We read on the internet — so it must be true — that “May you live in interesting times” is part of a trilogy of Chinese curses. The others are, “May you come to the attention of those in authority” and “May the gods give you everything you asked for.”
We are all living in interesting times due to the curse that is COVID-19. A pandemic that knows no borders and has no cure was, until the past few weeks, the stuff of bureaucratic game theory and Hollywood thrillers. Now it is upon us, and we are seeing that this coronavirus is no respecter of persons. The CEO of Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado, Roger Jenkins, took medical leave last week because he has a presumptive case of the virus. Dozens of people who attended an event at a tiny church in Greers Ferry got sick, too, and one of them was the state’s first fatality.
Naturally, this has come to the attention of those in authority. And since spending money is something that everyone in Congress seems to be able to agree on, a $2 trillion response was arrived at in record time. It contains almost everything anyone asked for, and that will itself be a curse. The $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit — in addition to state benefits of up to $451 — may be just the incentive some businesses need to lay off employees that they might have kept on the payroll. In fact, some employees may be hoping for the biggest paychecks of their lives — for not working.
“It’s a terrible element in the legislation,” Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said last week. “It was done in haste and we will pay dearly in unintended and unforeseen ways.”
Yes, but it can also be a lifeline for businesses needing to reduce expenses until sales pick up again.