roach122_Caroline BrehmanCQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images_us economy Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A Tale of Two Economies

As financial markets celebrate the coming vaccine-led boom, the confluence of epidemiological and political aftershocks has pushed us back into a quagmire of heightened economic vulnerability. In Dickensian terms, to reach a “spring of hope,” we first must endure a “winter of despair.”

NEW HAVEN – Suddenly, there is a credible case for a vaccine-led economic recovery. Modern science has delivered what must certainly be one of the greatest miracles of my long lifetime. Just as COVID-19 dragged the world economy into the sharpest and deepest recession on record, an equally powerful symmetry on the upside now seems possible.

If only it were that easy. With COVID-19 still raging – and rates of infection, hospitalization, and death now spiraling out of control (again) – the near-term risks to economic activity have tipped decidedly to the downside in the United States and Europe. The combination of pandemic fatigue and the politicization of public health practices has come into play at precisely the moment when the long anticipated second wave of COVID-19 is at hand.

Unfortunately, this fits the script of the dreaded double-dip recession that I warned of recently. The bottom-line bears repeating: Apparent economic recoveries in the US have given way to relapses in eight of the 11 business cycles since World War II. The relapses reflect two conditions: lingering vulnerability from the recession, itself, and the likelihood of aftershocks. Unfortunately, both conditions have now been satisfied.

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