How Jackson Hole has become a tax haven for the 0.1%

MarketWatch – BookWatch

Opinion: How Jackson Hole has become a tax haven for the 0.1%

This part of northwestern Wyoming is the most unequal place in the U.S. — and now even mere millionaires risk being pushed off the mountain

A private jet takes off from Jackson Hole Airport in June 2019. AFP via Getty Images


Nowhere is the increasingly global story line of wealth concentration and environmental impact seen more clearly than in a little corner of the rural West: Teton County, Wyo., and its Jackson Hole valley.

Middle-class families have vacationed here for generations to luxuriate in the grandeur of the Teton Mountains and the pure glory of Yellowstone Park. But now this once-backwater and relatively modest community has become the richest county in the U.S. as well as the county with the nation’s highest level of income inequality.

I interviewed hundreds of ultra-wealthy people and the working-poor who serve them to understand what it is like in what Bloomberg Wealth Manager Magazine ranks of “America’s wealth-friendliest states.”

The state’s personal and corporate tax benefits are attracting the rich from high-tax environments like Connecticut, New York and California. Like the gold rush of old, more and more are making the trek west, though in this case they have already struck it rich.

‘Gilded green philanthropy’: Land conservation has become a lucrative way to claim a tax break under the banner of altruism.

But why here? Isn’t wealth concentration and inequality an urban phenomenon, confined to the environs of Wall Street or Silicon Valley? Not any longer. Wyoming has become a lucrative tax haven because it can afford to. Sure, it, like many western states, has a strong cultural aversion to taxation, but its ultra-wealth-friendly tax policies also have been made possible by record windfalls from oil, gas, and coal.

At the same time, America’s financial industry boomed. In the 1980’s, the share of investment income began to climb, making up 30% of all income in the community. Billions continued to pour in. That number hit 40% of all income by the 1990’s, half in 2004 — and by 2015 nearly eight out of every 10 dollars of income made here was coming not from traditional wages or salary, but from interest and dividends checks.

Just how much money are we talking? Adjusting for inflation, in 1970, only $52 million in annual income in Teton County came from investments, but by 2015 this number ballooned to $3.4 billion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Headwaters Economics.

In other words, the rush of wealth to this community was not the result of broad-based economic growth or rising wages and salaries. Income from wages and salaries have remained shockingly stagnant. And today even a lowly multimillionaire may have a hard time affording some of the nicer $10 million to $15 million properties.

The ironic twist, as that I learned through hundreds of in-depth interviews with the ultra-wealthy, is that they move to places like Teton County because they fall in love with the small-town character and have become concerned about the environment. Yet that can also lead to some regrettable and unjust outcomes, such as romanticizing the ugly reality of rural hardship and justifying vast-natural resource consumption.

Even environmental philanthropy is not always what it seemed. Land conservation had become a lucrative way to accrue disproportionate economic benefits under the banner of altruism. Conservation easements, whereby landowners receive compensation — usually as a charitable deduction on their tax returns or a cash payment based on appraised value — in exchange for closing it from further development are a popular option.

Of course, easements and land trusts play a critical role in global conservation, and are successful because they involve win-win financial partnerships. Yet they also can become another highly profitable tool for those with great wealth to put it to work, reaping huge tax benefits, cash payments, while simultaneously constraining the housing supply and driving up prices even further.

This form of “gilded green philanthropy,” as I call it, widens even further the ugly socio-economic divide, hollowing out the community and making it harder for workers to live nearby. Unable to find affordable housing in town, they are pushed all the way into the neighboring state of Idaho, on the other side of the treacherous and steep 8,431-foot-high Teton Pass. These workers told many a harrowing story about just making up — and then down — to work in the dead of Wyoming winter.

We can blame the rich all we want, but we too often lose our way by fixating on simplistic questions about their moral merit as individuals. Especially these days, we humans have a hasty desire to brand them individually as either philanthropic saviors or monsters, good or evil, deserving or undeserving, environmental heroes or destroyers of nature.

But not only is this a fruitless exercise, it’s not what my data and findings suggest we do. A better way forward is to zoom out and reorient our attention to what rural places and policies like this offer the ultra-wealthy: a low-paid underclass that tirelessly serves them, mountains that awe them, a pace of life that slows them, an environmental philanthropy network that flatters them, and tax incentives that enrich them.

Justin Farrell is an associate professor of sociology at Yale University in the School of the Environment and the author of “Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West”.

‘They’re killing us,’ Texas residents say of Trump rollbacks

Associated Press – U.S.

‘They’re killing us,’ Texas residents say of Trump rollbacks

Ellen Knickmeyer, A.P.        April 19, 2020

‘They’re killing us,’ Texas residents say of Trump protections rollbacks.

HOUSTON (AP) — Danielle Nelson’s best monitor for the emissions billowing out of the oil refineries and chemical plants surrounding her home: The heaving chest of her 9-year-old asthmatic son.

On some nights, the boy’s chest shudders as he fights for breath in his sleep. Nelson suspects the towering plants and refineries are to blame, rising like a lit-up city at night around her squat brick apartment building in the rugged Texas Gulf Coast city of Port Arthur.

Ask Nelson what protection the federal government and plant operators provide her African American community, and her answer is blunt. “They’re basically killing us,” says the 37-year-old, who herself has been diagnosed with respiratory problems since moving to the community after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

“We don’t even know what we’re breathing,” she says.

The Texas Gulf Coast is the United States’ petrochemical corridor, with four of the country’s 10 biggest oil and gas refineries and thousands of chemical facilities.

Residents of the mostly black and Latino communities closest to the refineries and chemical plants say that puts them on the front line of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of decades of public health and environmental protections.

Under President Donald Trump, federal regulatory changes are slashing requirements on industry to monitor, report and reduce toxic pollutants, heavy metals and climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions, and to work transparently with communities to prevent plant disasters — such as the half-dozen major chemical fires and explosions that have killed workers and disrupted life along the Texas Gulf Coast over the past year alone.

And that plunge in public health enforcement may be about to get even more dramatic. Last month, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist before Trump appointed him to the agency, announced enforcement waivers for industries on monitoring, reporting and quickly fixing hazardous releases, in cases the EPA deems staffing problems related to the coronavirus pandemic made compliance difficult.

Since then, air pollutants in Houston’s most heavily industrialized areas have surged as much as 62%, a Texas A & M analysis of state air monitor readings found.

EPA says it is balancing public and business interests in trimming what the Trump administration considers unnecessary regulations.

“Maintaining public health and enforcing existing environmental protections is of the upmost importance to EPA,” agency spokeswoman Andrea Woods said by email. “This administration’s deregulatory efforts are focused on rooting out inefficiencies, not paring back protections for any sector of society.”

But environmentalists call the EPA’s waiver during the coronavirus crisis the latest in a series of alarming moves.

“Traditionally less data and enforcement has never added up to cleaner air, water or land for communities of color and lower wealth communities,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, head of the EPA environmental justice office under President Barack Obama.

On the Texas Gulf Coast, African Americans under segregation were shunted to low-lying coastal areas prone to high water — literally on the wrong side of the tracks, Port Arthur activist Hilton Kelley says. bumping over those rails on a tour of his industrial neighborhood. As Texas towns grew, refineries, interstates and other, dirtier industries moved to those areas.

Stopping at the site of a razed public housing project where he was born in a bedroom looking out on the refineries, Kelley recalls, “always hearing about someone dying of cancer, always smelling smells, watching little babies using nebulizers.”

During the Obama administration, Kelley traveled to Washington for signing ceremonies for rules tightening regulations on pollutants and other health threats, and requiring industries to do more to report hazardous emissions. These days, Kelley’s trips to Washington are to protest rollbacks relaxing those rules.

”That’s a death sentence for us,” Kelley says, driving past the the sickly yellow light of a refinery burning off methane gas. “Now we may not drop dead that day,” he says. “But when you’re inundated day after day…we’re dead. We’re dead.”

In Houston, one of the country’s largest cities without zoning rules, the exposure to toxins is compounded. In Hispanic Galena Park, a developer this year fracked an oil and gas well just hundreds of yards (meters) from a school. In another Hispanic community, Manchester, chemical storage tanks tower over single-story frame homes, encasing all but their porches and driveways.

Before dawn one day last month a headache-inducing chemical stench suffused the neighborhood as a child waited for a school bus. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement vehicle rolled by. Latino residents, afraid of attracting official attention, lay low and don’t often complain, resident and activist Juan Flores says.

Even before the Trump administration began the rollbacks, Houston’s urban freeways and industries were pumping enough poisonous refinery chemicals, heavy metals, and diesel and car exhaust to “almost certainly” be to blame for some respiratory problems and early deaths, as well as an “unacceptable increased risk” for cancers and chronic disease, concluded a landmark city task force, started in 2005 to study the health impacts.

Residents of some predominantly minority Houston neighborhoods face at least three times the cancer risks of Americans overall, according to a 2014 EPA assessment, the most recent available.

Last year, state health officials confirmed a cancer cluster in one African American Houston neighborhood where residents had for years complained that creosote from a former rail yard was killing multiple members of families. One woman drove around with a mock human skeleton in her passenger seat to try to draw attention to the deaths.

Among other health harms, Houston’s African American families, many of them in neighborhoods near one of the nation’s largest clusters of petrochemical plants, report twice as many asthma cases as the city’s white families, according to a federal government study.

One recent day, 50-year-old Felicia Lacy hummed a hymn in the early-morning darkness as she nuzzled her 4-year-old granddaughter, Kdynn, who lay in bed with a plastic oxygen mask on her face. Lacy wakes the girl at 5:30 a.m each morning for an hour of asthma treatment.

Lacy blames Houston’s polluted air for the asthma-related pneumonia that killed a son at 27, and for the little girl’s asthma and her own. She takes her own turn at the nebulizer after she gets the child off to preschool.

Lacy doesn’t often allow Kdynn and another grandchild play outside, no matter how much they plead.

“I can’t have it happen to them,” she says, referring to her son’s asthma death. “Not on my watch.”

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey released hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated industrial products and hundreds of tons of air toxins. Low-lying black and Latino neighborhoods were devastated, including Galena Park, which for days became an island cut off by a half-billion gallons of toxic industrial wastewater.

Over the past year, additional chemical disasters have been similarly life-changing.

“Boom! Boom! Boom!” resident Cruz Hinojosa says, describing life in Galena Park.

Six major chemical plant and facility fires and explosions in the area since March 2019 have killed at least four people, destroyed hundreds of homes and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing or hunkering down under shelter-in-place orders. The disasters poured cancer-causing xylene, benzene and other petrochemicals into the air, nauseating residents.

Port Arthur and Houston residents say it’s difficult to find out from authorities what they’re breathing and how bad it is.

After Hurricane Harvey, EPA and state officials declined to have a NASA monitoring plane gauge the threat from chemical releases. An EPA internal watchdog faulted authorities’ failures in tracking toxic releases, which included turning off air monitors to protect them from damage.

A joint investigation by The Associated Press and Houston Chronicle a year later found the toxic contamination far more widespread and extensive than authorities reported.

Woods, the EPA spokeswoman, said the NASA offer came more than two weeks after Harvey made landfall, and at a time when EPA and Texas environmental regulators were going out day and night with hand-held monitors and other equipment to gauge hazardous emissions.

“Any assertion that EPA’s decision not to accept NASA’s flight offer obstructed information-gathering that would have helped Houstonians, particularly those in low-income communities near industrial facilities, is misleading and does not reflect the more effective monitoring efforts that were in place,” Woods wrote.

Three years after Harvey, community activists have taken monitoring into their own hands.

Last month, Bridgette Murray, a retired nurse and community leader in Houston’s African American community of Pleasantville, snapped cellphone pictures of neighborhood volunteers erecting the last of seven new air monitors, given to the community by an environmental group.

In Galena Park, Flores, the activist in that Latino community, is moving on a project to install air monitors at schools, after toying with the idea of giving each schoolchild a monitor to dangle off their backpacks.

The aim of the monitors, Flores says, is not to warn children when the air is unsafe for them to play outside, but to alert them when plant emissions are low enough to make outside activities safe.

“We have to defend ourselves,” Flores says. “Because the federal government isn’t going to do it.”

How billionaires’ short-term greed could upend America and destroy their own wealth

Raw Story

How billionaires’ short-term greed could upend America and destroy their own wealth

By Thom Hartmann, Independent Media Institute       April 17, 2020



The coronovirus crisis is highlighting how dysfunctional states run by Republicans are. This is a feature of GOP rule, not a bug.

For the past 40-plus years, a group of “conservative” billionaires have been working as hard as they can to reshape our federal government from one that provides education, health care, housing, food and other necessities into one that does nothing more than run the military and fight wars.

It’s time to give them what they’ve worked so hard to get.

In the process, “blue states” can continue to flower and prosper, while “red states” go back to their pre-Civil War poverty and local oligarchies. All it’ll take is a small tweak to our federal system, something that the billionaires have been pushing for since the 1970’s.

First, end the federal income tax, as David Koch called for when he ran for vice president in 1980. Most billionaires don’t pay much (if anything) into it anyway; as economists have documented and the New York Times (among others) reported, in 2019 billionaires paid a lower federal tax rate than anybody—including the working poor, the bottom 50 percent of American households.The federal income tax has become a massive annual transfer of wealth from blue states to red states. Just let it go, so the states can raise their own taxes to take care of their citizens without having to subsidize other states.

“Taker” Mississippi, for example, gets about 40 percent of its total budget in federal funds taken from “maker” blue states, with fully 24 percent of its residents being fed via the federal food stamp program (compared to 10 percent of Californians). If they’re so gung-ho about “states’ rights” when it comes to denying citizens the right to vote or to get a safe abortion, or putting limits on carrying assault weapons, why not give them the “right” to pay for their own social programs?

Education, housing, food stamps, health care, and pretty much every other program funded by the income tax (Social Security has its own separate tax and fund) can be picked up by the states. Ending the federal income tax (and leaving the federal government with tariffs and fees to pay for the military, as we did from the founding of the republic up until World War I) would give the states lots of elbow room.

Take away the 30 percent or 40 percent (for the top income brackets; or, before Reagan, even 91 percent to 70 percent on a progressive sliding scale) federal tax rate, and the states can then raise their state income taxes to those levels. Blue states, no longer having to subsidize red states via the federal government, can easily pick up all the social safety net costs and have enough money left over to build a multi-state world-class coronavirus-resistant nonprofit hospital system.

To make things easier, the blue states need to enter into a compact like several New England and Mid-Atlantic states did to control greenhouse gases, a move emulated by California, Oregon and Washington.

For a project this large, though (particularly if it includes a single-payer health care system), it’ll take all of the blue states: an interstate compact including the New England and Mid-Atlantic states, the West Coast states, and the few remaining blue states in the Midwest like Illinois and Minnesota. And with their “pact” to decide when and how to open their states after the coronavirus crisis ends, numerous blue states have already laid the foundation for exactly this.

America’s wealthiest billionaires, including Walmart’s Walton family, the Kochs, and Jeff Bezos, have famously worked to gut the right of workers to form unions; fine, let them have their federal “right to work for less” law. But don’t forbid the blue states from enforcing union rights; they’re the key to the prosperous middle class America had between the 1940’s and Reagan’s election in 1980, and blue states are all about prosperity.

When the red states start to collapse or see a mass exodus of their people to blue states, let them join the compact but, as with the European Union, only if they agree to the terms of the Blue State Compact: higher taxes and fully funded health, education and welfare programs, as well as high-functioning infrastructure to support modern business activity.

Pick your metric:  Livability, family-friendliness, quality of health care, quality and availability of education, “personal freedom,” economic strength, job growth, business climate, worker rights… in nearly every case, blue states outrank red states, and often by a huge margin.

While the variation in GDP growth between the world’s top 20 economies averages around 1.75 percent, America’s blue states have grown 3.5 percent more than red states since the Great Recession. Blue states can definitely take care of themselves.

As part of their interstate compact, blue states could even define their own regulatory programs to keep their air and water clean and their food and drugs safe, as California has done for years with auto emissions. Without their taxes being sucked away to red states, the Compact can afford to create its own versions of the FDA, EPA, USDA and OSHA.

Ending the federal income tax (or dialing it back to functional meaninglessness) and creating an interstate compact like this would require a few steps, but they’ve been followed numerous times in American history.

The federal income tax, authorized in 1913 by the 16th Amendment, has been raised and lowered repeatedly in the more than 100 years since its inception. It’s been as low as a single-digit percent and as high as 91 percent. Given that the GOP has been begging for years to cut it as much as possible, if the Democrats in Congress were to offer to cut it to 1 percent or whatever minimum would, along with tariffs and fees, provide for the core functions of government (Army, Congress, SCOTUS, White House, etc.), it’s hard to imagine that the Republicans could say no.

Similarly, although Section 10 of Article I of the Constitution says, “No state shall, without the consent of Congress, … enter into any agreement or compact with another state,” that consent hasn’t been routinely withheld when interstate compacts were formed to do everything from controlling pollution to disposing of nuclear waste. This should be a viable idea.

Speaking to a group of 450 billionaires and multimillionaires, Charles Koch, in 2015, compared their struggle to that, according to the Washington Post, of “Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” Not to mention George Washington.

“Look at the American revolution,” Koch said, “the anti-slavery movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement. All of these struck a moral chord with the American people. They all sought to overcome an injustice. And we, too, are seeking to right injustices that are holding our country back.”

A staple argument among America’s conservative uber-rich, going all the way back to their reaction to Brown v. Board of Education in the 1950s, has been that the federal government needs to stop interfering with states, and that federal regulations and subsidies are distorting markets and holding back “the magic of the free market.”

They tried their experiments with Chile and Russia, “libertarianizing” those nations’ economies, and the results were less than spectacular. Perhaps they can do better with the states they already control (via Charles Koch’s ALEC, for example) once those states are unencumbered by federal taxes, regulations or the “stifling” effect of federal welfare and subsidy programs.

The right-wing billionaire definition of “freedom” includes the right to poverty, the right to die without health care, the right to be uneducated and illiterate, and the right to be hungry and homeless. Red states seem to like this, since they repeatedly vote for it; we should let them have it.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the War on Voting and more than 30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Megadrought’ the worst in centuries, study says.

Associated Press

Megadrought’ the worst in centuries, study says.

Associated Press,            
This photo from 2013 shows a bathtub ring marking the high-water line along Black Canyon on Lake Mead. A two-decade-long dry spell is turning into a megadrought in the western United States. (Julie Jacobson/Associated Press)


And about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Researchers focused on a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico, plus a sliver of southwestern Montana and parts of northern Mexico. They used thousands of tree rings to compare a drought that started in 2000 and is still going (despite a wet 2019) to four previous megadroughts since the year 800.

Using soil moisture as the key measurement, they found only one other drought that was as big — and was probably slightly bigger. That one began in 1575, just 10 years after St. Augustine, the first European city in the United States, was founded, and it ended before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620.

What’s happening now is “a drought bigger than what modern society has seen,” said study lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University.

Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist who wasn’t involved in the research, called the work important because it provides evidence “that human-caused climate change transformed what might have otherwise been a moderate long-term drought into a severe event comparable to the ‘megadroughts’ of centuries past.”

What’s happening is that a natural but moderate drought is being worsened by temperatures that are 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1.6 degrees Celsius) hotter than in the past and that suck moisture out of the ground, Williams said.

“We’ve been increasingly drifting into a world that’s getting dryer,” Williams said.

To quantify the role of global warming, researchers used 31 computer models to compare what’s happening now to what would happen in a hypothetical world without the burning of fossil fuels that spews billions of tons of heat-trapping gases. They found that, on average, 47% of the drought could be blamed on human-caused climate change.

There’s debate among scientists over whether this current drought warrants the title “megadrought” because it has lasted only two decades — so far — while others are at least 28 years long.

Climate scientist Clara Deser  at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who wasn’t part of the study, said that while the research is good, she thinks the deep drought has to last another decade or so to qualify as a “megadrought.”

Williams said he understands the concern and that’s why the study calls it “an emerging megadrought.”

“It’s still going on and it’s 21 years long,” Williams said. “This drought looks like one of the worst ones of the last millennium except for the fact that it hasn’t lasted as long.”

University of Michigan climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck, who studies the Southwestern climate and was not part of the study, calls it “the first observed multidecadal megadrought in recorded U.S. history.”

Although last year was wet, the recent rain and snow was not nearly enough to make up for the deep drought years before, said Williams, who added that past megadroughts have had wet years.

The U.S. drought monitor puts much of Oregon, California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada and good chunks of New Mexico, Arizona and Idaho in abnormally dry, moderate or severe drought conditions. Wyoming is the only state Williams studied that doesn’t have large areas of drought.

This week, water managers warned that the Rio Grande is forecast to have water flows less than half of normal, while New Mexico’s largest reservoir is expected to top out at about one-third of its 30-year average.

This is “what we can expect going forward in a world with continued global warming,” said Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, who wasn’t part of the study.

When it’s all over. A pandemic fantasy.

A chalk mural by Heather Gentile Collins outside Roscoe Village Pub in Chicago conveys an encouraging message for Chicagoans April 9, 2020.
A chalk mural by Heather Gentile Collins outside Roscoe Village Pub in Chicago conveys an encouraging message for Chicagoans April 9, 2020.(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune).

When it was all over, when the virus had retreated and the fear had faded, the people came out of their homes, and they were changed.

Changed by solitude. By gratitude. By grief.

They came out of little houses and big ones, out of apartments and rented rooms, to count their blessings and their losses. The virus hadn’t hurt everyone equally but it had hurt everyone somehow.

When it was over, they no longer greeted each other by shaking hands, though their hands were cleaner than ever. They hugged fewer people now, but most could not resist hugging the ones they loved; they wept to feel the pulse and warmth of the bodies they had missed so deeply. Others continued to keep their distance, and simply placed their hands over their hearts and bowed.

Can coronavirus spread through delivery? And other COVID-19 food questions answered

Is it safe to eat a meal handled by cooks and delivery people? Is it safe to go to the grocery store? We have your answers.

Some gathered for overdue mourning in honor of those who had died. So many had died. When it was over, the living understood more about death.

When they came out of their homes, they felt smaller, but in some ways stronger. Isolation had made them feel like pioneers, like immigrants, all of them displaced in time, removed from the familiar, aware that they would never return to the way they had lived before. Some had learned to bake, to sew, to properly clean. Many learned to live on less, though for those already living on little, less was even harder to bear.

In their renewed freedom, the people once again sat together at restaurants and bars and coffeehouses, though not as often as they once did, or as close, and rarely without a trace of fear. They laughed and told stories and gossiped, though every now and then someone would say, “It’s weird to be doing this again, isn’t it?” and, with a twitch, they would register that among the things they’d lost was the presumption of safety.

During their enforced isolation, some had dreamed they would go out dancing again, and they did.

By the time it was over, the concept of the weekend was dead. Some people still went to “the office” but there were fewer offices. The older people still looked for a newspaper on their doorsteps, but print newspapers, along with some online news outlets, had been among the casualties of the plague.

And their neighborhoods had changed. At first, they looked around and thought, “What used to be there?” Then they remembered that oh, yeah, it was that old family restaurant. Or that cute shop that sold things no one really needed but that made life more fun.

New businesses, mostly online, had been born while they were in exile, but they missed the old ones. Until, eventually, they forgot. Against the odds, a few bookstores hung on.

By the time it was over, some people were heftier because they’d been living on whatever weird food they could find on the scavenged grocery store shelves. Some were thinner for the same reason.

The ones who could afford bidet toilets bought them, because they never again wanted to worry about the toilet paper supply chain.

Men who had been clean shaven when the collective self-isolation began now wore shaggy beards. “If Pete Buttigieg can do it,” some said, “why not me?” Women whose hair had been a vivid color at the outset of the madness had gone gray. “What the hell,” some said. “It’s easier this way.”

Humor, they had learned, is an essential supply even during a pandemic, which was why Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was leading in the presidential polls.

Yes, the people were sad, but in some ways happier, or at least wiser, than before.

Why had it taken so much pain for them to clearly see what and who they loved? To appreciate a slower life? To reconnect with old friends? To marvel at the beautiful places they’d once been able to travel to without fear? To listen to the birds?

Why had so many people had to suffer before more people understood the value of a government that works? The deadly danger of one that doesn’t? The profound inequities in health care and education and, well, everything?

They saw it all more clearly now, which was not to say they knew how to fix it.

They spoke with a new vocabulary: exponential, epidemiology, telemedicine, Zoom. More of them — not everyone, it’s never everyone — now believed in science.

Other things they had learned:

“Essential” does not mean “paid well.”

Schooling your own children is harder than it looks.

Crisis reveals the best in humans. And the worst.

Nature does not care what human beings want.

The sun still rises.

“We’ll never take so much for granted again,” they said. A few of them kept the promise.

Then time passed. Eventually those who remembered the Great Pandemic of 2020 were gone, and in some bar somewhere, a young person would say, “My great-grandfather died of some weird virus. Corvid or something? I don’t know exactly when, but can you imagine? Thank God that would never happen now.” And that young person would laugh, not knowing that one day, in their lifetime, a calamity previously unimagined would arrive and say, “Surprise.”

But that day is in the future. So is the day this calamity will be in our past.

Until then, we wait and hope and distract ourselves by wondering: What will it be like when this is over?

Mary Schmich is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. A Georgia native, she has written her column since 1992 and was previously a Tribune national correspondent. She also teaches yoga, plays mandolin and piano, and co-hosts an annual holiday singalong at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Growing a Vegetable Garden Might Be Just What You Need During the Coronavirus Crisis

Architectural Digest

Growing a Vegetable Garden Might Be Just What You Need During the Coronavirus Crisis

Stefanie Wal       April 3, 2020

It’s been a few weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic halted the world, forcing us to retreat into our homes and forgo physical social contact—and it doesn’t look like we’ll be freed any time soon. Though grocery stores are open for business, authorities from governors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have asked that we minimize our outings into the public world, which got us thinking: what better time to plant your own vegetable garden? Not only could this help you skip the trip to the store once the produce comes in, but it also could provide some much-needed stress relief. We asked some gardening experts for tips and tricks to design a garden and grow produce in your backyard or patio.

Designing a Garden

Before you dive in with your trowel and seeds, you’ll want to spend some time designing your garden’s layout. Start by observing how much sunlight is in your yard or patio. “Consider where the vegetable garden is going. It should go in the sunniest spot, as most vegetables require lots of direct sun,” says landscape designer Kathryn Herman. But don’t fret if you have a little bit of shade. “Some vegetables, like salad greens, can take a small amount of shade,” says landscape designer Deborah Nevins.

When it comes to designing a layout, keep in mind that gardens take work. You’ll need to be out there watering, weeding, and harvesting, so you’ll want to leave areas between your beds where you can tread safely. “We like making the garden beds easy to access, so a three-foot-wide by eight-foot-long bed with space on either side allows circulation to get to both sides,” says Herman. “The space on either side of the bed can be lawn, or it can be gravel, or it can be a paved surface.”

And if you don’t have a full yard, don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to make do with a small space like a patio, a window box, or even a section of your driveway. “Plant in containers or a small raised bed,” says Tara Nolan, author of Gardening Your Front Yard and co-owner of Savvy Gardening. “You just need to make sure the space gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. There are many compact plant varieties that are perfect for small spaces. Look for words like mini, dwarf, or patio on seed packets.”

Close up of basket of fresh vegetables on garden soil. Cool weather crops include carrots and other root veggies. Photo: Getty Images/Aleksander Rubtsov

Choosing What to Plant

There’s quite a variety of produce to choose from for your vegetable garden, and the good news for beginners is that it’s relatively easy to grow the vast majority of them. “Plants are really simple, especially vegetable plants,” says Shelby DeVore, founder of homesteading website Farminence. “There are two main types of vegetable plants that are suitable for first-time gardeners: fruit crops like tomatoes and cucumbers, and vegetative crops that are grown for their leaves, like spinach and lettuce.”

To help you narrow down your selection, consider the size of your garden—and the colors you want to see. “There is a large variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and lettuces that come in many forms and colors, which can add another level of interest to the garden,” says Herman. “These vegetables are suitable for a smaller bed, while vegetables like squash, cucumbers, and melons require more space to spread out.”

Something else to think about: Some plants grow better during different times of year. “Cool-weather crops like peas; root veggies like beets and carrots; and members of the Brassica genus, like cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts, can be sown in early spring, while the heat-lovers like tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers are planted after all threat of frost has passed,” says Nolan. “Google your region and the area’s frost-free date, which will help you know when to plant.”

And, of course, grow what you want to eat! “Red Russian kale is one of my personal favorites,” says designer Christopher Spitzmiller. “It’s easy to grow and has nearly flat leaves that are easy to roll up and cut into small coleslaw-like pieces that make a great salad all summer and into the early winter.”

Plants Growing At Vegetable Garden. Make sure to research your region to know when to plant certain seeds. Photo: Getty Images/Ivana Drozdov

Gardening Tips

Follow these tips from our experts and you’ll be on your way to self-grown fresh produce in no time!

1. Consider starting your garden indoors if it’s still cold out

Although it’s just about the right time of year to get outdoors, you can start your garden inside if you’re in a colder climate. “We have lots of seeds started under grow lights in our garage,” says Spitzmiller. “We’ve started all sorts of lettuces, cabbages, and arugula.”

2. Make sure you’re using good soil

When it comes to gardening, it’s crucial to have healthy soil for robust growth. “You have to determine the quality of your soil regarding nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and you need to see if the soil drains well,” says Nevins. And don’t forget fertilizer! “Composted manure can be worked in to help add organic matter into the soil,” says Herman.

3. Check on them daily

Pay attention to your plants, as their physical appearance can alert you to any issues they might have. “Plants that aren’t getting enough water will be droopy, but most people know that,” says DeVore. “They’ll also let you know if they have a disease or nutritional issue. Check the leaves for yellow or brown spots. Wilted, yellow, purple, or curled leaves can be a sign that something is wrong.”

4. Don’t get discouraged

“First-timers should know that even the most experienced gardeners can have issues, and not to be discouraged,” says Nolan. “Sometimes issues like pests, or even excessive rain, can affect crops. The key is to figure out what went wrong and how you can mitigate those circumstances next time.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

10 Perennials That’ll Add Tons of Color to Your Garden

House Beautiful

10 Perennials That’ll Add Tons of Color to Your Garden

Plant these sun lovers for long-lasting color that returns every year

By Arricca Sansone       March 31, 2020

Painted Lady Butterfly resting or collecting pollen nectar from Pink Cone Flowers


Got sun? Perennials that thrive in full sun, considered 6 or more hours per day, provide long-lasting color to gardens or containers on your deck, patio or balcony. Best of all, they come back every year so you’ll get more bang for your buck! For starters, read the plant tag or description to learn if a plant will survive in your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). Dig a hole about twice the size of the pot, then set it in the ground or pot at the same level it was in the container. Water thoroughly, and keep an eye on it during dry spells. Even drought-tolerant plants need TLC the first season, so don’t ignore them and let them dry out. Then be patient! Perennials may not look like they’re doing much for the first season or two. In fact, there’s a saying that perennials crawl the first year, walk the second, and take off running the third season in the ground.

Here are a few of our favorite hardy perennials for full sun:

Catmint / Catnip, Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low' - II


Catmint has fuzzy foliage and purple-blue flower spikes that last for several weeks in mid-summer. It has a pleasantly spicy, minty scent when you brush against it. Newer types keep a nice, mounded shape.

Varieties to try: Cat’s Meow, Walker’s Low

Bee Balm
Red Bee Balm Perennial Flower Monardo


This pollinator favorite comes in shades of pinks, purples, and reds. The fringed, spikey flowers are heat and cold-tolerant and look best planted in huge swaths. New types are more disease-resistant.

Varieties to try: Pardon My Lavender, Leading Lady Plum

Black-eyed Susan
Field of Black-Eyed Susan


They’re sturdy, have a long bloom time, and look like happy, smiling faces. What other reasons do you need to plant this cheery plant? They bloom from mid-summer to fall. Read the tag because some are perennial, while others only last two years (biennial) so they’re treated as annuals and replanted every year.

Varieties to try: American Gold Rush, Indian Summer

False Indigo
False Indigo


False indigo, also known as baptisia, has beautiful spires of indigo blue, pink, yellow or white flowers, followed by bushy seedpods in the fall. Pollinators of all types love it, too!

Varieties to try: Decadence Cherries Jubilee, Twilight Prairieblues



Daylilies don’t need coddled, so they’re a good choice if you’re a hands-off kind of gardener. They bloom for just one day (as the name suggests) but in great numbers. In a few years, you’ll have enough to divide them and plant elsewhere in your garden.

Varieties to try: Rainbow Rhythm Nosferatu, Romantic Returns

Blooming flowers


With hundreds of varieties in many different forms, sedum has fleshy leaves to help it survive dry spells. Sedum comes in low-growing or creeping types as well as more upright forms, so you’ll find one for every garden setting.

Varieties to try: Lemon Coral, Firecracker

Balloon Flower
Purple balloon flower


This adorable perennial has plump, round buds that burst into star-shaped blue flowers. It blooms mid-summer for several weeks.

Varieties to try: Fuji, Astra Pink

Close-up image of the beautiful summer flowering vibrant pink flowers of the Penstemon also known as beardtongues


Penstemon, also called beardtongue, has stately upright spikes of deep pink or purple flowers with dark green or burgundy leaves. The pretty foliage is bright and colorful all season long after the tubular-shaped flowers fade.

Varieties to try: Midnight Masquerade, Blackbeard

Close-up image of the vibrant red Echinacea 'Salsa red' also known as Coneflowers


With vibrant colors in every shade of the rainbow, coneflowers are reliable performers. They range in height from about 12 to 36 inches tall. Read the plant tag to see how tall each variety gets so you’ll know if it’s best in the back, middle or front of the border.

Varieties: PowWow Wild Berry, Pink Double Delight

10 Speedwell


Spikes of deep purple, pink or white flowers cover the low-growing deep green foliage. Speedwell, also called veronica, works well in the front of borders, and bees and butterflies enjoy it, too!

Varieties to try: Blue Sprite, Magic Show Pink Potion

Arricca SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more.

George W. Bush in 2005: ‘If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare’

Good Morning America

George W. Bush in 2005: ‘If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare’

Matthew Mosk, Good Morning America           
George W. Bush paved way for global pandemic planning
ABC News Videos

In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advanced copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. He couldn’t put it down.

When he returned to Washington, he called his top homeland security adviser into the Oval Office and gave her the galley of historian John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza,” which told the chilling tale of the mysterious plague that “would kill more people than the outbreak of any other disease in human history.”

“You’ve got to read this,” Fran Townsend remembers the president telling her. “He said, ‘Look, this happens every 100 years. We need a national strategy.'”

Thus was born the nation’s most comprehensive pandemic plan — a playbook that included diagrams for a global early warning system, funding to develop new, rapid vaccine technology, and a robust national stockpile of critical supplies, such as face masks and ventilators, Townsend said.

The effort was intense over the ensuing three years, including exercises where cabinet officials gamed out their responses, but it was not sustained. Large swaths of the ambitious plan were either not fully realized or entirely shelved as other priorities and crises took hold.

PHOTO: President George W. Bush walks towards microphones to speak to the press, Dec. 22, 2005 at the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: President George W. Bush walks towards microphones to speak to the press, Dec. 22, 2005 at the White House. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)


But elements of that effort have formed the foundation for the national response to the coronavirus pandemic underway right now.

“Despite politics, despite changes, when a crisis hits, you pull what you’ve got off the shelf and work from there,” Townsend said.

When Bush first told his aides he wanted to focus on the potential of a global pandemic, many of them harbored doubts.

“My reaction was — I’m buried. I’m dealing with counterterrorism. Hurricane season. Wildfires. I’m like, ‘What?'” Townsend said. “He said to me, ‘It may not happen on our watch, but the nation needs the plan.'”

Over the ensuing months, cabinet officials got behind the idea. Most of them had governed through the Sept. 11 terror attacks, so events considered unlikely but highly-impactful had a certain resonance.

“There was a realization that it’s no longer fantastical to raise scenarios about planes falling from the sky, or anthrax arriving in the mail,” said Tom Bossert, who worked in the Bush White House and went on to serve as Homeland Security secretary in the Trump administration. “It was not a novel. It was the world we were living.”

According to Bossert, who is now an ABC News consultant, Bush did not just insist on preparation for a pandemic. He was obsessed with it.

“He was completely taken by the reality that that was going to happen,” Bossert said.

PHOTO: Anthony S. Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for National Institutes for Health, listens to questions during a hearing of the House International Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, Dec. 7, 2005 in Washington. (Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE)

In a November 2005 speech at the National Institutes of Health, Bush laid out proposals in granular detail — describing with stunning prescience how a pandemic in the United States would unfold. Among those in the audience was Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leader of the current crisis response, who was then and still is now the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire,” Bush said at the time. “If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”

The president recognized that an outbreak was a different kind of disaster than the ones the federal government had been designed to address.

“To respond to a pandemic, we need medical personnel and adequate supplies of equipment,” Bush said. “In a pandemic, everything from syringes to hospital beds, respirators masks and protective equipment would be in short supply.”

Bush told the gathered scientists that they would need to develop a vaccine in record time.

“If a pandemic strikes, our country must have a surge capacity in place that will allow us to bring a new vaccine on line quickly and manufacture enough to immunize every American against the pandemic strain,” he said.

PHOTO: Fran Townsend, President Bush's adviser on Homeland Security, answers questions at a White House press briefing on the reorganization of the Homeland Security system, June 29, 2005, in Washington D.C. (Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE)


Bush set out to spend $7 billion building out his plan. His cabinet secretaries urged their staffs to take preparations seriously. The government launched a website,, that is still in use today. But as time passed, it became increasingly difficult to justify the continued funding, staffing and attention, Bossert said.

“You need to have annual budget commitment. You need to have institutions that can survive any one administration. And you need to have leadership experience,” Bossert said. “All three of those can be effected by our wonderful and unique form of government in which you transfer power every four years.”

Bush declined, through a spokesman, to comment on the unfolding crisis or discuss the current response. But his remarks from 15 years ago still resonate.

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear,” he warned, “it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”

‘Your wealth or your 401(k) isn’t going to protect you’

Yahoo Finance

‘Your wealth or your 401(k) isn’t going to protect you’: NYU’s Galloway

Julia La Roche, Correspondent Yahoo Finance      March 27, 2020


Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, believes we will emerge from COVID-19 pandemic to a “much different” world.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Galloway explained that one of the advantages of the human species is its ability to adapt, with the critical question being, “What will we learn?”

“[I’m] hopeful that corona might end up serving, if you will, as a bit of a vaccination itself. And, that is, if you had the virology of corona and the mortality of Ebola, you could have the end of our species. And, this might be an opportunity for us to really battle test our systems, immunize our beliefs, our capital allocation, and our industries such that if and when this happens again — because it’s not if, it’s when — that we’re better prepared for it,” Galloway said.

For starters, the NYU professor expects the U.S. will probably “rethink our priorities in capital allocation.” He pointed out that throughout history, pathogens have resulted in more death of people than violence or war combined. Yet, the budget for the Department of Defense is north of $680 billion, while the CDC’s is only around $12 billion.

A COVID-19 testing tent is setup on a sidewalk in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A COVID-19 testing tent is setup on a sidewalk in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Friday, March 27, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


What’s more, he expects Americans will wake up to the fact that defunding government in critical areas such as climate change or pathogens will have consequences that wealth won’t be able to shield.

“It’s become evident that the virus doesn’t care about your political ideology, or your wealth, or your status. In America, I think we’ve taken cold comfort in believing that we’re all going to be rich and that none of us are ever going to get sick,” he said, later adding, “Your wealth or your 401(k) isn’t going to protect you.”

In terms of the future of business, Galloway believes that new sectors and companies will emerge, from distributed health and telehealthcare to the growth in online education that will disrupt the limited number of enrollment spots on university campuses.

Most importantly, he hopes that people will walk away, recognizing “the greatness in the agency of others.”

“I’d like to think a lot of what we’re taking from this is that viruses have no respect for borders, and what can we learn from our allies, how can we join hands and fight this collectively? Such that again, we realize a comity of man here. And that this supersedes a lot of things we were concerned out before this,” he said.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance.