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Opinion

Newsletter: The full fury of the coronavirus economy

Rent protest in Boyle Heights
Members of the Los Angeles Tenants Union and their supporters hold a demonstration April 1 in Boyle Heights.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 42, 2020 — I mean, April 11, 2020. When you’re not sick and you’ve spent all this time working at home, the gloomy days of April look exactly like the gloomy days of March. On that upbeat note, let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

It’s subtle and possibly unnoticeable if you aren’t paying close attention, but that’s what you have me for: Compare this week’s Opinion coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic to the previous two or three, and you may notice a shift from visceral pieces that focus on the mortal threat posed by the coronavirus to ones that more deeply explore particular issues within this crisis. Weeks ago, there were editorials warning of a looming economic slowdown or even recession. Now, we have one calling for specific measures to help renters who can no longer afford their homes because of the economic shutdowns, and an op-ed on small businesses left behind by the federal government’s stimulus package.

Most worrying was this piece by editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh warning that the coronavirus will create the “mother of all housing crises” if we don’t bail out renters, one-third of whom failed to make their lease payments in the first days of April. The seriousness of this problem cannot be understated, Cavanaugh warns: If people can’t pay rent, that can set off a chain reaction that imperils not only renters but also their landlords, the banks that back those owners’ mortgages and the multiple sectors of the economy that feed off our housing market. Cavanaugh’s piece is a frightening but necessary read.

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As more becomes known about the science and epidemiology of COVID-19, and as we become increasingly aware of how much we don’t know about the economic consequences of engineering an unprecedented shutdown of commerce, education and recreation, I suspect we’ll be reading much more about certain sectors of our society suddenly finding themselves in existential crises. Think of it as a dreadful game of coronavirus whack-a-mole.

How has the pandemic changed your life? Please tell us (in 400 words or fewer), and your response could be included in our op-ed series, “Dispatches from the pandemic.” Previous installments have featured a laid-off worker who was denied unemployment benefits and risks losing his home of 15 years, an aging emergency room doctor detailing the ritual of donning personal protective equipment and a would-be newlywed whose big day had to be postponed. L.A. Times

Coronavirus villains who aren’t Donald Trump: Orange County NIMBYs and people who refuse to wear masks. The L.A. Times Editorial Board expressed its extreme displeasure with Laguna Woods Village retirement community residents who successfully obstructed a plan to use a nearby hotel to house homeless COVID-19 patients. The editorial board said of NIMBYs, “We don’t have the luxury of tolerating them now.” On the face-mask front, editorial writer Mariel Garza admonishes, “Put a mask on it. No one wants to see your bare nose and mouth right now.

Gavin Newsom is getting great reviews. That’s language our ratings-obsessed president might understand when it comes to the New York Times opinion section’s positive coverage of California’s governor for taking early enough action to “flatten the curve,” compared with the president’s feckless and vain leadership. Columnist Farhad Manjoo asked Newsom and other leaders how they got the coronavirus right so early, and in a separate piece our governor is the first entry in a round-up of those who “took the lead.”

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Republican politics are changing, and they were before the pandemic hit. Everyone sees the irony of the red-baiting anti-socialist president leaning on private industry to do his bidding in this economic crisis, but Jonah Goldberg notes there were some subtle shifts already taking place. Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, was worrying out loud about “unfettered capitalism,” while on the other side Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, resigned from the Boeing Co. board of directors to protest the use of federal bailout money. L.A. Times

We’ll miss Bernie Sanders, even if he would have made a poor president. Nick Goldberg, the L.A. Times’ newest op-ed columnist, expresses serious doubts about Sanders’ ability to deliver on any of his sweeping promises were he to become president. Now that the Vermont senator has conceded the Democratic presidential nomination to Joe Biden, however, Goldberg praises Sanders for honestly expressing the moral outrage over myriad injustices that Americans need to hear. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.
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