Weekly Letter to the President
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ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 15, 2020
Mr. President: In March, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 14.3 percent. It
had more than doubled to 31.9 percent by April. The rate for Latinos was 18.9
percent, while African Americans at 16.7 percent have wiped out all the gains they
made since the 2008 recession. The pandemic has cost 20 million jobs and the
overall April unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is the highest since the great
depression (Labor Department Jobs Report last week).
Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, has called this sharp downturn,
"without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since the Second
World War." The most severely affected are those at the lowest level service jobs as
in hospitality and retail. Forty percent of U.S. households earning less than $40,000
lost a job or more in March. It has had a devastating impact on people, causing "a
level of pain that is hard to capture in words, as lives are upended amid great
uncertainty about the future." The Fed chairman was presenting prepared remarks at
a virtual event hosted by the Peterson Institute of International Economics in
In addition to the $2 trillion already dispersed, House Democrats unveiled a new $3
trillion package earlier in May. It was indirectly supported by the Fed chairman who
called for a fiscal rescue package to prevent business failures and further job losses,
which could continue to trammel our economic future even after the pandemic.
However, the bill to be voted on at week's end is without Republican support in the
House and appears unlikely to pass in the Republican controlled Senate. Surely the
two sides can produce a compromise when the country desperately needs the
That the world of work is changing is beyond dispute. If you do not like mowing your
lawn and find lawn services too expensive, Honda has the answer. It's Miimo HRM40
is a robotic lawn-mower for backyards up to 4,000 square feet. It will map the area
and develop an efficient plan, and you can schedule it to mow quietly at your
convenience. There is also an Alexa app to help it adapt its plans to the weather
At least one way factories have changed (since I first started work as a newly minted
engineer) is in the absence of workers on the shop floor; not so many now, rather
very few to be more accurate. Robots and automated production lines have taken
their place requiring only a few to monitor the machines.
With all the changes, it has become difficult to actually figure out a modern worker's
output. Not to worry, the guy monitoring a production line or ensuring a windshield on
a car is fitted just right may not appear to be doing much except his absence might
mean higher warranty bills. The person sitting at a computer screen and gazing into
space might look to be day-dreaming on the company's time although his/her next
innovation might propel the company in ways not yet imagined. These people also do
not have to work from an office. They can just as easily work from home, and it is why
in this moribund economy with everything shut down, the unemployment rate is not
even higher -- bad enough as it may be.