Covidcosm: 12 Things That Will NEVER Go Back to Normal

There’s a seismic shift happening in America.

It’s altered our day-to-day lives over the past few months.

More importantly, it will continue altering our lives years and even decades from now.

You’ve seen it unfolding, right?

It’s rather shocking how dumb 80% of our population is…

People getting in fights over wearing masks…

Police arresting folks at playgrounds…

Washington rushing to pay unemployed folks more than their prior salaries…

The general inability to handle the pandemic has been on stage for all of us to see.

But you didn’t just get a front-row seat to watch the world’s population squirm…

You also got a fast look into the future.

Fact is, we’re never going back to normal. Instead, a new normal was just written under our noses.

Even the wonks at Bank of America got the message: “We expect this pandemic to accelerate many macro trends that would have taken five or more years to play out before.”

In other words, the microcosm of the COVID-19 response will still be influencing our lives — and our money — long after the crisis is over.

So here are 12 things that will NEVER go back to normal thanks to the “covidcosm.”

No More Office Space. Let’s start with the obvious one! Offices and the “9-to-5” culture are under siege. Many small businesses were forced into uncharted territory over three months of “work from home.” Yet look at the results. Productivity is up… health and fitness time is up… family time is up. Meanwhile, offices across America are growing dust and collecting rent. Hmmmm. “Hey, Alexa, can you go ahead and cancel our office lease for next year? And while you’re at it, can you upgrade our video conferencing software package to premium?”

No More Essential Employees. All Americans were thrown into the same experience. You can’t go outside (except for essentials), but you want to keep life as normal as possible. This simple equation will speed up some innovations. Uber is going to go robotic. Deliveries are going to go robotic. Meat packing is going to go robotic. “Just like there’s a robot that looks at a log, runs a program and decides how to best turn it into sellable lumber, that’s what’s going to happen to the meat packing industry,” says Byron King of Whiskey and Gunpowder. This pandemic has thrown jet fuel on the robotics revolution. Simply put, we’re going to see a shift from “essential employees” to essential robots.

No More Cheap Stocks and the Price Per Ounce. While Main Street America was focused on toilet paper and food, the “smart money” on Wall Street was moving to take advantage of the “new normal.” I’ve written in the past that COVID has created a huge wave of “haves” and “have nots” in the market. Retailers and hotels are out. Work-from-home and online shopping is in. But that’s only half the story! The other half is that the braintrust in Washington, DC, has let the proverbial money cat out of the bag. We’re staring at low interest rates, bailouts, increased unemployment benefits and more “printed money” thrown at the problem with zero regard for fiscal stewardship. After all, why give an unemployed person double the money they were making when they were employed? It makes no sense — but it’s also a continuation of the mindset from the 2008 slowdown, and frankly from every year since 1971 (the year we left the gold standard). The purchasing power of the U.S. dollar will continue to plummet. And with no other smart place to park cash, money will flow into the market, taking the Dow and the S&P to new all-time highs. “We’ve seen the lows in March and we will never see those lows again,” says Jeremy Siegel, finance professor at the Wharton School of Business. I agree. Risk on. And while gold may not outpace a basket of well-picked stocks, we’ll see new all-time highs there, too.

No More “Small Government.” When you break a levy in the swamp, it’s tough to get all of that slime back in the box! We can all agree this pandemic has shown that we’re in pretty incapable hands at every government level —  federal, state and local. Sure, there was “some” action taken that presumably helped. But either way, it meant restricting freedoms, creating new levels of bureaucracy, making folks more dependent on government programs and grabbing more control over our everyday lives. And we all know that once these things start, it’s tough to stop them. We fought the swamp, and the swamp won.

No More “Big College.” Well, boo-hoo. We all saw the college bubble expanding. Exponential tuition increases and growing college debt. Yet for all that money, let’s be honest — it’s not like colleges are mass-producing geniuses. Instead we’re dishing out $100,000 “mass comm” and “environmental studies” graduates. “COVID has thrown a wrench in explosive growth at non-elite colleges,” says Greg Guenthner, chief editor of In The Money. Greg sees a pullback in tuition and enrollment. Looks like Big College is finally getting the pullback it needed.

No More Mom-and-Pop Restaurants. A steak restaurant in South Carolina closed forever… a previously bustling lunch cafe that shared a building with Agora in Mount Vernon closed forever… and what about your neighborhood? It’s sad to say, but many of the mom-and-pop restaurants across the country aren’t going to make it. Some of the closures will come down to simple economics, while others will come down to the added red-tape of America’s new “socially distant” normal. Either way, the folks who dared to start a restaurant in the first place have a new headache, and for many this’ll mark the end of an era.

No More Turning a Blind Eye to Health. Over 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. And as tragic as that is, it’s also helped Americans realize how important their health is, no matter what their age. Do you have a cough? Did you have to postpone your dental procedure or elective surgery? Or what about fitness — did you have to find a new place to workout? And how about general health: were you taking your multivitamins more? Probiotics? Vitamin C? Fact is, you’re paying more attention to those things than you ever did. And as the new normal unfolds, health is the new wealth. Biotechs, regenerative medicine, personal health products and services, home workout companies…they’ll have a wind at their back for years. If you’re an investor, you should get a head start on those trends.

No More Engine in Your Car. Remember in 2005 when the government mandated that we dilute 10-15% of our gasoline with corn juice? Oh, you forgot? The idea was championed by the corn lobby and supported by the Environmental Protection Agency. Turns out it was an idiotic idea. You see, if an ethanol-blended gasoline — like E85 — sits in your car for an extended period of time (especially for older makes and models), it can “gum up” your engine. Those tiny corn particles can do a number on cars that don’t drive often. With America forced to stay at home, many cars are sitting idle in driveways and garages —  and have likely acquired a grain-fueled ghost or two. Might want to take ole’ Bessy out for a drive. But don’t be surprised if your car ain’t what it used to be.

No More Abundance. The idea of scarcity is now ingrained in Americans. The greatest generation, baby boomers, Gen Z, all “might” have had a taste of scarcity. Gas lines in the ‘70s, cold war fears in the ‘80s. I’m sure you have a story from your childhood. I always remember a snowstorm when I was 11 years old. It shut schools for over a week, and the county ran out of salt. So it started using slag (just spreading little rocks on the street.) It was also very cold, and I remember the salt the county used wasn’t effective under 18 degrees. If an 11-year-old can remember all of that from a simple snowstorm… imagine what’s going to happen now. There hasn’t been a “pandemic-level” scarcity event in America for many decades. The idea of “abundance” is gone. Is your pantry full? Could you last two months? Do you have toilet paper? What happens if ATMs run out of cash? What happens if the power goes out? Will the store run out of meat? Is 9mm ammo in stock? Does the U.S. Mint have gold? Questions like these have true gravity now. Scarcity is back in a big way. It’s etched into our lizard brains and will have profound influence on our actions for decades to come.

No More “I Love City Life.” Why pay high rent for city life? Why commute at all? And if local governments can just shut down the city, why live under the fear of being stuck somewhere with small square footage? Real estate is going to change in front of our eyes. We’re going to see a steady revaluation of property prices because of an outflow from cities into counties and the country. Meanwhile, the pandemic was either started by some random bat or in a laboratory. Either way, I bet we haven’t seen the last “pandemic” of our time. Not to mention the “second wave” that’s widely forecast for America this fall. If you were thinking about buying a house in the city a year ago, its perceived value has fallen off a cliff.

No More Globalism. Similar to “big college,” let’s give globalism a big old “boo-hoo.” Government-forced trade deals, weird currency manipulation, weapons deals, aid packages… Let’s be honest, globalism got a little out of hand. Luckily, the pendulum has swung away from the “global world order” and closer to home with nationalism and community-ism. With more manufacturing and resources coming back to America, we’ll be able to control our own destiny for many more years to come. NOTE: One thing that will NOT end globally is the speed at which information flows around the globe. With internet connectivity, social media and more, the speed of information is as fast as it’s ever been in history. Keep your friends close and your information closer.

No More Mass Education. You saw it, right? Loads and loads of parents annoyed that their kids were home… and peeved that they had to do remote learning… and woefully under-qualified to teach their offspring? Out of all the forecasts on this list… I PRAY this one holds true the most. For a few hundred years, humans have experimented with the idea of “mass education”… and frankly, it’s getting a little long in the tooth. Did you ever sit back and look at what’s happening? On the aggregate, you’ve got tons of parents that are too lazy or too stupid to teach their own kids… (see: “I don’t have time for that”). So what started as a good idea — a “village school” where one parent, who probably gave two damns, would teach the kids while the others worked —  has turned into a dysfunctional meat grinder. Teachers are commoditized, kids are shuffled away from their family (the folks who should love and care for them most) and on the aggregate the whole “system” is starting to collapse. No, I don’t mean SAT scores are down. I mean the train has come off the tracks and is driving through the prairie. Drugs, active shooters, lack of common sense, lack of accountability, I rack it all up to the mass failure of mass education. I hope this is an eye-opener for most parents, that THEY should enjoy that time with their kids and start teaching them more at home. The system is broken, and it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to see that.

Again, it doesn’t matter what you think about COVID-19 or how we’ve responded to it.

This pandemic has changed our country in ways that will last for decades. And the folks who see the future the best can prepare and profit.

Welcome to the point of “Co” return.

Sincerely,

Matt Insley

Matt Insley
Publisher, The Daily Edge
EdgeFeedback@StPaulResearch.com

P.S. COVID was and is a “bad flu”…

It’s devastated lives and families…

It’s horrible, really.

However, it wasn’t ebola… it wasn’t the plague.

Could you imagine if COVID were more contagious… and more physically vicious with a higher death rate?

America would have absolutely melted down. Places like New York would have seen mass rioting, martial law and “maybe” (if soldiers obeyed orders) military intervention.

And — if COVID were worse —  you’d have to worry whether there even would be enough soldiers to help America.

Instead, you’d have to rely on yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors. In a VERY trying time.

Look…

With COVID, front line workers were on the edge. Some nurses and doctors were melting down, grocery store workers and delivery services were deemed “essential” and forced to keep working.

Make no mistake — we were very close to uglyville.

Now, imagine if this virus had a huge mortality rate and had physical symptoms like boils or melting skin…

Not a single grocery store would survive.

The food supply chain would break.

Amazon wouldn’t be able to deliver.

It’s possible mass sections of the country would lose power and wifi.

No one would listen to politicians.

And all hell would break loose.

We dodged a very close bullet this time around.

Let’s thank our lucky stars but remember that the next one could be a real global killer.

P.P.S. Do you have any forecasts for what’s next in America? What will NEVER return to normal? Email me at EdgeFeedback@StPaulResearch.com and let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

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Matt Insley

Matt Insley is the Publisher of St. Paul Research and now The Daily Edge. Matt is the in-house specialist on commodities and natural resources. He holds a degree from the University of Maryland with a double major in Business and Environmental Economics.

Although always familiar with the financial markets, his main area of expertise stems...

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