- - Monday, October 5, 2020

It’s high time to fully reopen the American economy, but that requires more than the Federal Reserve printing money to finance business debt and government deficits. Congress, mayors and governors and business leaders must act boldly to get things going.

The recovery has slowed, and the economy will substantially be smaller in February than it was a year earlier had the pandemic not occurred. About 4 million or 5 million jobs will be permanently lost, many more workers will continue on furlough and state unemployment benefits will have expired. Those conditions fall especially hard on young people, and many marriages and babies will be postponed or never happen. 

Another stimulus package is needed that would extend state unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, as we did during the Great Recession. The plan proposed by House moderates would resurrect federal supplemental unemployment benefits at $450 a week and send $500 billion to the states to replace lost tax revenue.

Even with those, most Americans can’t work on laptops from kitchen tables indefinitely. Only about 37% of jobs can be effectively performed remotely. For many others, folks are working longer hours to compensate or have been furloughed, productivity is lower and corporate cultures, and prescient connections among employee teams are eroding.

As offices and retail establishments continue to operate at 50% and 75% capacity, more and more restaurants and other small businesses fail and more jobs are permanently lost among public facing, lower income workers.



Public safety and the security of private property must be restored so that businesses can reopen in cities like New York, Chicago and Portland. That requires mayors and governors to abandon delusional notions that police, not criminals, are the primary source of violent crime in minority communities. Neutering law enforcement, enabling Black Lives Matter to shut down public thoroughfares from commerce by day and hoodlums from the extreme left and right to loot, kill and terrorize decent people by night is not sound public policy.

Business leaders, including executives from Citigroup, Mastercard and Nasdaq, wrote New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that “People will be slow to return unless their concerns about security and the livability of our communities are addressed quickly,” but he quickly deflected their pleas.

If mayors won’t empower and adequately fund police and confine demonstrations to public spaces that don’t impede private commerce, then governors should appoint city administrators to exercise their authority. If governors won’t do it, the president should declare a national emergency to put down these insurrections. 

Will New York Gov. Mario Cuomo stand on the federal courthouse steps to bellow about states rights as George Wallace did two generations ago?

Herd immunity from COVID-19 will be required to permit most workers to ride mass transit and return to offices without spacesuits and draconian measures like apps on cellphones that track their every movement, interaction and trip to the rest room.

Water cooler conversations that boost innovation won’t happen if workers are monitored like inmates in a federal penitentiary and fearful that an unauthorized visit to the desk of a friend may trip their interaction limit and send them home.

We should have at least one vaccine for FDA approval in the closing months of this year and available for wide distribution early next year, but we will need to accomplish 60% to 70% immunity to curb the spread of COVID-19.

As vaccines are likely to be less than 100% effective and elevators and public transportation requires people to be closer than six feet apart to fully reopen tall buildings and cities, all businesses should require workers to be vaccinated or prove immunity with blood tests, and encourage virtually all employees to return to ensure everyone is treated equally. Local governments should impose similar requirements to access to buses, trains and airports.

Mandatory vaccinations can be cast as discriminatory by libertarians and religious leaders, but inoculations are a public commons issue. We don’t allow homeowners in urban areas to operate septic systems and sink wells, because underground ecosystems lack the capacity to process waste and maintain clean drinking water for dense populations. Similarly, the inside air we breathe cannot be magically purified, even with the best ventilation systems, to permit the careless to roam among us.

Limiting crab harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay ensures maximum opportunities for fishermen, and requiring vaccinations and proof of immunity to return to work and access public transportation are the best way to maximize the number of Americans who may return to work.  

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide