We’ve concerned ourselves with the body count, the amount spent, and the loss of liberty related to CV-19. We picked our trenches early on by our personal predispositions. We’ve been checking and balancing the above three positions for over a month, and no one is budging. There’s an element no one is discussing about this, though we’ve all experienced it — the psychological impact.
Propagandus is a Latin word meaning “to propagate” or advance ideas or information. More specifically, propagation of the faith. Sometime in the 19th century, propaganda took on the modern usage of spreading biased or misleading information to sway opinion.
There is no medium or information delivery mechanism, be it news, radio, television, streaming service, social media platform or intercom in the country, that hasn’t been brought to bear in order to advance the causes of “social distancing” and “doing our part” to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Public announcements, admonitions, advisories, cautions, prohibitions, and regulations pound our senses. Every perception we possess — sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing are all impacted by the messaging that has inundated us. We hear the music interrupted by the cheerful voice of a random cashier or CSM reciting the litany of guidelines. We hear our local representatives paying for ad spots to remind us that these challenges we face can be overcome by taking simple precautions. We see signs such as: Business closed due to COVID-19, No customers allowed in lobby, maintain 6 feet of distance from other shoppers, due to state regulation no more than xxx number of people are allowed inside. This shield is to maintain the safety of our employees and customers. In order to better serve our customers, we are limiting these items to one per customer. We are sorry for the inconvenience.
We watch the prime time presidential presser with the COVID Crew at his side, nodding and going to pained lengths to maintain a straight face with the obligatory nods and somber expressions. We watch our governors address our respective states with the optimistic “light at the end of the tunnel” trope — this recently changed from “we expected it to peak very soon.” In the same breath, they pour out stricter measures and tighter regulations, expecting the proper level of compliance from the citizenry.
We go through the mental checklist as we reach for items on a store shelf: Am I touching something someone infected has touched? Should I have gloves on? I hope someone doesn’t think I have CV-19 as I place the item back on the shelf after changing my mind? Is this shopping cart clean? How can the store be out of sanitizer to clean them? How can I sanitize my hands if there has been no sanitizer on the store shelves for over a month?’ Am I far enough away from them as we pass in the aisle? Did someone just cough?
This is all directly related to the current pandemic. The message is simple and the repetition makes it true.
- Do what you are told.
- Your compliance is necessary to get through this difficult time.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Maintain a distance of six feet between yourself and other customers.
- Essential travel only.
- We all have to do our part.
- Be sure to wear masks (though they are difficult to come by of late).
- Where gloves.
- Avoid Assisted Living Facilities to protect the vulnerable.
- Avoid gatherings larger than ten people. This will be strictly enforced.
- Shelter in place.
- A stay at home order is now in effect.
- The stay at home order has now been extended.
- Any business found to be in violation of these orders faces suspension of their business license.
When I was laid off five days before my state’s stay-at-home order went into effect, our company announced it would last one week. I opted to take a full week of paid vacation rather than hassle with unemployment; however, I had my suspicions it would be extended. Hey, I was trying to be optimistic. As it happened, the layoff was extended, and Ford (our customer) declared retooling of some of their facilities for the production of ventilators — this was around the period when NYC was entering its critical phase in the battle against CV-19 — and an indefinite suspension of operations. We were notified via text that our layoff was to continue an additional two weeks. As of now, I have been off 27 days and have, at the very least six more days to go.
One might be inclined to ask, “What could be so bad about being off work for a few weeks and getting paid, albeit less than before? A few things need to be considered before viewing this as an extended vacation because I don’t know when my company is going to resume operations.
I used my tax return to bring my bills current and to stock up on supplies (as everyone is keenly aware of the shortage we had on goods). Now, I’m behind on all I had gained. Sure, the president declared no one could have utilities shut off during this crisis, but when the crisis ends, that money will still be owed, and it’ll be an amount that can’t be immediately generated when those protections no longer apply. I have maintained my house payment religiously for 3 years now, never lapsing on a payment. However, this layoff has cost me $50 in late fees.
Here’s where the problem comes in. I was laid off on March 20th. I took an extra week of vacation to maintain my income a little longer. Upon filing for unemployment, I discovered many of my coworkers who had filed immediately upon layoff still hadn’t been paid. I received my last paycheck on April 2. I received my first unemployment check deposit on April 14. The state maximum was $390. The first $600 Federal supplement didn’t arrive until April 20. Today, I attempted to file my claim for last week only to find that my claim for the week prior hadn’t been processed. The site to file has crashed intermittently since the onslaught of new claims overwhelmed it at the end of March. I can only attribute my failure to receive an unemployment payment to the unstable site. In an effort to see exactly how I should proceed in an effort to get a payment, I have been on hold with the state Department of Workforce Development for three hours. On a positive side, I used the time on hold to finish this article.
While my situation wasn’t so dire as my coworkers who went nearly a full month without pay, it offers a glimpse of the impact it’s had on millions who found themselves at the mercy of an unprepared and inefficient government program like unemployment. The packages that have been rolled out to compensate the unemployed, stimulate the turbulent economy, and prop up small businesses have failed to deliver on the promises.
The small business wage supplement for those furloughed has run dry and failed to provide adequate funds for a number of applicants due to miscommunication, red tape, and uncooperative banks. Of course, government’s solution is to pass another spending bill just to follow-through on a promise they couldn’t keep in the first place.
That brings me to the stimulus payments, a key feature of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities) Act. This stimulus was meant to inject money into the economy and give the markets confidence in lieu of an impending crash.
Allow me to declare my unrestrained opposition to this spending spree of corporate welfare and industry bailouts. It amounts to this: I was just put on the hook for another $17,000 in federal spending, and all I got was this lousy $1200. Not everyone has received their participation prize for socialism yet. The CARES Act was passed into law on March 27, but it took an additional three weeks for money to find its way into some people’s accounts. Many who could really use it are still waiting. For instance, those who deal annually with a particular tax preparer that offers an advance on tax refunds. Some funds are placed on a generic debit card for those who have no bank account information on file, so where do they stand? The tax service has yet to receive an answer. The IRS assured everyone that a website would be launched to provide updated bank info, however, it wasn’t launched until after the first payments were sent out. Those who used the new portal must check the site daily to see if a date for their payment has been determined. In all likelihood, they’ll have to wait for a paper check in the mail which will be mailed out according to income brackets per week (least to greatest) through the end of May. How stimulating…
There’s nothing so discomforting as having spent all the money you have on food and necessities only to be left waiting on a rubber stamp to be placed on your financial lifeline for survival. You can’t call them for information because their websites are . . . well, exactly what you’d expect from government-run customer service. Let’s just say their timing isn’t prioritized as if people are in need.
For all these reasons, I have opposed these spending bills and the manner in which they would be implemented. I opposed them consistently with every venomous utterance against socialism I have spoken or written for the last decade. This is how it works: sit and collect government pay because we have no job to go to. They shut down our jobs, leave us to subsist on bureaucracy and rely on government charity with money borrowed from our grandchildren.
Much of our society operates with a measure of certainty, but this whole situation has revealed how little certainty there is. Four months ago our economy was soaring high, and unemployment was low, yet the emergence of a novel virus and subsequent government actions erased those gains. If markets were the symbol of our economic strength, the record-breaking peaks in the DOW were extremely fragile.
I understand that supply chain disruptions out of China were instrumental in bringing the whole thing down. However, the core of the crash wasn’t so much the disruption itself, but the uncertainty of how long it would last. No one knew how bad CV-19 was going to be, but China’s unprecedented shutdown of their country did nothing to improve consumer or investor confidence.
The reaction to this sudden, significant, and record-breaking drop in market value was flawed but expected. The Federal Reserve (where banks go to borrow money) relaxed loan requirements and provided up to $150 Billion per night for five major banks to remain viable. Without these injections of cash, the banks wouldn’t have enough money to cover investments in their institutions. Before the crisis, banks had to demonstrate at least 10% physical capital on hand at the time of opening to qualify for an overnight loan. The fact that the Fed needed to waive this requirement indicates that some of the major banks couldn’t meet it.
All things considered, it’s no surprise that government felt the need to step in and provide additional support for the markets and banks. So, they gave us the CARES Act, a stimulus package designed so the people could launder . . . er . . . I mean spend money in an effort to save the economy.
The amount of money poured into bailouts for industries was three times the amount given to the people. Some corporations didn’t spend their CARES Act money as the government intended (big surprise), choosing instead to spend it on international real estate and greater market share and to consolidate market control over competitors. By the way, a common element of socialism is to provide advantages for some businesses at the expense of others, and it appears to be the case here, even if unintended.
The $1200 checks were intended to promote consumer spending, but people have had to use it to pay utility bills, rent or house payments, and accrued late fees. The uncertain future for beneficiaries of the CARES Act means the money wasn’t used on spending sprees. Instead, it was spent to cover bills and buy (still scarce) necessities.
We face a financial uncertainty: Will I get my money in a timely manner? Did I fill out the form right? Do I qualify for assistance? When can I go back to work? Will I have a job to go back to? How many businesses have closed since the shut down? How many can ever reopen? Will the additional trillions of dollars be able to sustain the market? Will we need more federal spending?
We face a health uncertainty: How many are currently infected with CV-19? Am I one of them? Could I be a carrier? How long has it been here? Did I already have it? How many are now immune? Will that be the basis for opening up the states again? Did the SAHOs work? Have we arrived at the peak? Will it get worse when we try to resume society? How will we know the accuracy of the total deaths? How soon can I get a test (infection or antibody)? How much longer will we have to listen to public service announcements? What if it is widespread? What if it was here much earlier? Is it as bad as we have been told? Was it worth the suspension of liberties? Who is worried about liberties when lives are on the line? When will we have answers to these questions? Will we ever have them?
Take all of these stress factors into consideration and then place restrictions on mobility, social, community, and religious interaction, and the arbitrary rules imposed on us by arrogant governors, and you have a recipe for civil unrest.
In the last week, protests against governors have erupted in multiple states over stay-at-home orders. I will grant that many states have been moving, albeit at a snail’s pace, toward reopening. However, my governor just increased restrictions, as he does every time he steps to his dais. He recently placed restrictions on purchases of non-essential items, mirroring what other governors in other states have implemented. My governor responded to Indiana’s recent protests by increasing his control. Ironically, he’s a Republican happily imitating Democrat governors. Tell me again how the GOP is still conservative.
Between the very real psychological impact of being unemployed through no fault of our own and dependence on government to provide our means, no one can be expected to maintain a balanced perspective. Answers aren’t forthcoming because government at every level hasn’t come to terms with their responsibility in this. At the root of our insecurity is the inability of government to deliver on their promises made in haste — the same government that restricts our ability to leave our homes unless we have a “valid reason for doing so.” We’re expected to trust that?
I cried foul on all of this before it was implemented. I expected many of the issues we’re facing before they became issues because I know the government is prone to failure. I maintained my independence from this mess for as long as I could, but here I am, along with 17 million-plus unemployed people, waiting for something to change.
I am as uncertain about the future as I’ve ever been. On the bright side, those we rely on to save us from a crashing economy and a pandemic virus have proven they’re just as uncertain as we are.
Eric Buss is an avid reader and studies history, the military, philosophy and politics.
Eric considers himself a Christian Conservatarian.