Last Monday night (March 30), buses from the ministry of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, started to roll into New York City. Their mission: raise a field hospital in Central Park.
The enormous military hospital ship Comfort, a city block long, pulled into New York harbor. A similar ship, Mercy, steamed into Los Angeles harbor. They were reminiscent of the U.S. Navy’s White Fleet, America’s first modern steel warships, which President Theodore Roosevelt sent on a tour around the world roughly 100 years ago, to signify the new military power America had achieved, soon demonstrated by America’s decisive entry into WW1.
American business is now joining in the present battle, building tens of thousands of ventilators, donating hospital clothing, gear, even medicine. Reminiscent of World War II, when American business retooled to build the ships, planes, tanks that defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, as America rolled back empires on the European Continent, Asia, and across the Pacific.
Governors who think they are taking decisive action with orders to quarantine in place by staying home are going to find the economy much easier to shut down than to leap back into production upon order. America has no automatic power to lead the world in income, jobs and wealth. That needs to be earned in free markets.
It was centuries of work and production that made America the wealthy, dominant superpower it has become. Once we so brazenly shut that down, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t spring back to life on command.
Current stay-at-home policies could create another Great Depression, when unemployment skyrocketed to 25% for years. Some are predicting we are heading for the same soon.
Trillion-dollar government bailouts are no substitute for growth. Investors may be willing to lend the feds trillions even at record low interest rates, with the national debt growing past 100% of GDP. But borrowing a trillion dollars out of the private economy to spend a trillion dollars into the economy never worked during the Great Depression, nor anywhere else since. This unleashed government spending is not going to work on any sustained basis.
Trump originally called for the resurrection of the American economy on Easter. Under pressure from unelected bureaucrats, he pushed that target back until April 30. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay at home order until June 10, threatening jail time. Maryland Governor Ben Hogan has followed suit, issuing stay at home orders with no time limit.
We need to change this dynamic. Trump should work with governors from states that want to work. Start with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Voters in Virginia, Maryland and Illinois will wonder why they can’t work.
Trump can work with willing governors, even county by county, informed by increased testing, freeing those testing free of illness to return to work. The economy can then be reopened southward and westward, to the extent state and local officials, under renewed political pressures, agree to participate.
Moreover, treatments are already working for the sick. America is leading trials in real time for hydroxychloroquine, which has already been proven safe for humans over decades to fight malaria. The FDA has already approved it for use by U.S. doctors “off label” to treat coronavirus patients. But better would be to narrow the FDA’s regulatory power altogether, to focus on human safety, while leaving effectiveness to doctors chosen by each patient.
Remdisivir, produced by Gilead Labs, is another promising treatment. Indeed, computer searches have already uncovered dozens of therapies that can be promising for coronavirus.
Plus, the weather has turned to Spring, with temperatures rising through the coming months. That alone causes such viruses to flee every year.
As the Wall Street Journal editorialized on March 20, “No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its economic health.” It is time for America to get back to work, before the downturn hardens into a repeat of the Great Depression.
President Trump and the governors are the leaders Americans have chosen to make the choices and take the risks to reopen the economy. The risks now favor reopening the economy, with modern medicine and better weather. Today’s Socialist Media Dictatorship needs to be reevaluated once the current crisis has passed. Today’s ubiquitous, highly partisan, ineducable, hard-left media is nothing like the patriotic local newspapers and pamphleteers governed by market competition at our founding.
With the above treatments, plus more extensive and convenient testing, the American economy can be reopened after April 30, ending the coronavirus depression, through unique American federalism.
Americans want to work. They also want movie theaters reopened, baseball and basketball to return, and American life and prosperity restored in a V-shaped recovery, as Trump envisions.
Lewis K. Uhler is founder and President of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He was a personal colleague of both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in both California and across the country.
Peter J. Ferrara is the Dunn Liberty Fellow in Economics at the King’s College in New York and a Senior Fellow at NTLF. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.