Tag Archives: Atlanta

Corona virus, broadband, and Atlanta’s labor-capital symbiosis..

Again, another surreal day in Atlanta.  Midtown and Peachtree Center near empty at rush hour.  It is the end of day one of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s “stay in place” edict as citizens are now required to stay in, coming out for only for essential activities i.e. seeing your doctor, heading to the grocery store, buying provisions from a hardware store, etc.

A municipal corporation has to justify its right to assess property and sales taxes by not only making its jurisdiction an attractive one for commerce and trade, but by creating an environment that protects the physical safety of its citizens.  Mayor Lance Bottoms was not ready to wait on Governor Brian Kemp to make up his mind about a state-wide shut down, preferring to go ahead and let Atlanta residents know that her administration was ready to take care of residents within her physical jurisdiction even if it meant pushing social distancing to the extreme.

Pushing social distancing to the extreme in this case means a further separation between the “do” labor versus the “thought” labor who are responsible for feeding capital with the knowledge and information necessary for increasing returns on said capital.  As recent as last week, “thought” labor could engage with “do” labor where a computer programmer making $50 per hour could still engage the cashier at the corner deli who made $10 per hour.  That tangential relationship, no matter how brief, represented some exchange between two worlds that take for granted how much they need each other.

A virus and a broadband connection may be busting up that tangential relationship forever.

My spidey-sense, after receiving these optical signals about where the market and society is going during this pandemic, called on me to help Jeff Bezos add to his fortune by signing up for Amazon Prime.  I am adjusting to staying at home and having to struggle with a tech support that is no longer just a short walk to the next hall.  It is not helping that we have rainy, overcast weather here in Atlanta compounding the feeling that I am working during a never ending weekend due to how slow it is on the street.  Depending on the mood of the clerk or waitress I lucked up on, that tangential brief relationship could have gone to making my day a brighter one.

I believe that Atlanta and other major cities are becoming the ground zero for a future where people will only be found outside jogging either by themselves or with a partner, and ordering food and groceries via broadband, delivered first by a human, then later by driver-less car or drone.  The once a week Uber Eats delivery may become a daily ritual with a greatly reduced tangential relationship with the “do” laborer attached.

Atlanta’s investors should be paying more attention to how the future of social distancing will impact the use of city infrastructure.  If we are spending less time driving on the streets or strolling along the Beltline or through the parks, how long will it take the taxpayer to figure out that she shouldn’t have to pay for this infrastructure?

And while I did see a bunch of people taking their morning stroll along the Beltline, I suspect that was more out of boredom than an attempt to pursue consistent use of the infrastructure.  I could be wrong, especially if more Atlantans find being restricted to home bringing them one step closer to catatonic.

While Atlanta continues to react to social changes brought about by America’s response to a virus, the city should be proactive about what the combination of technology and social distancing will do to Atlanta’s economic and financial structure ten years from now.

How would Bill Ackman’s “shut ’em down” approach impact Georgia?

Bill Ackman appeared on CNBC two nights ago where he recommend that the United States go on a 30-day lock down in order to combat the Corona virus.  Mr Ackman is chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital, an investment firm with billions of dollars under management.

CNBC is a business channel, but Mr Ackman was able to share that the source for his policy recommendation stemmed from an emotional place, in this case how Mr Ackman is dealing with the poor health of his father. Mr Ackman argues that the primary tactic for dealing with the virus is to kill it and that killing it means that everyone go into quarantine and spend time with loved ones for 30 days.  Hopefully this period away from work and other social contact would deprive the virus of its ability to spread with the warmer months eradicating the remnants of this virulent and deadly strain.

Mr Ackman’s argument doesn’t sound implausible given what we know about how the virus spreads.  Going around looking like bandits while giving each other elbow taps may aid in reducing the virus’ spread, but in the end, sick people staying away from well people may be the better of the tactics.

But just as CNBC is a business channel, this blog is a political channel so we come to the question of politics.  What would be the political impact on Georgia from shutting down a chunk of the American economy for 30-days in order to fight and kill a virus?  Would there be any increase in political power and capital for elected federal, state, and local officials from such a move?

As with any policy, it depends on how you manage the cons.

What is at risk economically in Georgia due to COVID-19?

Here are a couple examples of industries at risk in Georgia due to COVID-19.  The film industry has a growing influence on Georgia’s economy.  It is estimated that the industry spent $2.9 billion toward hotel, travel, film crews, catering, props, and equipment.  According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia exported $10.8 billion of aerospace product and services.  In addition, the aerospace industry has a $57.5 billion overall impact on Georgia’s economy.

As a young management analyst with the Georgia Department of Audits in the 1980s, I saw first hand how important Georgia’s agricultural industry is to the state when I conducted an analysis of the state’s poultry labs.  Today, agriculture is still the state’s leading industry with an estimated annual impact of $75 billion.  In addition, poultry farmers raise 1.3 billion chickens a year and put 9.3 million acres of farmland into production.

Approximately 270,000 workers are employed in Georgia’s advanced manufacturing industry, an industry producing $61.1 billion in output for Georgia.

Conclusion: So far, I see no backlash to the State’s “no shutdown” decision

Since 28 February 2020, Georgia governor Brian Kemp has issued six executive orders addressing the COVID-19 outbreak.  None, at the time of this writing, have ordered a shutdown of the state’s businesses.   Georgia’s active workforce dwarfs the 555 confirmed cases and 20 deaths in the state so far.  Given no shutdown has been ordered by the state, it has been left up to local governments to issue rules on business closures.  Reportedly, Governor Brian Kemp is heeding advice from experts to avoid a shutdown at this time.

Admittedly it is too early to tell the extent of any current damage to these industries.  If Georgia businesses go from voluntary compliance with recommendations of social distancing to a statewide shutdown of businesses, it is at that time that we should see some concrete impact on the state’s economy.  At that point, the question will be, for how long and after that period, the next question will be how much of Georgia’s economy do we have left?