Before we begin with an analysis of whether vaccines succeeded in returning the world to normal, or delayed it, let me congratulate you on your new investment stake. If you don’t remember making one, neither do I. But the Telegraph has the story of our position:
Bolton Wanderers, the League One football club, is now part-owned by taxpayers after a £5m pandemic loan was converted into shares.
The British Business Bank’s latest update on the £1.1bn Future Fund, a Covid support scheme, showed club owner Football Ventures (Whites) Ltd among 108 companies that converted the emergency loans into shares rather than repay them.
A total of 1,190 companies took convertible loans from the British Business Bank under the scheme that closed a year ago, with 265 firms giving shares to the taxpayer in return since then.
Congratulations, Bolton is currently placed… oh… never mind.
What is it that Milton Friedman said about government picking winners and losers?
Do you remember how vaccines would allow life to return to normal? How vaccines were our way out of this crisis? How vaccines would solve the chaos of Covid in 2020… 2021?
Well, it seems to me that vaccines likely reduce deaths… from Covid. But let me ask you a different question: have the vaccines made the economic chaos of the pandemic better or worse?
Perhaps if governments had left it at “get vaccinated, if you want, and then we’ll reopen the economy”, then vaccines would’ve helped substantially. But, given the government’s unfailing propensity to make a mess of things, I reckon the vaccines have become a source of chaos rather than a solution to it.
The list of examples is long, but it’s their cumulative power that is most notable. Still, I better give you some examples…
The first is personal. Omicron is surging where I am. And so I can’t go out for a late-night drink, which I don’t anyway…
But let’s just say that my daughter’s second birthday party wasn’t very well attended. My own situation is a little melodramatic though.
The Great Resignation caused quite a hit. NHS workers are being forced out, or throwing in the towel uniform, which is not going to help clear the backlog of 6 million patients.
But they’re the lucky ones. In Wisconsin, seven healthcare workers were not allowed to quit their jobs when a court prevented it because of staff shortages! That is not unlike the situation which is better known as slavery…
Bloomberg explains how “vaccination macht frei” became “papers please!” which made a right mess of things in North American supermarkets:
New rules requiring truckers to show proof of vaccination when crossing the Canada-U.S. border are cutting into shipping capacity and boosting the cost of hauling everything from broccoli to tomatoes.
The cost of transporting produce out of California and Arizona to Canada jumped 25% last week […]
And a distributor was helpfully quoted saying, “It’s the consumer that pays for this”.
This is just an example of the supply chain chaos facing the world. Which caused a lot of the inflation we’re seeing, too. Ports remain clogged, trucks stuck and even Brexit fears are coming true… over Covid checks according to the BBC:
An increase in travel to Europe could cause long queues at Dover if coronavirus border checks are not eased by Easter, a ferry boss has warned.
Chris Parker, director of capacity and passenger performance at ferry operator DFDS said he hoped 2022 would see a resurgence in demand.
But if that happens, he said existing Covid checks “simply won’t work’.
You can say that again…
Author and analyst Jim Rickards reckons that vaccination dramas are behind the 5G flight cancellation chaos too. The rollout of 5G risked interfering with altimeters, but the problem is of course solvable. So why wasn’t it solved? Here’s what Rickards claims:
The avionics engineers who can fix the altimeters are clustered around Wichita, Kansas in the same way developers cluster in Silicon Valley. Many are men in their 40s and 50s. Their vaccination rates are below 50% compared to a national average of over 70%. Many are federal contractors because they work on military as well as civilian avionics. Biden’s vax mandates say that unvaccinated federal contractors must be fired or otherwise removed from the job. As a result, the engineers are being fired, quitting, or starting their own businesses without federal contracts.
This has resulted in a severe supply chain bottleneck in getting the radar altimeters recalibrated to avoid interference from to C-band transmissions from 5G.
Another problem is that the vaccines don’t prevent cases, which is leading to staff shortages as people stay sick. “Up to 50% of workers on sick leave in some industries: unions” reported Bloomberg about Australia.
A few months ago, I gave you a pitch that my home state of Queensland in Australia was the make-or-break case for whether or not vaccines would allow us to re-open our economies and “live with Covid”.
Ironically, the state of Western Australia was the one to give its verdict. It cancelled its own reopening of borders after seeing what happened to Queensland. Then Western Australia went on to discover a local Covid outbreak anyway.
The Australian Financial Review reports Western Australia’s reopening reversal will likely end up being in vain and have to be reversed too:
University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman said it was difficult to know how much omicron had already spread in WA.
“They’ve now got community cases, so it could well be this takes off, border or no border,” he said.
But here’s the interesting bit, from the epidemiologist:
“If you don’t want to be in the same situation as NSW and Victoria, with health services falling around their ears because they’re under too much pressure, what you need is as many people as possible with their [second] shot,” he said.
Actually, I edited the quote. It says “booster shot” not “second shot” at the end. But in Israel, they’re on to their third, while also leading the table when it comes to Covid cases…
Another angle is the shortage of testing which is wreaking havoc in a very long list of places, despite vaccinations being widespread.
Testing despite vaccinations? Hmm.
In the UK, there was the schools’ drama over testing.
In Australia, state governments had to water down and then abandon testing requirements altogether after the chaos they caused.
In a timeless lesson on economics, supply and demand taught the Aussies the hard way, as News.com.au reported: “Pharmacies across the country have taken to social media to tell customers they have no rapid antigen tests, despite six million Australians becoming eligible for free kits on Monday.”
What is free today is gone… Monday.
The Australian Financial Review hastily changed the headline, “Health advice on rapid antigen tests led to dead end” to this:
Living with COVID doesn’t mean living with incompetence
Every country is struggling with omicron, but there’s no excuse for the failure of Australian governments to order enough rapid antigen tests, leading to too many crippled businesses over a hard summer.
I’m pretty sure that businesses were supposed to be unleashed by vaccines by now.
In the heavily vaccinated New Zealand, the new Covid isolation rules are being increased to 24 hours… I mean days. In a rather impressive understatement, a lawyer was quoted in RNZ saying “Businesses will struggle to cover 24-day leave for isolation of Covid contacts”.
Meanwhile, in Australia, a union objected to their employees being told to come to work despite having Covid…
At some point, the vaccinated will rebel against the remaining constraints instead of blaming the unvaccinated.
Perhaps that’s why, with the vaccines having failed to reopen some economies, and with the government making a mess of mandates, isolation periods and testing, politicians are presenting some solutions to the problems they created.
And, you’ve got to give it to them, they are getting creative.
The Americans have my favourite one, as reported by ABC7:
The federal government is moving forward with a plan to let teenagers drive big rigs from state to state in a test program.
Currently, truckers who cross state lines must be at least 21 years old, but an apprenticeship program required by Congress to help ease supply chain backlogs would let 18-to-20-year-old truckers drive outside their home states.
But why is there the shortage of truck drivers in the first place? Pay? Licensing issues? Brexit? In North America it’s the requirement to get vaccinated.
As ever, the Australian version of the story is funnier, with the Independent reporting:
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s proposal to let children operate forklifts amid a shortage of workers in Covid-hit supply chains has drawn intense criticism, forcing the administration into an immediate climbdown.
Child labour? Are things that bad Down Under?
No, they’re worse, according to Business News Australia. The hermit kingdom is going to fling open its borders!
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today emphasised there is no “shadow workforce” on hand to fill Australia’s labour shortages due to the absenteeism wrought by COVID infections and isolation, but the next best thing appears to be international students and backpackers.
The PM has announced visa rebates for both these cohorts over the next two to four months, combined with a marketing program to entice travellers to come to Australia on working holidays.
“There are some 23,500 backpackers who have visas to come to Australia right now, and my message to them is come on down,” he said.
Even Western Australia, unopened to Australians, is going to let in international students!
So there you have it, the solutions are in and the crisis could soon be over. Thank goodness for politicians….
Editor, Fortune & Freedom