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It’s 2022. What Does Life Look Like? Must-read via NYT (my fav. snippets)

The pandemic could shape the world, much as World War II and the Great Depression did. By David Leonhardt NYT. “It’s 2022, and the coronavirus has at long last been defeated. After a miserable year-and-a-half, alternating between lockdowns and new outbreaks, life can finally begin returning to normal….” READ ON.

David Leonhardt

There is no such thing as GOING BACK TO NORMAL

“But it will not be the old normal. It will be a new world, with a reshaped economy, much as war and depression reordered life for previous generations. Thousands of stores and companies that were vulnerable before the virus arrived have disappeared. Dozens of colleges are shutting down, in the first wave of closures in the history of American higher education. People have also changed long-held patterns of behavior: Outdoor socializing is in, business trips are out. And American politics — while still divided in many of the same ways it was before the virus — has entered a new era”  READ ON.

The most important global experience since World War II and the Great Depression?

“If a vaccine remains out of reach for years, the long-term changes could be truly profound. Any industry that depends on close human contact would be at risk. Large swaths of the cruise-ship and theme-park industries might go away. So could many movie theaters and minor-league baseball teams. The long-predicted demise of the traditional department store would finally come to pass. Thousands of restaurants would be wiped out (even if they would eventually be replaced by different restaurants)…. Yet if the pandemic really does shape life for the next year, it will probably be remembered as a more significant historical event than those precedents. It could easily be the most important global experience since World War II and the Great Depression. Events that hold the world’s attention for long stretches — and that alter the rhythms of everyday life — do tend to leave a legacy.  READ ON.

A downturn “is an opportunity to revisit inefficiencies"

It’s only when the tide goes out,” Warren Buffett likes to say, “that you learn who’s been swimming naked.” His point is that companies with flawed business models can look healthy in good times. Out of habit, many customers continue to buy from them. But when the economy weakens, people have to make decisions about where to pull back. They often start with products and services that they find the least valuable or that they can replace with a cheaper alternative. A downturn, says Emily Oster, a Brown University economist, “is an opportunity to revisit inefficiencies.” And the coronavirus is likely to cause a larger version of this phenomenon than a typical recession.

 

READ ON.

Another nail in the coffin for retailers and malls

“Now the virus has interrupted in-person shopping and caused many consumers to shift even more business online, to Amazon, Target and Walmart. “The retailers doing fair to poorly are absolutely not coming out of this,” said Mark Cohen, a former executive at Sears and Federated Department Stores who teaches at Columbia Business School. “Many, many of them are going to fail, have already failed or will fail when they reopen.” If they do, they will create spillover victims — the hundreds of malls that rely on department stores for rent and foot traffic. (Image via TheVerge)

Higher education is heading into crisis

“A third at-risk industry — higher education — is a bit different from the others, because it’s so heavily subsidized by the government. Yet dozens of colleges, both private and public, are facing real trouble. College enrolment in the United States has been growing almost continually since the Civil War. It kept growing even after the baby boomers finished college, because a rising percentage of young people were enrolling. But the 150-plus-year boom appears to have ended about a decade ago. Undergraduate enrollment fell 8 percent between 2010 and 2018. Why? Birthrates have fallen, and the percentage of young people going to college isn’t rising significantly anymore. The population trends are especially stark in the Northeast and Midwest, where many colleges are. Late last year, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a bracing report called, “The Looming Enrollment Crisis.” The virus is exacerbating almost every problem that colleges faced…”

“If you talk to students, parents and teachers about remote learning during the pandemic — from preschool through college — they’re likely to tell you that it’s been disappointingBut if you talk to white-collar workers about their experiences with videoconferencing, you will hear a different story: It doesn’t replace the richness of in-person conversations, but many meetings work perfectly well over Zoom, FaceTime or Google Meet. Millions of workers are returning to the office or will be soon. Many have no choice, including teachers, janitors and retail workers. But for many white-collar workers, the remote-work experiment shows no sign of ending — a trend that could depress the commercial real-estate market and business travel long after a vaccine is available.

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