Thursday, May 28, 2020

Economic Relief Programs Will Soon End, and Then Watch Out for the Coming Political Earthquake

This is interesting, and it's almost exactly what I've been thinking since the lockdown started in March.

Even before classes ended and we went to online instruction --- for about a week --- I was starting my sections everyday with the Wall Street Journal on the overhead projector, showing the huge front-page charts of the crash of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It was shocking at the time, and I told my students it was reminiscent of the Great Depression.

While the Crash of '20 is different, it's certainly going to bring about some fundamental changes in politics, and frankly I don't think Trump is a shoo-in for reelection, no matter how bad Biden is. That said, if leftists keep burning down cities all summer long, Trump can run on an aggressive "law and order" platform, highlighting racial issues, as he's did with illegal immigration in 2016 to victorious effect.

At WSJ, "The Covid Political Earthquake":

The political press is preoccupied with the electoral implications of the virus crisis, and pundits insist the 2020 election will be about the Trump daily soap opera. But an emerging cultural and economic time bomb is about to explode. There has never been a wider gap between average Americans’ perception of their own economic situation and the reality of it. America could soon have its most combustible political environment in recent history.

Something that should alarm everyone: Neither the stock market nor the political preferences of those who have been hit hardest by this Covid-induced economic crisis have fundamentally changed since the crisis began. The American economy has shed more than 30 million jobs in the past eight weeks, and poll numbers haven’t moved an inch. According to Gallup, President Trump’s approval rating was 49% on Feb. 16, with 48% disapproving. Three months and the largest job loss in American history later, those numbers are exactly the same: 49% to 48%.

How is that possible? Is the political climate so partisan that the loss of your livelihood can’t change your political perspective? To some extent that could be true. But most of America is living in an illusion that masks the inevitable pain of this pandemic.

To the credit of the president and Congress, the Cares Act was passed before many Americans missed paychecks. The administration distributed the cash quickly enough that Americans had access to expanded unemployment compensation and a direct payment before their financial situation became dire. For the 40% of people making under $40,000 who have lost their jobs since March, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the Cares Act ensured that their financial situation isn’t worse than it was in February. In some cases, it’s better, thanks to the $600-a-week unemployment bonus.

Much of economically vulnerable America has been insulated from economic reality. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 77% of those who lost their jobs believe they will be heading back to the same jobs following the health crisis. Pew Research reports that 68% of Americans who lost their jobs are concerned about reopening the economy too early, rather than too late.

In short, if your family hasn’t lost a loved one to Covid-19, your bank account probably looks basically the same, and you believe your job is awaiting your return, the past 10 weeks have been an extended inconvenience. Your political views are still informed by the same economic inputs that formed them in February.
Still more.