Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 3/23/20
COVID-19 continues its rampage through our population, our healthcare system and our economy. It is clear that some significant steps, not unlike 2008, need to be taken by the federal government to provide income for full and partially laid-off workers, so that they have the funds with which to buy things and continue the economic flow at least at some level. There are many workers who will not be able to work remotely, and many others who will not be able to work efficiently remotely, not for any fault of their own, but based upon the nature of the work that they do.
Continuing on the COVID-19 theme, the right-wing conspiracy theorists are still out there pushing the idea that this is some type of hoax, and that actions by the government to attempt to contain the virus are inappropriate, and they should be allowed to “live their lives”. The very simple counter argument to that is that if the virus ran unchecked as they would propose (what Britain is doing and Italy did as well) will result as scientists predict, in the infection of large numbers of people even if only a small percentage of those became very sick needing hospital care, and a smaller percentage of those die, the hospital system would be overwhelmed and the economy would ultimately be as weakened because workers would stop going to work for fear of their own health and those of their loved ones. So that plan only delays not avoids. Has the media contributed to some level of hysteria; absolutely. Should we have been better prepared? Absolutely. We now know the Trump administration had access to information which should have caused it to prepare, but instead treated it as a hoax for several weeks. The Trump administration failed to get supplies early, prepare for testing and convey truthful information. If done, people would have confidence that those who were ill would be identified, and at least isolated if not treated. The most ironic news was POTUS claiming he always knew a pandemic was coming. I guess he held that information tight so Senator Budd and other senators could safely sell their stock BEFORE the crash.
POTUS is now discussing pardoning General Flynn, which is certainly a high priority issue in this environment. Well, maybe not. Only in POTUS’ mind in order to keep his core supporters satiated and hopefully distracted.
The stock market continues to reel, and we are clearly drifting into a recession. Our only hope is that the recession will be short lived and that the economy will bounce back once the threat of COVID-19 abates.
The federal reserve slashed interest rates to almost zero, and that had no effect, that said, once the economy begins to turn in a positive direction, this could be a very big help.
The British have decided to follow the Iranian plan of simply not imposing significant restrictions, and allowing the disease to spread, infect and hopefully create immunity. Presumably, without too many deaths and serious negative impact on the healthcare system. Mr. Johnson is taking a huge risk here as he did with Brexit, and one wonders what his ultimate goal is.
Mr. Trump now backs taking equity in private companies in exchange for bail outs with public funds in these trillion dollar packages. Where are Republican and Tea Party voices that howled at President Obama when the auto-industry was saved. The silence is deafening and the hypocrisy blatant.
Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.
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