On the last day of February, I was attending the annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association in Austin, Texas. I was thinking about history, not the coronavirus.
Today, I am "sheltering in place" in my home in Baton Rouge and 10,000 Louisianians have been diagnosed with COVID-19. As Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys reminded us during the Great Depression, "Time changes everything."
In the twinkle of an eye, the stock market plummeted more than 11,000 points. Retired Americans lost a substantial amount of their saving, which they probably won't recover. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis predicts an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent in the coming months, higher than during the Great Depression.
In my own extended family, four people have lost their jobs. My niece and her husband worked in New Orleans restaurants, and now they are both out of work. They have two small children.
Handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles are flying off the shelves, and some stores have run out of ammunition. A gunshop in my city ran a firearms sale recently, and you could pick up a 9 mm semi-automatic for less than $300.
Is it time to start stockpiling canned goods and ammunition? I say not yet.
Americans are confident and self-reliant people. Our medical researchers and researchers in Asia and Europe will come up with a vaccine for coronavirus, and then we will all get vaccinated. I believe we will conquer this virus within a couple of years at the latest.
The economy, however, is another thing entirely. President Trump signed a $2 trillion relief bill intended to head off a Depression. But our government was running a deficit budget even before the pandemic began, and a $2 trillion bailout by itself won't bring my relatives' jobs back.
For a long time now, Americans have been living like "the road goes on forever, and the party never ends." But the party is over. At the governmental level and the personal level, we've borrowed too much money, and we can't pay it back.
We can take out more credit cards and print more money, but our reckoning day is near. When will it be time to start stocking up on canned goods and ammunition? Perhaps when the California and Illinois pension funds collapse. Or when China starts dumping U.S. bonds.