I find myself thinking more and more lately of what things will be like after COVID-19. Certainly there will be fewer of us than expected – just how many fewer remains to be seen, but tens of millions fewer worldwide is looking possible. Big picture that doesn’t change much, unless you happen to be one of those tens of millions.
The disruptions of climate change will still be with us, and most likely our short attention spans will have moved on to healthcare system shortfalls and readiness for the next pandemic. Both are important, but I doubt that we have the stomach for more than one existential crisis at a time. Climate change will likely take a back seat until cities start drowning.
One thing I hope for is a Manhattan-style project to retool and repair our calcified health care system. We’ve gotten caught up in the logic trap of Medicare for all versus status quo, and the truth is that no matter where you look there’s room for improvement. Looks like we’re going to spend hundreds of billions on healthcare damage control in the short term, but beyond that we can do so much better. Regulating the cost of prescription drugs. Finding a way to prop up the dying rural and regional hospitals across America. Investment in viral and gene therapies, strategic stockpiles of what we fell short of for COVID-19, much, much better governance in the health management sector. It can all be done if we’d just quit arguing about it.
Without belaboring the obvious, I also hope for a new President and Cabinet at the Federal level. To any of my Republican friends, sorry, but this administration is horrific. Americans need to trust their leaders, and right now we simply can’t.
The problems of immigration and border control will still be with us after COVID-19, and I expect that the hard lines (walls, actually) favored by the current administration will gain more approval. We’ll want someone to blame for the bad things that are about to happen, and immigrants will be convenient for that.
I think socially the 2020s in America will resemble the roaring 20s (exhilaration at having survived WW1) and the psychedelic, obnoxious 1970s (thank you Vietnam War). I guess we can call it the Roaring 20s part two. It may be a crazy decade filled with excess, new and wild behaviors and social upheaval.
Right now I believe the financial markets will return to normal by Q3 2020 and return to steady growth in 2021, after the fall Presidential election uncertainty resolves. I have to believe that things stabilize and return to growth, as a retiree who has lost about 30% of net worth in two weeks. Otherwise, it could be a tough dotage for yours truly and many others.
Technologically, post-COVID, things could change very rapidly. Automation and AI are at a cusp of changing the world anyway, COVID or not. Many, many jobs are about to become obsolete or very minimized – for example, the 3.5 million truck driving jobs in the US are ripe for replacement by automation. There are many other examples, and this is why Andrew Yang was touting a universal basic income. There are going to be millions of people we simply have no jobs for, and some large percentage of those will not retrain themselves. Talk about a ripe environment for social unrest!
Finally, I think there will be a lot of traumatized, damaged people after COVID-19. The few life and death events I’ve lived through showed me that we are all changed by that experience. Religion will probably get a boost and counseling will be needed across America. Every cold and every flu will cause people to think “this might be the end”. If I had more years ahead, I might get qualified as a counselor. It’s a job I can do sitting down and staying calm, a behavior I’m training for right now.
Featured image above is my beautiful wife a few years ago on a springtime visit to Palm Springs. I’m a lucky guy.