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On Saturday President Trump expressed support for the idea, put forth by Fox News’ Dana Perino, of a White House task force focused on reopening the American economy. For several weeks now the White House coronavirus task force, headed up by Vice President Mike Pence has taken center stage as the nation battles the global pandemic. The work of that task force has been superb, but it is limited to the medical front, a second task force focused on the economy would be a welcome addition.
Thrust into the national spotlight Drs. Deborah Brix and Anthony Fauci have been the guiding force in the White House efforts to stem the outbreaks of Wuhan virus across the country. As medical doctors their sole focus is in reducing transmission of the virus to levels as low as possible. This is noble and important work, but they cannot take into account the legitimate competing interest of avoiding a new great depression as the economy tanks.
The need for that economic interest to be addressed in just as serious a way is dire. In the last two weeks 10 million Americans have their jobs. Some experts believe the unemployment rate could reach 30 percent, a number unheard of in living memory. Meanwhile, according to a recent poll 24 percent of small business owners who have seen their shops closed by the nearly nationwide shutdown expect they will never be able to reopen for business.
What is required and what has been sorely lacking is an effort to balance the medical and economic impact of this crisis. In far too many cases those who even attempt to address the immediate and potentially generational harmful impact this crisis could have on American workers and businesses have been portrayed as heartless ghouls who only care about the stock market, not human lives. But this is not the case.
In fact, the myriad potential for disastrous effects that a second great depression could have on our nation are an emergency in their own right which requires just as much attention as the pandemic itself. Entire communities are poised to be plunged into a nightmare of joblessness, empty storefronts, addiction and even suicide if we do not find a way to get America back working soon.
An economic task force would ,for the first time during the crisis, balance the medical concerns with the economic concerns not only at the White House itself, but also in the public eye. It would give hope to Americans eyeing a wary future in which they either have already lost work, or a business or stand on that frightening precipice. Functioning in tandem, but working separately these two task forces could provide checks and balances on each other, allowing the president, local officials, and the American people to make more sound judgments.
One cannot blame the current task force for casting a cold eye on economic concerns. That is not their job. But as Trump put it last month, “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem.” We must simultaneously tackle the challenge of the virus and the challenge of keeping millions of American households afloat.
By standing up this new task force, Trump will send a powerful message that the government hears the pleas of the forgotten Americans who are suffering not in hospitals but in economic despair. This task force is needed, and it is needed now.