What the stock market is telling us

Well, the market is nearly reaching highs again. Surely the recession fears over the past months were unfounded. But, wait. What’s this?

“The stock market isn’t the economy. The economy is production and jobs, and there are shortfalls in virtually every sector of the economy,” Yellen said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Yellen… Yellen… oh, Janet Yellen, former Fed Chair. Yeah, she may be on to something.

So, where fiscally policy from Washington May be a while coming, there are those still suffering in this country. And where wealth may be accruing for those with substantial stock portfolios, the nearly 30 million people out of work (predominant low-wage workers) will just have to stick it out.

To mask or not to mask

I’m not sure what the question really is. I had to listen to someone while working the other day explaining that masks are just encouraging us to breathe in our own carbon dioxide, killing our brain cells.

Now, that’s a lot to deconstruct. First, masks really catch respiratory droplets.

One category of evidence comes from laboratory studies of respiratory droplets and the ability of various masks to block them. An experiment using high-speed video found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers were generated when saying a simple phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a damp washcloth. Another study of people who had influenza or the common cold found that wearing a surgical mask significantly reduced the amount of these respiratory viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols.”

Second, will wearing a mask kill brain cells?

COVID-19 can kill. Now, according to a misguided Internet-fueled theory, masks can kill, too.

All it takes is a mask-wearer who inhales freshly exhaled carbon dioxide repeatedly until dizzy, unconscious or dead. That, no doubt, would be a shocking development. In the real world, the average mask user without preexisting respiratory illness has nothing to worry about — except COVID-19.

Only an airtight mask could possibly cause any breathing difficulty. That eliminates cloth masks, the preferred personal protective equipment in public. It actually eliminates N95 respirators, too, usually reserved for healthcare professionals. They fit tighter than a cloth mask but still not tight enough on the face to kill. Surgeons wear even more substantial face coverings all day without endangering their health.”

And finally, what does it mean for people to think that conspiracy theories are gospel truth? How can we fix that issue? How can we be more intelligent, more diligent about how we access truths in the world?

At the end of the day, it comes down to thinking – to using those self-same brain cells in an effective way.

Need vs. merit

When considering funding an organization – nonprofit, arts group, etc. – there’s a question of whether fiscal solvency necessitates further individual support. Is your donation better served going to a group that may be struggling to stay in the black each year, or an organization that consistently shows surpluses?

While a surplus may indicate that your money will have less impact, a smaller nonprofit could potentially not be around next year.

It’s a question I keep hearing, and one I ask myself as I work on reviewing grants. I guess my thought is, if money is available to invest in nonprofits, it’s good practice to make that investment, large and small.

Politizing a pandemic

“The White House is taking aim at the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. In a statement Saturday, a White House official told CNN that ‘several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.'” (CNN)

When the first confirmed case of COVID appeared in America, President Trump said in an interview that, “We have it totally under control.” At the time, there was no reason to doubt that. China was facing the brunt of the disease, and here in the US, there wasn’t even a push to truly begin testing.

Nearly six months later, we’re looking at nearly 3.5 million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths. But how are we addressing it? Sadly, it seems to depend on how you vote.

While we should all be in agreement over handling this crisis, we can’t come to terms with even wearing masks to reduce the possibility of spreading a potentially deadly disease.

Around the world, the politics of countries are shaping how the nations are responding to the virus. Some are doing a better job than others. While we can’t be certain about the reporting across the board, we should accept that the virus has caused a much larger, and longer-lasting problem than we would have hoped.

Now, with the president and the CDC clashing over the best course moving forward, the nation’s hopes of unity in facing this crisis seem more unlikely.

The visibility ethics

Early in the pandemic, shortly after Congress approved trillions of dollars in aid for individuals and businesses suffering from job losses and decreased revenue, companies such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House received millions under the Paycheck Protection Program. Of course, they were instantly lambasted, given the size of their organizations.

However, the purpose of any corporation is to increase value to stakeholders. Under that very broad understanding of the purpose – to make money – it would be counterintuitive to not apply for that additional revenue. 

This is an issue that is seen, again and again, currently playing out on Facebook, in Disneyland, and likely the nation.

Facebook has the choice of whether to do more to curb hate speech or to keep a more hands-off approach in the hopes of driving more revenue. Now that advertisers such as Starbucks are pulling out of Facebook (and other social media), the loss-of-revenue could become a very real driver for organizational change.

Similarly, Disney is pushing to reopen its parks here in the US. Now, we are arguably facing more of a health crisis now with spiking numbers than when we initially started shutting down back in March. Because, now, there’s little to no talk about shutting down again.

The company is dedicated to increasing revenue. If everyone else is open, why would a company self-censure itself? That could mean losses of revenue. Yet employees in Disneyland are striking against the reopening over health concerns. 

While there are businesses out there who will do the right thing at the cost of losing business, there are others who will do the accepted thing in the hopes of earning revenue. Sometimes, it’s expensive to do the right thing.

The politics of tricky subjects

Political interpretation at its core is the distilling of beliefs through the window of law and social pressure. We don’t get re-dos in a lot of areas of our lives, but politics is one of them where we can overturn previously held ideas and reverse decisions previously made.

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Declaration of Independence)

The government in this country is powered by the consent of the people. As ideals and understanding of our world change, so do how we ask for our government to govern.

But simple things, like mandating the raising of revenue from the taxpayer, or instating and overturning prohibition, seem to be more unified than how we enforce or punish criminal proceedings, or encourage the unity of the nation.

The government, granted power through its constituents, is an extension of those constituents: and we are very much human, prone to mistakes and missteps. Yes, we may try for perfection, but we are incapable of it.

I don’t know that there’s any way to have an agreement about something tricky (race, policing, LGBT rights, health care, minimum wage, etc.) without first having a conversation about it. But I guarantee, putting your fingers in your ears and pretending like you don’t hear the other side is not the way.

Reader View

The internet is insidious. There is a scene in Ready Player One, in which Nolan Sorrento panders to the board by showing how much screen space can be covered in ads:

Our internet is a lot like that. Even reading this post, you’ll likely notice ads popping up. But if your browser has a reader view (which it should; Safari’s is in the URL bar), it’s easy enough to omit most of the distracting ads that show up.

And that’s the thing about the commercialist market. There is nowhere we find ourselves that doesn’t have someone trying to sell us something. We’ve become so used to it, the only way for them to ensure that their messages are seen is to find more and more creative ways to make them prominent – pure O2, as it were.

Balance in the market

Balance. We seek balance in creativity so that, in what we are offering to the world, it is worth someone’s time to consume and provides value to us as well.

Occasionally, rarely even, the value of something created far surpasses what the price is set to. Usually, it’s fairly-priced or may be slanted in favor of the seller. (This is evident in the increasing corporate profits we see.)

But I am specifically addressing creative endeavors. Nearly all work begins as a creative endeavor. From the fast-food restaurant to the newest computer, everything begins its life as an idea.

Basic economic market theory tells us that laws of supply and demand will set the prices for these goods and services. The problem is that the creative mind will feel the pressures of creation. The questions of “is it good enough?” or “can I do it again?” will inevitably arise.

Success feels great, but failure is much more common. Seeking balance is an exercise in feeling valued yourself. Not overvalued, or undervalued. But fairly valued.

 

No new updates

There’s not a lot of information moving around in rural communities. Perhaps that’s why the concern doesn’t seem as heightened regarding the virus. But to others, like those living in New York, the concern is real enough.

Everything about the news cycle has become coronavirus, or coronavirus-related. Yet, there’s no substantial change in the day-to-day. It’s back and forth, as indicated below:

C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.” —“Trump Names Mike Pence to Lead Coronavirus Response” — “Trump Accuses Media of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat” — “Trump is ignoring the lessons of 1918 flu pandemic that killed millions, historian says” — “Rush Limbaugh on coronavirus: ‘The common cold’ that’s being ‘weaponized’ against Trump” — “Criticisms of Trump’s coronavirus response are sickening” — “‘It’s going to get bad’: As outbreak surges, nation faces tough start to a grim week” —“President Trump wants the U.S. ‘opened’ by April 12”

“Coolin consumer spending, inflation put spotlight on Fed amid coronavirus” — “China’s exports and imports plummet on virus impact” — “Coronavirus crash is a true ‘Black Swan’ as Goldman thought the economy was nearly recession-proof” — “Hotels face drop in occupancy, revenue amid coronavirus outbreak” — “Coronavirus Stimulus Package Spurs a Lobbying Gold Rush” — “Stimulus Check: What We Know” — “Stimulus Plans to Battle  Coronavirus Could Cost the World $10 Trillion” — “Senate falls far short of votes needed to advance coronavirus bill” — “Stimulus package stalls in Senate” — “The Senate is ‘very close’ to reaching a deal” — “In the Most Vulnerable Countries, the Pandemic Rivals the 2008 Crisis” — “Stocks Rally on Hopes for Stimulus Deal”

“New coronavirus cases in mainland China fall to lowest since January” — “Coronavirus may have been in Italy for weeks before it was detected” — “U.S. Olympic Committee says more ‘clarity’ needed for decision on 2020 games” — “A 2020 Olympics Delay Seems Inevitable. Is a 4-Week Decision Needed to Get There?” — “U.S. Olympic Committee says poll shows postponing Olympics is best path” —“Tokyo Olympics have officially been postponed”

The weekend provides little relief

It’s been a crazy two weeks, hasn’t it? The health concerns, markets, price of oil, And the weekend isn’t providing much in the way of relief. Now the Fed is dropping interest rates to zero for the first time since 2008 (though that cut lasted until 2015).

The cheaper borrowing may provide an incentive for businesses to borrow or start new programs or build or expand. However, workers feeling the financial crunch that business closures will cause won’t find much hope in a lower Fed rate.

Fear is fear. That which we don’t understand keeps us fettered. While the world waits for answers and relief, each of us throwing our own matchsticks into the night, we expect that the morning will come soon. We hope for it, and we wait for it.