Earlier, by Patrick J. Buchanan: Must We Kill the Economy to Kill the Virus?
Is the coronavirus response from Washington worth the economic devastation resulting from shutting down America’s economy?
That’s a question President Trump asked in a recent tweet:
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
As a businessman, he realizes the serious threat to America’s well being caused by closing the economy for an extended period. It’s not like a light you can switch off and on at will. The costs accrued by businesses being frozen cannot be easily fixed. I think of a nearby street of small stores, restaurants and a movie theater — rents are normally so high that when a business moves out, the storefront may remain empty for months. And that’s just one example of how costs are unforgiving.
Steve Hilton, on his Fox News show Sunday, pointed out that economic strife all by itself can cause sickness and death, so it’s not just a virus that is a threat to life.
A healthy economy is a virtuous circle of businesses that have workers who spend their paychecks in other businesses and so on around and around. Halting America’s dynamic economy is a terrible experiment that may end very badly, Hilton worries.
STEVE HILTON: You’ve been hearing everywhere else about the virus and the latest numbers and the medical response, but I want to focus tonight on what I think is an even bigger crisis, and that is the economic, social and above all human cost of the total shutdown policy.
No one should question the seriousness of this virus, and especially as I said last week, the need to avoid so many hospitalizations; at the same time that our medical system can’t cope. The chosen strategy is social distancing, and right now that involves extreme measures to shut down daily life. But there is a huge gap between sensible social distancing and the total shutdown spreading across the country.
Just as the spread of coronavirus creates a curve of the number of people infected, this economic shutdown is creating a curve of the numbers of people affected — losing their jobs, their homes, their businesses.
I’m not sure that the people on TV have grasped how serious this is, to the extent they’re focusing on it at all. They’re using completely the wrong frame of reference: they talk about a recession like the one we had in 2008. What planet are they on? We’ve never seen this before — a total self-imposed shutdown of the economy. Businesses large, medium and small will lose all their revenue, not a slight reduction or even a steep reduction, like in a recession, but all of it gone — no income, nothing potentially for months, we’re told unless we change course.
The best case is the worst recession since the Second World War; the moderate scenario is that it’s on a par with the Great Depression. The worst case scenario where this shutdown continues for months is even worse than the Great Depression. We hear about a V-shaped curve, a dramatic fall and a quick bounce-back — maybe. But if the V is as deep as the Grand Canyon that is a hell of a climb.
In Washington today, the Senate failed to advance the latest coronavirus relief package, so negotiations will continue on what’s looking to be a two trillion dollar stimulus plan. Let’s talk about that plan, and as we do, let’s remind ourselves what this is all about: men and women across America who have risked everything, worked every hour to follow their dreams and build a business.
Local businesses there are not just economic units but the lifeblood of a community. Most of the people in Congress, most of the talking heads on TV — they’ve never started a business, and don’t understand business. I have, and I do, so what I’m about to say comes not just from my perspective as someone who’s run policy at the heart of a large government, but someone who’s run a small business — a number of them actually, including one a restaurant that was at the heart of its community.
President Trump gets this too: he understands business, He loves entrepreneurs, he loves America’s small businesses and farmers and all the workers who rely on them for living and to support their families. So this economic curve we’re about to take a nosedive on — it is not just about money; it’s about the heart and soul of this country.
In the hours ahead, let’s make sure the Congressional stimulus package doesn’t miss the target. Part of it will be spent sending a check to every American on April the sixth and another on May the 18th, but by April the sixth, hundreds of thousands of businesses will have closed and millions of people will be unemployed.
Worse, it will be those with the most precarious lives, least able to cope. By May, my god millions of businesses will go under, and tens of millions will be unemployed. Look more money is always welcome for hard-pressed Americans but this is not about stimulus — it’s about survival, and the whole send-a-check scheme misunderstands why someone goes under or not.
If you’re a small business, you have bills to pay right now, not in April or May — now. Payroll, rent, but you have no revenue, thanks to the government’s total shutdown, you have to let people go, so then they don’t have income to pay their rent or their mortgage, and before you know it you have mass unemployment and families on the streets — millions of viable businesses murdered by the government.
The second part of the current congressional plan, a small business loan scheme, Larry Kudlow — who you’ll see later tonight on this show — he says it can work quickly, but even the help that’s supposed to be there right now doesn’t work.
A friend of mine tried to use the Small Business Administration emergency grant program this week: the website was wrong, the details were wrong, it is a total mess. Businesses are folding today, tomorrow, Tuesday — who’s got time to fill out forms, send them into some giant bureaucracy, wait for an answer, even if it’s yes, then find yourself saddled by crippling loans for years?
And don’t get me started on the third part of the so-called stimulus plan, bailouts for big business. I think there is a quicker and simpler way to flatten the economic curve: businesses have insurance policies to cover them for loss of revenue. The problem is a pandemic isn’t covered, but if the government stood behind the insurance companies and said we’ll indemnify you for any coronavirus payouts, then the insurance companies could be getting money to businesses straight away, covering their revenue so they can stay afloat and keep people employed.
We can incentivize insurance companies to do it quickly. By the way, quickly within seven days not April. On top of that, announce a nationwide policy of no evictions or foreclosures, residential or commercial.
Of course this would all cost a vast amount of money which they seem to be spending like water. It went from one trillion to two in a couple of days; quite frankly if they keep up the shot to hell, till the end of May, they’ll need five trillion; if it’s till August twelve trillion.
This is an inconceivable amount of public money: it amounts to a total government takeover of the economy. Are we ready for that? Can we afford that? Well even if we can’t, at least let’s spend the money we can afford in ways that actually save our businesses.
But there’s a much better way to flatten the economic curve. Doctor Fauci says he’s fine overreacting:
DR FAUCI: I like it when people are thinking I’m overreacting because that means we’re doing it just right.
HILTON: Well that’s easy for him to say. He’ll still have a job at the end of this, whatever happens. Our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces whipping up fear over this virus, they can afford an indefinite shutdown. Working Americans can’t; they’ll be crushed by it.
You know that famous phrase, “the cure is worse than the disease”? That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards. You think it’s just a coronavirus that kills people — this total economic shutdown will kill people.
A UK study calculated that 130,000 people died avoidably from austerity there between 2012 and 2017. The years of austerity for America to pay the cost of this shutdown will be worse, adjusting for the size of our economy — it’s over a million deaths.
The family thrown out of their home — the mom gets sick, the kids are orphans — her death won’t be counted. The dad who’s been out of work for 30 years and finally got a job last month, and now he’s back on the scrap heap and turning back to drink and drugs — his death won’t show up in a neat little box on cable news.
Poverty kills, despair kills. This shutdown is deadly. The president announced a 15-day plan to beat the virus. After that let’s say, right, we came together to slow the spread, now let’s come together to protect the vulnerable. Get the ventilators, get the beds, get the equipment cry heroic nurses and doctors, keep the ban on large gatherings, but stop the total shutdown for everyone and start the total protection of the elderly and those most likely to need hospitalization.
Don’t turn a public health crisis into America’s worst catastrophe. Save small business. Flatten the curve, not the economy, and do it before it’s too late.