The debate is raging between whether or not we should reopen the economy and if we should divvy out more funds to individuals and small businesses. The facts seem to be pretty muddied as well as the values behind why everyone is choosing which side to take in this, unfortunately, increasingly partisan argument. As with most of these partisan arguments, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Taking the concerns and solutions from both sides and putting them together to come to a solution that not only appeases everyone, in fact, that shouldn’t matter at all, but actually addresses the situation at hand. The situation we are in right now is something pretty much no one alive has experienced, a global pandemic. In the U.S. we also happen to be in the worst-hit country due to a fumbling of response in the early stages of the crisis. Yet some people are still claiming that we should just reopen the economy and go back to “normal” because the economy is suffering. While the economy is definitely suffering, in fact, this is the worst recession since the Great Depression, this is also a different situation than the Great Depression. This is a situation the entire world is experiencing, everyone’s economies are suffering and now more than ever we need to realize that the most important unit of measurement is the individual human and their needs being met, not capital.
The argument that I now see to be fueling the drive to reopen the economy is the concern that if too many people decide they need to stay home and unemployment continues to skyrocket that necessary businesses and supply chains will suffer putting us in a dire situation where there aren’t enough necessary resources to go around.
It wasn’t until I listened to a debate between Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on Rising and Trump Economic Adviser Stephen Moore that I realized the argument that is fueling the push to reopen the economy in the politician’s eyes. Before I listened to this debate I was looking at this situation from the viewpoint of an individual’s economic status. People aren’t able to work, small businesses aren’t able to open and that is causing a lot of people to be in a really hard situation fund-wise. It makes sense that so many people are wanting the economy to reopen because they are hurting. But the obvious response to that problem is for our federal government to step up and fund these individuals so that they can stay safe and stay alive and healthy. There is also another reason that is fueling protests across the country which is that people feel their freedoms are being encroached upon by being told to stay home. I don’t have much to say to those people other than “get over it.” It won’t last forever and this is for the health of everyone. The argument that I now see to be fueling the drive to reopen the economy is the concern that if too many people decide they need to stay home and unemployment continues to skyrocket that necessary businesses and supply chains will suffer putting us in a dire situation where there aren’t enough necessary resources to go around.
This is the concern that fueled the initial raids of grocery stores for toilet paper when this all started and is an obvious concern. However, what has been so confusing is that this argument hasn’t been cited nearly as much as the other two concerns and that the answer of completely reopening the economy or even starting to do so right now is terribly misaimed. To start, in the aforementioned debate, Krystal and Saagar mentioned to Moore that one of the problems driving the unemployment increases and the beginning of shortages of meat is that people don’t feel safe going out or going to work. Mr. Moore responds that he is optimistic that we can create safe workplace environments to be able to reopen. There are two problems with this argument. First, the government is historically terrible at widespread synchronized efforts. Even if we came up with the perfect plan there is essentially a zero percent chance we could get all of those changes implemented within a reasonable timeframe and to a necessary degree in EVERY business. Secondly, there is the problem of easing the concerns of the American population that this plan, which would be terrible in execution even if they got the details planned out correctly, should make them feel safe. With these two combined issues, it is obvious that this will not work and if it got implemented to some degree more people would die as a result. That doesn’t seem ideal when viewing this through the lens that the human is the most important unit.
the answer is to simply keep those businesses open, foot the bill for a 2x raise for those employees through this, and execute this safety plan only for those industries
This leads me to what I think is the obvious solution. The concern that essential businesses could end up being understaffed creating supply-chain issues needs to be addressed but the answer is to simply keep those businesses open, foot the bill for a 2x raise for those employees through this, and execute this safety plan only for those industries. A much smaller effort is way more likely to be effective and state and local governments could team up with the federal government to make sure that these principles are being followed. The safety plan would be easy: hourly cleaning of all surfaces, temperature testing on every entry and departure of the facility, strict mask requirements, strict hand-washing requirements, mandated 6-feet distancing as much as possible, and COVID-19 testing for every employee starting or returning to work. We could actually do this and the American people would likely have much more confidence that we could. As for every other business, keep them closed and keep people home as much as we can until the crisis seems to be under control and ending. This still leaves the problem of those unessential employees who still need to make rent and buy food but I think we know the solution to this: $2,000 for every adult and child monthly until this is over and we have begun to recover to somewhat of a normal degree. Some have also proposed the government footing the bill for rent, utilities, and other necessary resources throughout this. It’s as simple as that. With this simple plan, we have just solved every valid concern to do with the well-being of our population which should be our focus right now. Some may say, “What about getting people back to work, economic activity at large, and the stock market?” The fact is, none of these things matter right now. If everyone is being funded enough to survive and essential businesses and supply chains are functioning then we have done our part. Everyone is surviving as much as we can control, we aren’t worsening the situation, and we can get this over with as soon as possible. That should be our focus. People will get back to work eventually, they’re already fine on money because we covered that, the economy will recover and we can focus on how to do that when this is over, and the stock market doesn’t seem to care about any of this as it’s already rebounded to a large degree not to mention that 84% of stocks are owned by the top 10% anyway who are fine.
Everyone is surviving as much as we can control, we aren’t worsening the situation, and we can get this over with as soon as possible. That should be our focus.
The answer to what we need to do right now is pretty simple. Both sides don’t seem to be listening to each other on this and are clinging to old values which are just widening the gap and creating more gridlock in congress. Yes, part of the economy still needs to function, but, also, the federal government ought to foot the bill and make sure that everyone is okay through this time while keeping as many people who aren’t involved in the necessary parts of the economy home. By doing this we’ve addressed all valid concerns that relate to and could affect the lives of the people which should be the only thing that matters ever, but especially now.