March 19th, 2020
“Connections with other people affect not only the quality of our lives but also our survival.” – Dean Ornish
“We are leaving the industrial economy and entering the connection economy.” – Seth Godin
It is fascinating for me to see the all the underlying connections in our economy, especially now that the whole system is collapsing around us. The coronavirus has decimated various industries: airlines, hotels, entertainment, restaurants, etc. The show is just starting. The segments of the economy that have already taken a hit will soon affect other parts of the whole. It’s just a matter of time, and not much time at that.
Four years ago, I retired from a trucking company. I worked there for twenty-eight years. During that time, I found out that the trucking industry is an accurate barometer for the overall health of the national economy. Trucks haul everything for everybody. If the economy as a whole is doing well, then so is the trucking industry.
I texted a friend of mine who is a dispatcher at my former workplace. I asked him,
“Has business slowed down yet?”
He replied, “It’s starting now. We’re going to be in trouble soon.”
I think about how the current crisis is affecting individuals. Industries are not monolithic. They are all composed of people, lots of people. Each worker has a unique situation, and each one has specific concerns. I read that (as of 2017) 35% of all adults in this country have only a few hundred dollars in savings. 34% of them have nothing saved up. This means that many of the waitresses, airport baggage handlers, and others who are unemployed right now are hurting right now. They are out of work and they have no idea when they may get called back, if they get called back.
I think about our sons. They are both in construction. Construction is booming. Hans is pumping concrete all the time down in Texas. Stefan is welding each and every day. They are okay for now. Hans told me that the Texas DOT has a number of bridges to rebuild in the Waco area. Even if home and commercial construction slow down, the government projects will still be there. Stefan will be busy for months on huge buildings that are currently going up in the Milwaukee area. The work that is in progress will continue. The boys will keep busy and keep getting paychecks.
What happens in six months? That’s a different story. With the construction industry there is a time lapse. Other parts of the economy shrink rapidly, and then then bounce back quickly. Construction takes a while to slow down, and then it stays slow, sometimes for years. Hans and Stefan will be in a whole new world come summer or fall.
I am retired. My 401K is based primarily on the stock market, which is currently a mess. If the economy continues to take a hit, my wife and I will cut back. As a case in point, I drive a beater, a 2006 Ford Focus that my son rebuilt. It runs, but it has its issues. The question is: Should I trade it or should I keep repairing it? I will keep repairing it. I don’t plan on any big purchases in the foreseeable future. I’m pretty sure that millions of other people don’t plan to do that either.
When times are uncertain, and people are scared, they sit on their wallets.
That’s not good.