College Presidents Fail to Protect Students from Covid-19 – College Clusterfuck Update 11.22.20

In fact, university Presidents — leaders, let us remember — did not mobilize to protect students from Covid. Frankly, I never thought they did, because I do try to pay attention to these things, but to prove it to myself, I went through 33 pages of headlines for the Coronavirus tag in the Chronicle of Higher Education, all the way back to the first entry on February 24 (“Coronavirus-Themed Party at Albany Draws Criticism“)…

As it turns out, protecting students from Covid was never a top priority for University Presidents. The American Council on Education (“a membership organization that mobilizes [ha] the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice”) has published periodic surveys on what University Presidents consider pressing issues.

College Presidents Fail to Mobilize to Protect Students from Covid-19https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/11/university-administrators-fail-to-mobilize-protect-students-covid-19.html

The author of this article doesn’t attempt to hide his bias or contempt for the so-called leaders of our colleges and universities. I’ve made no attempt to hide my disdain either (sharp eyed readers will note my title above deletes two words from the original article title). The college clusterfuck has been one of my recurring themes:

Colleges’ Opening Fueled 3,000 COVID Cases a Day (College Clusterfuck Update)

“I slept on the floor, and woke up to ants crawling on my bed.”

College Clusterfuck 2.0 – “It’s a Dystopian Hell” – Updated

College Town Clusterfuck

The full article contains some pretty sorrid stuff. Enjoy!

Online education will become the standard operating model for higher education. Thousands of colleges and universities will go belly up. Professor Galloway at NYU says it’s simple math. See Galloway’s comments here: Post Pandemic Changes in Consumer Behavior

There’s Nothing “Radical” About This WFH Plan

This is the latest in a series of major companies having made similar announcements, including Microsoft. But Synchrony’s proposal appears to be more radical in that it:

Allows all its US employees to work from home permanently.

Requires some employees to work from home all the time with no access to an office.

Requires all employees to work from home at least some of the time.

Requires even management with “assigned seats” to work from home at least 1-2 days a week.

In a memo to employees, reported by Bloomberg today, CEO Keane and Synchrony President Brian Doubles explained that Synchrony will have three types of offices:

Virtual offices: employees will work from home permanently, and there is no office they can go to.

Hoteling offices: employees work at home permanently, but if they need to, can book a desk at a nearby office location.

Hybrid offices: employees can work from home but they have an assigned seat at a nearby office where they can work at least three days a week.

Synchrony Financial Disclosed Radical Work-from-Home Plan, Layoffs, and “Office Footprint” Reduction — https://wolfstreet.com/2020/10/20/consumer-finance-giant-synchrony-disclosed-radical-permanent-work-from-home-plan/

I have been a WFH (work from home) warrior since 2006. There is absolutely nothing radical about the plan outlined above. I’ve been patiently waiting all these years for the business world to come around to my way of thinking. To be be clear, a lot of businesses would not adopt WFH without a nasty virus driving the agenda.

Too bad I’m currently a W2 worker. If I was still consulting I would make a MINT advising companies how to do the WFH thing effectively.

And what not to do when you’re on a Zoom call.

The Beginning of the End

Airlines want more from the government printing press.

American Airlines was also the airline that blew, incinerated, wasted, and trashed more than any other airline on share buybacks. Buybacks ceased in the second quarter, but from 2013 through Q1 2020, American Airlines incinerated $13.1 billion in cash on share buybacks. That cash would now come in very handy. 2013 was also the year Mr. Parker became CEO of American Airlines. Delta blew, wasted, and incinerated $11.7 billion in cash on share buybacks over the period; Southwest Airlines, $10.9 billion (starting in 2012); and United $8.9 billion. In total, the big four airlines blew, wasted, and incinerated $44.6 billion in cash on share buybacks from 2012 through Q1 2020, and now the airlines want an additional $25 billion bailout, for a total of $50 billion, much of it in forms of grants, from taxpayers (data via YCharts)

Facing Crappiest Recovery Ever, Airlines Demand New $25-Billion Bailout, for $50 Billion Total, after Having Burned $45 Billion on Share Buybacks — https://wolfstreet.com/2020/09/28/facing-crappiest-recovery-ever-airlines-demand-new-25-billion-bailout-for-50-billion-total-after-having-burned-45-billion-on-share-buybacks/

Just. Say. NO.

A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression

In July, 52% of young adults resided with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of monthly Census Bureau data. The number living with parents grew to 26.6 million, an increase of 2.6 million from February. The number and share of young adults living with their parents grew across the board for all major racial and ethnic groups, men and women, and metropolitan and rural residents, as well as in all four main census regions. Growth was sharpest for the youngest adults (ages 18 to 24) and for White young adults.

A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression — https://pewrsr.ch/351SVs1

And to think the number of young people living with their parents was based upon data from July. This percentage will go higher since a lot of kids are moving back home from college earlier than expected.

The problem with college during the coronavirus pandemic is not just what’s happening on campuses and in college towns. It’s also that colleges may end up spreading the virus to dozens of other communities. In recent weeks, as students have returned to campus, thousands have become infected. And some colleges have responded by sending students home, including those known to have the virus.

Last week, after hundreds of students came down with the virus, the State University of New York at Oneonta ended in-person classes and sent students home. Colorado College, North Carolina State, James Madison (in Virginia) and Chico State (in California) have taken similar steps. At Illinois State, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, administrators have encouraged some students who have tested positive to leave campus, so they don’t infect other students, and return home.

These decisions to scatter students — rather than quarantine them on campus — have led to widespread criticism. “It’s the worst thing you could do,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious-disease expert, said on NBC. “When you send them home, particularly when you’re dealing with a university where people come from multiple different locations, you could be seeding the different places with infection.” – Zach Morin, a University of Georgia student, told WXIA, a local television station, “Once it is open and people are there and spreading it, it doesn’t make sense to send it across the nation.” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter that “unloading students onto home communities” was “deeply unethical.”

There are no easy answers for colleges, because creating on-campus quarantines brings its own challenges. At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, one student who tested positive — Brianna Hayes — said that no employee checked on her during her week in isolation. “Feverish and exhausted from the virus, she made four trips up and down staircases to move her bedding and other belongings to her isolation room,” The Times’s Natasha Singer writes, in a story about campus quarantines.

Still, many experts say that the colleges that chose to reopen their campuses despite the risks, often for financial reasons, have a moral responsibility to do better. “Universities are not taking responsibility for the risks they are creating,” Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, said.

Last spring, the meatpacking industry became a vector for spreading the disease, when it quickly reopened and caused hundreds of new infections. This fall, higher education may end up being a similar vector.

David Leonhardt – The New York Times The Morning newsletter email 09.09.20

Clusterfuck.

Comparing Drivers of Pandemic Economic Decline 2020 – NBER

The collapse of economic activity in 2020 from COVID-19 has been immense. An important question is how much of that resulted from government restrictions on activity versus people voluntarily choosing to stay home to avoid infection. This paper examines the drivers of the collapse using cellular phone records data on customer visits to more than 2.25 million individual businesses across 110 different industries. Comparing consumer behavior within the same commuting zones but across boundaries with different policy regimes suggests that legal shutdown orders account for only a modest share of the decline of economic activity (and that having county-level policy data is significantly more accurate than state-level data). While overall consumer traffic fell by 60 percentage points, legal restrictions explain only 7 of that. Individual choices were far more important and seem tied to fears of infection. Traffic started dropping before the legal orders were in place; was highly tied to the number of COVID deaths in the county; and showed a clear shift by consumers away from larger/busier stores toward smaller/less busy ones in the same industry. States repealing their shutdown orders saw identically modest recoveries–symmetric going down and coming back. The shutdown orders did, however, have significantly reallocate consumer activity away from “nonessential” to “essential” businesses and from restaurants and bars toward groceries and other food sellers.

Fear, Lockdown, and Diversion: Comparing Drivers of Pandemic Economic Decline 2020

I admit to having a short attention span.  My mind tends to wander a bit, sometimes a lot.  The reason for my cognitive wandering is usually a question which sends me down yet another path of discovery.  So here’s another post in my intermittent series on Post Pandemic Changes in Consumer Behavior

My July 4th weekend will be a quiet weekend.  I’ve downloaded the pdf of this working paper to read.  I’m hoping for some insights that I might have missed.

Reevaluating Retirement Plans due to Covid-19

COVID-19 Has Many Americans Reevaluating Retirement Plans

Roughly two in five Americans (38%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their retirement plans by having to retire later than planned, now not being able to retire at all or being forced into retirement. Plus, 41% are currently reevaluating their retirement plans to assess the financial impact of COVID-19. These are among the findings revealed by a new COVID-19 Tax Survey conducted online in May 2020 by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Nationwide Retirement Institute® among U.S. adults 18+.  Heightened uncertainty and complexity are driving a need for greater financial protection. Roughly half of Americans agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them recognize the need for annuities to protect their investments against market risk (47%) and to protect their retirement income (48%). More than half of all U.S. adults (57%) and investors (60%) also say the pandemic has made them recognize the need for life insurance.

More survey results can be found in the full article at the link above.

The heightened uncertainty and complexity have definitely affected my own retirement plans.

The massive number of people out of work have definitely affected my own thoughts and feelings about work.

Retirement = work.

As long as my health holds up and as long as there’s someone out there willing to pay me to do what I do I plan on working.

Carnival Cruises Posts 2Q $4.4 Billion Loss

I’ve been on several cruises in my life.  As an excessive weight challenged individual cruises have always been problematic for me.  Too much food.  Too much alcohol.  The last opportunity to join relatives on a cruise was a few years ago.  I declined to participate.  I just don’t like cruises.

But I also don’t like witnessing businesses crash and burn.  Stunning number.

Source article link.

Cruising