Why it is important that America opens its economy back up as soon as possible, before irreversible economic damage is done
Before I delve into the logistics of why I believe it is imperative to reopen the American economy, I want to make something clear: I value human life. I wish not a single person had died from the coronavirus. I do not wish to open the economy at the expense of American lives.
With that said, I believe we are not facing a false dichotomy between human lives and livelihoods.
Over the past week, President Donald Trump spoke out about his desire to reopen the American economy as soon as possible. The Trump administration suggested they hope to have the economy back up and running as soon as May 1.
However, the U.S. still lacks the ability to test all of its citizens, and there are no signs yet of complete recovery from the coronavirus. The president’s adversaries suggest that we cannot even begin to think about reopening the economy and that the president does not care about human life as much as he cares about big businesses.
But how much can opponents of opening the economy truly care about human life when they look at the number of people who are without jobs? How about the number of people who cannot pay rent? How about the more than 20 million people who have filed for unemployment and do not know where their next meal is coming from?
According to CNBC, jobless claims rose by more than 5 million last week, bringing the total to around 22 million lost in the last month. This raised the unemployment rate to what some predict could be 16%. That’s 22 million individuals who are out of a job for the last month because of estimates of the number of lives that the coronavirus could take.
Initial estimates ranged anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 people perishing from COVID-19, but the newest reports suggest that there could be less than 70,000 deaths by August.
Graphs such as those provided by sites like Our World in Data are being presented to the public and continuing to incite fear. This graph seems at first glance that America has been among the worst nations in their handling of this crisis. Upon further inspection, the y-axis of the graph shows that the distance between 1 and 10 is the same as the distance between 10 and 100 deaths per million. When the graph is adjusted for this hidden bias, it seems as though America has been among the best in handling this situation
We are also starting to see in real time that the peaks that are hitting are not as hard as we expected. While New York governor Andrew Cuomo claimed he would need upwards of 30,000 ventilators from the federal government, his state has thus far functioned with the 4,000 they received.
This is not to say the surge is not going to happen, but it seems to be that the U.S. medical system was better equipped to handle this situation than previously expected.
So, why is our entire economy closed?
While the damage seems to vary across industries, Forbes reported that “38% of the small firms think they would still be open after a six-month crisis, but that drops to 27% for tourism and lodging firms, and only a 15% survival rate for restaurants.”
These numbers are not just like the guesses that we can make with COVID-19 deaths, but they are actual livelihoods and incomes that are affecting American lives.
While the stimulus package passed by Congress may help these efforts, the federal government cannot continue to foot the bill for companies around the nation forever, and the long term damage to our economy may take decades to recover from.
Furthermore, Forbes also reported that these checks are not reaching the businesses because of the overwhelming demand on banks.
During severe unemployment, as can be seen by looking at the great depression, suicide and alcohol abuse tend to increase, while mental health declines. Actual lives are being affected every day.
Now that we have taken the steps to flatten the curve, which seems to be working, it is time to try to reach herd immunity. The idea is that if enough people get the disease and can pass it, they will become immune and are much less likely to spread it to others.
Does this mean that Trump should be on Twitter fighting with his governors about when and how to reopen the economy? Absolutely not. However, it does mean that his three-step plan to reopen the economy as soon as humanly possible is the correct action for him to project to the nation.
America is in the middle of this pandemic and needs to start looking forward to solutions. We cannot work from home forever, and businesses cannot stay closed indefinitely, or else they risk bankruptcy.
With social distancing measures, masks in public, and protecting the vulnerable population with a little bit longer “shelter in place,” it is hard to see why those in good health should not be able to start to look toward the light at the end of the tunnel.
In this case, ‘tis not “nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” it is nobler to “take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.”
The lives being lost are horrible. Going forward, we mustn’t forsake livelihoods when not absolutely necessary. The answer is to open, and soon.