As we settle into our 2nd month of social distancing, we have had time to reflect on what has occurred since the start of the crisis. As with all major economic and global events, we are constantly trying to understand how we got to this point and in turn, what does history provide as a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.
Let us be clear, we are in unprecedented waters and this sudden and immediate draw down of the global economy due to a pandemic is certainly a unique event that we have not encountered in our lifetime. From an economic standpoint, what makes this event so unique is that we are experiencing both a demand and supply shock to the global economy. But while the circumstances relating to the sudden shutdown due to a pandemic might be unchartered, we can turn to history to find a few other examples of when we had both a demand and supply side shock.
Over 100 years ago, the world was faced with another pandemic, the Spanish Flu. Some of the same measures that we are currently putting into place today were used back then as well. Social distancing, wearing masks, etc. In addition to the pandemic, America was also dealing with the end of WWI and the return of troops back from Europe. We saw a gradual return to normal following the control of the pandemic and consumer confidence took months to take hold where consumers were finally comfortable enough to go about their daily lives. The pandemic slowed down the post-war recovery but what followed from that pent-up demand and supply chain led to the roaring 20’s and a period of great economic prosperity.
In the early 1940’s this country was thrust into WWII. During the build up to the war and over the course of the conflict, over 11% of our population was sent off to fight. This turned consumers into soldiers and the focus of the country went toward the war effort. One of our responses to this crisis was to turn to a non-traditional workforce, women. Additionally, capitalists and manufacturing companies were forced to repurpose their efforts to making necessities like tanks, airplanes, and guns. Similarly today, we are seeing a major shift in the workforce. Through modern technology, alternative workforces are being created through virtual offices, curbside pickups, home delivery services, etc. And of course, we are once again seeing American ingenuity in repurposing some of our manufacturing efforts toward the production of medical equipment, personal protective equipment and sanitizing systems.
The third example in recent history was the 1973 oil crisis. The crisis exposed our dependence on foreign oil and its control on our society. It left Americans waiting hours in line for gas, disrupting productivity and severely slowing down the US economy. This crisis ultimately put us on a path toward securing energy independence and moving from an oil importer to an oil exporter. Similar to the oil crisis, this virus has put a spotlight back on our dependence of foreign manufacturing for critical goods, specifically in the area of healthcare supplies and medications. Look for a post-virus push toward bringing more manufacturing back to the US that will not only create more jobs post-virus but also help shore up our supply chains to ensure our national security.
We are certainly in the midst of what will hopefully be a once in a lifetime event. But what history tells us is that American capitalism, grit and ingenuity typically leads to advances and growth post-crisis.
Our CPS Team is committed to helping both our clients and community get through these uncertain times. If you, or someone you know, needs assistance, please be sure to reach out. Our advisors are working around the clock to answer all your money questions: email@example.com
Michael A Riskin | CPA/PFS, CFP®, MST
Vice President | Treasurer | Partner