16 March 2020

Collaterally Damaged Link Sausage Platter

I note the following collateral damage from the US public-health crisis that is already inevitable albeit unmeasured. I make no guarantees that anything is entirely sober or serious (although it all has a serious element).

  • The Taxman still cometh. There are two federal deadlines coming up on 15 April: The annual return, and "quarterly" estimated taxes. For the annual personal return (sorry, businesses, you're screwed, the deadline is today), the quarter-page Form 4868 will AUTOMATICALLY extend your tax return due date to 15 October. (You can also do this online, but I don't recommend it at this time due to some internal problems with the filing system, the convoluted instructions, and the (mis)use of "private" vendors as a substitute for actual privacy. Yes, Intuit et al., you can go f*ck yourselves.) For the future, I suggest that the form be redesigned so that it does not suggest that a payment is required — especially to immigrants and the poorly educated in governmentese. It's too late for that this year.

    I can offer no suggestions for the "quarterly" estimated tax payment due 15 April. I seriously doubt anyone with any authority has even thought about it yet. And it's going to have consequences next year if you don't get it right now.

    <SARCASM> I predict an uptick in COVID-19 positives during the last half of April, as the dammit-I'm-breaking-isolation-because-my-fear-of-the-IRS-outweighs-"minor"-public-health-consequences attitude of those who need to see tax advisors in person gets them — and their advisors — needlessly infected. </SARCASM> Or the IRS could just give everyone the automatic six-month extension they're entitled to by law using Form 4868, waive the "must file the form to get the extension" requirement for this year, and treat all filings and payments made from 15 April until the all-government-levels public health restrictions are lifted plus ten business days as if they were made on 15 April. But that would be a sensible, proactive thing that would make the IRS look like Good Guys, so it ain't gonna happen.

  • Sort of in anticipation of the "holiday" tomorrow, drink a well-crafted, flavorful beer that doesn't call for a lime in it to be moderately palatable. Perhaps even a mass-market American-made not-quite-a-stout whose name tries to evoke a famous Irish product (without terribly much success, especially when overchilled).

    It's not that actual sales of the lime-associated pale alcoholic product have actually suffered from name association with the common name of COVID-19 (notwithstanding several news reports making such claims); it's that, in a universe of people with actual taste, they should have. But that's veering into discussion of economic parasites and not biological viruses.

  • Awards shows are being delayed, such as the entirely unlamented Academy of Country Music awards. But what about next year? What about the stoooooooooooooopid eligibility requirements for, say, the Oscars, eligibility for which requires screenings that breach public-health precautions? At least for this year, online release bloody well should be enough.

    But that would require AMPAS to think ahead to avoid a train wreck. If the last forty years of AMPAS trainwrecks have demonstrated anything, it's that AMPAS would rather film avoidable-yet-spectacular trainwrecks than avoid them. Especially the publicity branch.

    And f*ck you, National Association of Theatre Operators. I think I've made my disdain for your disdain for me pretty f*cking obvious; nice to see some just desserts to go along with the unjust popcorn prices.

  • It's TV show renewal season and pilot season. The latter largely ain't happening. This is going to have two collateral consequences. First, some otherwise-marginal shows (marginal, that is, under whatever definition the networks/streamers are choosing to apply, which usually relate to financials entirely hidden from everyone's view) are going to get renewed just to fill schedule slots — or avoid taking risks on things for which the decisionmakers have access only to a precís or couple of scripts and a cast list. Second, the new shows picked up for next fall are going to be both rougher and less risky than in most years, for some indefinable value of both. Well, not entirely indefinable: I predict that there will be a much higher proportion of "seasoned" showrunners for new shows actually picked up than usual. Which largely means white men.
  • If the call for increased social distancing goes on past about Tax Day, there will be a slow ramp-up in people doing inexpensive online learning rather than binge-watching yet another season of a semiforgotten TV series. "Peak TV" is not capable of filling 16 hours a day for those whose jobs are entirely at a standstill!

    • That mean's y'all better get your online continuing education done. CLE, CME, whatever.
    • Learn something about economics beyond simplistic marketing-oriented microeconomics. However much of a mess macroeconomics may be, it's still necessary to understanding that "problems of scale" also relate to the very means of analysis — not just interim profitability of a specific enterprise.
    • Learn some science and math.
    • Learn something about a foreign language and culture that does not require you to immediately travel there, meet interesting people, and then… (I'm afraid you have to have been politically aware during/of the 60s to finish that thought).
    • Just bloody learn something, under the wild-ass assumption that maybe — just maybe — you don't have a "natural ability" to understand all complex things.
  • Postal and delivery services are going to have a major crisis starting in early April (compare to that first link sausage!) as their employees start getting disproportionately in/affected. Unless they're working in clean-room gear — and they can't, the machinery won't allow for it — even the back-room sorters and handlers are going to be exposed to more crap than can be imagined. A lot of that crap will have been just placed on packages, too… especially lick-to-seal envelopes (like the ones the IRS encloses with all of its demands for payment) and lickable stamps (which are fortunately much less common than they used to be, but some hoarders and philatelists…). Even more of that crap will have been spread across counters from sneezing and in/through dropboxes and on truck floors and… you get the idea.

    And the less said about pharmacy workers, the less panic you'll suffer. Especially pharmacies in strip malls and inside Big Box stores.