Deciphering the path of business through the COVID-19 mess is more difficult than finding your way through Boston without Google Maps.
Stock markets zoom while Hertz declares bankruptcy. Oil prices fall to $18 a barrel but then double in five weeks. Auto plants shut down en masse but then reopen to parts shortages from Mexico, which didn’t want to produce until GM, Toyota, and VW leaned hard on the government.
The political and scientific elites caution us not to reopen because a mistake could mess up their reputations. They scare us about the “second wave” that may be coming sometime.
Meanwhile, the salon owner worries that she may never comb out another wave at her shop if she can’t reopen.
Small businesses navigate through government bureaucracies to claim the cash to survive, not knowing how much they will have to pay back because the SBA itself doesn’t understand the authorizing legislation. Washington consultants earn their juicy retainers by explaining stuff even the dudes who wrote the laws don’t understand.
The boardwalk fills up in Venice Beach, California, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In Chicago, real people keep knocking down the fences that the park police keep erecting to keep them off the grass. In Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, where the governors took the risk of opening before other states, the caseload from COVID did not change.
There are at least a dozen possibilities for successful vaccines. With a decent chance we’ll have a real one before Christmas, and a drug is being made today that really does help reduce hospital stays.
Yet 100,000 people have died in the United States.
The press makes its living by promoting bad news. Maybe there would be no pandemic without cable news. But there is 20% unemployment, doors are locked, cities have emptied, and I am afraid to go to my own anniversary party.
Yet somehow Americans seem to retain their optimism. The smart people predicted new home buying would fall apart. Yet yesterday the Commerce Department stats showed that real people put down real money and took out real mortgages to buy more homes in April than in March. People are making airline and hotel reservations. They probably are even nutty enough to plan cruises.
But if you are running a machining business, even if you are making respirator parts, it looks iffy. Will people start buying new cars? There are lots of leases ending, but dealerships are quiet because they seem like scary places to go to.
Major League Baseball can’t seem to figure out if players can take showers if it resumes.
We live in the land of phases.
I am coming around to the idea that government should trust people to decide their next steps. It would be chaotic, I know. Most old people will not do dumb stuff like going to the beach or a restaurant. Young people will mix it up and some will get sick, but probably not real sick.
We could have school this fall for those who want to go. We will get closer to the herd immunity that a successful vaccine could complete.
Death in the economy by asphyxiation could be defeated. China would lose the COVID-19 war. Toilet paper would be everywhere.
Is this crazy?
Question: Do you trust yourself to make the right decisions regarding COVID-19? Do you trust other people?