They tell us it’s “flattening the curve.”
However, there are a huge number of economic impacts we will need to go through now that the Wuhan coronavirus escaped its Chinese captivity and has gone global. Let’s just look at one arena of economics for example. (And yes, the pun was intended.)
On Wednesday, just after I put up my previous post, it was announced that the NBA season was “suspended” until further notice. This quickly extended to the NHL and MLB, with the NCAA topping all of them and completely cancelling ALL winter and spring championship events. (In other words, it’s not just March Madness: the College World Series, normally held in late May into June, is off, too.)
I already feel horrible for those seniors who may have been going to The Dance for the first and only time in their college careers, but one also has to consider those people whose livelihood depends in part on these events. It’s two dates that the workers at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Atlanta will now be off, not to mention the host facilities of the other regionals that are held over two nights at various venues. (In the early rounds, this can be a full shift from noon to 9 or 10 at night.) Even worse is the fate of those who work at NBA or NHL host arenas, as their facilities are often used 5 nights a week or more thanks to sports, concerts, and other large gatherings. The same goes for spring training venues, which are used nearly every day during this time of year thanks to teams sharing fields and split-squad games. Now these facilities are closed to the public and these employees are out of work.
Generally these workers are the folks who were barely scraping by, so this pandemic is going to make it more difficult for them to pay their bills. (One exception: those who work for Ilitch Holdings, which owns Little Caesars along with the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other entertainment properties. They are going to compensate part-timers for games and events they miss thanks to the cancellations, which included the NCAA hockey Frozen Four.)
So there are a number of events which will be lost and never made up; lost opportunities for commerce. Granted, public health is important but my gut feeling is that we’ve overreacted to this epidemic insofar as governmental entities are concerned. It’s one thing for a privately-run league to suspend operations for several weeks, but government declaring a state of emergency and forcing the cancellation of events slated to hold more than a few dozen people may be a little beyond the pale. These things should be decided by organizers, not dictated. Believe it or not – and despite the hoarders who think they need two cases of toilet paper – we have a little common sense left in this world.
I also believe we needed an end date to this state of emergency, or at least a date certain to re-evaluate the situation. Declare a state of emergency through March 31, with an interim deadline of perhaps March 28 to determine further course of action. (The professional baseball world at least knows two weeks’ worth of games will be cancelled, so that alternate planning can take place.) Much of the reason the stock market and oil futures have tanked over the last month is the uncertainty of the situation. Now we can’t predict a virus, but I think we can at least give a firm date for attempting to return to normal.
As I see it, leaving stuff open-ended gives potential for additional mischief from the “never let a crisis go to waste” crowd. We’re already staring a recession dead in the face (unless pent-up demand rescues us in 2020 Q2) and, being an election year, we know what that means. As always, the government has to do something to insure its re-election as opposed to following the Constitution or adhering to limited-government principles that would suggest a more hands-off approach.
We’ve already seen what a media-enhanced panic looks like by checking out the store shelves, so it’s time for vigilance and, once this is over, preparation for the next time. Trust me, it WILL happen again.