Thursday, July 23, 2020

Day 136 Nat'l Emergency: Person of the Year Choices, Turkey Time Off, Jobs Off, School Time

Five months before Time magazine releases its Person of the Year issue it is safe to say there are three significant candidates whose image could grace the front cover: 
*George Floyd, whose cellphone-recorded death at the knee of a Minneapolis policeman sparked nationwide outrage and galvanized Black Lives Matter protests; 
*Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose calm Dutch uncle counsel on the coronavirus has soothed and informed a frightened and conflicted nation; 
*The embattled frontline healthcare worker, who has selflessly placed themself in danger to heal a sick country and comfort the dying in the absence of quarantined loved ones.

Even if he wins the presidency, Joe Biden would not be elevated to cover boy status. Not this year. 

Similarly, Donald Trump wouldn’t qualify even if he manages a comeback to secure a second term. 

Chief Justice John Roberts has received lots of ink for his high-wire role in shepherding the Supreme Court, but he, too, falls short in overall dominance of the year. 

For sure, the two main stories of 2020 have been the coronavirus with its worldwide impact on health and the economy, as well as international political repercussions, and the outpouring of protest and energy for racial equality after the killings of unarmed Blacks and actions by ordinary white citizens to physically and verbally assault minorities.


It’s About Time: More than a dozen years have passed since I called on retail chains to keep their stores closed on Thanksgiving so employees could spend time with their families instead of aiding in the pursuit of every last disposable dollar. Consumers, as well, would benefit from not running out to the store once dessert has been shoveled down their throat. 

My perch as editor and publisher of Chain Store Age is long gone, but it is pleasing to note that Walmart, the nation’s, nay, the world’s, largest retailer has decided it would not open Thanksgiving. Apparently, Walmart listened to the suggestion advanced by one of its employees in a letter to management.

“We know it’s been a trying year, and you’ve stepped up. We want you to enjoy the day at home with your loved ones,” John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart USA, wrote in a memo to employees. 


Fewer Jobs: Donald Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs if elected in 2016. How’s he doing?

Not so great. Though manufacturing jobs increased in the first two years of his presidency, the last two have been not so good. 

Compared to when he took the oath of office there are almost 300,000 fewer manufacturing jobs. Of course, the pandemic is a key factor, an excuse Trump will surely cite if challenged on his record. 

But as The New York Times pointed out, “U.S. factory output declined throughout 2019, as Mr. Trump’s trade war intensified, and it has dropped further this year, suggesting there is no boom in new American factories. Since peaking in mid-2019, corporate investment has  declined for three consecutive quarters. Total foreign direct investment in manufacturing was nearly one-third lower in the first three years of Mr. Trump’s tenure than it was in the final three years of President Barack Obama’s.

“Mr. Trump ostensibly fought his trade war on behalf of American manufacturing. But economists say it has actually been a drag on most U.S. factories, by increasing prices for components and inciting foreign retaliation.  It has also coincided with a plunge in Chinese investment in the United States to $5 billion in 2019, the lowest level since 2009, according to Rhodium Group, a research firm” (https://nyti.ms/2CClSib).


School Time? As part of his reelection strategy Trump is pushing for a September opening of schools. But evidence on the impact of bringing children back to classes where they could become infected, and then sending them home where they could transfer the coronavirus to other family members, is mixed (https://nyti.ms/2ZjbJj5). 

New research has shown that children under 10 years are not as susceptible, but transmission is more prevalent as student age hits double digits. If schools open before the general public has appropriately contained the pandemic, a rebound in cases could occur, as happened in Israel.  

Few dispute the benefit of having children resume classes. But just as most parents believe in inoculations to protect their offspring from childhood illnesses, most also would think twice about placing their children at risk with the added fear they could be exposing themselves and other family members, especially grandparents. 

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