Overnight, the Dow futures hit a bottom limit, ending trading while they were down 1,233 points, or 5.23% lower than where they ended at the close of Wednesday’s trading. That indicates a dramatically sharp drop at the opening bell, and a strong possibility of hitting the 7% decrease “circuitbreaker” during Thursday’s session.
This follows a trading day where the Dow suffered its second largest point drop in history, in a week where it suffered its largest point loss ever. There have been times where the percentages lost have been greater, but for the most part those were in the early days of the stock market, where a ten point loss would equate to a huge percentage of the much smaller footprint of large businesses.
These problems are likely to undermine Trump’s chances for re-election. In the wake of three years of foreign policy catastrophes, criminal behavior and petty demeanor, what kept many supporting him was the illusion of a strong economy. That illusion is in the process of being shattered. A global recession which threatened to expose the inflationary practices used for more than a decade to support Wall Street has been overtaken by pandemic concerns. Coronavirus is here, and it’s savaging economic activity.
This is far from a reason to celebrate.
Not only is the virus itself likely to kill thousands of Americans even if people can be convinced to take actions to stem its spread, the damage done to people’s savings cannot be ignored. While it may be pleasing to see Trump and the now-nativist GOP suffer electorally, it is a terrible thing to have that happen only because millions of older Americans are seeing their life’s savings rapidly dwindle. It is worse still when these same people are facing a deadly illness which may cost them much to combat. They’re being squeezed, and they’re going to be hurting. They’re going to need compassion and aid. Ideally, people will be able to talk them into getting free from the market while they still have significant gains from the Obama and Trump inflationary years.
It’s true that the actions of Trump and his enablers have made the virus worse in America. Initially, passengers from flights from Wuhan province and other hot spots were asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for fourteen days. This happened at the time when we had more than enough capacity for a government-overseen quarantine of returning travelers. It would have been easy to shut down – or at least drastically limit – direct travel to those locations. After the virus was already here, Trump and his supporters worked to convince people that it was no different than the flu, because the basic mechanics of transfer were identical.
This is akin to saying that a fenderbender at 10 mph and a 40 mph head-on collision are identical because following the rules of proper driving should prevent both.
So, yes, there has been unethical behavior on the part of the Trump administration, and the nation is paying the price. His actions moving forward are also sorely lacking; while a travel ban makes sense, a two-week cargo ban seemed to be useful as a trade negotiating tactic and not a safety concern. Any questions about that should have been hammered out before making a highly visible address to the nation.
Travel bans and restrictions on public gatherings are already in place for other countries, and they would be effective at limiting the spread here. There are too many variables at play for us to know what the most effective course of action would be, however.
What is the success level of self-quarantine? How quickly can we ramp up production of hand sanitizer and disinfectant and train people in their proper usage? (If you’re touching anything unsanitized to anything else, you’re potentially spreading contamination. It’s not as simple as rubbing some on your hands before entering a store or wearing rubber gloves while transporting groceries.) Can we keep our health professionals safe? How long, really, until private industry can create a vaccine (and how quickly can we get it through bureaucratic testing requirements?) Hell, exactly what are the transmission methods, what is the incubation time, and how transmissible is the disease while a sufferer is truly asymptomatic… exactly, and with certainty?
This is the reason we have a President in the first place. Not to smile and wave to people, nor even to meet with foreign dignitaries. The President’s job is to weigh all of the available information and make thoughtful decisions. Trump does not like to have all available information; he goes by instinct for his decisions, and we are seeing the results of that now.
Lacking a real President, we’re going to have a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking going on, and for the most part it’s going to be valid. None of us have access to all of the data needed to conclusively verify our positions, though. It’s all speculation and a way for us to vent our frustrations with obvious incompetence as self-serving politics endangers us, our loved ones, and our community.
Amidst it all, we can’t lose sight of those who are most at risk. Right now, those are the elderly, who are getting the dual hammers of health threats and loss of wealth. It would be a good time to reach out to some you know, and make arrangements with them to help with things like grocery transport and sanitization while trying to convince them to wait out the virus, and also to convince them to cut their losses in the stock market rather than wait for a full crash to wipe them out.