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Monthly Archives: January 2021

Sunday Humour: News in Cartoons

The 1920s Roared After a Pandemic, and the 2020s Will Try

Peter Coy wrote . . . . . . . . .

The day was cold and windy. Standing outside the Capitol, the just-sworn-in president called for “a new unity of spirit and purpose” to bind together a nation that had been wracked by a pandemic and high unemployment. His predecessor wasn’t on stage. The inauguration of Warren G. Harding on March 4, 1921, marked the inauspicious, unofficial start of an historic decade. The somber mood gave no hint that America was about to go on a tear.

The Roaring Twenties saw widespread adoption of the assembly line, the automobile, radio, motion pictures, indoor plumbing, and labor-saving electric appliances. Consumerism and mass culture took shape. It was the decade of art deco and jazz, Coco Chanel and Walt Disney, The Great Gatsby and the Harlem Renaissance. It was “the first truly modern decade,” says retired Marquette University economic historian Gene Smiley.

As the U.S. suffers through another pandemic, it’s tempting to ask whether history will repeat itself. Once the virus passes, will the 2020s roar the way the 1920s did?

It’s not impossible. The past year demonstrates that the economy and society can change shape quickly. We’ve seen multiple Covid-19 vaccines developed in record time and an almost-overnight transition to remote work. Tesla Inc. delivered just shy of a half-million electric vehicles in 2020 despite the pandemic. A London-based unit of Alphabet Inc. solved a half-century-old scientific puzzle, using artificial intelligence to predict accurately how proteins fold, which could revolutionize drug discovery.

In all probability, though, the U.S. will continue to wrestle with “secular stagnation,” an economic plague of developed nations. Preconditions include an aging population, slow labor force growth, and weak demand for credit, which is why the disease is resistant to traditional monetary remedies. The latest evidence that investors aren’t holding out much hope the coming decade will break out of that mold: The yield on inflation-protected 10-year Treasury notes is around negative 1%, down from 4% during the ’90s tech boom.

Despite the differences, by copying what was done right in the Roaring Twenties and avoiding what went wrong, Americans can make the 2020s a success—by today’s standards, anyway.

The world of 2021 is “a muddled mix of the Twenties in a lot of ways,” says Rutgers University economist Eugene White. Stock prices are high in relation to corporate profits, as then. Today’s suspicion of international institutions such as the United Nations and World Health Organization would be familiar to a traveler from the 1920s. Race relations are once again strained, though Black Americans are in a far better position than they were a century ago. Tariffs rose under President Donald Trump, as they did in the 1920s. Americans continue to complain about overbearing government, as they did during Prohibition. The 1920s was the first decade in which the rural population was smaller than the urban one; in the 2020s, rural White America is feeling disenfranchised after having gone strong for Trump’s failed reelection.

“There is no chance of sustained decade-long growth that matches the achievement of the 1920s”

The 1920s didn’t get off to a good start. The Spanish flu pandemic, which killed about 675,000 Americans out of a population of 100 million, was over, but the U.S. was deep into an 18-month downturn marked by the sharpest one-year decline in wholesale and consumer prices in 140 years of record-keeping. The economic miracle of the Twenties didn’t really begin until July 1921, when the recession ended and boom psychology set in.

This summer, depending on how vaccinations progress, there will likely be a flicker of that mania as people emerge from their Covid-19 bubbles, ready to party. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg are predicting above-average growth in gross domestic product after a difficult first quarter, with the median forecast peaking at an annualized 4.7% in the third quarter.

Indications of pent-up demand are abundant. Carnival Corp., in a sign of confidence in the public’s desire to socialize again, plans to begin boardings in April for its biggest ship ever, the 5,200-passenger Mardi Gras. Finally free to do as they please, Americans may make like the Lost Generation, who chose to “live in the pure moment, live gaily on gin and love,” as the literary critic Malcolm Cowley wrote.

Gin and love make a powerful cocktail but won’t sustain a decade’s worth of growth. The bull case for a repeat of the 1920s is that the pandemic lockdown has accelerated the adoption of technologies such as videoconferencing and digital commerce that will keep paying dividends long after the virus is vanquished. McKinsey & Co. says a global survey of executives revealed that they were a “shocking” seven years ahead of where they planned to be in terms of the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their companies’ portfolios. And there’s still headroom. Cowen Research reports that almost half the corporate technology buyers it interviewed said they were in the early stages of a transition to cloud computing.

What’s hard about forecasting technological progress is figuring out where we are on the adoption curve. Take robots. The word was coined in 1920 by a Czech playwright, Karel Capek, but a century later robots haven’t lived up to hopes—or fears. It took 13 years, from 2005 to 2018, for the number of installed robots in the U.S. to double, according to the International Federation of Robotics. To a pessimist, that’s almost a plateau. To an optimist, it means robots are still on the bottom of the S-shaped adoption curve and are poised for takeoff at any moment.

Bearish forecasters say labor-force expansion and gains in schooling don’t match those of the 1920s, and information technology and biotech breakthroughs, while impressive, don’t measure up to the transformative, general-purpose technologies—electrification and the internal combustion engine, to name two—that powered growth a century ago. As investor Peter Thiel famously said, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” (It’s 280 characters now, but still.)

For the average American, life changed more from 1920 to 1929 than it’s likely to change from 2020 to 2029. Electrification gave us refrigerators (instead of ice boxes), washing machines (instead of washboards and hand-cranked wringers), and radio (instead of your sister at the piano). With electrification, factories no longer had to rely on power from a single engine that was connected to machines via noisy, inefficient belts and pulleys.

The internal combustion engine came into its own in the 1920s, powering cars, trucks, farm equipment, and airplanes. The number of registered drivers almost tripled during the decade. The automobile’s rise sparked investment in roads and suburbs as well as production of rubber, steel, glass, and oil.

Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, is a leading proponent of the argument that these modern times don’t live up to those modern times. At the request of Bloomberg Businessweek, he assembled figures on labor productivity for the entire economy from 1893 through 2019, clustering the data into roughly equal spans that begin and end at high points in the business cycle. The data up to 1948 come from a book he wrote, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War. For the rest he relied on government figures.

The data compiled by Gordon demonstrate that productivity growth jumped in 1920 and remained high for a half-century before slumping after 1973. “While it is likely that productivity growth will revive somewhat in the 2020s from the dismal record of the 2010s,” Gordon wrote in an email, “there is no chance of sustained decade-long growth that matches the achievement of the 1920s.”

One lesson, then, is that timing matters. The 1920s roared because technologies that had been nurtured for several decades were finally ready for mass deployment. That may not be the case today.

It’s easier to spot social similarities between the decades than economic similarities. Then as now America was divided between a fast-moving, multiethnic, urban society of immigrants and a predominantly White, conservative, rural society pining for a past that it perceived as purer and less tumultuous. Americans elected three Republican presidents in the 1920s—Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. Harding vowed a “return to normalcy,” while Coolidge, a taciturn Vermonter, “appeared to be a reluctant refugee from the previous century,” wrote Nathan Miller in New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America.

The reformist Progressive Era that began around 1900 had lost its moxie, and the big-government New Deal hadn’t yet arrived. Business was given free rein. “Never before, here or anywhere else, has a government been so completely fused with business,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in 1928. Said Coolidge: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there worships there.” Elon Musk slots in nicely as this century’s answer to Henry Ford, though our society is more skeptical that what’s good for business is good for the country.

Gordon calls the 1920s “a Janus-faced decade that defies simple characterization.” It was a time of liberation, in which women got the vote and dared to wear short skirts, smoke cigarettes, and drink bathtub gin, while Black poets, authors, and musicians found wide audiences. “It was the period when the Negro was in vogue,” poet Langston Hughes wrote.

But women still faced discrimination, and Black Americans and immigrants faced that and worse. In 1921 a White mob burned more than 1,200 homes in a Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1925 thousands of unmasked Ku Klux Klan members marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

The Immigration Act of 1924 barred the gates to immigrants from Asia and seriously restricted immigration from southern and eastern Europe—drawing the admiration of none other than Adolf Hitler, who wrote approvingly in Mein Kampf, “The American Union categorically refuses the immigration of physically unhealthy elements, and simply excludes the immigration of certain races.”

The 1920s was a time of rising prosperity on the whole but also rising inequality of incomes and wealth and deepening divisions in society. Prohibition, which took effect in 1920, drove a wedge between “drys” and “wets” and fueled organized crime. Factory workers, stock investors, and Big Business mostly did well, but the still-sizable agriculture economy was shocked by a 53% decline in farm product prices in the 1920-21 recession and would take years to recover.

The first three years of Trump’s term were likewise marked by a tide of strong economic growth that lifted many boats, though not all. The unemployment rate for Black Americans, for instance, reached a record low. The pandemic has wrecked much of that progress. Bringing the economy back to its potential to lift up the less fortunate is a second reason, after saving lives, for President Biden to accelerate the distribution of vaccines.

Perhaps the most important lesson the 2020s can learn from the 1920s is the peril of isolationism. The U.S. emerged from the Great War of 1914-18 as the world’s most powerful economy as well as its biggest creditor, having lent heavily to the Entente Powers to finance the war effort.

Yet the U.S. resisted taking on the responsibilities of global leadership. Fed up with Europe and its bloody quarrels, isolationists in Congress prevented the U.S. from joining the League of Nations. With stringent fiscal and monetary policy, the U.S. forced its deflation onto other countries. Washington also insisted that the U.K. and France repay their war debts to the penny. In a vise, those countries raised the money to pay the Americans by exacting reparations from Germany. That fed the resentment among Germans that contributed to the rise of Hitler.

Much has changed since then. The U.S. is now a debtor nation, consuming more than it makes. Trump was correct that this is a problem: The U.S. is accumulating debts, while its productive capacity is being hollowed out.

What’s similar is that today, as in the 1920s, the U.S. can’t escape the special obligations that go along with being the world’s biggest economy. Americans learned that lesson after the twin disasters of the Great Depression and World War II. The U.S. was instrumental in the founding of the UN, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank and led the push to lower tariff barriers, which enabled poor countries and those ravaged by war to prosper through trade. Nations such as Germany and France set aside imperialist dreams and focused on quality of life. “If you ask an average European man what he cares about, it’s very often soccer,” says Columbia historian Adam Tooze, author of the 2014 book, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931.

In four years in office, Trump revived isolationism, even resurrecting the “America First” motto that Harding campaigned on in 1920—and that was embraced by the anti-Semitic, fascist-sympathizing America First Committee that fought to keep the U.S. out of World War II.

In the absence of U.S. leadership, nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Malaysia, and Vietnam are at risk of falling into the orbit of China, says Tooze. “As in the Twenties, we are our own worst enemy,” he says. Biden must attempt to demonstrate that the U.S. is once again a reliable partner.

Meanwhile, the notion that the Covid-19 pandemic is some kind of trampoline that will bounce the U.S. toward a bright future is not only off-putting, but wrong. Pandemics enduringly damage societies in ways that go beyond the death toll. In October the IMF released a working paper by senior economist Tahsin Saadi Sedik and economist Rui Xu that uncovered a vicious cycle: Pandemics reduce output and increase inequality, stoking social unrest, which further lowers output and worsens inequality. The study was based on disease outbreaks in 133 countries from 2001 to 2018. “Our results suggest that without policy measures, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely increase inequality, trigger social unrest, and lower future output in the years to come,” the authors wrote.

A final lesson of studying the 1920s is simply that history does have something to teach us—a point that the movers and shakers of that frenetic decade sometimes had trouble grasping. “History is more or less the bunk,” Ford said in 1916. “It is tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

Introspection wasn’t the forte of the Roaring Twenties. “Torn nerves craved the anodynes of speed, excitement, and passion,” Frederick Lewis Allen, looking back from the near remove of 1931, wrote in Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s.

Our nerves, too, are torn. But learning from the past can help the healing begin.


Source : Bloomberg

For GameStop Day Traders, the Moment They’ve Dreamed About

Paul Wiseman and Joseph Pisani wrote . . . . . . . . .

They’ve endured a financial crisis. Two deep recessions. Mounds of student debt. Stagnant pay. Costly health care. Dim job prospects.

They’ve seen the uber-rich grow richer while a pandemic threw tens of millions of people out of work and left many more isolated and vulnerable at home.

Now, they feel, it’s payback time.

Nearly a decade after the Occupy protest movement left Wall Street more or less unscathed, the citadel of financial might faces a new assault.

Day traders, mobilized on a Reddit chatroom, have poured about all the money they can find into the stocks of a struggling video game retailer called GameStop and a few other beaten-down companies. Their buying has swollen those companies’ share prices beyond anyone’s imagination — and, not coincidentally, inflicted huge losses on the hedge funds of the super-rich, who had placed bets that the stocks would drop.

Their strategy, of course, is freighted with risk. The prices of the stocks they’ve bought are now multiples above any level justified by revenue, earnings or future prospects. The danger is that at any time, the stocks could collapse.

Maybe so. But as one Reddit user wrote Friday, asserting that hedge fund financiers would drink Champagne as they looked down upon Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2011:

“I’d rather lose it all than give them what they need to destroy me … I’ll burn it all down just to spite them.”

Their rage and hell-bent drive to pick on powerful Wall Street financiers have sent shivers through ordinary investors and heightened fears about the fragility of the markets in general after a prolonged period of stock gains fueled by ultra-low interest rates. Those fears just caused the S&P 500 index to suffer its worst week of losses since October.

GameStop shares? They rocketed nearly 70% on Friday. Over the past three weeks, they’ve delivered a stupefying 1,600% gain.

“They figured out how to play the way Wall Street has been playing for a long time,” said Robert Thompson, who has long tracked cultural trends as director of Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. “I’m amazed it didn’t happen earlier.’’

Feeding the frenzy have been young traders like 27-year-old Zach Weir, who this week bought five shares of GameStop.

“I’m a college student, so that’s basically a month’s rent for me,” said Weir, who is pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

He did it, he said, because he believes in the cause: Protecting a cherished game store, where he would hang out as a teenager on Friday nights, from financial tycoons who want the company to fail.

And if he loses his investment?

“If my account goes to zero, it goes to zero,” Weir said. “At this point, it’s not about the money. I think this is bigger than the money now”

Frustration and rage over widening financial inequities in the American economy have been mounting for years. The richest 1% of Americans collected about 19% of pre-tax income in 2019, up from less than 11% four decades earlier, according to the World Inequality Database, run by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, economists at the University of California, Berkeley, along with other researchers.

New York University economist Edward Wolff has found that the richest 10% of Americans own roughly 85% of stock wealth, a share that has grown steadily over time.

The financial crisis that ignited the Great Recession of 2007-2009 intensified resentment toward the bankers who had financed the dodgy loans behind the catastrophe and had ignored the obvious risks, only to receive bailouts from taxpayers and largely escape accountability. Rising outrage fueled the Occupy movement, in which protesters took over New York’s Zuccotti Park and other public spaces and demanded far-reaching financial reforms that mainly didn’t happen.

The coronavirus inflicted further pain, flattening the economy and causing more than 20 million Americans to lose jobs. This week, a report from the anti-poverty group Oxfam found that the world’s 10 richest men have swollen their collective wealth by $500 billion since the pandemic erupted in March. In the meantime, nearly 10 million people who lost jobs to the pandemic remain unemployed.

The stock market, the chosen target of the Reddit day traders, has long stood as America’s premier symbol of entrenched wealth. But technology, including forums like Reddit, has made it ever easier, faster and simpler for the aggrieved to mobilize, swap information and collectively plot strategy. And e-trading apps, notably Robinhood, allow amateur traders to buy commission-free stocks with one click.

They spotted a vulnerability in the market: The so-called short squeeze.

When hedge funds and other investors want to bet that a stock price will fall, they arrange a short sale: They borrow shares of, say, GameStop. Then they sell those borrowed shares, planning to buy back the stock later at a lower price and pocket the gain.

But shorting can backfire disastrously if the stock surges instead of falling. Then the short sellers can be forced to bail out of their bets by buying the target stock. Their buying, in turn, can send the stock price ever higher and makes things even worse for the short sellers in an intensifying feedback loop.

GameStop, its future imperiled by e-commerce and a pandemic that has kept customers away, is among the most heavily shorted stocks. Some of the Reddit rebels are gamers who want to protect the retailer from the predations of Wall Street. Or just deliver a righteous blow to hedge funds and financiers who have lived large as others have suffered hardships.

Not all the day traders are inflamed by anger. They just see an opportunity to make money and pay bills.

“A lot of people are having trouble paying rent,” said Alexis Goldstein, a veteran of the Occupy movement. “A lot of people are at risk of eviction. A lot of people are very desperate, quite frankly, for new ways to make money.”

Yet Goldstein worries that the revolt will ultimately fail.

For one thing, some of the Wall Street firms that are targets of the Redditers actually profit from the very volatility that the Redditers’ assault has whipped up.

And the most sophisticated professional traders are no doubt calculating how to capitalize on the chaos. Normally, they have to work hard and invest heavily to determine what their competitors are doing and to profit from that information. By contrast, the Reddit day traders are announcing their intentions, brazenly and publicly.

“I suspect it’s not Robinhood investors and Redditers who are making money,” Goldstein said.

She would like to see a different slate of reforms — reforms to rein in Wall Street’s excesses while helping those who’ve been left behind.

“Hopefully, we can ask fundamental questions about whether we want our markets to be speculation-driven or do we want them to create innovation and jobs,” she said. “Stop hustling so hard for a buck and instead rebuild the social safety net.”

Tom Osran, a 59-year-old Chicago lawyer, has been reading the WallStreetBets forum on Reddit for years. But it was only last week that he decided to act for the first time, buying into GameStop. His investment, he said, is up 1,000% from last week, though he declined to reveal the dollar amount.

Osran said he figures that its astronomical stock rise can save GameStop from hedge funds that are betting that a company with 40,000 employees will fail.

“It’s fun being part of a movement,” Osran said.

He knows he could lose everything he put into GameStop shares. Yet he’s philosophical.

“We’re all adults, we all know stocks can go up and down,” Osran said. “It’s been insanely lucrative so far, but it could be all gone tomorrow.”


Source : AP

Where Trust in Government is Highest and Lowest

Source : Statista


Edelman Trust Barometer 2021

After a year of unprecedented disaster and turbulence – the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis, the global outcry over systemic racism and political instability – the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world. Adding to this is a failing trust ecosystem unable to confront the rampant infodemic, leaving the four institutions – business, government, NGOs and media – in an environment of information bankruptcy and a mandate to rebuild trust and chart a new path forward.


Read the full report . . . . .

Study: Midday Nap Could Leave You Smarter

“You snooze, you lose” may not be true when it comes to your brain: A new study finds that napping in the afternoon may actually boost mental agility.

The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, but a midday nap was associated with a rise in “locational awareness,” verbal fluency and working memory, the Chinese researchers reported Jan. 25 in the journal General Psychiatry.

“Among the things that are good for you and fun, you can now count daytime naps,” said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“We know that healthy sleep habits are protective for dementia and this study suggests that at least for some, midday naps may be of benefit in keeping the brain healthy,” said Devi, who wasn’t involved in the new research. He stressed, however, that “more studies are needed to confirm this preliminary finding.”

The new study was led by Dr Lin Sun, of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Center at the Shanghai Mental Health Center, in Shanghai. Sun’s team collected data on more than 2,200 people at least age 60 who lived in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xian.

In all, more than 1,500 took regular afternoon naps, which were no more than two hours long, and 680 did not.

Study participants were given tests that judge several aspects of mental ability including visuospatial skills, working memory, attention span, problem-solving, locational awareness and verbal fluency.

Those who took afternoon naps scored higher than those who didn’t, and there were significant differences in locational awareness, verbal fluency and memory.

According to the study team, there are theories why naps may be beneficial. One is that naps help ease inflammation, which plays a role in sleep disorders and overall health.

Dr. Melissa Bernbaum directs epilepsy and ambulatory sleep medicine at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Reading over the Chinese findings, she said they “seem to indicate a cognitive benefit for napping.”

But Bernbaum added that the “duration and frequency of naps may also be important.”

For example, “individuals who fall asleep unintentionally during the day — potentially due to underlying medical or sleep disorders — may not perform as well as individuals who take planned naps,” Bernbaum said. Future studies might tease out whether the type of midday snooze taken matters when it comes to brain health,” she said.


Source: HealthDay

In Pictures: 1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88 4-Speed

Source : Bring A Trailer

Bitcoin Futures Saw Its Largest Net Short Position

Bitcoin Soars 15% On Elon Musk Tweet (from 32,000 to above 38,000)

Source : ZeroHedge, Bloomberg and Trading Economics

Chart of the Day: 200 Years of Dow/Gold Ratio


See large image . . . . . .

Source : World Gold Chart

Yet Another Study Shows—Yet Again—That Lockdowns Don’t Work

Ryan McMaken wrote . . . . . . . . .

Although advocates for covid-19 lockdowns continue to insist that they save lives, actual experience keeps suggesting otherwise.

On a national level, just eyeballing the data makes this clear. Countries that have implemented harsh lockdowns shouldn’t expect to have comparatively lower numbers of covid-19 deaths per million.

In Italy and the United Kingdom, for example, where lockdowns have been repeatedly imposed, death totals per million remain among the worst in the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, states with with the most harsh lockdown rules—such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are among the states with the worst total deaths.

Lockdown advocates, of course, are likely to argue that if researchers control for a variety of other variables, then we’re sure to see that lockdowns have saved millions of lives. Yet research keeps showing us this simply isn’t the case.

The latest study to show the weakness of the prolockdown position appeared this month in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, authored by Eran Bendavid, Christopher Oh, Jay Bhattacharya, and John P.A. Ioannidis. Titled “Assessing Mandatory Stay-at-Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID-19,” the authors compare “more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions” (mrNPI) and “less restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions” (lrNPI). More restrictive interventions include mandatory stay-at-home orders and forced business closures. Less restrictive measures include “social distancing guidelines, discouraging of international and domestic travel, and a ban on large gatherings.” The researchers compare outcomes at the subnational level in a number of countries, including England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States. This is then compared against countries with less restrictive measures, primarily Sweden and South Korea, where stay-at-home orders and business closures were not widely implemented.

The conclusion:


We find no clear, significant beneficial effect of mrNPIs on case growth in any country….In none of the 8 countries and in none out of the 16 comparisons (against Sweden or South Korea) were the effects of mrNPIs significantly negative (beneficial). The point estimates were positive (point in the direction of mrNPIs resulting in increased daily growth in cases).


That is, the more restrictive lockdown measures pointed to worse outcomes.

This data suggests that the theoretical underpinnings of the lockdown philosophy are wrong. As summed up by Bendavid et al.,


The conceptual model underlying this approach is that, prior to meaningful population immunity, individual behavior is the primary driver of reductions in transmission rate, and that any NPI may provide a nudge towards individual behavior change, with response rates that vary between individuals and over time. lrNPIs could have large anti-contagion effects if individual behavioral response is large, in which case additional, more restrictive NPIs may not provide much additional benefit. On the other hand, if lrNPIs provide relatively small nudges to individual behavior, then mrNPIs may result in large behavioral effects at the margin, and large reductions in the growth of new cases.


Translation: mild measures encouraging caution on exposure to others probably lessen the spread. Therefore, more stringent measures will surely do an even better job of limiting the spread!

But this doesn’t appear to be the case. Rather, the authors suggest those areas with lower covid mortality are areas where the public pursued low-hanging fruit in terms of slowing the spread. This included canceling large, crowded events and limiting travel. More stringent requirements on top of this appeared to produce no beneficial effect, and, if anything, had the opposite of the intended effect.

This study, of course, is just the latest in a long line of similar studies calling into question the assumption—for it is only an assumption—that harsh lockdowns lower mortality.

For example, back in May, researchers at The Lancet concluded that “hard lockdowns” don’t “protect old and frail” people, nor do they decrease mortality from covid-19. Later, a July study in The Lancet stated: “The authors identified a negative association between the number of days to any lockdown and the total reported cases per million, where a longer time prior to implementation of any lockdown was associated with a lower number of detected cases per million.”

In an August 1 study, also published by The Lancet, the authors concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”

A June study published in Advance by Stefan Homburg and Christof Kuhbandner found that the data “strongly suggests” that


the UK lockdown was both superfluous (it did not prevent an otherwise explosive behavior of the spread of the coronavirus) and ineffective (it did not slow down the death growth rate visibly).


In fact, the overall trend of infection and death appears to be remarkably similar across many jurisdictions regardless of what nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are implemented by policymakers.

In a paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), authors Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky, and Tao Zha found that covid-19 deaths followed a similar pattern “virtually everywhere in the world” and that “[f]ailing to account for this familiar pattern risks overstating the importance of policy mandated NPIs for shaping the progression of this deadly pandemic.”

Refusing to be daunted by these holes in the official narrative, lockdown advocates often insist that lockdowns must be tolerated because “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

But this is a highly questionable notion as well.

Lockdowns and other forms of mandated isolation bring with them a host of health problems of their own. As Bendavid et al. note, restrictive NPIs:


[e] hunger, opioid-related overdoses, missed vaccinations, increase in non-COVID diseases from missed health services, domestic abuse, mental health and suicidality, as well as a host of economic consequences with health implications—it is increasingly recognized that their postulated benefits deserve careful study.


Perhaps not surprisingly, data on excess mortality during the covid-19 pandemic suggests only two-thirds of excess mortality can be medically connected to covid-19. As explained in a study in JAMA:


“Some people who never had the virus may have died because of disruptions caused by the pandemic,” says Dr. Steven H. Woolf, the director emeritus of the Virginia university’s Center on Society and Health and first author of the study. “These include people with acute emergencies, chronic diseases like diabetes that were not properly cared for, or emotional crises that led to overdoses or suicides.”


Increases in dementia deaths were especially notable.

And these effects can also be felt in the long term. As I showed in an April 30 article, unemployment kills. Economic crises, such as this one that was made worse by mandatory shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, leads to countless “years of life lost” through more suicide, heart disease, and drug overdoses.

Moreover, given the nature of the shutdowns and who is affected, this has lopsidedly affected women and especially Hispanic women, who are heavily represented in the workforce behind the service industry businesses shut down by government-imposed business closures.

The cumulative effect can be quite large. In a new study from Francesco Bianchi, Giada Bianchi, and Dongho Song from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors conclude that the economic fallout—in terms of unemployment and its effects—will lead to nearly nine hundred thousand deaths over the next fifteen years.

Of course, not all of the economic pain that coincided with the covid-19 panic of 2020 can be blamed on forced shutdowns. Many people would have likely minimized contact with others voluntarily out of fear of the disease. This would have indeed caused economic distortions and greater unemployment in some sectors.

But, as Bianchi, Bianchi, and Song admit, the lockdowns “contributed to further reduce economic activity” above and beyond normal voluntary reactions to covid-19. Combining these facts with what we know from the new Bendavid et al. study—namely that voluntary measures accomplished the bulk of mitigation—suggests the “further reduction” in economic activity produced no additional health benefits. That is, the portion of economic destruction wrought by forced shutdowns was inflicted upon the public for nothing.

Prior to 2020, of course, this was common knowledge. In a 2006 paper in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism called “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza” by Thomas V. Inglesby, Jennifer B. Nuzzo, Tara O’Toole, and D.A. Henderson, the authors conclude:

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

Yet, “public health” bureaucrats suddenly decided in 2020 that decades of research was to be thrown out the window and lockdowns were to be imposed on hundreds of millions of human beings.

Mandatory Lockdowns vs. Voluntary Social Distancing

It should be noted that none of these researchers questioning the lockdown narrative express any problem with voluntary measures to reduce exposure to disease. Few are even likely to oppose measures like avoiding mass indoor gatherings.

But those sorts of measures are fundamentally different from mandated business closures and stay-at-home orders. The problem with mandatory lockdowns—in contrast to voluntary social distancing—is highlighted by the fact that they indiscriminately rob vulnerable populations of the services and assistance they need. And by “vulnerable populations” I mean anyone who is vulnerable to any life-threatening condition. Although we’re being conditioned to believe that deaths from covid are the only deaths worth noticing, the fact is that the world includes people who are vulnerable to suicide, to drug overdoses, and to economic ruin—which comes with countless secondary effects in the form of health problems. By denying these people the freedom to seek an income and secure the social and medical support they need, we are essentially saying that those people are expendable and it’s better to tilt the scales in favor of covid patients.

But as the mounting evidence discussed above suggests, the lockdowns don’t even produce the desired effects. So vulnerable people suffering from depression, untreated cancer, and other life-threatening conditions were forced to simply suffer unaided for no justifiable reason. This was done to fit a political narrative, but it was based on a batch of bad assumptions, half-baked science, and the arrogance of politicians.


Source : Mises Institute

U.S. Suffers Sharpest Rise in Poverty Rate in More Than 50 Years

Alexandre Tanzi and Catarina Saraiva wrote . . . . . . . . .

The end of 2020 brought the sharpest rise in the U.S. poverty rate since the 1960s, according to a study released Monday.

Economists Bruce Meyer, from the University of Chicago, and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame found that the poverty rate increased by 2.4 percentage points during the latter half of 2020 as the U.S. continued to suffer the economic impacts from Covid-19.

That percentage-point rise is nearly double the largest annual increase in poverty since the 1960s. This means an additional 8 million people nationwide are now considered poor. Moreover, the poverty rate for Black Americans is estimated to have jumped by 5.4 percentage points, or by 2.4 million individuals.

The scholars’ findings put the rate at 11.8% in December. While poverty is down from readings of more than 15% a decade earlier, the new estimates suggest that the annual Census Bureau tally due in September will be higher than the last official, pre-pandemic level of 10.5% in 2019.

Black Americans were more than twice as likely to be poor as their White counterparts in December — an improvement from the summer months when they were nearly three times more apt to live in poverty — but an increase from before the pandemic, when the differential was under 2.

Despite improvements in the overall poverty rate since the middle of the 20th century, Black Americans had been about three times as likely to be poor as White Americans for most of the past 60 years. The gap started to narrow after the financial crisis, during the longest economic expansion in history.

These December poverty estimates are based on survey data collected late in the month after some government relief measures expired. The researchers found that the stimulus checks the federal government issued in the spring helped forestall the poverty rate from rising even faster.

In late December, $900 billion in addition federal relief aid was passed, and President Joe Biden is asking Congress for an additional $1.9 trillion in stimulus.


Source : Bloomberg


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