Monday, January 4, 2021






          The last time America experienced a pandemic on the scale of what the coronavirus has inflicted upon us, the wildest lifestyle decade in United States history followed immediately.


          It was as if the petering out of the Spanish flu after it killed millions of Americans unleashed people’s pent-up desires to enjoy life while they could.


          So the early years of the 20th Century were followed by the Roaring ‘20s, almost a decade of flappers and the emergence of baseball as big-time entertainment thanks to Babe Ruth’s home run stroke. There were moonshine whiskey and the Teapot Dome scandal, seemingly unending stock market rallies and the arrival of automobiles in millions of garages.


          Now that California has seen about a month of vaccinations, it may be appropriate to begin reading tea leaves to predict what life might be like, post-pandemic.


          Yes, polls indicate most Californians are pessimistic about their future prospects. A December survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found six in 10 Californians expect their children to be worse off financially than they are – and almost one-third of Californians have been hard hit by the economic consequences of quarantines and shutdowns needed to keep coronavirus infections down to levels hospitals can (barely) handle.


          More than two-thirds in the same survey said the gap between rich and poor is widening despite all the liberal-leaning bills California’s Legislature has passed in the last three years.


          More than half expect to experience “periods of widespread unemployment or depression” in the next five years.


          That’s about as pessimistic as usually optimistic California has ever been, an outlook perhaps partly fueled by the recent shifts of corporate headquarters away from this state by the likes of Oracle Corp. and a wing of Hewlett-Packard, both Silicon Valley stalwarts.


          But this ignores the continued strength – pandemic or not – in more basic California industries like agriculture and entertainment, both fields where this state’s products dominate world markets.


          The trend toward pessimism also contradicts a new prognostication from the often-accurate quarterly forecast by UCLA’s Anderson (Business) School.


          The forecast, which was at least partly correct in assuming that COVID-19 vaccinations would begin in mid-December and then accelerate into a mass movement, predicts the nation’s gross national product will increase 50 percent from the fall 2020 quarter’s dismal numbers by the end of March. Then, the forecast says, it will quadruple to 6 percent growth in the second quarter of this year.


          “With a vaccine and the release of pent-up demand, the next few years will be roaring as the economy accelerates and returns to previous growth trends,” said a senior UCLA economist. “We expect a surge in services consumption and continued strength in housing markets.”


          So what might look different in the “new normal” from the pre-pandemic California? For one thing, more and more white collar workers will do their jobs remotely, only occasionally showing up in offices. Many companies began escaping from long-term office leases while the coronavirus raged at peak levels and much of that vacant space will become housing units at all price levels.


          At the same time, electric cars will become far more common than now. Choices will become wide as battery capacities grow and their prices shrink with more mass production. Within two years, predicts former Vice President Al Gore, electric cars will be priced on a par with gas-powered ones, making California’s goal of a switch to all clean cars by 2035 at least somewhat realistic.


          Trends in social habits and sports are harder to predict. For sure, demand for personal contact is at least as pent-up as demand for consumer goods. So another wild era like the original Roaring ‘20s may be on tap.


          Will mixed martial arts or another sport now teetering on the edge of mass popularity become a hit like baseball did 100 years ago? That may depend on whether a happy-go-lucky superstar akin to the Babe turns up.


          One thing for certain: The new Roaring ‘20s will have much of the same spirit of massive relief and optimism that fueled the original decade of decadence.


          Whether it is also followed by a massive pendulum swing to economic depression is anybody’s guess.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


Suggested pull-out quote: “A lot depends on whether a happy-go-lucky superstar akin to Babe Ruth turns up.”

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