April 14, 2020

Reopening the Economy

We (virtually) sat down with Braver Angels yesterday to talk all things media and polarization. Have a listen!

“President Donald Trump claimed the ‘total’ authority Monday to decide how and when to reopen the economy after weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the new coronavirus. But governors from both parties were quick to push back, noting they have primary responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states and would decide when it’s safe to begin a return to normal operations.” AP News

“The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Delaware said on Monday that they planned to coordinate on a plan to reopen businesses and schools after getting the novel coronavirus pandemic under control.” Reuters

Meanwhile, detailed plans to reopen the economy were released by the American Enterprise Institute, Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer.

See past issues

From the Left

The left focuses on the challenges that must be overcome in order to reopen the economy.

“[Trump] pretends there is a switch and that he alone can flick it, but of course no such thing exists. This crisis is not all about him. It’s all about us. For one thing, Trump is not the one who decided to shut everything down: He never issued a nationwide stay-at-home order. We are sequestered and socially distanced because our governors and mayors told us we needed to be. And we continue housebound, wearing masks when we infrequently venture outside and dutifully scrubbing our hands when we return, because we understand the need to protect our health and that of others. I’d love it if everything suddenly went back to normal. But I know that isn’t possible…

“Would you feel safe on a crowded bus, commuter train or subway car? What about in a carpool: How would you feel if someone in the back seat were to cough? If you work in retail, how would you interact with customers? At arm’s length, wearing a mask and gloves?… Our lives will reboot gradually, perhaps haltingly, and it doesn’t matter how frantically Trump pushes the ‘on’ button.”
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“Everything we see in the polling data suggests that almost no one thinks that we need to reopen the economy right now. In a Fox News poll this week, 80% of voters nationwide say they would favor the federal government announcing a stay at home order for everybody but essential workers. You usually can't get 80% of voters to agree upon anything, and the 80% is certainly higher than the approval Trump is getting for his handling of the coronavirus. Voters aren't concerned Trump is being too proactive. If anything, they think he is being too cautious. The same Fox News poll showed that a mere 4% of voters thought Trump was overreacting to the virus. That compares with 47% who think he isn't taking the virus seriously enough…

“The point is that there's a lot in the data to indicate that Americans want the President to focus most on the public health issue at hand more so than they are worried about him fixing the economy right now. If people are allowed to go about their normal routine too soon and the number of coronavirus cases rise afterward, there's a good case to be made that's far more dangerous to Trump's reelection chances than a bad economy.”
Harry Enten, CNN

“In different ways, all [the plans put forth so far] say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the United States either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness.”
Ezra Klein, Vox

“To truly end the crisis, keep deaths low, and allow the economy to recover, testing has to happen on an enormous scale. How enormous?… One of the lower-end benchmarks estimates the US will need 750,000 tests per week. The high-end proposal, from Nobel laureate economist Paul Romer, starts at 22 million tests per day and goes up. And not just one test per person, but repeated testing over time… Getting to 35 million tests per day would cost around $100 billion, according to Romer. It’s a steep price tag, but a fraction of the $350 billion or so in monthly economic losses due to the ongoing lockdowns… half-measures will only prolong the problem. Go big or stay home.”
Umair Irfan, Vox

“What would [a federal effort to ramp up widespread public testing] look like? For one thing, it would involve a lot more aid to state and local governments earmarked for the purpose. ‘It means a massive infusion at the state and local level, because the people who are going to do the testing, do the contact tracing, are all state and local people… The last bill has $150 billion to state and local governments, but they’re losing sales and income tax revenue, so $150 billion doesn’t even begin to meet the lost revenue gap. Money has to flow to the states to do the shoe leather epidemiology’…

“Democrats must take advantage of the narrow window afforded by another round of economic stimulus to force the the federal government to do the common-sense thing that has the best chance of avoiding catastrophic levels of unemployment: Implement widespread testing for the virus, contact tracing, and quarantining that would make it safer for the uninfected to go about their lives and serological testing that would enable more people to get out of self-quarantine. Bailouts to businesses and $1,200 checks to idled workers aren’t going to deliver nearly as great an economic return. “
Ben Adler, New Republic

From the Right

The right argues that reopening the economy should be a priority alongside public health.

The right argues that reopening the economy should be a priority alongside public health.

“Much has been written about how rising unemployment can lead to higher levels of depression, suicide and drug use. Though such outcomes are just becoming evident, with one expert confirming a rise in drug and alcohol relapses, polls show Americans increasingly feeling the strain… Clearly, the social distancing recommended by Dr. Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and others is working; the curve is bending. [But] Fauci and Birx are like corporate lawyers; their job is to say no. They are not paid to advise on the economy. They are paid to squash this bug, and they can best do that by putting the entire nation in a deep freeze for the next 18 months…

“Next week the White House will lay out a plan. There will be no rock concerts or SRO baseball stadiums anytime soon. But there can and will be restaurants that serve customers with strict limits on density, and shops that welcome a few buyers at a time. Ideally, this gradual opening will be accompanied by more widespread testing or, better yet, a cure. Eventually, there will be a vaccine, though probably not before this time next year. But we can’t wait until all those things are in place.”
Liz Peek, Fox News

“As employees return to work, perhaps as early as May, employers can offer screening at their place of business… Portable and relatively inexpensive testing platforms can be brought to businesses in mobile vans or deployed on-site and administered by professionals. Testing companies are ramping up supply, and businesses can start placing orders now. This should be part of a broader employer effort to fight respiratory illnesses in the workplace. Employers have long offered flu vaccines and passed out hand sanitizer in the winter. This coronavirus should be treated similarly, with employers invested in protecting workers…

“If testing for respiratory illnesses becomes a standard business practice, medical companies will respond with more innovation in creating efficient and accurate testing platforms. Companies will invest in developing products that are simple to use, such as swab sticks that screen for viruses and give an immediate, readable result to the user. Greater demand from employers will increase supply of these screening systems.”
Scott Gottlieb and Lauren Silvis, Wall Street Journal

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) writes, “​If younger people are allowed to return to the benefits of a freer society, they will inevitably acquire immunity over time​. A collateral benefit of letting the young return to work and school is that their immunity will help protect the more vulnerable...

“Nothing in medicine is 100%. But society could reopen through the combination of personal responsibility to reduce coronavirus transmission and documenting who acquires naturally occurring immunity in the registry system currently used for immunizations. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, scientists and civil servants will work toward effective vaccines, therapies and nonpharmaceutical measures. All this will help us to strike the fair and proper balance between physical health and financial health.”
Bill Cassidy, Wall Street Journal

“If we are using the health profile of individuals to evaluate whether people can return to work—letting the young and healthy go—why not consider other categories, like occupation, mode of transportation, and others also? This is the sort of data typically used by urban planners, rather than public health officials, but it should be taken into consideration by the latter. New York City, which has been the worst hit in America by far, is also at least twice as dense as any other city in the country, and much more dependent on public transportation. The measures that are smart and prudent in New York are likely to pose large unnecessary costs for other parts of the country.”
Arthur Bloom, American Conservative

“Only the individual governors can decide when their states will begin to reopen, and only they can determine what that process will look like. Of course, the states should do so with the guidance of the federal government. But at the end of the day, the ultimate authority lies with governors, which is how it should be. The state and local leaders know more about their individual states’ and counties’ needs than Trump, and they are better equipped to respond to these needs in a timely and efficient manner…

“The federal government can certainly nudge the states toward reopening by withholding discretionary federal funding. This would be its own kind of problem, but it would at least be permissible. But this should be a last resort. Trump’s job is not to bully the states into doing what he wants; it’s to help and guide their efforts to get America back on its feet.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

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