The not quite post-COVID world

By Dian Cohen
The not quite post-COVID world
Dian Cohen (Photo : Courtesy)

We humans are social animals. Most of us like to be in the company of others, to exchange ideas, to drink, eat and work together, to play games and have fun. So, with the pandemic untamed, halfway through the first year of the second decade of the 21st century, the world, including Canada and Quebec is trying to re-create life as we knew it. Work, restaurants, sporting events, travel will all come back eventually. But it will not be the same as before – not for a long time, maybe not ever.
As human beings, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and how we live our best lives. The journey begins with acknowledging this reality. Most of the time day-to-day tasks consume our waking hours. Today, in the midst of chaos and confusion we have the rare opportunity to live our lives on purpose and with purpose.
Beginning today, we can face the fact that great damage has been done to the economy and it is now in a recession. Easy enough to say, because we’ve all been through recessions before. Unhappily, this is not a recession like the others. Specifically, service supply dried up almost overnight due to virus fears and lockdown orders. Then consumer demand collapsed as people lost those service jobs and those with more money started to save dramatically more, further reducing demand.
Four out of every five working Canadians works in the service sector. Services, driven by hundreds of thousands of small firms typically help the economy through a recessionary period. This time, restaurants, boutiques, spas, gyms, therapists, theaters, florists have been decimated. They are coming back but are still way below breakeven rates. They can’t come back under these conditions. That alone is enough to keep the economy in recession for a while.
Governments have learned from past recessions: they can’t single-handedly open up industries that are semi-permanently closed. Thankfully, they can and have passed regulations that increase jobless benefits. And they are distributing thousands of dollars to tens of millions of people. As a result, many employment-insurance recipients have received more than he or she did while working. With millions of Canadians earning more in unemployment than they were at work, personal income has actually gone up.
As a sidebar in case you’re wondering why the stock market keeps going up – meet TINA. TINA is an acronym for There Is No Alternative. People have cut back their spending, so they need to park their funds somewhere. Interest rates are so low that stocks are an attractive option — even in the midst of a recession caused by a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Inequality can mean that even with millions out of work, there are still people with money that needs to be parked. The stock market provides a better place than alternatives like bonds or banks (although bank deposits have also increased.)
The world right now is confusing and chaotic. It will become less so with time. And much less so if we take this opportunity to re-evaluate our purpose, our perspective, our passion. Health. Fitness. Learning. Personal Finance. You Name it. We humans are among the most innovative and adaptable creatures on earth. Beginning next week, I hope to help in the process by looking at ordinary things ordinary people do every day that must be examined to see if they stand up to our brave new world or need to be re-thought.
Dian Cohen is an economist and a founding organizer of the Massawippi Valley Health Centre.
For more information or to submit ideas for future columns, contact Dian at:

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