It’s actually the old normal. We’re back living in 1820: families together around the hearth, no restaurant or saloons to go to, kids being home schooled, momma having to try and figure out how to make the food last, cars kind of useless because there really is no place to go... It’s the simpler life that so many harken back to. But we forget that it was also so very boring! We’re kind of virus prisoners, stuck in a time warp, and nothing to do but worry, trying to figure our next step and watching shows on cable.
It’s hard to believe it all started in a local farmers market somewhere in the middle of China. They think a diseased animal passed something on to a human who passed it to another human and so on and on. Nothing could explain “globalism” better than this. A sick animal in China leads to a collapse in the value of your 401K in Kansas or Florida or here in California. In thousands of different ways, we are no longer alone in this world, which means we have to deal with all sorts of things we never had to in the past, like foreign stock exchanges and tariffs and mass migrations of peoples and climate change and Americans traveling all over the world and bring back all sorts of stuff like knickknacks and viruses, and crazy nationalists who think all you have to do is close the border to be safe, as if viruses had nationalities.
This situation is so froth with peril for all of us it that it made Donald Trump seem almost presidential. On Monday, he stood at a podium, introduced some very knowledgeable people and even admitted out loud that this was serious stuff and not just some media scam and it could take months before the worst of it was over. Of course, the next morning, he was back to tweeting in his usual style and what he said the day before was clearly just something that someone wrote for him to read off to the public.
Closer to home, we are trying to figure out what to do here at the newspaper. It’s clear the local economy is now and is going to be suffering for at least several months. No one wants to say “recession” but we all know the possibility is real. We probably will cut back the size of the paper, the number pages, so we can husband our resources to cover what must be covered. We’re probably going to do a subscription drive and ask you to do a voluntary pay program and help us pay for some of our activities like the Dolphin Awards and supporting the Malibu Film Society. It’s not just us. All of the local businesses are suffering during this shutdown and using up what cash reserves they may have and if this runs into summer some may not be able to hold out. The restaurants are going to be devastated and need your support. This week we’re printing a directory of the restaurants: who is open, who has take-out and who delivers.
But the real battle is going to be fought in Washington D.C. We’re about to find out what kind of capitalism we really have. Is it going to be a stand-up and man-up kind of capitalism, where industries dig deep into their reserves, reduce their bonuses, continue to pay their workers and borrow money when necessary to keep the doors open? Or is it going to be the other kind of socialistic capitalism where as soon as they hit a pothole they’re going to rush to D.C. with their lobbyists and ask to be bailed out? That was a rhetorical question because they are already asking. The airline industry, which has spent billions buying back their shares over the last decade to raise their stock prices and increase their executive holdings, find that they are in a hole. My understanding is that is what capitalism is all about. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose—or did it change on a day I was absent from class? Guess who else wants to be bailed out? The casino industry. The casinos are closed and the boys are losing money and they are coming to us, the people of the United States, to bail them out. We ought to consider it and possibly do it, but let’s do it the casino way. We’ll cut cards, double or nothing. If they have the high card, they get the bailout. If we have the high card, then we get the casinos. I’m obviously being a facetious but these industries are all going to be coming to us as a hard money lender. Where I was raised, a hard money lender was somebody you went to borrow money from because no one else would lend you money. Then if you got it you paid interest, high interest, sometimes referred to as vigorish, and woe to you if you didn’t pay it back in time. Let’s not repeat the mistakes we made in 2008 when we bailed everyone out and we considered the program a success if they paid us back. This time, if industries want to be bailed out, and they expect the United States to be the hard money lender, we should do what any hard money lender would do. We want an equity piece of the company in addition to the loan repayment. There is another thing we could do. Ninety-one of the largest corporations paid absolutely no United States income tax last year. In fact, some of them are now headquartered in Ireland. We could send them to Ireland to get their bailout money. I believe if you paid no corporate tax, anything you get from the US Treasury is a gift and they shouldn’t qualify for a bailout, unless of course they are newspapers, which is an entirely different story.
After all, we are capable of a little hypocrisy.