COVID-19 Economic Depression: How to deal?
May 8, 2020 11:47 AM   Subscribe

How can we prepare for and mitigate the effects of economic depression as residents of a major US city (NYC)?

It’s clear the world is headed for an extended economic depression. History teaches us that cities are badly affected by depressions. Crime goes up, local services get worse, “-isms” get worse, the world gets…..meaner and smaller and less stable.

We’re fortunate enough that my partner and I are unlikely both to be made unemployed at the same time in the medium term and will thus keep our home and be able to pay bills. (And yes, we realize this is a position of immense privilege)

What should people such as ourselves - middle-class, middle-aged apartment owners who are not on the edge of precarity - do mentally and physically to prepare for and mitigate the consequences of economic depression?

I’m seeking advice on BOTH the mechanics of the obvious:, like improved situational awareness and security for themselves and their belongings, but ALSO other advice on activities, mentalities etc.

Open to links to discussions on this from other places as well..

We live in Queens, NY, near some neighborhoods that are already economically badly affected and will get worse. So, obviously, I’m particularly interested in NYC, USA, but more general relevant advice is welcome.
posted by lalochezia to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Save money to make charitable donations

Start volunteering in your neighborhood to help your neighbors and get to know them

Join or start a mutual aid society in your neighborhood

Grow food and share it with your neighbors

Donate and volunteer in the 2020 elections to try to push our national leadership away from being a complete fucking train wreck
posted by medusa at 12:19 PM on May 8, 2020 [17 favorites]

I agree with medusa - get involved or start creating your mutual aid networks. Well before the pandemic, I met someone in my apartment building who works with health insurance companies and hospitals. On the surface, it appeared to me that we don't have much in common.

We very quickly struck up a conversation about the need for single payer health care. She has worked with claims on both sides - for health systems and insurance companies. She hates the current system. She told me that she routinely gets friends and families off the hook for health care costs, because she understands the system so well. I asked her if I could add her to my phone, in case I ever have a problem with health care bills, she said "absolutely". I explicitly told her "you're part of my mutual aid network now!"

It can be that simple - touch base with the people you know, the ones with particular skills, and ask them "If I ever need XYZ, can I call you?" - keep that info in your phone, but also on paper. And offer your skills to those folks. Tell them "I'm now a part of your mutual aid network."

You can also join more organized mutual aid efforts - and volunteer your time, $ or goods (like clothes, etc.)
posted by vitabellosi at 12:46 PM on May 8, 2020 [7 favorites]

I co-sign the above suggestions. Also, sorry if this sounds flip but, don't move, and try to combat gloom and doom when you can? Nothing makes me feel more pessimistic about the city than when I see people catastrophizing about the city's future and it sets off a chain reaction of people talking about how they are going to flee or wish they could.
posted by ferret branca at 1:14 PM on May 8, 2020 [8 favorites]

This has been asked a few times pre-coronavirus. here's one, and here's another.
posted by geegollygosh at 1:47 PM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

What should people such as ourselves - middle-class, middle-aged apartment owners who are not on the edge of precarity - do mentally and physically to prepare for and mitigate the consequences of economic depression?

Honestly, I think the single most important thing you could do is become active politically between now and the general election in November. It is what every single scared voter in the US ought to be doing right now.

1. We need to fight voter suppression and make it legal and safe to vote by mail.

2. We need to flip the Senate blue. If we can flip just 4 Republican seats (while not losing any Democratic ones), we will take back the Senate, sez Swing Left. The consequences of an economic depression will be hard regardless of which party is running the Senate but the nation as a whole as well as its citizens will suffer much more if Mitch McConnell and his cronies (Republican officials and wealthy supporters) continue to be in charge and/or have outsize influence. If 45 wins reelection, having a Democratic majority in the Senate will be critically important to helping minimize the damage to everyone who is not already wealthy.

3. We need to push as hard as possible to get 45 out of office as president. Regardless of one's feelings about Biden, we need to work as hard as possible to get out the vote for him and all the down-ballot Democratic candidates, including potentially vulnerable senators.

I have mixed feelings about Biden but that is beside the point. "Activists accept they’ll have to put political pressure on—and occasionally argue with—whoever wins the election," notes a recent Slate article. "The question, for them, is which elected official they’d rather be up against, considering the respective communities the candidates are beholden to and their respective abilities to be swayed. Would Ocasio-Cortez rather push Trump to halt deportations, or Biden? Would #MeToo activists rather mobilize for sexual harassment legislation under a Trump administration, or a Biden one? It’s not about accepting a lesser of two evils. It’s about choosing an opponent."
posted by Bella Donna at 1:58 PM on May 8, 2020 [14 favorites]

One important thing to keep in mind is that crime rates will likely go up, but nowhere near as much as people expect. I'm in the middle of researching the history of crime rate perception vs actual crime, and Americans always assume crime is going up when it's mostly the same. For the 2008/9 recession, there was a ton of doom and gloom from law enforcement about how horrible it was going to be, but in the end the property crime rate went up about 5% compared to the year before, and violent crime rates actually went DOWN.

This will be worse than 2008, but even during the great depression crime really didn't go up much at all. The statistics are pretty unreliable but in some cities it went up, in other cities it went down, and in general it was about the same as the high crime early 20s, until it really started to lower in the late 30s. If we're going to be pessimistic let's say there's a 20% higher chance that you would be the victim of a serious crime next year than last year. That's... barely even worth worrying about to be honest, you can compensate by just being slightly more careful
posted by JZig at 2:10 PM on May 8, 2020 [11 favorites]

This would be a perfect time to level up on your cooking and baking skills.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:25 PM on May 8, 2020

Be flexible and diversify your work skills. If you have one job, (say, being a Zumba Instructor), your ability to work hinges on people needing Zumba Instructors. If you also are able to speak French or you know how to code or have your forklift driver certification, you have other options. Those other options might see you through tough times.

Trade skills with friends. Perhaps you know how to do some basic electrical wiring. Next time you've got a leaky faucet, don't just hire someone to fix it. Find a friend who knows how to fix a faucet and ask for help. In turn, help them with hooking up their lamp. Or if nobody knows how to fix the faucet, find a supportive friend and work through a plumbing YouTube video together.

Be creative. Those jeans with a hole in the knee? You could throw them out, or you could learn how to mend them. Too tattered for mending? Maybe they're destined to be a quilt, or a cushion, or a bag. Those food scraps can be compost. That written on piece of paper has a blank side for scratch. Before going out and buy something new, see if you already have what you need...even if you have to squint a bit and look at it sideways.
posted by Gray Duck at 3:14 PM on May 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

Hi, I’m going to MeMail you.
posted by holborne at 3:23 PM on May 8, 2020

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