (and to me at least, obvious) risk involved with being on an airplane these days…. We ran a lot of pieces… questioning the media’s narrative… [questioning] predictions of a “second wave” when the numbers were clearly not showing one…. The numbers in a few states are worse…. Even when we wrote those pieces… we weren’t questioning the… seriousness of the virus. We were questioning the public response to it and the media coverage that drove much of it…. Clear up the “COVID denier” nonsense. Our boss… wanted you to mask up and do all the other things to protect yourselves. And he would still want you to do that today…
He wanted you to mask up. That’s why he—or perhaps one of the ghouls?—as he caught the disease, wrote not ‘The Mt. Rushmore rally will be attended by President Trump. GO AND WEAR A MASK!’ but rather: ‘Masks will not be mandatory for the [Mt. Rushmore] event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!’ That’s why he phrased it that way.
And then there is:
Senorworldwide @senorglobal: Herman Cain died of colon cancer. Why the FUCK is the media trying to hang it on Covid? Oh wait, we all know why.
Text Trump to 88022 ✝️🇺🇸⭐⭐⭐ 🇺🇸 @K1erry: 74 year old Herman Cain died of stage 4 colon cancer that metastasized to his liver. He had Covid-19, but that isn’t what killed him. The cancer did.
TexasSheriHockey @TxSheriHockey: He also had stage four cancer but keep pushing that fear.
slayerdork @slayerdork: You know this how? Stage 4 colon cancer has a 5 year survival rate of 14%.
Amy Leigh @amymcdaniel75: Herman Cain had terminal cancer. He could have gotten covid19 anywhere. His immune system was weak.
Stephanie @StephanieKohlho Did you know: ‘Herman Cain really died of colon cancer? Or that if you send in an advanced ballot “they” will change all your votes to democrats? And that mask mandates are mind control tactics?’ I went back to Facebook for ONE DAY and it’s worse than I remembered.
Reformed Coronabro 🇺🇸 @BonanzaGrade: Herman Cain died of stage 4 colon cancer and just so happened to test positive for covid. RIP
Dale729 @Dale729: He died of stage 4 colon cancer. What a dirtbag comment. It’s like saying your family members died because they had such creep for a relative.
Randall Laue @biffographics: HAD STAGE 4 CANCER TOO!!!
NWO Broadcasting Corp @SecondRepublic1: #HermanCain had stage 4 cancer wi probably reappeared Only about 6 to 12 percent of patients with stage IV colon cancer survive five years, He died. Shame on #COVID19vulture s
Sonlight 🇺🇸 @BillyBoysDaddy: Herman Cain was in the 4th stage of colon cancer—death was inevitable.
B.T. Samuel @JustBeaTee: So Herman Cain dies due to complications with stage 4 colon cancer, but somehow, COVID 19 is listed as cause of death? Y’all stop!
John Graham @J_Graham_OKC: Herman Cain died of stage 4 colon cancer, those politicizing his death are ass wipes !!!
Ben Shapiro: ‘He was a 74-year-old survivor of Stage 4 colon cancer…
…People are dunking on Cain on Twitter because, obviously, he attended President Trump’s rally in Tulsa less than two weeks before being diagnosed with COVID 19…. The kind of dunking on people after they die of COVID is pretty gross. Here’s the reality. There are plenty of people dying of this who have been wearing masks and have been being careful. And there are plenty of people in the media who have been quite, shall we say, cavalier about the activities in which people should and should not engage, up to and including mass rallies, so long as they are for the public purposes that so many of our ‘elite’ like…. There’s no evidence he acquired this at the Trump rally. Everybody had their temperature checked on entry. Masks and hand sanitizer were handed out but not required to be used…
Ghouls. Ghouls all the way down…
.#cognition #easilygriftedmorongs #ghouls #highlighted #orangehairedbaboons #publicsphere #2020-08-04
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Notes & Quotes:
Dan Calabrese 2020-07-31: Let’s Clear Up This ‘Herman Was a COVID Denier’ Nonsense https://hermancain.com/clear-herman-covid-denier-nonsense/?ff_source=twitter&ff_medium=thenewvoice&ff_content=2020-07-02: ‘Herman certainly never said COVID was a hoax…. He said is that Democrats and the media would perpetrate a hoax by lying about the administration’s response to the virus…. Watch the first few seconds of any of his recent shows…. Herman was kicking off every broadcast by asking people to wash/sanitize their hands, social-distance (when did that become a complex verb?) and yes, wear masks…. Did he wear it everywhere and in every situation? I don’t know the answer to that…. But he was not one of these people who was running around telling everyone masks aren’t necessary, or claiming they don’t work, or complaining about his “rights” being violated over having to wear one…. Now, a lot of people have mentioned that he was photographed at the Tulsa Trump rally without a mask on. That’s true…. We don’t know where he contracted, but we do know that he traveled extensively in the week he was diagnosed. He was on planes…. It’s not impossible he contracted it at the Tulsa rally. But most of us on his team tend to think it happened on one of the plane trips… for several reasons, one of which is simply the inherent (and to me at least, obvious) risk involved with being on an airplane these days…. But even if he did get the virus in Tulsa… that doesn’t mean he was a COVID denier or that he claimed it was a hoax. We ran a lot of pieces on this site… questioning the media’s narrative…. We questioned their predictions of a “second wave” when the numbers were clearly not showing one…. The numbers in a few states are worse now, but even when we wrote those pieces… we weren’t questioning the reality or the seriousness of the virus. We were questioning the public response to it and the media coverage that drove much of it…. We’re glad to clear up the “COVID denier” nonsense. Our boss was no such thing. He wanted you to mask up and do all the other things to protect yourselves. And he would still want you to do that today…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-29: ‘Our government, and our media, have incinerated their credibility. So, is it any wonder that people are skeptical? #Coronavirus…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-27: ‘Thank God baseball didn’t panic like the media wanted. #Coronavirus #MajorLeagueBaseballMLB #MiamiMarlins…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-27: ‘Better idea: Repeal the 16th [Income Tax] Amendment and stop doling out mountains of cash that isn’t yours in the first place…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-27: ‘We know it’s been a few days since we last gave you an update on the boss. But he is still in the hospital being treated with oxygen for his lungs. In the meantime, the doctors say his other organs and systems are strong. Re-strengthening the lungs is a long and slow process, and the doctors want to be thorough about it. We’d like him to be able to come home now, which is frustrating, but we’re glad the doctors are being thorough and making sure they do the job right. Thank you for praying, everyone. Please keep doing it. He really is getting better, which means it is working…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-24: ‘If any player is brave enough to dissent from this, he will need lots of prayer. #ColinKaepernick #LosAngelesDodgers #MajorLeagueBaseballMLB #NationalAnthem #NewYorkYankees #PoliceAbuse #Protests #SanFrancisco49ers #SanFranciscoGiants #WashingtonNationals: Why the anthem-kneelers are still wrong, no matter how many people are pressured to do it: There are not many times in my life when I’m glad not to be a Major League Baseball player, but this moment is one of them. I would hate to have to deal with the isolation (and public condemnation) that would come with being the one guy on the team refusing to kneel for the anthem…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-23: ‘What’s another $1 trillion among friends? #Coronavirus #DonaldTrump #KevinMcCarthy #MitchMcConnell #NationalDebt #Stimulus: White House, Senate Republicans agree on another $1 trillion spending blowout: Well, this should rocket the 2020 federal budget deficit nicely past 4 trillion. It’s almost to the point where, if we don’t go for 10 trillion, it’s not even entertaining. Keep in mind that, when Republicans are willing to spend 1 trillion they don’t have, Democrats are going to want to spend 3 trillion. They’ll probably meet in the middle somewhere, like, say, 2.9 trillion. Since Republicans are such great negotiators…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-22: ‘At least the Blue Jays aren’t scheduled to open at home. Their home opener is on July 29 against the Washington Nationals, but it won’t be at home in any..: The season starts in two days, and thanks to Justin Trudeau… the Canadian government has left the Blue Jays homeless…. “Canada denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at Rogers Centre because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging…. Some people are speculating that Trudeau turned the Blue Jays down as a way to stick a finger in the eye of Donald Trump, as if to say, “We’re not letting people into our country from that dirty place where Trump is letting the virus get out of control!” That seems like an awfully petty motive for denying your country’s one Major League team the chance to play in your country for an entire year. But that’s where things stand…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-15: ‘Unconstitutional. When will the people of California have had enough?: “Newsom shuts down California churches indefinitely…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-15: ‘We want to give you a quick update on the boss’s progress battling his COVID symptoms. The doctors like the progress he’s making - although it’s still slow and requires much patience. If he continues to progress at the same pace, they will probably get a little more proactive today about moving him to some new treatments. Also, he was irritated they wouldn’t let him have a Snickers bar. That’s our boss! Please keep praying for him…. We made a statement, with attribution, when he first entered the hospital…. And yes, he did ask for a Snickers…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-15: ‘Of course it is. Joe Biden is a barely coherent puppet that will do the bidding of whoever the real President is. He will say, or do, whatever the Marxist base of his party tells him to do. #2020election #AlexandriaOcasioCortez #JoeBiden…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-10: ‘Herman wants to once again thank everyone for your prayers. He describes the current process as “cruise control” because the progress is slow but his breathing is getting stronger every day. Make no mistake: He is improving! Please keep praying and know he loves you all…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-08: ‘More free money! Even Mitch McConnell appears resigned to it. #MitchMcConnell #Stimulus…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-07: ‘Herman asked us to let you know again how much he appreciates all your prayers. He’s still in an Atlanta-area hospital, where doctors are trying to make sure his oxygen levels are right. This is a tough virus, but we serve a tougher God. Herman wants to get back in action soon, so please continue praying…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-07: ‘Maybe it’s not true that no one had immunities. In fact, it would explain a lot. #Coronavirus: Some studies suggest we’re much closer to herd immunity than the ‘experts’ think, because of T-cells…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-06: ‘The patron saint of anti-American leftists has loosened up his purse strings: Soros is doubling down on election influence…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-06: ‘This is a hard message to hear, but there another way forward? #Coronavirus #DonaldTrump #WhiteHouse: White House’s new message on COVID: We need to live with it, because we can’t keep shutting everything down: Substantively this is the right message. It’s the only rational thing the country can do at this point. Conventional wisdom says it will be a very tough sell politically, although I think there’s a way to turn that upside down. As it stands, the nation has been judging the wisdom of the anti-virus effort by whether cases, hospitalizations and deaths are going up or down. Down, we’re doing it right. Up, we’re doing it wrong. That’s the only measure. What we’re doing to the economy and to every other facet of people’s lives is not a consideration…. Power-mad governors… restrict everything from gardening to singing in church. It’s destroyed tens of millions of jobs. It’s decimated sports and leisure activities…. Just about no one who hopes to get votes for anything this year has been willing to say this whole thing has been a mistake. Apparently the Trump Administration, perhaps for want of an alternative, is prepared to be the first…. Trump said early on (and was blasted for saying) that we had to be careful not to make the solution worse than the problem. That is exactly what we did…. The so-called experts were people who know about infectious diseases and not much else. They didn’t care about jobs being lost and companies going under. They didn’t care about the price people would pay…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-05: ‘Update: Herman wants to thank everyone for praying for him. It’s making a difference. He’s still in the hospital but he’s making progress and we expect to hear more encouraging news as the week progresses. So thank you, everyone, and keep them coming! God is listening…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-03: ‘More being discovered about the positive results from Hydroxychloroquine…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-03: ‘Good morning! @RobertLaurie here with good news. We just received a message from HC. His oxygen levels are improving, he’s had no complications from the meds, & he’s in no pain. We’re grateful to God and for your prayers. Keep them coming! We’re confident Herman will back soon!…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-02: ‘Dan here: Herman has just begun the process of kicking COVID-19’s ass. #Coronavirus #HermanCain…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-02: ‘We are sorry to announce that Herman Cain has tested positive for COVID-19, and is currently receiving treatment in an Atlanta-area hospital. Please keep him, and all who are battling this virus, in your prayers. Our full statement appears below. Updates to follow: “On Monday, June 29, Herman Cain was informed that he had tested positive for coronavirus. By Wednesday, July 1, Mr Cain had developed symptoms serious enough that he retired hospitalization…. Mr. Cain did not require a respirator, and he is awake and alert. There is no way of knowing for sure how or where Mr. Cain contracted the coronavirus…. With God’s help, we are confident he will make a quick and complete recovery…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-02: ‘By now, you’ve probably heard about the new jobs report. The economy added-or at least re-gained-4.8 million jobs in June. That figure absolutely obliterates the official estimate, which suggested only a 2.9 million increase in nonfarm payroll employment…. There’s simply no way to spin the report as anything other than fantastic news for the country and the President #Economics #Jobs…
@THEHermanCain 2020-07-01: ‘Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!: South Dakota Governor: “We will not be social distancing. We’re asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country, and to talk about our history…
@THEHermanCain 2020-06-26: ‘A short-term, strategic move? Or the start of another lockdown? This is not the news we wanted to give you today. #Coronavirus #GregAbbott #Texas: Uh oh: Texas governor orders all bars closed, restricts outdoor gatherings as COVID cases rise: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has certainly not been one of these governors who’s relished the shutdowns and lockdowns. Quite the contrary, he was far less restrictive than many of his peers and was quicker to open things back up. But there’s no question Texas is seeing a rise in cases…. Let’s continue to hope this doesn’t become an excuse for lockdown-happy politicians to take us back to mid-March and April. People are just starting to get their jobs back and return to their lives, and the last thing we need is to once again put tens of millions of people out of work and give Congress an excuse for another $2 trillion spending blowout that incentivizes everyone to stay home and rely on unemployment insurance…
@THEHermanCain 2020-06-26: ‘He knows this isn’t constitutional. He just doesn’t care. #Constitution #Coronavirus #JoeBiden #KamalaHarris: Biden: I would use executive powers to make mask-wearing mandatory in public…. Many presidents push the envelope and try to use executive orders to nullify laws by refusing to enforce them. That’s what DACA is, like it or not. What a president’s executive orders clearly cannot do is mandate that private citizens do a certain thing or behave in a certain way…. the Constitution only limits politicians’ power to the extent the Constitution is allowed to work. If politicians ignore it and judges refuse to apply it, then we effectively have no Constitution. Maybe you think this is too weighty an argument to make when we’re just talking about people wearing masks during a pandemic. I disagree. Because once it’s established that presidents or anyone else can just do whatever they want, they will take full advantage of that newfound power…
@THEHermanCain 2020-06-24: ‘Never again. We now have the evidence it didn’t help at all. #Coronavirus: Well what do you know? States that didn’t lock down have 75 percent lower COVID death rates than those that did: Dan Calabrese: “This could be very useful information in the weeks to come, as the media and ‘experts’ continue their screeching about a second wave, and issue demands that we must once again lock down for the survival of humanity. These are the people who always tell us they make their decisions based on science and data, right? (Except when it comes to determining a person’s gender.) So you’d think they’d be interested in the now-available data that compares what happened in the 42 lockdown states compared with the eight who didn’t lock down. You want to save lives, right? Apparently the best way to do that is to let people live their lives…
Young pessimists, old optimists, and the strange ways we think about risk
Have we blown the risk of catching Covid-19 out of all perspective? Or are we not nearly frightened enough? The fashionable view is that people have become reckless. Photographs of crowded bars and beaches provide some evidence for that. So too, more worryingly, does the apparently endless swell of the first wave of infections in the US, where young people are making up a larger proportion of new infections. In hotspots such as Houston, the young make up a growing proportion of the people being admitted to hospital, too.
Peer more closely, though, and the picture is mixed. Across the world, people are fearful of schools fully reopening, despite the fact that children and parents alike badly need them. There is very little risk to children and not much evidence that schools are major vectors for infecting teachers or parents.
Yet we worry. Ola Rosling of Gapminder, an educational foundation, tells me that his international polling finds almost 85 per cent of people think it is unsafe to reopen schools. Nearly half of them think it is unsafe for the children themselves, which thankfully is untrue.
Our sense of peril will continue to evolve as we hear more stories from families who have suffered. Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist and Nobel laureate, has argued that vivid stories tend to swamp probability when we evaluate risk. A two per cent chance of dying from Covid is clearly twice as bad as a one per cent chance.
But if instead of the thin description “dying from Covid”, we tell a story about infection, family concern, fever, apparent recovery, a sharp turn for the worse, being rushed to hospital, sedated and then dying, separated from family — well, by this point nobody cares about the percentages. The risk becomes terribly real, for a while at least.
Another perspective comes from an NBER working paper with the self-explanatory title: “Older People are Less Pessimistic about the Health Risks of Covid-19”.
This study screened out people who could not answer some reasonably demanding questions about statistics, and then asked them to estimate the quantitative risks of coronavirus to themselves and to others. For example: consider 1,000 people “very similar to you” who contract Covid-19. How many will die?
A plausible estimate of the true answer is that 5-10 people will die, but also that the details depend dramatically on the age of the respondent. Objectively, the risk for people in their seventies who contract the virus is about 10 to 20 times that of the risk for infected people in their forties. The risk for people in their twenties or early thirties is so low as to be hard to estimate.
Respondents to the survey saw things rather differently. Those aged 18-34 thought 20 people “like them” would die out of every 1,000 infected. That guess is far too high. In contrast, those over 70 thought that 10 people like them would die out of every 1,000 infected. That guess is too low, although probably closer to the truth than the youthful pessimists.
Andrei Shleifer, one of the authors of the NBER paper, is confident that the finding is real, partly because other surveys have reached similar conclusions. But how to square it with pictures of young people on beaches is not clear.
Prof Shleifer speculates that the explanation is that young people do not usually think about dying at all, while elderly people have spent a little too much time at funerals to ignore the fact that we are all mortal. Covid-19 has forced everyone to think about death, but for the over-seventies that thought is not novel.
Perhaps Prof Shleifer is right. If so it underlines how strangely our minds process risks. Covid has not appreciably increased the already tiny risk of dying for those under the age of twenty five. For those over 45, already facing a variety of ways to drop dead, Covid has been a large additional risk factor. During April and May, the risk of death increased by about 50 per cent for everyone over 45 in the UK, according to calculations by Professor David Spiegelhalter.
None of this explains the insouciance in evidence among young partygoers. But that may not be so difficult to understand either. Dr Claudia Schneider, a risk-perception expert at Cambridge university, puts it simply: maybe the kind of person who likes to go out and party in a pandemic is a very different kind of character from the person answering online surveys about Covid risks.
This simple explanation points to a messy truth: we are now at the stage of the pandemic when there is a vast disparity of different attitudes and actions. Some of us are nervous and cautious; some are unafraid and reckless. I am grateful for the over-cautious: the last thing we need is a resurgence of the virus in Europe.
But our disparate perceptions of risk are creating a social minefield. To answer my original question: some of us are blowing the risk out of all proportion, some of us are not frightened enough. But all of us are going to have find a way to forge ahead together.
Written for and first published in the Financial Times on 10 July 2020.
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Dorothy Theresa Sawchak Mankiw
Above is a picture of my mother as a young woman. I would like to tell you about her.
My mother was born on July 18, 2020, the second child of Nicholas and Catherine Sawchak.
Nicholas and Catherine were immigrants from Ukraine. They came to the United States as teenagers, arriving separately, neither with more than a fourth-grade education. Catherine was from a farming area in western Ukraine. She left because her family wanted her to marry an older man rather than her younger boyfriend, who had been conscripted into the army. Her first job here was as a maid. Nicholas was from Kiev, where he had been trained to be a furrier. In the United States, he worked as a potter, making sinks and toilettes. When Nicholas and Catherine came to the United States, they thought they might return home to Ukraine eventually. But World War I and the Russian Revolution intervened, causing a change of plans. Catherine’s boyfriend died in the war. Nicholas and Catherine met each other, married, and settled in a small row house in Trenton, New Jersey, where they lived the rest of their lives.
Catherine and Nicholas had two children, my uncle Walter and my mother Dorothy. When my mother was born, her parents chose to name her “Dorothy Theresa Sawchak.” But because Catherine spoke with a heavy accent, the clerk preparing the birth certificate did not understand her. So officially, my mother’s middle name was “Tessie” rather than “Theresa.” She never bothered to change it.
Nicholas and Catherine were hardworking and frugal. They saved enough to send Walter to college and medical school. He served as a physician in the army during the Korean war. Once I asked him if he worked at a MASH unit, like in the TV show. He said no, he worked closer to the front. He patched up the wounded soldiers the best he could and then sent them to a MASH unit to recover and receive more treatment. After the war, he became a pathologist in a Trenton-area hospital. He married and had two daughters, my cousins.
My mother attended Trenton High School (the same high school, I learned years later, attended by the economist Robert Solow at about the same time). She danced ballet. She water-skied on the Delaware River. She loved to read and go to the movies.
In part because of limited resources and in part because of the gender bias of the time, my mother was not given the chance to go to college. Years later, her parents would say that not giving her that opportunity was one of their great regrets. Instead, my mother learned to be a hairdresser. She was also pressured to marry the son of some family friends.
The marriage did not work. With my mother pregnant, her new husband started “running around,” my mother’s euphemism for infidelity. They divorced, and she kicked him out of her life. But the marriage did leave her with one blessing—my sister Peg.
My mother continued life as a single mother. Some years later, she met my father, also named Nicholas, through social functions run by local Ukrainian churches. They both loved to dance. He wanted to marry her, but having been burned once, she was reluctant at first. Only when she realized that he had become her best friend did she finally accept.
In 1958, nine months after I was born, Mom, Dad, Peg, and I left Trenton for a newly built split-level house in Cranford, New Jersey. My father was working for Western Electric, an arm of AT&T, first as a draftsman and then as an electrical engineer. He worked there until his retirement. One of his specialties was battery design. When I was growing up, I thought it sounded incredibly boring. Now I realize how important it is.
My mother then stopped working as a hairdresser to become a full-time mom. But she kept all the hairdresser equipment from her shop—chair, mirrors, scissors, razors, and so on—in our basement. She would cut the hair of her friends on a part-time basis. When I was a small boy, she cut my hair as well.
I attended the Brookside School, the public grade school which was a short walk from our house. When I was in the second or third grade, my mother was called in to see the teacher. The class had been given some standardized aptitude test. “Greg did well,” the teacher said. “We were very surprised.”
At that moment, my mother decided the school was not working out for me. I was talkative and inquisitive at home but shy and lackluster at school. I needed a change.
She started looking around for the best school she could find for me. She decided it was The Pingry School, an independent day school about a dozen miles from our house. She had me apply, and I was accepted.
The question then became, how to pay for it? Pingry was expensive, and we did not have a lot of extra money. My mother decided that she needed to return to work.
She started looking for a job, and an extraordinary opportunity presented itself. Union County, where we lived, was opening a public vocational school, and they were looking for teachers. She applied to be the cosmetology teacher and was hired.
There was, however, a glitch. The teachers, even though teaching trades like hairdressing, needed teacher certification. That required a certain number of college courses, and my mother had not taken any. So she got a temporary reprieve from the requirement. While teaching at the vocational school during the day, she started taking college courses at night to earn her certification, all while raising two children.
My mother taught at the vocational school until her retirement. During that time, she also co-authored a couple of books, called Beauty Culture I and II, which were teacher’s guides. From the summary of the first volume: “The syllabus is divided into six sections and includes the following areas of instruction: shop, school, and the cosmetologist; sterilization practices in the beauty salon; scalp and hair applications and shampooing; hair styling; manicuring; and hairpressing and iron curling.” I suppose one might view this project as a harbinger of my career as a textbook author.
When my parents both retired, they were still the best of friends. They traveled together, exploring the world in ways that were impossible when they were younger and poorer. During my third year as an economics professor, I was visiting the LSE for about a month. I encouraged my parents to come over to London for a week or so. They had a grand time. I believe it was the first time they had ever visited Europe. When I was growing up, vacations were usually at the Jersey shore.
My father died a few years later. My mother spent the next three decades living alone. She was then living full-time at the Jersey shore in Brant Beach on Long Beach Island. The house was close to the ocean and large enough to encourage her growing family to come for extended visits. Two children, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren. The more, the merrier. Nothing made her happier than being surrounded by family.
My mother loved to cook, especially the Ukrainian dishes she learned in her childhood. Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) was a specialty. Another was kapusta (cabbage) soup. One time, the local newspaper offered to publish her kapusta soup recipe. They did so, but with an error. Every seasoning that was supposed to be measured in teaspoons was printed as tablespoons. The paper later ran a correction but probably to no avail. I am not sure if anyone ever tried the misprinted recipe and, if so, to what end.
During her free time in her later years, my mother read extensively, played FreeCell on her computer, and watched TV. A few years ago, when she was about 90 years old, I was visiting her, and I happened to mention the show “Breaking Bad.” She had not heard of it. She suggested we watch the first episode. And then another. And another. After I left, she binge-watched all five seasons.
As she aged, living alone became harder. When she had trouble going up and down the stairs, an elevator was added to her house. But slowly her balance faltered, and she fell several times. She started having small strokes, and then a more significant one. She moved into a nursing home. Whenever I visited, I brought her new books to read. Her love of reading never diminished.
This is, I am afraid, where the story ends. Last week, Dorothy Theresa Sawchak Mankiw tested positive for Covid-19. Yesterday, she died. I will miss her.
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