The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Long Term Effects of Covid On the Economy Are Going To Be Devastating

An estimate, but…

2 million to 4 million full-time workers are out of the labor force due to long Covid. (To be counted in the labor force, an individual must have a job or be actively looking for work.)

The midpoint of her estimate — 3 million workers — accounts for 1.8% of the entire U.S. civilian labor force. The figure may “sound unbelievably high” but is consistent with the impact in other major economies like the United Kingdom, Bach wrote in an August report. The figures are also likely conservative, since they exclude workers over age 65, she said.

As she says, this correlates to estimates elsewhere.

I want to be as clear as possible about this: the effect of Long Covid on the economy is going to dwarf that of closures or of  Covid TrueZero (a policy of cleaning up our air with filters and UV light, while using proper N95 masks, travel bans and other public health measures in the meantime.) Remember, Long Covid is still going on. It could go on for years, or even decades. There is no guarantee it mutates into a form which does not cause immunity and organ damage.

Further, the effect of Covid on people over 50 is going to be massive, and that means you if you’re under 50 when you get to being over 50, because the evidence coming in is that Covid damages the immune system: depletes t-cells and disorganizes recognition of pathogens.

That effect becomes more pronounced as you get older, and the tipping point is somewhere around the age of 50. This is going to lead to a further significant decline in lifespans if we can’t find a cure, but don’t assume we will: we’ve spent trillions and not found a cure for cancer and our society has passed its tipping point and is now in decline (this is true globally.)


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China did ZeroCovid STUPID, as a number of people have pointed out, and have now reduced their efforts. We’ll see if they stay reduced after the Chinese population discovers what happens when you “let’er rip”, but if China continues, that’s the end of one of the last major population blocs which wasn’t riddled with Covid. Remember, again, that Covid can do significant damage which you don’t notice, that has no symptoms now. But it will later.

China’s Zero Covid policy was the right policy, done wrong, and when you do the right thing the wrong way, you discredit it. China’s anti-Covid policies took longer to be discredited than Western ones because while stupid they weren’t as stupid as ours, but they still overly relied on lockdowns rather than infrastructure improvement and refused to use n95 masks.

So, globally, this is going to lead to long term economic issues, both in lack of workers and supporting unhealthy people, or just letting them suffer and die, which will still have economic effects. (It’s obvious that en-masse we don’t really care about the morality of it).

And you, personally, will probably live less years and be less healthy. The more times you get infected, the more true this will be.



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Interview on Climate Change, the New Cold War and the Rise of China


  1. Trinity

    Well, the plan hasn’t changed. The goal is to “remove” the “marginal” populations (global south), accelerate climate change, and control the entire world’s energy supplies. By doing so they can force any country not already under neoliberalism into neoliberalism by withholding energy.

    Thanks for this reminder, Ian, but I guess I’m just reiterating again that this is not a problem for those in power and won’t be fixed. It isn’t so much the system is broken, or even beyond repair, it’s that the system is working exactly as designed. This is what they want. Sick people means profit and “economic growth” for the few, and maybe a quicker death.

    Yet, I hope China wises up, and spends the money for better air handling. An alternative to this deliberately planned dystopia is needed.

    Just want to note that there is no way to change these people. There is no argument that will appeal to their better nature, because there is no better nature there. That’s why the Inuit used ice floes. They probably learned the hard way that rehabilitation doesn’t work.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Agreed. Covid benefits our leaders (or they think it does) so they don’t want to fix it. Wrote a few articles along those lines over the last couple years. It may be time for another.

    Inuit: they lived very close to the edge and couldn’t take a chance on rehabilitation. For us, I think, the rule should be that such people are banned from power (including wealth, as long as wealth is power) for the rest of their lives.

  3. Willy

    All I have to offer is the hope that we can objectively examine credible statistics which rank nations ala covid.

  4. GlassHammer


    We don’t have the surplus labor to absorb widespread chronic illness.
    The size of the U.S. workforce has been steadily declining with each generation since the Boomers being smaller than the last.

    If the Boomers depart early and Gen X gets irreparably damaged we are completely screwed.

  5. anon

    I prefer a mask mandate over a push for vaccines. Ideally, I’d like both, but it bothers me how much Westerners, in particular, are so against masks. I still wear a mask, and even “liberals” think I’m going too far by wearing it whenever I’m indoors and not eating. They were against it when Trump was anti-mask, but they don’t realize they’ve also been brainwashed by the Biden administration into believing that they will be okay without a mask as long as they’ve been vaccinated. I care more about people with the virus spreading it without a mask than those people getting a vaccine to protect themselves.

    I told a woman who still wears a mask that if she wants her children to have an advantage, tell them to keep wearing a mask. There will be tens of millions of children today who Covid will debilitate long term because, by the time they are young adults, they will have gotten it likely dozens of times without the protection of a mask. Those who keep themselves safe will be better positioned to get into top schools and rise through the ranks at work because millions will die or be out sick with long Covid.

  6. StewartM

    To use a historical analogy to the “calamitous 14th century”, is Covid our Black Death?

  7. VietnamVet

    I grew up in the brief period of history when the USA had a government by and for the people. After WWI and the Great Depression, the New Deal was the only way the North American Empire could survive and win WWII. But as a horrid side effect, the Atlantic Alliance became a global hegemon afterwards. The Western Empire went off fighting unwinnable colonial wars, confiscating resources, and defending the US dollar. G.I. Joe and his families were trashed. The voluntary army made them expendable. All that is left are individuals crowed together in an unequal money pyramid ruled by the corrupt corporate state. Basically, everyone is on their own. Profits outweigh human life.

    To fight COVID, governments must care about public health. Coronavirus can be mitigated. Everyone must work together. The triumph of the global money caste over the lower classes makes this impossible. The Boston Brahmins could care less. The for-profit healthcare system simply exists to extract wealth, not to make people healthy. This was clear even before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

    An Armistice and a DMZ are needed, right now, before the continuous escalation of the Ukraine proxy world war ends up in a global nuclear war. The world is in the same situation as Korea in 1953.

    Only a restoration of enlightened sharing and the rule of just laws can restore the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the people.

  8. anon y'mouse

    “I grew up in the brief period of history when the USA had a government by and for the people.”

    i would love to know exactly when this was.

    a sop to the “people” because of the Cold War ideological situation, the developing consumer economy and greater post WWII technological complexity, and to prevent mass revolt by the people (veterans) who had just “won” does not seem to equate to this.

    the US has never had this, as far as i can tell.

  9. Ché Pasa

    Don’t know about much of the rest of the West as I don’t get out much anymore, but in this area, the hospitals (closest about 40 miles away) are starting to set up “triage tents” in front of the ERs because they don’t have room in the buildings for the enormous increase of respiratory patients showing up –many of them children.

    Respiratory conditions include COVID, but are not limited to it as just about anything you can think of that affects the lungs is exploding. No one quite knows what’s causing it. But of course poor ventilation is a likely suspect as that has been one of the leading COVID vectors. Probably flu and everything else, too.

    I saw one report that a local hospital had filled all ICU beds and 18 of 22 pediatric patients were intubated. What horror.

    While I was hospitalized over the summer, I had excellent care, but I asked about staffing shortages that we’ve heard so much about. The word I got was that some departments were short staffed, but overall, there was an abundance of personnel; traveling nurses were taking up the slack, and schedules allowed three 12 hour days on duty and four days off which gave plenty of time for family or another job if people wanted it.

    I was told that much of the staff had had COVID, some several times, and I’m pretty sure I got it when I was in the ER in July. I heard nothing about Long COVID.

    Don’t know whether the situation has changed since the summer.

    If the statistics I’ve seen are right, then almost all the current labor shortage in the US is due to people out sick and/or dead due to COVID and its follow-on effects. The efforts of our rulers and banksters to force more people into the labor market (at lower relative wages) are futile. There are no additional workers available. And without much greater immigration, the workforce will continue to decline.

    So look for some startling immigration reform before too long. But then note how a “surplus” of workers will be declared forcing (aw, how sad) a further reduction in wages leading to a marvelous increase in poverty — and likely deaths due to poverty.

    Our rulers have this pretty well figured and plotted out. It’s nasty. To those who rule us, we are disposable excess population (product), to be exploited and discarded. There is no alternative in their view, and for our part as a collective community, we haven’t found one. The internet is one of the assurances for our overlords that we never will as personality and circular arguments dominate thought, consideration and action.

    And yet, and yet… I still preserve some wan hope…

  10. Willy

    i would love to know exactly when this was.

    Between Hoover and Carter, the US government was generally more “by and for the people” than the self-serving griftage we see today. Provided you were white middle class of course and lived inside the USA.

    Inside of that time period, my own immigrant mother got tuberculosis and they paid
    for her to live in a sanatorium for a year. Imagine that!

    I remember that time in 1968 when my father actually got me the Christmas present of my dreams, instead of screwing up the way he usually did. It was a gigantic US picture atlas full of charts, pictographs, facts, and figures detailing American greatness.
    We were a can-do nation back then, so full of hope and promise. Skyscrapers, 707s and a space program heading straight towards sending a massive craft into Jupiter monoliths sometime in 2001.

    Today such an atlas might detail opiate-addled rust belts and clownishly sociopathic billionaires. Maybe JFK Jr will show up already and lead us back to those times.

  11. Soredemos

    Two main things get to me most about the current pandemic. Frustration isn’t remotely an adequate word for how I feel.

    The first thing is how our leaders and institutions have completely given up. Now an argument, already made in these comments, is that this is all going according to plan. But even if the intention is to cull the population and further solidify neoliberalism, that isn’t how pandemics work. The elite are also screwing themsleves personally, as well as the long term economy. Elites keep getting sick with covid, and they’re rolling the dice on how much damage they suffer each time. There’s some genuine stupidity going on here at a deep level when even the elite won’t wear masks or quietly put in air filtration systems in their homes and offices. There’s an ideological refusal to accept basic tenets of medical reality.

    And the second point is how most of the population is either just accepting it, or actively cheering it. Or convincing themselves that somehow a liberal covid tyranny, which never remotely existed in the first place, is still around and needs to be resisted, at the exact same time as the actual liberal leadership is running away from doing anything meaningful at a full sprint.

    NPCs or sheep or whatever, choose your dehumanizing term of insult. But at times it becomes very hard not to view many people as these. We’ve turned a plague into an insipid culture war battlefield, only both the major sides are wrong and the battlelines are stupid and invalid.

  12. anon y'mouse

    “Provided you were white middle class of course and lived inside the USA.”

    so, the “people” the US was by and for was essentially the top 30% of the population.

    sounds about right.

    i am sure there were craptastic elites back then too. perhaps the other elites just had a better time keeping their idiot failsons off the front page.

    being maimed/dying of work (exposures or accidents) was only slightly less depressing than dying of rust. there are many places in this country that the sun you keep expressing never appeared to lighten the ground. and it definitely kept those lower orders better disciplined and out of sight, unable to cause offense.

    but, of course if you were in the 30% it was a rosy time indeed.

  13. Jorge

    We need to cause the transition from mass killer to common cold, faster than happened with OC43. We had SARS 150 years ago and called it the Russian or Asiatic Flu. It was probably OC43, and gradually transitioned to one of the common cold virii.

    The only way out of this is to create&seed a variant that does not kill, using our widely-vilified bio-weapon research capabilities.

  14. VietnamVet

    “We the people” was never everyone, but was enough to man the 16 million personnel, US Army, that liberated France and defeated Imperial Japan. “In 1970, adults in middle-income households accounted for 62% of aggregate income, a share that fell to 42% in 2020”. The definition of who was included in the middle class was expanding with the civil rights movement. But thanks to white flight, offshoring, the energy crises, and inflation, the successful oligarch’s counter coup made global corporations people too and their money bought out western managers and politicians. “Divide and rule” of the lower classes works.

    I am one the luckiest person in the world, except clearly my playing Russian Roulette with coronavirus will someday turn positive with the collapse of public health within the current for-profit US healthcare system. The cognitive dissonance and anxiety are into the stratosphere if you have any contact with reality. The Russian joke “Everything the Soviets ever told us about Communism was a lie. Unfortunately, everything they told us about capitalism was true” is still apt today. There are no progressive alternatives.
    Neither side (Tony Fauci or Ron DeSantis) acknowledges that N-95 masks are necessary in public to reduce transmission. Non-pharmaceutical interventions work. They just don’t make money for the connected. The profitable mRNA vaccines are likely one of the causes of the excess deaths in across the world since 2021 in highly vaccinated nations. They do not prevent transmission making vaccine mandates moot. This Yahoo “news” report is the result when science, good engineering, and safe and effective public education are all in the past and information operations are working in overdrive with the current proxy world war in Ukraine.

    But always, in the end, reality bites back.

  15. TimmyB

    From Hoover to Carter, things improved for mostly everyone living in the US, not just some mythical 30%. Not just for the supposed “middle class,” which was mostly working class people with union jobs. Not just for whites either.

    Everyone. Then Carter started deregulation and oil price shocks hit. Reagan was elected and it’s been seriously downhill since.

  16. GlassHammer

    “We’ve turned a plague into an insipid culture war battlefield, only both the major sides are wrong and the battlelines are stupid and invalid.” – Soredemos

    There is too much easy money and easy power to be gained from the culture war and that is why it will steadily consume reality until it triggers a significant crisis. Your leaders know this which why they carve out secure zones for themselves where reality can exist.

    Plenty of them have their kids at home with private tutors, not in schools where communicable diseases run rampant. Plenty of them are buying farm land, refusing to let market forces and climate determine food security for them and their family. Plenty of them keep their kids off social media, because they know it’s bad for their development.

    But…. we don’t hear anything from those that do these things because they aren’t stupid enough to draw attention to themselves. You have to either know them personally or know someone who does.

  17. Paul

    Not a reference to Long Vaccines and the damage the mRNA spike protein vaccines are doing to the vaccinated population?

  18. different clue


    The Black Death was fast and spectacular. The Great Covid might better be thought of as the Long Gray DieOff.

  19. anon

    I learned today from a former coworker who has long Covid that she probably has lupus. She has dealt with blood clots, fatigue, and a host of other issues since getting Covid several years ago. COVID can trigger autoimmune disorders and it’s not as rare as the media, CDC, and our politicians want us to believe.

  20. StewartM


    True enough, in its first wave; though the Black Death continued to hit again and again every year (more regionally) for 400 years to come with the cumulative death toll in the millions.

  21. StewartM


    So look for some startling immigration reform before too long. But then note how a “surplus” of workers will be declared forcing (aw, how sad) a further reduction in wages leading to a marvelous increase in poverty — and likely deaths due to poverty.

    This is the essential problem of trying to solve problems within the context of an economic system (capitalism) that DEMANDS that the rich must be the ones who call the shots. Any development which might work out for the betterment of the peons will be turned into something that makes them worse off. Shortage of workers?–we’ll increase prices faster than pay to make sure that Wall Street doesn’t lose out. If we had, say, housing subsidies to help the poors pay for housing, or some universal guaranteed income, our betters would figure out ways to eat up nearly every last cent of that money.

    You cannot solve the problems of capitalism (more than temporary fixes) within the framework of capitalism, for this reason. The rich will always find out ways to best game the system for them as long as they’re the ones left calling the shots.

  22. capelin


    “I learned today from a former coworker who has long Covid that she probably has lupus. She has dealt with blood clots, fatigue, and a host of other issues since getting Covid several years ago. COVID can trigger autoimmune disorders and it’s not as rare as the media, CDC, and our politicians want us to believe.”

    Every crumpled athlete, every friend and neighbour with a sudden heart or auto-immune situation; Another eyebrow raises, the air clears slightly. Another chunk crumbles from the facade, loosened by entropy, if nothing else.

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