Saturday, October 30, 2021

Is America Facing an Economic Collapse or New Beginning?

America seems to have entered (or better yet, stumbled) into a crisis mostly of its own making.  We've endured a pandemic which, though the government denies it, appears to have originated in China, from a Chinese lab known to be used by the Chinese military for some dubious (to say the least) research. Some will add (perhaps correctly) that the ultimate origins of the virus, may have, in fact, been created or modified here in the U.S.

On the surface, COVID-19 appears to be a flu virus which has been genetically modified to produce a slightly more potent form of the flu virus which appears to affect mainly those with weakened immune systems. In addition, the virus has the nasty little habit of continually morphing, which makes it difficult for immunologists to get ahead of the virus and produce a long term effective vaccine.

The Government's response to the virus was haphazard to put it mildly. Nevertheless, vaccines were developed and approved in record time (almost "as if" they were waiting...hum). But they're seen as suspect according to a growing number of doctors and pseudo-experts.

The result is another manufactured divide between those willing to be vaccinated and those who question the validity of the vaccines for various reasons, and have decided not to get vaccinated, at least for the time being. Frankly, if one follows common sense thinking, who's to really blame them? There are ample enough inconsistencies in the research, development, and approval process by the CDC and various labs to warrant holding off, and that's where things have gone off the rails.

The result has been governments attempting to "mandate" or, defacto "order" people to "get the jab" as the expression goes. Employers have jumped on the bandwagon (especially those with government contracts) and demanded that their current and potential employees must either get vaccinated or show proof of vaccination.

This has resulted in many believing that a "vaccine passport" is in the works, similar to the Nazi Era "KennKarte" or identification cards, which, by the way, the Soviets also required along with practically every modern era totalitarian regime. Perhaps implants are in the future?

Some go as far to claim that the vaccine itself is a ruse, and that it actually contains a magnetic tracking devise needed to bring about a diabolical one world government. Others insist that it's in reality a slow poison design to "thin out the herd", which allegedly has long been a secret goal of various elitist secret societies like the Bilderbergers or Trilateral Commission. 

Nevertheless, the whole issue of "to vaxx or not to vaxx" has further divided an already deeply divided America, and it has affected others elsewhere in the world.  Worse yet, it's causing a ripple effect that I don't think many economists (and certainly not the majority of politicians) expected.

Key to this has been the vast numbers of "help wanted" signs everywhere. It seems that nearly everyone with a business is in desperate need of employees. Some are offering unheard of starting salaries, sign on bonuses, and all sorts of other perks and gimmicks to win over new employees.

For smaller businesses, they are unable to match what the megastores can offer. The result is hardly unexpected. Closure. Bankruptcy. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, prices will go up to offset the higher costs to attract employees. Of course, their employment is contingent on them providing proof of vaccination. No proof. No job.  

Meanwhile, companies are operating understaffed, forcing those who show up to work, to work more and longer; often doing the job that previously two or even three people did. Some businesses are doing the opposite by cutting back on hours or days they're open.

How many of us have gone into a store to either find empty shelves or having to sidestep pallets of boxes parked in the middle of floor? The reason is that those few willing (and able) to work, are able to chose their hours. That means stockers, who used to work mostly at night, are now working days, meaning that something we're looking for may not be there now, but could be an 30 minutes later!

In addition, we're seeing a number of production facilities slow down, reduce hours, or periodically shut down. This reduces availability, which in turn drives up prices.  Oil and gas companies are doing this, which is forcing up gas prices, as well as heating oil with winter fast approaching.

Simultaneously, there are hundreds of ships waiting offshore to be unloaded. Each full of twenty foot containers filled with merchandise, including food in some instances; food with very specific expiration dates. The result is, again, less product available which leads to higher prices.

As for the other merchandise, including orders from overseas, consumers are unable to get what they want and producers are unable to sell product and get paid. The result is that orders get cancelled and consumers find substitutes to spend their money on, and so the vicious cycles goes round and round. But that's not the entirety of the problem.

As with other employers, they are requiring proof of vaccination. The longshoreman and dockworkers are severely shorthanded, not because solely of the virus, but because there was already a shortage. The equipment is both outdated and in short supply. Manufactures are demanding that outbound product get priority while inbound products are put in hold; often regulated to skeleton crews or no crews at all some days.

Once product is finally off loaded, sorted, palletized, and made ready for shipment, we face a shortage of truckers, pilots, and railroad personnel for the same reasons cited above. In addition, these jobs, while usually paying well and offering great benefits, are hard on the individual and their family.

 The owner/operator truck driver has been all but put out of business by government regulation and big companies, not mention incidentals like the cost of gas and insurance.  Pilots are making more flights, flying older model planes, and having less time for detailed maintenance (which brings up another point---few maintenance personnel for all the reasons previously mentioned).

The third leg of our tripod transportation system is the availability of freight trains and experienced engineers to drive them. Our rail system is, frankly, horribly outdated. The rail system itself is in need of updating. Even the rail yards are overcrowded.

There are shortages of cars and engines, not to mention maintenance staff, who, like everybody else, has to show proof of vaccination, and like everyone else, some will and will report to work while others won't and will stay home.  

Despite their power, locomotives are, on average, about 30 years old, while the freight cars are about twenty years old.  As an aside, the average age of a locomotive engineer is 46. The upside is that train routing systems are highly automated, but the human element is still needed for them to function properly.  

As for truckers, they face increase demands for quick turnarounds; dropping off one load and picking up another. Long haul or "over the road" truckers are often gone for a week at a time. They have to deal with not only imposed time management issues, but traffic delays and road work (most use a traffic routing system which helps them avoid delays which they own or is provided for by their employer))

Roads in the United States are decades past due for improvement, especially bridges. Unfortunately, most local governments can't afford the necessary repairs which can run in the millions, and opt for cheap "fixes" due to their limited budgets. While they work in the short term. they ultimately just put off what will be a more serious and expensive problem down the not-too-distant road.

The same goes for states. They're typically in a financial bind of some sort and put off resolving the problem in exchange for quick fix "solutions", despite federal money for state as well as local road use. Naturally, none of this free. It's all paid for with our taxes, and the worse it gets, the more of our money they'll take.

The COVID virus, of course, didn't cause any of this, but it did exacerbate existing problems across the board, not to mention creating more than few new ones. You could call COVID the straw that finally broke the camel's back. So, what does this mean for the rest of us? What can we expect in the future?

Employers are essentially mandating their employees be vaccinated. Can they do this legally? Well, it would appear so. Employers are using existing federal guidelines calling for safe workplaces as the basis for their demands as cover. There are exceptions of course, such as for sincere religious reasons or if there is a potential health concern triggered by the vaccine (such as complications with a pregnancy, or adverse effect to an existing condition or current medication).

The result to all this is an artificial shortage of available employees. There are more than enough skilled and willing individuals to work, they just have serious doubts about the vaccination's safety, which is a legitimate concern.

Some employers have worked around this by requiring unvaccinated employees to be tested weekly. Other employers have shifted unvaccinated workers away from customer contact as much as possible, while requiring as mask when in contact with customers.

In the interim, it's a employee's market. Employers are desperate. However, unless some accommodation acceptable to both sides of the vaccination question is reached, we'll continue to see "help wanted" signs and shortages in stores and warehouses. Meanwhile, don't be surprised to see prices across the board go up to offset higher wages and products shortages.

However, an accommodation will be reached. It has too. Unemployment last only so long; few Americans have ample savings stashed away, and there's only so much debt you can carry.  The tide will turn, and it will become a employer job market again, and when it does, watch out!

Because of the shortages, many smaller businesses will fold. That will reduce a lot of variety in the marketplace. People will be forced to buy from the Amazons of the world for that unique or hard to find item. A large number of companies will become automated, reducing the need for human "drones".

Markets will also expand to more potential customers overseas.  That, along with the continuing influx of illegal and legal immigrants, will drive wages---but not prices---down, and along with it, benefits. When possible, employers will export jobs overseas to countries like China, India, and Indonesia. 

The end result could potentially be inflation, which results where prices exceed wages. If that can't be brought under control quickly, it could be devastating to any country's economy, be it the U.S., France, Mexico, or China, just as it is currently in Venezuela or was in 1920's Germany.

There could be riots over food shortages and prices, lack of jobs, gas and heating oil, quality of life, and so forth as one group turns on the other (something the Oligarchy has been fostering for years). Just the perfect scenario for martial law. The result could be a neo-fascist police state like we've been warned about for years (including from yours truly).

We can, however, stop this from happening. Force employers and the government alike to allow us to make our own health choices. If that means multiple weekly testing and/or wearing masks and gloves, so be it. That will get ships unloaded, trucks back on the road and products on the shelves again. None of this is permanent. It too will pass.

That will get people back to work. Some may choose jobs different than they had pre-COVID. That's good to. But for some, that old job will likely be automated, so brush up on your skills, or better yet, your education by seeking out a trade school or maybe picking up a language like Spanish, Hindi, or Mandarin Chinese.  

Most Americans are in debt; some very serious debt. Those who've been playing economic chicken will be hurt the most. Don't look for relief from the government in the form of debt forgiveness or low/no interest debt consolidation loans. Don't expect prices to go back down. They won't. Same with taxes. The only thing we can do here is get laws passed requiring voter approval for all tax, fee, rate, or salary increases for public employees.

With respect to infrastructure, expect to see more joint government/corporate financing of specific roads, ports, rail lines, etc which involves corporate use in exchange for increased tax breaks and public access. There could even be more corporate influence in public education curriculum as corporations take over the role of creating a "classroom to job" graduate.

I don't know if the COVID virus was an act of Nature or Man. But from what I've seen, my money is on the latter. It hit just as things were winding down in Afghanistan and we were involved in yet another divisive election. It has provided another (manufactured) division. It has rid the economy of much of the remaining small businesses. It has created an artificial worker shortage, along with possible inflation thanks to rising prices and stagnant or falling wages. That will eventually mean fewer jobs. We can stop it. But we have to act now, and we have to act together.

Want to know more? Check out our reference sites below.


The impact of COVID-19 on employment and jobs

The future of work after COVID-19


What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, theRehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws


Can Employers Force Pregnant Women to Get Vaccinated?



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