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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: To Heal The Pandemic Economy

I’d like to give thanks for those whose lives we can save and whose futures we can restore. To do that, there’s no choice between defeating the virus and rebuilding the economy; we've got to do both.

People protect themselves from Covid by staying home, not shopping or dining out. Those who’ve seen the virus up close and personal won’t be coaxed back easily. Those cautions crushed the economy. Companies went bankrupt, shut their doors, closed their books, eliminated brick and mortar stores. With those changes, there could be no snap back. There’s permanent damage. The economic depression is deadly too. People without jobs are stressed. Tempers flare as they lose jobs, businesses, homes, cars, self-respect, even their families. Stress, violence and suicide kill. Because they’re connected, we’ve got to deal with the virus and the economy, whenever we expect an effective vaccine to be available – the virus is killing and disabling far too many much too fast. To open the economy, people must cooperate with virus driven restrictions – a nuisance but a lifesaver. The map and data on the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center are eye-opening. There are a million new cases every week, all over the country. If people wait ‘til it hits their family, friends, town, or a vaccine’s available, it will be far too late for those infected and the economic disaster that follows.

If we cooperate to deal with the virus, there’ll be plenty we can do to restart the economy.

Government can provide emergency relief for people displaced by the depression.

Government can provide jobs by building and delivering essential public goods that private businesses can’t on their own

  • roads, bridges, clean air, water, flood relief, public health services;
  • postal service, electric and internet grids, and transit services that reach all corners of the country;
  • the education and training American workers need to better compete and attract investment here at home;
  • the basic science that made American farming, pharmaceuticals, the digital economy and industry lead the world.

We once called it a mixed economy where government and business each contributed what they could. That’s not socialism; it’s just smart. Plus projects can be targeted at areas that are hurting – if we work together as the U.S.A.
Government can target tax relief to strengthen the economy – tax relief to the bottom of the ladder where it drives markets, sales and business. Taxing the working classes to give tax relief to the wealthy doesn’t put food on the table and it doesn’t get the economy moving; it’s just a silly, corrupt bargain for campaign contributions.

Government can re-energize the economy by focusing on the welfare of American families, farmers, and workers. That’s the decent, humane way to drive demand and investment in America. To heal America we have to care about each other and develop the economy for us all.

In emergencies, Americans roll up our sleeves and help whoever’s been hurt, wherever they are. Helping each other now is crucial both to save each other from the pandemic and to rebuild the economy. That’s good old American teamwork and it’s essential.

If I were Biden, by the way, given Mitch McConnell’s intransigence, I’d follow president Truman’s example, run against the “do-nothing” Senate, and in these days of continuous campaigns, I’d start now.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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