If things go the way they usually do, the year of the crud could be followed by a worldwide economic boom.
That’s not a sure thing, obviously, but it seems highly likely. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we could be looking at a lot of economic devastation before we turn the corner.
Virtually all segments of the Alaskan economy are getting whacked right now. We’ve had seriously bad news in the oil sector, tourism, fisheries, food and beverage facilities (except for those involving home consumption) and many other retail operations. Personal services like haircuts are a definite no-no. With social distancing and stay-at-home orders in effect, people have stopped flying, dining out and visiting their friends and relatives. They are canceling this year’s commercial and recreational fishing plans and a lot more. My wife and I canceled a trip to Hawaii where we planned to celebrate a grandson’s 16th birthday.
The stores are open and people are shopping, but the hunker down and social distancing mandates are limiting the number of people at their places of business. The problem is worldwide, of course, though it remains to be seen how well social distancing is being followed in other countries.
One item a lot of people got a kick out of is a photo of a sweatshirt that was posted on Facebook and a number of other social networking online systems. It showed a map of the United States with Alaska off in the distance to the northwest. The caption was: “Alaska — social distancing since 1959.” Whether the maker sells a lot of sweatshirts or not is a question, since the online photo gets the message across.
And this year is obviously going to be a difficult one. Just being able to visit with your friends and neighbors, and go to your favorite restaurant, is a pain in the whatchamacallit.
But this too shall pass. And when it does there will be a huge rebuilding process. It will be a worldwide rebuilding, which is something we haven’t seen before, certainly not on the scale we are likely to see. And that, if things go well, could become an all-encompassing economic surge the likes of which the world has never seen.
I am perhaps being overly optimistic here, but I don’t think so. I’m old enough to have been through a lot of cycles and can testify that the after-effects of a disaster are fairly predictable.
The federal stimulus checks will certainly have a positive impact on most of us. (I got mine.) And if Washington helps small businesses, many of them will survive and they could even thrive in the next few years.
In 2011 when ConocoPhillips and Marathon announced they were closing down their LNG operations in Cook Inlet, people were posting signs calling for the last person leaving Alaska to please turn out the lights. That line was also used in 1971 by two Seattle real estate agents when Boeing was having problems with a downturn in the aerospace industry.
These days — since the problem is worldwide — you would have to have a billboard calling on the last person leaving the earth to turn out the lights. Presumably it would be posted on the Internet.
But keep your chin up. Things will improve. Perhaps not for awhile, but you can be sure it will happen.
Tom Brennan is an Anchorage columnist and author of six books. He was a reporter/columnist for The Anchorage Times and an editor and columnist at The Voice of The Times.