How the U.S. went from a superpower to a shell of itself and how it can recover.
As each day of quarantine passes, hundreds of millions of Americans around the country are stuck in their homes asking the same question: how did we get here?
The United States prides itself as being one of the best, if not the best, countries in the world. We have remained at the top of the world’s economy since 1871, and our GDP makes up almost a quarter of the global economy. Yet, in just two months, the economy crumbled as nearly every day for weeks brought about record losses. The Dow Jones fell from an all-time high of $29,551.42 on Feb. 12 to $18,591.93, the lowest it’s been since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. It has since climbed back up a fair amount, but many economists are skeptical of how long it will take to readjust.
The U.S. is also considered the cultural epicenter of the world. Hollywood produces countless big-name movies and shows every year. It’s closest competitor is Bollywood, which produces far more movies, albeit with far fewer profits and cultural acclaim. The top music artists, for the most part, also reside in L.A., or elsewhere across the U.S.
However, even celebrities are not impervious to the effects of the coronavirus. All of the major movie theater chains across the country have closed, as the closure of thousands of box offices cost Hollywood millions of dollars in losses. Broadway, home to the most prestigious plays and musicals in the world, has shut down indefinitely as actors struggle to make ends meet. Even musicians, both small and large, have been affected since they are unable to perform in concert. Countless concerts and festivals have been canceled or postponed. According to John Ochoa of Grammy.com, “the financial fallout is virtually immeasurable at this point.”
America’s other biggest form of entertainment, sports, has also suffered massively during this time. For sports fans across the country, the calendar year revolves around the four seasons of basketball, baseball, football and hockey. Minor sports, such as tennis or soccer, have their place too, but the big four produce more than $34 billion per year.
Then, one-by-one, all the major sports leagues shut down. The NBA postponed the rest of their season, some 259 regular-season games and the playoffs. MLB canceled the rest of spring training and postponed the beginning of the season indefinitely. The NHL postponed the rest of their season which was nearing its end, and star players don’t think it’ll resume. Although football season doesn’t start again until August, NFL teams are suffering and the second biggest event in football, the draft, was moved to a virtual format. Many experts don’t think sports will start again for a long time, and when they do, they may be in front of empty audiences.
All of these institutions seemed rock solid at the beginning of 2020. The economy was at an all-time high yet now it may be in a bear market. Prominent national cultural events, from basketball games to Coachella, were scheduled to proceed as normal, yet are now postponed indefinitely or canceled. In mere weeks, the U.S. went from the superpower of the world to the country most affected by COVID-19.
However, like all things, the coronavirus too shall pass. When it eventually does, hopefully sooner than later, the U.S. will rebuild itself. Herein lies a silver lining. While the U.S. seemed unsinkable, much like the Titanic, it was rather fragile underneath the surface. Recovering from the coronavirus may take years, but it allows us to take a deep look at how we can improve our systems for the future.
On a personal level, individuals have the opportunity to examine their lifestyle. Maybe they didn’t have nearly as much money saved up as they thought. Maybe they only had enough toilet paper to last a few weeks. Maybe they spend too much money on things like coffee every morning and drinks every night. While it is different for each person, people will certainly need to examine their lifestyle and what changes they need to implement. Individuals will also have the opportunity to make a fortune on stocks as the market rebounds.
On a business level, employers have the opportunity to create a more solid infrastructure. So far, nearly 17 million people have filed for unemployment. While businesses could not have anticipated the impact of COVID-19, they could have had a more stable model that allowed them to retain their employees for at least a few weeks or months. It may not be feasible for every business to do so, but those who make a significant profit can set aside money for an emergency fund should another pandemic or catastrophe destroy the economy again.
On a cultural level, celebrities and organizations can change the way they operate to ensure they have stronger foundations. Musicians might consider a trade-off of cheaper tickets to attract more fans. Theaters might offer special screenings to attract millions of Americans away from Netflix and other streaming services. Sports leagues may shrink their schedule to reduce the risk of their seasons being impacted. Cities may reorganize themselves to be more environmentally friendly.
Pandemics, by nature, are unpredictable. The last major pandemic (on a similar scale) happened more than 100 years ago, when the Spanish Flu swept across the world, claiming more than 50 million lives. The next one may happen in a matter of years or a matter of centuries. We cannot control that. What we can control is how we prepare for it. The response to COVID-19 has been almost purely reactive. If we are proactive in how we approach it, the next pandemic might not have nearly as harsh of an impact on the country.