Unemployment – how the employed can support the unemployed

We decided for numerous reasons to respond to the pandemic by issuing stay at home orders in many states and nations. This has led to people being unable to care for family members with disabilities. Unemployment rocketed to 20% or more, levels not seen since the great depression. Many local businesses will not survive. Poor people, faced with having no savings or government help, take whatever work they can regardless of risk.

How can we help others in need? 
This is my vision for how we can get through this without starvation, especially in India and America:

Canning Food: Many Americans who worked in the food industry before have lost their jobs. Many food contracts have been canceled leaving farmers nowhere to profitably sell their produce. Cans will be marked properly so we can later tell if there was an infection in the place they were canned, so they can be returned or disposed of.

Former restaurant workers have the skills and training to make canned goods for sale, prepared meals, soups, pastas, etc. Millions of them could direct others in how to do this, leading to a cycle of learning. Truckers who would normally ship food that is currently going to waste, farmers without contracts, and millions of unemployed, stand to benefit. Each will get shares of any profits generated, and food can be stored for later sale given enough investors, this is a wise investment. You can turn a tiny amount of money into a profitable amount of canned food for next year, when we can guarantee that food will be more scarce somewhere in the world.

Canning food could be a generic solution to extreme poverty, like selling apples in the depression.

Other ideas:
Farm hands: this is a good time to get back to farming. So many farms are unable to harvest or plant due to restrictions, and they need all the help they can get. Social distancing is possible on large farms.

Virtual programming: use the social isolation as an opportunity to help others learn programming, financial advice, law, accounting, or any field that doesn’t require physical presence. 

Fighting spam calls and emails: hiring people to track down and arrest those whose response to this crisis is to prey on the weak. Having people who are scammed raise bounties, and getting people to find those responsible, force them to return their money, and having a share of the money go to those who can get it back.

Disability aid – there are many with disabilities that are having trouble finding what they need during these times. They often have money, but not enough people to help them. We should be putting out jobs on job boards looking for people willing to help. Hemophilia, lupus, autism, down syndrome, there are many who need much that is hard to get in these times. Hire people to do it, it is worth taking the small risk for the big reward of helping save somebody. That is the definition of essential work.

Virtual assistants: we can help people around the world by hiring virtual assistants. What better time then when so many have so little to do? It may not pay much, but it can be a good learning experience while making some cash. Best to hire far outside the USA, like India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Africa, or Israel. 

Contract tracing en masse: Over 1 million health care workers are out of work, but we need contact tracing. Most of them would qualify for this kind of work, tracing the contacts laboriously and looking for people who may also be infected. This can be done for covid, flu, strep, or new viruses we haven’t seen yet. It is a useful skillset for now and the future.

There are many ways to help, we need to organize these ideas and more, and do so in a better way to help those in need. For too many, social distancing is a luxury they cannot afford. We can do more than handouts and unemployment benefits. We can help others in other nations where poverty adds to their troubles.

We are not limited by our circumstance. We are also limited by how we shut ourselves away from achieving our goals. We are too often limited by avoiding learning new methods.


Covid 19 – was lockdown the right choice?

“America would have been better off if we didn’t socially distance”. This sentiment, hardly a logical or reasoned thought, has plagued all of us. Why not just take the virus dead on, and let nature take its course? Are we better off hiding from one another?
Of course almost every nation in the world has imposed severe restrictions, and those that didn’t, like sweeden, are facing questions of their own, dealing with higher fatalities than their neighbors norway and finland.
If we can get back to logic, lets figure out which was actually the better choice in retrospect.
Two different methods are typically used to evaluate the correctness of a decision: money and lives saved. This being an article for a financial advisor blog, let’s go with money.

First, we need to make some assumptions, either our own or other’s. How many more would have died without social distancing? Well, now we have 330 million Americans. Without some restrictions, epidemiologists say the total infected usually rises to 50-100% of the population.
The best estimates are 1-2% of those infected would die. This seems to be backed up by the infected vs. dead in New York City. 
So we can multiply, and for those who have their own numbers, plug them in!
Today, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget puts the value of a human life in the range of $7 million to $9 million.  

We can go all the way down to $7 million for this estimate, it won’t change the results.
We now multiply 1% * 330 million * 50% = 1.65 million people and  $11.55 trillion dollars.
America will lose 30% of its GDP over the quarter due to social distancing, but it would lose quite a bit of GDP if it didn’t, due to fear.
U.S. GDP is currently $21.43 trillion.  We would lose $6.4 trillion in a year, or $11.55 trillion in lives.

This math is that we should be willing to spend 2 years in social distancing, rather than let the disease spread. Currently, we are trying to handle a month and a half (mid march in my region) in this condition, and we are having issues. 
Play with the numbers all you like, but unless your numbers are very unrealistic, then a month and a half of social distancing is easily justified.
Forbes has their own analysis, coming to about the same conclusion:

  • If the United States were to abandon aggressive social distancing measures after 14 days, more than 125 million people will contract the virus, some 7 million could be hospitalized, and 1.9 million people will die.

If the sheer number of dead in America (and worldwide, because America will be spreading it), is not enough, remember that $7 million per person.
In short, the social distancing makes sense. But could we get the same effect for a lot less money? Yes.
Future articles will be about less expensive measures that we could take, and things we can do to reduce waste and mitigate the time and education that we are currently losing.
Where is the break-even point? It depends on how expensive the social distancing is vs. the lives that will be lost by ending it.
By my calculation, cautious reopening should be started, and it is being done.
The above is all based, of course, on the secondary effects being approximately equivalent. Letting a virus spread causes fear, panic, mutations, and makes future waves of it worse. Social distancing leads to mass unemployment, poverty, and social unrest.

Whichever way we go, we could justify it, so let’s justify staying safe and helping others to stay safe.

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