The plague and I, and you too!

Wherever it ranks in the history of world disasters, the current coronavirus pandemic is the likely to be the worst in most of our lifetimes — at least so far.

While it has been an unimaginable tragedy for many people — those who’ve lost loved ones, friends and seen their lives and finances wrecked — for many of us it has been survivable so far. We may have to keep going to work, or maybe are going stir crazy working from home, or figuring out the next financial step that those welcome-but-small government checks have stopped coming in. But there has been less traffic and air pollution — except in California, Oregon and Washington state — and more time with the kids  and your roommate. Still, nobody knows what the regular flu season this fall and winter will bring.

Will it get worse before it gets better, both for mankind, but also for us — you and me?

In a column last week the subject was the impact of the pandemic on people like us. While it got lots of hits and clicks — always a rewarding thing — not many people shared their situations. So I went after them. I contacted some long-time readers in different jobs, age groups and parts of the country for more detail. They came through, bless them, starting with woman works for the Agriculture Department, and her 13-year-old — interesting takes:

“Mike, How have I been coping with the brave new world at home, work or both? I have been on mandatory or ‘strongly encouraged’ telework for quite some time. I have shaved off a one-hour commute to another small town off my day. I have used this time wisely, by exercising more, taking my dog for a 1.5 mile hike around our small town of less than 1,000 people. I have been doing more of my normal hobbies such as yard work, gardening (vegetable and flower) as well as playing with my kids — ages 16, 13 and 8. I have also finished a painting that I had started before my 13-year-old was born.  Most of these are activities are rewarding most of the time.

“I really enjoy teleworking because I am more productive, my office is isolated away from the family. I actually get more done but I do not get to collaborate or visit as much with my coworkers, who I do miss. To cope with this situation we occasionally have MS Teams or share our screen with Skype if we need technical assistance. I actually take my 30-minute mandatory lunch break rather than eating at my computer. Lunch is just down the stairs and to the left. When my kids were sill in ‘distance learning’ school, I would sometimes see my daughters art teacher. It was always fun to chat with her for a few minutes during my lunch break.” — E in WA State

“For me coping with online school has been easier than most people think. First of all, if I get hungry and it isn’t lunch time yet, I can get a snack. I also like the fact that the teachers cannot really yell at you when you are goofing off because we are both at our homes. Finally, if I have a question about my schoolwork then I can easily ask my dad or a teacher that is online the question and they can help me figure out the answer to said question.

“As you can see by the first paragraph, I am coping with the new learning environment well. However, some things do help me cope with this new learning environment. I like playing video games after school, this helps me relax and deal with stressful situations. Playing outside also helps me deal with school and gets me some exercise. Along with these two examples, I take walks around town and that helps me get my exercise when I would normally be sitting in a desk stagnant. While I have the resources to make my learning environment work well for me. I would guess that some of my fellow students would struggle as they do not have the resources, I have access to.” — L in WA State (age 13)

Here’s another response from an Energy Department fed:

“As for your article, yes feds are in a much better situation that others. Municipal employees in places are not [in] as good shape. But in many places they were in bad shape before the pandemic, such as Detroit that declared bankruptcy a few years ago and many smaller municipalities across the country. The biggest culprit seems to be generous retirement packages, especially the law enforcement and fire fighters, which by the way were granted by politicians who are long gone from the scene — kick the cost down the road to future generations. Places that were on shaky finances are now in trouble, or places that [were] in trouble but were able to hide it, can’t hide it anymore.

“Yes the U.S. took a very big hit, and has not yet recovered from it. Yes there will be structural changes in the economy. Some of these were coming to pass anyway, but the pandemic just accelerated the change — for example, the wide spread use of teleworking and order online with curbside pick-up. But compared to many other nations, the U.S. did not get hit as badly as they did …

“One other thing that the pandemic revealed, was the vulnerability of the supply chain. Business[es] will look at the vulnerabilities from a business standpoint — their business. [They] will not look at it from a strategic or national security standpoint — that requires Congressional action. What the Executive [Branch] can do is limited. Normally I would not hold my breath for Congress to make that happen, but given the recent purely partisan and/or nonsensical and/or untrue statements by the Speaker [of the House], I will really not hold my breath.”

Finally, there’s this reader message:

“Morning, Sir. Absolute truth, I’ve said from the start — I’m incredibly blessed to have been able to continue working this entire time. It’s been an adjustment to work full time from home but that’s all it’s been. If I want to go to the grocery store, Costco, a long drive, order out, get my meds, get gas, make a doctor’s appointment — I can do all of it. My employment continues, my insurance continues, my need for KFC at least once a week continues. My sister-in-law lost her position at a tax preparation place because she has an underlying medical condition and what she does requires her to be in the office. I worry about her — savings only lasts so long when you’re not able to put any additional funds in it. We are living in extraordinarily fearful times — for many reasons — and every day I wake up and give my gratefulness for waking up and being able to continue on relatively unscathed. Any issues I may have with this teleworking thing we’re doing — [it’s] nothing I can’t get over real quick considering the alternative. Take care, Sir — stay healthy, safe and strong!” — Dixie

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

A replica of New York City’s subway map is embedded in the ground at 110 Greene Street, just south of Prince Street, and measures 90 feet long by 12 feet wide. Aptly named “Subway Map Floating on a New York City Sidewalk,” it’s the work of artist Françoise Schein, who was mocked for her idea by an officer in the Department of Transportation when she proposed it in the 1980s.

Source: Untapped Cities

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THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN TICKER

Oct 29, 2020 Close Change YTD*
L Income 21.4513 0.0314 1.59%
L 2025 10.2950 0.0346 -
L 2030 35.1256 0.1462 1.76%
L 2035 10.3802 0.0473 -
L 2040 38.6498 0.1922 1.73%
L 2045 10.4416 0.0555 -
L 2050 22.5586 0.128 1.64%
L 2055 10.5611 0.0752 -
L 2060 10.5612 0.0753 -
L 2065 10.5612 0.0752 -
G Fund 16.4844 0.0003 0.76%
F Fund 20.9739 -0.0509 6.75%
C Fund 49.1202 0.5843 5.50%
S Fund 59.6906 0.5324 3.45%
I Fund 29.4250 -0.0061 -6.83%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.