The Center Cannot Hold: Economic Aftermath

September 11, 2001. It is a day that no living American will ever forget. The crashes happened in a matter of minutes, but the reverberations from the fallout continues to this day. It was the first time it ever occurred to anyone that the United States could be toppled–that a nation of grandiose democratic ideals, far-reaching foreign relations and formidable business prowess around the world could be stopped. But in a day, Manifest Destiny died, and the chinks in our armor finally had a flaw.

September 11, 2001. It is a day that no living American will ever forget.

On that fateful day in 2001 the FAA grounded all planes, in an unprecedented move that spurred Operation Yellow Ribbon–a join operation that diverted flights to Canadian airspace and geo-locations in nine Canadian Provinces. Once again, the United States is on high alert, with the American president declaring a national emergency in the wake COVID-19. According to the CDC, the United states has registered over 1000 cases and 41 deaths from the pandemic. And on March 14, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed the Emergency Families First Corona virus Response Act (H.R. 6201), which puts for health measures to address growing needs in business and healthcare aimed stemming the financial hemorrhaging of various industries.  Many say the bill falls short on larger employers leaving large populations of poorer Americans untouched and readily able to continue the spread of Covid-19.

According to the CDC, the United states has registered over 1000 cases and 41 deaths from the pandemic. And on March 14, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed the Emergency Families First Corona virus Response Act (H.R. 6201) . . .

The major issue for the U.S. now is managing economic and human loss. Particularly on the economic side, the US stands at a greater disadvantage than other economies, because 67 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is hedged in the service economy. This means, a people-to-people pandemic which retards services and productivity will far heavily impact the service economy and could wipe out significant economic and financial gains.

The instability roiling the United States now forces citizens to once again contemplate a brave new world. Our greatest national disaster, 9/11 offers us a grim case-study on devolving economics via the aviation industry who saw the greatest losses. Already struggling with mergers and acquisitions, the U.s. Aviation industry took on such a radical downgrade, that people now take flights for $5 and upgrade seats with very little personal investment. Additionally, the overall costs and amenities associated with flying as amounted to peanuts in some cases, both literally and figuratively.
And it is no secret to market watchers and industry insiders that there are several key markets that have been struggling to survive for years now. Despite low import margins facilitated by high trade with the People’s Republic of China, for decades now retail, automotive manufacturing, higher education, commercial real estate and electronics among other sectors have struggled to maintain volume. Once thought of as the Wuhan Flu, it may be remembered as the flu that toppled the economic viability of a superpower. The United States is a very different place socially, politically and economically than the PRC, and its responses and outcomes may differ widely. Even though financial manipulations and legislative packages can be employed to stimulate the current archaic system, it is unclear how such moves will impact the real productivity of decimated industries. On March 11, the U.S. Government issued a major travel ban, restricting 26 European countries–most recently, now the United Kingdom and Ireland have been added to the list.

 . . . the US stands at a greater disadvantage than other economies, because 67 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is hedged in the service economy.

While store shelves are empty and basketball games cancelled, it seems that in a service economy, what matters most is vacant seats and cues. Amidst stock market crashes, closed government facilities and shuttered schools, the Orwellian feel of a post apocalyptic world has begun to creep into the streets and city-scapes. Its the same zeitgeist that emerged after 9/11, when those fateful morning crashes left cracks in the fiber of the American armor.  Is this what the future will look like? Are Americans prepared for a world without U.S. hegemony or socioeconomic significance?  The U.S. will have to work quickly to resolve its outstanding issues.

I am reminded by the famous Chinua Achebe novel that gives the world a bird’s eye view into the end of an era. He details a time when worlds had begun to collide and a new order was emerging. In Achebe’s 1958 classic,  Things Fall Apart,  its historical retelling highlighted how the best military strategies and conventional wisdom seemed to back fire; and missteps seemed unavoidable. The resemblance is frighteningly striking in current times. It seems the center cannot hold. Things fall apart.

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