It seems like a lifetime ago, but on March 7, federal officials reported that the U.S. economy added 273,000 jobs in February, 56% more than expected by labor-market experts. Unemployment was at a 50-year low, and average hourly earnings were ticking upward.
Our business, which should be reflective of the state’s economy if we are doing effective work, was showing good momentum. We had developed plans for the rest of this year aimed at producing great journalism and building connections across the state as our magazine approaches its 40th year in 2021. Like the businesses of all BNC readers, we envisioned a satisfactory margin to ensure continuity.
Less than a month later, the world has changed in unbelievable ways. “Social distancing” has become a national mantra, and virtually nothing in commerce is unfazed. All because of a savage, novel virus for which no short-term cure appears likely.
In mid-March, Chuck Purvis, the CEO of Raleigh-based Coastal Federal Credit Union, wrote a commentary that painted a bleak picture while offering a logical response to the crisis. “COVID-19 may be the final test for our country. Can we come together to make the tough decisions to solve the threat, or are Congress and the administration going to muddle around for the next several months fighting over minor differences and unrelated issues while this crisis worsens?”
Purvis noted that our nation is fully capable of meeting the financial challenge. The U.S. Treasury could issue $2 trillion of 10-year bills at an annual borrowing cost of about $38 billion, or roughly the cost of two new aircraft carriers, he said. At press time, it also appeared likely that Congress and the president would support massive fiscal stimulus, perhaps involving significant checks sent to every American.
“It is time for our political leaders to stand up and be accountable for results. This is no game. Our lives and our livelihood are at stake,” Purvis said.
Business issues aside, the real damage of the COVID-19 catastrophe is the effect on so many irreplaceable personal experiences. BNC Associate Editor Taylor Wanbaugh has spent two years planning her wedding for this month. “Most likely, we will end up postponing — along with dozens of other couples — since it is really important to both of us to have all of our friends and family there to help us celebrate,” she wrote in our Daily Digest newsletter.
As an optimist with faith in a brighter future, I’m confident our state and nation will emerge from this crisis in a stronger position, more focused on things that really matter and, in particular, joyous weddings.
With society shaken to its core, perhaps it’s appropriate that our cover story this month involves the fortunes of a group who occupied our state long before the arrival of Europeans. The profile of Lumbee Tribe Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. is the first BNC feature written by veteran Greensboro journalist Margaret Moffett, who also teaches part time at the UNC Chapel Hill journalism school.
Moffett developed an excellent rapport with Godwin during a lengthy interview in Robeson County. The Lumbees make up about 40% of the population in a region that struggles to grow even during boom times. We’re appreciative of her fine work and Godwin’s willingness to share his bullish vision for his Native American cohort.