Saturday, July 4, 2020

More Stuff I Don't Understand

     I wrote a few months ago about several things going on in the world that I just don't understand -- how prices keep going up, but there's no inflation; how we have so many new ways to communicate, yet Americans suffer from loneliness more than ever; how we're not having enough babies to replace the population (or pay Social Security benefits), yet there are too many people in the world causing global warming -- and breeding pandemics.

     I have to admit that there are a few more things I just don't understand. For example, the U. S. unemployment rate is over 15%, yet the stock markets are near record highs. It's not just stocks. CNBC recently reported that banks are taking in record deposits -- an increase of over $2 trillion in the last six months -- and the savings rate among Americans recently hit 33% of income. I guess what we need is . . . more unemployment?

     Also, I marvel in our age of super-fast electronics. You don't even have to go to the bank to deposit a check. You can do it on your phone. And when was the last time you even used a check anyway? Yet even with the high unemployment rate there is one job category that's expanding -- couriers and messengers. I thought couriers and messengers went out with the Civil War. But according to the U. S. Labor Department there are now 904,000 Americans employed as couriers and messengers, up from 859,000 in January. Go figure.

     Something else I don't understand. In April there were roughly 30,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day. Victims were flooding hospitals. People were panicked. They stayed home as schools were shut down and stores and restaurants were closed. Roads were empty of traffic. Only essential places like supermarkets and pharmacies were allowed to stay open.

     Now, today, new cases of Covid-19 are over 50,000 a day. Almost twice as many as April. Hospitals are still crowded; the death toll mounts. Yet the stores are open (yes, with restrictions). The restaurants are crowded. Traffic is back to normal. People are having parties. What am I missing?

     Like I said, all this just adds to what I've already admitted in that previous post Things I Just Don't Understand.

     The polls only bring more confusion. Something like 40% of Americans approve of our current president. About 55% disapprove. But Congress scores even worse. Only about 20% of Americans approve of Congress. Yet where do the political parties go to find new presidential candidates? To the one place even less popular than the presidency -- Congress (i.e Gabbard, Gillibrand, Booker, Harris, Warren, Sanders -- and remember, before that, Cruz, Rubio, etc.).

     I admit I thought a few of those candidates were okay. But don't you think it would be better to look elsewhere? Doctors, dentists, engineers, teachers, firefighters, accountants and nurses all enjoy higher approval ratings than politicians. 

     Well, we did turn to a real-estate developer once. Didn't work out too well. Meanwhile, I couldn't find any data on approval ratings for former vice presidents. But I'd guess they do okay. After all, for the most part they're unobjectionable.

     One last thing. When pollsters ask people if they approve of the direction of the country, only about 25% now say it's going in "the right direction." Over 60% say our country is on "the wrong track."

     Say what you want about the now-uncool Bill Clinton, and George Bush the first before him, but according to the polls the last time a majority of Americans agreed the country was going in "the right direction" was back in the 1990s. Is there anything to be learned from that? 


Wisewebwoman said...

I believe we're all massively confused and also mental illness, in various degrees, is affecting us. Coherent thinking is difficult as we have never experienced this global shakedown before.

Online sales (couriers, delivery services) are booming as we all hunker.

I honestly don't understand what's happening iwht the stock market/economies, but then again we've been hearing for years they're myths, sustained by magical thinking.

December coming we'll know more.


Sue said...

Dear Tom, 1/3 of income going into savings? Probably among the well-to-do. A stat i've seen (whether or not it's accurate, but sounds about par) is that over 1/3 of middle-aged people have no savings for retirement. Maybe it's the same-old, rich getting richer...worldlings, yawn.

DJan said...

I agree with you, Tom. There are so many disconnects with what I thought was reality. I have more money in my checking account than usual, since I have nowhere to go to spend it. And when I got that stimulus money, I gave to some charities and food banks. But then again, I'm retired and have not lost my job. Strange times indeed.

gigi-hawaii said...

I guess we are doing okay. We are retirees on fixed income, but we have enough money to pay our bills.

Tabor said...

It is a manipulative and complicated government. Not sure that outsides can get much done. But I would be willing to long as they are not failed and crooked real estate salesmen.

Olga said...

I am confused as well.

Arkansas Patti said...

These really are head shaking times for making no sense what so ever. I did notice like Djan however that my bank account has been growing. I am spending next to nothing and am going no where. I can't even work up enough car miles to warrant an oil change.

Sue said...

i just hate how these restrictions have economically persecuted young people - many restaurants and shops have gone belly-up. What are these financially ruined business people, and their - now unemployed,- staff going to have for their later years?

Friko said...

Ha, do you think it’s any better elsewhere? We live in the most confusing of times, yet do we learn? Fat chance.
We stare at the figures, situations, results and losses elsewhere - yes, we can do that quite easily - but do we take anything on board? We get frightened and shake our collective head, does that help?

We are destined to stumble on. (but, please God, no, not Trump again, we are all s . . t-scared)

DUTA said...

Only God, the Creator, knows and understand it all We, humans, should better learn how to practice humility; for our own sake.

Janette said...

Sitting next to you in the "I don't understand" seat. Which do I financially prepare for Biden or Trump. This is really confusing, the outcome of my taxes/savings could not be more different.

Pat S. said...

Tom -
You are correct about the large number of contradictions going on right now. The stock market being one of the most obvious. But the wall of water is coming and 2nd quarter economic data will begin that flow. Unemployment, failing business/bankruptcies and disappearing safety nets are going to take a huge toll. Too bad our choices of people to lead us out of this mess are so flawed and uninspiring. One bright sign - Chief Justice Roberts seems to be trying to hold things steady in the Supreme Court until the other two branches (and the country) get more settled.

Anonymous said...

Baby bomers are already being abused in the retirement homes, and the only way you baby bomers will escape this fate is by killing yourselves before you reach the stage of life where you are old and helpless.

You deserve this for destroying your own children's future. No one is coming to save you. Suicide is your only hope.

Cop Car said...

IMHO, we cannot shut down the economy again because we demonstrated that we cannot be trusted to do it correctly. We didn't get the full effect from the first shutdowns because they were piecemeal - and - not well enforced, if at all.

Unlike the comments of some, my finances are no better than "normal" - partly because I am putting money into the economy, as I can. I'm having outside work done on the house and yard and, when I pick up a "no contact" meal, I tip outrageously (at least 50-100 percent). I am lucky enough to not qualify for the bailout dollars (which is fine by me) and hope that someone who needs the money gets it. Would love to buy a new car to help the economy; but, my 6-year-old car has but 30,000 miles on it so that seems foolish.

These are hard times; but, having lived through WWII and the hard times we experienced then (both health-wise and moneywise), I'm a bit more sanguine than some.

Tom said...

I agree with Sue and others who worry that the economic restrictions (but is the real problem the restrictions or the disease?) will hurt younger people more than those of us who are retired and continue to receive SS, pensions and IRA distributions. Also, I fear an even wider economic gap since professionals and corporate employees are not losing jobs like those who work in stores, restaurants and travel. If only people will cooperate and help tamp this down; and then maybe the researchers will come up with a treatment or vaccine. Meanwhile, kudos to those big tippers!

David @iretiredyoung said...

In my experience, the people who claim to understand everything are the very people who turn out to understand the least. Ergo, I'm going with it being a good thing that you don't understand it all😉

Linda Myers said...

I'm thinking that for us Boomers this is really the first confusing time we've lived in. I'm keeping an eye on my kids and friends, seeing if I can help. And thank goodness for Zoom, blogging, texting and reading!

The stock market thing does baffle me, though. We're making money by doing nothing, and many people are trying their best to put food on the table and having a tough time of it.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

As much as I would trust a firefighter, I don't want anyone else in charge with no experience in government. I think being a mayor, governor, Diplomat, Congress member should be mandatory, and taking a history test would be helpful. As for the other confusion, I agree, most of it makes no sense.

Nancy Coiner said...

One thing about the contemporary postmodern world is that we're so AWARE of how much we're told but don't really know. Information floods in from all sides, but who are we to trust to help us make sense of it? It's tough for people. They/we cling to simple things we believe we can trust (but often we can't, unfortunately). I really don't know how democracy and sanity can endure!

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