my reflections on March 11, 2020

Our world changed a year ago today. Covid officially came for us. It's still here, losing loved ones and missing 9.5 million jobs. Policymakers must keep fighting for us.

I will always remember March 11, 2020. We all will. Here is me on March 11, 2020. We must look back to learn and to move forward.

To mark the tragedy, I re-read Garrett Graff piece, “An Oral History of the Day Everything Changed.” He shared my reflections on that day. Other prominent figures in medicine, Congress, Wall Street, journalism, and sports shared theirs too. Read it. Below are some of mine.

“Claudia Sahm: Frankly, the night before, the 10th, I was in a bit of a panic because I was worried that I was overreacting. It was like gaslighting the way Trump and Republicans and Fox News would talk about the coronavirus. Like, “We’ve got this one, it’s not a big deal. It’s like the common flu.” Listening to that, I was saying, “We need to get going.” Congress needs to do real things. That morning, I stood in front of the House Democrats at the minority whip breakfast and told them what they needed to do with a relief package. I told the House Democrats that the $8.3 billion package that they had passed the week before was an insult.”

Yeah, I said that. Speaker Nancy Pelosi sitting in the front row to my left and Representative Maxine Waters sitting a few rows back to my right. Both are my heroes. The room was full of them. I stood at the podium right after Jason Furman—someone every person in the room knew and had listened to before. They needed to hear me too. They did. It was serious now. More serious than of us knew that morning. I read from my notes, knees shaking and with a voice firm. Here’s what I said:

Deep breath. As soon as I sat down, Speaker Pelosi stood up and turned to the members, and said she was opposed to the checks. We needed to get aid to those most need. Jason and I had both called for checks. We called for targeted aid too. She’s the best elected official in the United States. This crisis proved that over and over again.

And, most importantly, Speaker Pelosi was open to changing her mind. CARES passed later that month with stimulus checks. THEY WERE BIG!!! $1,200 per adult and $500 per child and they went to all but families with high income. And that wasn’t all. The jobless got an extra $600 per week, the self-employed were eligible for benefits, and extra weeks were added. Congress created a new program for small businesses. All the while, the Federal Reserve was fighting hard—for Wall Street and Main Street!

I did not sleep until CARES passed the Senate. I was so worried the extra $600 a week would get cut. It didn’t. It all passed. President Trump signed it into law. I cried. And, it worked. It helped millions. It was a lifeline. It was not enough, but it sure as hell helped. My contribution was small, and it was an honor to contribute.

The rest of my year was a blur. It was for all of use. I did not lose loved ones. I was always able to feed my kids. I could work safely from home. Many others were not as lucky. I am so sorry. It’s so unfair. So much injustice and needless suffering.

I worked non-stop analyzing economic conditions, sharing the plight of people in every forum I could, and advising policymakers. I had some highs and lows:

  • March: Speaking to the House Dems will always be the highlight of my career. I didn’t stop. I took on leaders in macro who said now was not the time for sending out money to people. Too little supply so don’t stoke demand. Wrong and cruel.

  • April: Started working with New Dems staff on automatic stabilizers for unemployment insurance. It’s a very good idea with ever widening support.

  • May: Mother’s Day weekend costed out New Dem’s proposal. I have worked on many automatic stabilizers proposals. Done dozens of talks. The Sahm rule. ftw.

  • July: I bought a house, called economics a disgrace, was told to leave my job, and invited to write for Bloomberg Opinion all within two weeks.

  • August: Put on a performance improvement plan for allegedly not doing my job. Got an attorney. I cried. My son asked what was wrong. I told him it would be ok.

  • September: Asked to write for New York Times Opinion and got worst review at work of my life in which I was told I was “disrespectful.” Quit my job.

  • October: Started Stay-At-Home Macro, earned next to nothing, got my kitten Puffi, my first regular NYT came out. (Next week’s is going to be a good one!)

  • November: My daughter got Covid. She got better quickly. No one else at home got it, but I was rattled. Kept working. Got married again!!!

  • December: Drove four hours to pass off Christmas presents with my parents. Saw them two hours outside and didn’t get to hug them. I cried. I got a research grant!

  • January: World did not change on January 1. In fact, it kept getting worse. I watched in horror as the Capitol was attacked by fellow Americans.

  • February: Took on Raj Chetty’s shoddy analysis of stimulus checks.

  • March: Took on Larry Summers, Olivier Blanchard, and other inflation hawks. Dems passed $1.9 trillion. My kids went back to school. I turn 45 in two days.

Today, March 11, is a day to reflect and to look forward. I will cry, and I will smile. I will call my mom, take a walk, and do some more work. Please take care. There is a light at the tunnel. And it’s not a train. But we are not out in the daylight yet. We are not safe. Millions are still struggling. Let’s do it. Together.