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The good times are coming

By FROMA HARROP

The Dow crossed 30,000 for the first time, and three promising vaccines are on the way. These are not unrelated events. Also boosting investor optimism was Trump world’s decision to finally start the transition to a Joe Biden presidency and Biden’s naming of Janet Yellen as his treasury secretary.

And the good news keeps coming — if you look for it. We will probably be seeing more spectacular Christmas decorations this year as virus-stranded Americans use their extra time to do up their homes. Expect lots of 6-foot snowmen and flotillas of glowing flamingos.

Suffice it to say, President Donald Trump’s prediction that if Biden were elected, “the market will crash” proved to be the opposite of correct. On the contrary, the markets seemed relieved at the lowered threat of Trumpian disruption slowing distribution of a coronavirus vaccine and risking national security.

Yellen, meanwhile, provides a steady presence. Both Democrats and Republicans like her. A Yellen Treasury is expected to work on preserving the Federal Reserve emergency lending program for distressed businesses. Right after Trump lost, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would pull the plug on the program by year end — over the objections of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

There’s a five-letter word for Mnuchin’s move: spite. The bad news continues as unemployment claims surge and virus-stricken businesses look into the abyss of bankruptcy.

The worst news, of course, is the pandemic. The number of infections and deaths is spiraling as cold weather drives more people indoors and many give up on social distancing and mask wearing. Rural Americans thinking low population density would protect them threw caution to the wind, but they now suffer the highest infection rates in the country.

It is understandable that all this social isolation would drive people crazy. Less understandable is why they would throw up their hands and congregate in large maskless crowds, especially when there’s a vaccine around the corner. Why don’t they just hold on for a month or two?

Perhaps the greatest mystery surrounding governance over the last year has been Trump’s turning the wearing of masks into a badge of weakness worthy of contempt. Maybe he wanted to keep the economy open and didn’t calculate how the spread of COVID would close it. OK. At the very least, though, he could have advocated for wearing masks in public. That alone could have spared thousands of lives.

There will be much suffering in the weeks ahead as families ignore Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to keep holiday celebrations small and to avoid travel. Many seem to be caught up in thinking that somehow, they and their loved ones are magically not vulnerable to this sickness and death.

So let’s be quite frank. The evening-news segments featuring people who attended big family gatherings and are now on breathing tubes (or mourning the loss of dear ones) deserve only so much sympathy. It’s not like this is last February, when most of us didn’t absorb what was ahead.

The good news is that Americans have the power to keep themselves safe and the luxury of knowing that these limitations are temporary. Medical personnel working in COVID wards who take the proper precautions seem to be protecting themselves. So what’s the big deal about wearing a mask?

Moving on to a happier future, the democracy has survived an assault of the highest levels. Vaccines are on their way. And investors are the happiest they’ve been in a long time. Those with the discipline and grit to get through the last months of this pandemic will reap the reward.

Good times are coming. May flamingos in Santa hats light the way.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

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