New York’s suicide

I have had a bad feeling about New York City for a while, but even I am a bit surprised at the scale and speed of Gotham’s collapse. Because that is what it is. Not a collapse in the zombie-apocalypse, I Am Legend sense, but a psychological and cultural collapse, and an ongoing, early-stage political, economic and social collapse. Do you doubt it? Have you noticed that Midtown is an absolute ghost town? Apparently everyone is waiting for a vaccine to resume some semblance of normal urban life, because the virus is still out there, on the prowl, and it wants nothing more than to make you drown in your own lung juice! It’s mean and spiteful like that. Meanwhile, on Friday there were 5 reported COVID-19 deaths in all of New York State, including 3 in New York City. Total COVID hospitalizations in this state of 20 million people are down to 523. The epidemic is over.

That might come as news to Governor Cuomo, who refuses to lift the insane restrictions that are keeping the city’s malls, museums and concert venues closed and restaurants limited to outdoor seating (impossible in Midtown). Now it is estimated that up to one-third of the city’s 230,000 small businesses will close forever. Cuomo is also setting up “quarantine checkpoints” for inbound travelers, a useless but invasive measure that symbolically disconnects the city from the rest of the country – perhaps as the prelude to a real cordon sanitaire such I warned about back in March.

New York City isn’t going to recover from this. The sad truth is that the city completely destroyed itself in a spasm of hubris, cowardice and folly and you don’t come back from that, not for a long time and not without painful introspection and remorse. There is no evidence that that is going to happen, so the death spiral continues. New Yorkers either actively support or passively acquiesce to the madness that has wrecked their city. Or they flee.

Entrepreneur and angel investor James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself, has taken his own book’s advice by heading for the exit:

In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.”

They are all still gone.

And then in June, during rioting and looting, a second wave of NYCers (this time including me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building.

Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people is leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30–50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals are soaring in the second- and third-tier cities.

I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. […]

Broadway is closed until at least the spring. The Lincoln Center is closed. All the museums are closed.

Forget about the tens of thousands of jobs lost in these cultural centers. Forget even about the millions of dollars of tourist-generated revenues lost by the closing of these centers.

There are thousands of performers, producers, artists, and the entire ecosystem of art, theater, production, curation, that surrounds these cultural centers.

Most New Yorkers blame this catastrophe on the “pandemic.” And will continue to do so. But it wasn’t the pandemic that did this; again, look at the recent numbers and ask yourself why everything is still closed. The truth is that New Yorkers didn’t care enough to keep their city alive, and so it died.


UPDATE: A couple of counterpoints to this grim perspective are in order.

(1)

(2)

A provocative thesis

For casual observers of China, such as myself, the CPC’s ham-fisted attempts at diplomacy have been a longtime source of hilarity. Here’s a post from May of last year expressing my amazement at a statement by the Chinese ambassador to Canada, in which he accused the country of being infested with “demons” because it shot down a Chinese M&A deal.

But since the onset of the global COVID fake emergency, China has embarked on a spree of egregious diplomatic self-destruction that makes its previous missteps look like minor faux pas. I admit I find this puzzling. Are Chinese leaders really that dumb, or are they doing this on purpose? Geopolitical thinker Peter Zeihan takes a stab at explaining China’s seemingly nonsensical behavior:

The propaganda out of China of late has been…notable. Beijing has accused the French of using their nursing homes as death camps, has blamed Italy for being the source of the coronavirus (at the very peak of Italian deaths), has charged the US Army with bringing the virus to China in the first place, has thrown a “fact sheet” of truly disbelievable disinformation at the fact-oriented Germans, and turned the country’s ambassadorial core into cut-rate tabloid distributors – all while leaning on anyone and everyone from the United Nations to the World Health Organization to the European Union to regional legislative bodies to alternatively suppress and delete any information or analysis that does anything but laud China, as well as push them to take public stances that slobberingly praise China.

In doing so the Chinese have seemingly deliberately wrecked their relations with the Americans, French, Italians, Germans, Czechs, South Africans, Kazakhs and Nigerians, just to name a few. (The Swedes had all but ended their diplomatic relationship with China – having come to the public conclusion that the Chinese government was a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitive, ultranationalists – before COVID.) […]

The explanation is unfortunately very simple: the Chinese leadership is well aware that soft power isn’t what is going to solve the problem they see. There’s some guidance as to the CCP’s thinking in how the propaganda effort is being explained within China, and it doesn’t bode well for the future.

Semi-officially, the CCP called the April (official) effort Wolf Warrior diplomacy, in reference to a recent (and wildly popular) Chinese movie series about ethically pure Chinese soldiers who purge the world of evil American mercenaries. The closest equivalent I can think of would be like calling an American propaganda effort Starship Troopers diplomacy. (Yeah, it is as stupid as it sounds.)

The (more disperse) May effort, in contrast, is being referred to as a Yihetuan Movement mindset. It is a reference to a particularly chaotic period at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries when a particularly violent strain of ultranationalism erupted in response to foreign actions within China. Most non-Chinese readers probably don’t recognize the Yihetuan Movement reference, but they probably do recall how it was labelled in the West: the Boxer Rebellion. More on that in a minute.

This new propaganda program isn’t about Xi attempting to convince the wider world of China’s greatness or rightness. This isn’t about the United States or Europe or Africa, and certainly not about global domination. Instead it is about intentionally saying things so far beyond the pale that there’s a global anti-Chinese backlash. The backlash itself isn’t the goal, but instead a means to an end. Xi is attempting to use a global anti-Chinese backlash to enflame anti-foreigner nationalist activity within China. Put simply, Xi is trying to get the world pissed off at China so that China becomes pissed off at the world.

Xi feel he needs to hyperstimulate and mobilize a large enough proportion of the population so that they can assist the state security services in containing, demoralizing, cowing – and if necessary, beating, killing and disappearing – those who do not buy in.

And from the next installation in the series:

The short version is that China’s spasming belligerency is a sign not of confidence and strength, but instead insecurity and weakness. It is an exceedingly appropriate response to the pickle the Chinese find themselves in.

A fool and his money

Interesting post about how Joe Rogan got ripped off by accepting what would appear to be a no-brainer, $100 million deal with Spotify:

Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, who just closed an exclusive deal with Rogan to move his show (audio and video) to the Spotify platform.

If the numbers are to be believed, it’s a steal of a deal for Spotify: for $100-$200mm they secured the largest podcast audience in the world.

I’m not exaggerating. Spotify’s market cap jumped by $3 billion in the 24h after the news of this deal broke.

The market saw what Rogan missed: Spotify took his oil. […]

By doing this deal, Rogan gives up control over his subscriber relationship. Any new audience he builds from here on out, he loses. His existing podcast feed will likely die as most people eventually unsubscribe due to inactivity.

If he goes back to being independent and ditches Spotify in 3 years, he has lost all of his new subscribers during that time, and some of his original subscribers as well.

It’s like Disney licensing their Disney+ content to Netflix. It might net a big one-time payout, but it completely erodes the business value that would otherwise accrue to them.

There’s more detailed analysis in the post. Worth reading if you are a “content creator.”

The famines cometh

You thought WuFlu was bad? WuFlu is nothing. The global death toll as of this writing is 258,295. LOL. Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people every year.

Hunger, though. That’s going to be a bitch:

Major world disasters produce multiple ripple effects. Like a powerful tsunami, they trigger one shock wave after another, each producing injury and mayhem. In the case of Covid-19, the first wave was the global health crisis, still spreading around the world. Next came the stay-at-home requirements and the resulting shutdown of the world economy, resulting in massive job layoffs everywhere. These, in turn, are producing a third wave, possibly even more catastrophic in its outcome: the collapse of global food-supply systems and widespread human starvation.

Who could have predicted this? Well, here is what I wrote on March 30:

We don’t know if the repressive measures that are being taken to “flatten the curve” in the West, such as turning Britain into an Orwellian dystopia where you are only permitted to walk your dog once a day, will be beneficial overall, given the speculative nature of the epidemiological models used to justify them and the (unaccounted-for) public health costs of putting hundreds of millions of people under de facto house arrest. But it seems obvious that if these mega-interventions continue for the duration that is apparently required for them to be effective, then they will trigger a violent collapse of the global economy, and with it, widespread immiseration, political chaos and a truly Biblical scale of human suffering and death.

Guess shutting down the global economy and confining billions of people to their homes was a pretty dumb idea, after all.

The lockdowns will continue until morale improves

The state of Connecticut (population 3.6 million) has had a grand total of 2,436 WuFlu deaths.

Hospitalizations (a lagging indicator of infections) declined for 11 straight days as of May 3.

Nursing homes account for some 55% of WuFlu deaths in Connecticut.

Yet the state must remain on full lockdown until May 20, at which point a phased easing will commence. Another brutal 16 days of little to no revenue until restaurants with outdoor dining areas, hair salons and nail salons will be permitted to open their doors again. If certain conditions are met.

None of this makes any sense.

The reset

In a couple of important blog posts, energy and economics researcher Gail Tverberg explains how the corona crisis has pushed an already strained global economy to the brink of collapse:

Economies won’t be able to recover after shutdowns

Citizens seem to be clamoring for shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is one major difficulty, however. Once an economy has been shut down, it is extremely difficult for the economy to recover back to the level it had reached previously. In fact, the longer the shutdown lasts, the more critical the problem is likely to be. China can shut down its economy for two weeks over the Chinese New Year, each year, without much damage. But, if the outage is longer and more widespread, damaging effects are likely.

A major reason why economies around the world will have difficulty restarting is because the world economy was in very poor shape before COVID-19 hit; shutting down major parts of the economy for a time leads to even more people with low wages or without any job. It will be very difficult and time-consuming to replace the failed businesses that provided these jobs.

When an outbreak of COVID-19 hit, epidemiologists recommended social distancing approaches that seemed to be helpful back in 1918-1919. The issue, however, is that the world economy has changed. Social distancing rules have a much more adverse impact on today’s economy than on the economy of 100 years ago. […]

If a large number of businesses are closed for an extended period, this will have many adverse impacts on the economy:

  • Fewer goods and services, in total, will be made for the economy during the period of the shutdown.
  • Many workers will be laid off, either temporarily or permanently. Goods and services will suddenly be less affordable for these former workers. Many will fall behind on their rent and other obligations.
  • The laid off workers will be unable to pay much in taxes. In the US, state and local governments will need to cut back the size of their programs to match lower revenue because they cannot borrow to offset the deficit.
  • If fewer goods and services are made, demand for commodities will fall. This will push the prices of commodities, such as oil and copper, very low.
    Commodity producers, airlines and the travel industry are likely to head toward permanent contraction, further adding to layoffs.
  • Broken supply lines become problems. For example:
    A lack of parts from China has led to the closing of many automobile factories around the world.
    There is not enough cargo capacity on airplanes because much cargo was carried on passenger flights previously, and passenger flights have been cut back.

These adverse impacts become increasingly destabilizing for the economy, the longer the shutdowns go on. It is as if a huge number of deletions are made simultaneously in Figure 1. Temporary margins, such as storage of spare parts in warehouses, can provide only a temporary buffer. The remaining portions of the economy become less and less able to support themselves. If the economy was already in poor shape, the economy may collapse. (…)

COVID-19 and oil at $1: Is there a way forward?

(…)

We seem to be reaching the limit of making our current global economic system work any longer. The only hope of partial salvation would seem to be if core parts of the world economy can be made to work in a more separate fashion for at least a few more years. In fact, oil and other fossil fuel production may continue, but for each country’s own use, with very limited trade.

There are likely to be big differences among economies around the world. For example, hunter-gathering may work for a few people, with the right skills, in some parts of the world. At the same time, more modern economies may exist elsewhere.

The new economy will have far fewer people and far less complexity. Each country can be expected to have its own currency, but this currency will likely be used only on a limited range of locally produced goods. Speculation in asset prices will no longer be a source of wealth.

It will be a very different world!

Speaking of which:

Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is expected to decline by about 12 percent during the second quarter, equivalent to a decline at an annual rate of 40 percent for that quarter.
The unemployment rate is expected to average close to 14 percent during the second quarter.
Interest rates on 3-month Treasury bills and 10-year Treasury notes are expected to average 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, during that quarter.

For fiscal year 2020, CBO’s early look at the fiscal outlook shows the following:

The federal budget deficit is projected to be $3.7 trillion.
Federal debt held by the public is projected to be 101 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year.

Greatest act of societal and economic self-destruction in history.

Wall Street always wins

The American Economic Liberties Project explains (PDF) why Wall Street loves the CARES Act, the galactic economic bailout signed into law at the end of March. In short, while it’s not an explicit bank bailout, the benefits are massively lopsided in favor of big business and big finance… again:

The Treasury and Federal Reserve programs — more commonly referred to as bailouts — were a controversial part of the legislation that the American Economic Liberties Project opposed as part of the immediate legislative response. While much of the discussion of the legislation focused on the $1,200 payout to workers, the $4 trillion of credit in this bill that will go to big business and Wall Street is equivalent to a $13,000 loan to every single man, woman, and child in America.

Now that the bailouts are law, these provisions represent a massive, enduring transfer of power to billionaires and big businesses. It’s critical to seek opportunities to blunt this power transfer and be clear-eyed about the economic and social implications for workers, small businesses, communities, and society over the longer term. […]

The Fed has, accordingly, opened a variety of new lending programs. Last week, it opened seven new ones, on top of what it had already put out. The Fed can make up to $2.3 trillion in additional loans through these seven programs. Some of the programs are meant to help cities, states, small businesses, and so on. But they will also bail out private equity funds, which invest in riskier companies in search of bigger profits for rich and powerful investors. […]

WHO EXACTLY WILL GET MONEY THROUGH THE FED’S NEW LOAN PROGRAMS?

1. Private equity investors. One of the Fed’s new programs provides $750 billion, or $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., to a junk bond-buying program, which the Fed calls the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility. Junk bonds, or “high-yield corporate bonds,” are risky loans that powerful financiers known as private equity funds use to take over corporations. The Fed can also use this program to lend to safer, well-managed corporations.

2. Big corporations and businesses. The Fed will also provide up to $750 billion, or $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S., to corporations through a program called the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility. Specifically, the Fed will lend money to large businesses by buying bonds from corporations.

Etc.

As Matt Stoller has written:

Large banks, private equity corporations, and foreign central banks get dollars through the capital markets, by trading bonds and stocks. It turns out that the Federal Reserve is very good at working in these markets, and can move trillions of dollars relatively quickly. So that’s why the real estate arms of the largest private equity funds in the world are skyrocketing today. They know that the Fed turned the spigot on, and that spigot is instant and functional.

However, the Small Business Administration, unlike institutions in the 1930s and 1940s, does not have the workforce or ability to make direct loans to businesses. They have to guarantee loans made by banks, who in turn are supposed to make loans. Or that’s the theory, but in America, commercial lending institutions have hollowed out dramatically. Neither the banks nor SBA nor anyone else have the people to originate loans. We can’t do it. And our unemployment offices aren’t much better. The only functional bureaucracy that touches business and people is the IRS.

Never let a virus go to waste.

Hunger games

Walking around town this weekend, finding restaurant upon restaurant closed and dark – including, of all things, McDonald’s when I stopped by on Sunday – I found myself a little bit unnerved by the scale of the economic disaster unfolding before us, as well as angry at the callousness and stupidity of the people who shoved this avoidable calamity down our throats.

Running short on frozen meats at home, and unable to find sustenance at any of the restaurants I normally visit, I decided to walk to Target, which is the closest thing to a grocery store in my neighborhood. But my trip to the retailer brought another unpleasant surprise, because the friendly red doors facing the street were locked. What was happening? It turned out that the store was still open, but customers had to enter via a different door within the parking garage – and there was a line. As I rounded the corner, I saw a small group of people standing apart from each other at socially responsible intervals, while at the door stood a Target employee with a surgical mask hanging around his neck, raising a gloved hand while he told the crowd that another group of 10 would be allowed in shortly.

I didn’t want any part of that, so I made a beeline to an Italian restaurant that I have ordered takeout from several times during this era of madness. I brought home a chicken parm sandwich, and it was good. But the whole episode got me thinking about hunger. My eating options have been significantly curtailed by the “lockdown,” to the point of serious inconvenience. I am able to cope, as are most people, but that is obviously not going to be the case for a certain percentage of my city’s population of 130,000 people. I repeat: McDonald’s was closed.

Extrapolate over the nation’s population of 330 million, add several weeks (or months), and things could get ugly much faster than most people realize. We’re already seeing massive breadlines across the country as jobless claims pile up (22 million and counting), with vehicular lines exceeding a mile in length at food banks in Pittsburgh and Dallas. There is also the issue of the food supply chain, which is being thrown into chaos by the mass closures of restaurants, hotels and schools. The Times had a piece earlier this month about how farmers are destroying tens of millions of pounds of fresh food as their usual buyers have shut down.

How these factors will interact – widespread impoverishment, supply chain disruption and the narrowing of available sources of food – is beyond me, but I think the damage will be far more severe than is generally understood, because of the complex, nonlinear nature of the systems being messed with. Even if lockdown restrictions were lifted tomorrow, it is possible that the damage already done to the economy could lead to cascading industrial and logistical failures that will continue and even accelerate after things return to “normal.” Our economy is not designed to stop in its tracks for a week, a month or two months, any more than a refrigerator is designed to be powered off for a day. The food will spoil.

I can’t predict how and to what extent things will go haywire in the US, but my ramblings through the dead zone that used to be a thriving town give me the dreadful impression that the pain has only begun. Our economic and societal system has been fundamentally broken. Whether it can ever be repaired, I don’t know. I certainly hope it can be. In the immediate future, though, I expect more hunger, more breadlines, and ever-more urgent demands for intervention and salvation from the same authorities that inflicted this nightmare on us in the first place.

Never go full commie

Matt Stoller has a disturbing thread on the new political order that is being born before our eyes. Perhaps this situation will be temporary and we will revert back to some semblance of a free economy when the present crisis blows over. But there is no particular reason to believe that the government, having gathered unprecedented powers unto itself, will easily let them go:

1. A thread on our new #PlannedEconomy.

One conceptual problem during this #coronavirus is understanding what is happening politically. Consider that Democrats are angry at Trump for not taking over private corporations. They demand he seize power and the means of production!

2. Hundreds of billions for families, $349B for small businesses, $150B for hospitals, and $4.5T in credit for banks and big business. That’s an inconceivable amount of money. It is in fact a takeover of our commerce by the government.

3. In other words what Congress passed was not just a series of bailouts. We just turned ourselves into a planned economy. Now Donald Trump will choose which businesses live and die.

4. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia will design the rules for unemployment, Fed Chair Jay Powell and Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin will hand out trillions, and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza will decide if loans go to churches or businesses or private equity, and on what terms.

5. We have been here before. Every war is to some extent a planned economy. World War II was highly planned, and so was Korea. The Defense Production Act comes out of the Korean War era. But we are not used to what planning means. So here are a few pointers.

6. In a planned economy, political choices are everything. The private financial system is no longer in control. If a corporation that’s making masks needs a loan, its creditworthiness shouldn’t matter—the government should make sure it gets that money.

7. Similarly, the various private equity funds licking their chops at the prospect of buying distressed assets – well the answer should be hell no. Money spent to buy private jets for financiers is money not spent on ventilators. We can see this in Philly.

8. Keeping an eye on corruption is essential. There is nothing more demoralizing than lobbying for private favors in a time which demands shared sacrifice. Price gouging, profiteering, etc. We must have no tolerance.

9. We must make things here again. Our borders and global supply chains are shut. The 30-year period of globalization, in which we consolidated and offshored production to lower costs, is over. Don’t fall for the endless bullshit from free traders. See:

10. Resilience is in, monopolies are out. This 2012 merger that killed a cheap fleet of ventilators is going to restructure antitrust thinking. Diversity and competition work, concentration creates fragility.

10. To restart our economy we must strengthen our public health infrastructure and social safety net to give workers the means to not infect others. Business requires social density. When we restart our economy, sick people need to know they will be fine if they don’t go to work.

11. That means a robust public health infrastructure and a social safety net, even if it’s only temporary.

12. Most importantly, we are now choosing what kind of world we will live in after this pandemic. Will it be, as @jimcramer fears, a world with just three retailers, Amazon, Costco, and Walmart?

13. Pay cuts and layoffs are rife across newspapers. Will an advertising depression combined with the monopolization of ad revenue in the hands of Facebook and Google end the free press? Or will we choose to restructure big tech and enable journalism?

14. These are the choices that Donald Trump and his cabinet will make. That is what Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and every other member of Congress decided. We are in a planned economy, and Trump is the planner.

15. I realize this will be taken unpleasantly by many out there. Donald Trump is not the leader I would have chosen. But he is a politician, and he does respond to public sentiment. We do have power. We can expose what is working and what is not.

16. Nothing is inevitable. We can choose to order post-pandemic America so it is more resilient and democratic. Or we can consolidate power in unimaginable ways. It is up to a small group in Washington, DC, and up to us citizens who pay attention.

In other news:

The Federal Reserve unleashed a new series of moves Thursday to try to make loans available to states, localities and companies that have been hard hit by the coronavirus.

In doing so, the Fed will pump an additional $2.3 trillion into the U.S. economy. The central bank, in part, is drawing on money made available in Congress’ new economic relief package to buy municipal bonds as well as debt that did not previously qualify for federal backing.

The extraordinary rescue package comes on top of efforts the Fed has already made to bolster the economy, including cutting its benchmark interest rate to near zero and supplying more than $1 trillion to purchase Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to help keep credit flowing.

Forever lockdowns

Open for takeoutCoronavirus appears to be forcing some US troops out of Iraq, a sign that America’s “forever war” in that country may be winding down after just 17 years of destructive and pointless conflict. Ironically, though, SARS 2.0 has inspired the launch of a new type of forever war: the indefinite suspension of society and commerce in the name of defeating a microbe. Call it the forever lockdown.

As with America’s misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is no clear end date for this gargantuan effort because the victory conditions are vague. On the one hand, we are told that the goal is to “flatten the curve.” But then Dr. Fauci, the immunologist who apparently believes he has been placed in charge of the United States, informs us that “social distancing” must continue until the virus is no more – which presumably means well into 2021 at the earliest:

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the novel coronavirus “might keep coming back” year after year. Speaking to the White House press corps on Wednesday, he said that the ultimate hope is a vaccine. That, Fauci added, may not be ready for a year to a year and a half, although other experts say even that timeline is optimistic.

“I was on the weekly conference call with the WHO-sponsored group of all the health leaders in the world who are dealing with this, and we all came to the agreement that we may have cycling with another season,” Fauci told the press conference. “We’ll be much better prepared. We’ll likely have interventions, but the ultimate game changer in this will be a vaccine.”

“If we get to the part of the curve where it goes down to essentially no new cases, no deaths for a period of time, I think it makes sense that you have to relax social distancing,” he added. “The one thing we hope to have in place, and I believe we will have in place, is a much more robust system to be able to identify someone who is infected, isolate them, and then do contact tracing.”

Fauci called for a national lockdown in a CNN interview:

Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief infectious disease expert leading the US response, echoed Mr Gates’s claims and said he doesn’t understand why states aren’t working together to tackle the virus.

Dr Fauci told CNN: “You know, the tension between federally mandated versus states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into … But if you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that.”

Did someone mention Bill Gates? America’s wealthiest man, like Fauci, is calling for a complete national lockdown in almost comical language:

First, we need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down. Despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven’t shut down completely. In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals.

This is a recipe for disaster. Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The country’s leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere. Until the case numbers start to go down across America — which could take 10 weeks or more — no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown. Any confusion about this point will only extend the economic pain, raise the odds that the virus will return, and cause more deaths.

Gates is more generous with the expected timeline in an interview with the Khan Academy guy:

Even then, there will have to be limits. “It’s not normal. They don’t do sports events or big gatherings. That will wait until [we have] the vaccine, but we’d like — if things go well, and the numbers will drive it — we’d like to see that ability to open up somewhat by ideally early summer,” Gates said.

Large gatherings might have to be put on hold for as much as a year longer, to give time for adequate testing of a vaccine that can be administered worldwide. “It’ll take a while to get back into the ‘let’s go take a vacation, let’s go buy a new house’ type of mode,” Gates said.

Presumably, “large gatherings” include religious services, which have been banned in a number of states. Gates takes it for granted that the US will simply do what he is urging. We’ll see about that. In any case, he is smart enough to recognize and acknowledge what this would mean for American prosperity:

That more cautious mindset seems likely to lead to “the biggest shrinkage of GDP in any of our lifetimes,” Gates said. “We are in uncharted territory. … Eventually the economy will be bigger than it was before we got into this, but the shrinkage we’re seeing in these few months is completely unprecedented, and there are human lives behind that,” he said.

The federal government plans to maintain social distancing guidelines until the end of April. But some states are going beyond that: Virginia’s stay-at-home order extends until June 10, while similar edicts in California and Maryland are indefinite.

Abroad, Australia’s PM is talking about extending the country’s lockdown for at least six months:

Mr Morrison has previously said such measures could be in place for six months, but he admitted that the restrictions could last much longer.

‘I said at least six months, it could be longer,’ he said.

‘What I am trying to do is make it very clear to those who think this can all be done in a couple of weeks, with the lockdown, as they call it, that that is not true.

‘I am the only leader in the world at the moment talking about a much longer time frame.

‘I am trying to get Australians to understand there is no quick fix.

“There is no quick fix” is the message that is increasingly coming from our elites. They are preparing us for a long, miserable and ruinous battle against the microbe, one which our economy, society, and political order are not likely to survive. The forever wars weakened and demoralized America. The forever lockdown, if actualized, will finish us off. Buckle up!