As the U.S. economy begins to reopen, Americans are asking two questions: Can we recover, and how long will it take?
The answer to the first question is “yes.” In 1918, the Spanish flu infected millions of Americans, claiming more than 675,000 lives. (By comparison, the coronavirus pandemic has killed about 80,000 Americans so far). But then the “Roaring Twenties” happened, with the U.S. economy growing more than 40 percent in a single decade.
After two more crises — the Great Depression and World War II — our free-market economy rebounded again and again. Over time, ours became the most powerful economy in the world — as it remains today.
American ingenuity stands the test of the time. That won’t change in 2020.
However, answering the second question is less straightforward. Because of the Wuhan virus, more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs, officially pushing the unemployment rate past 14 percent (if not higher) — the highest level since the aforementioned Great Depression. During the first quarter, U.S. gross domestic product fell by 4.8 percent, reversing the steady gains of recent years.
Stay-at-home orders, imposed by Democratic and Republican governors alike, are preventing millions of small businesses from reopening their doors and serving their customers. Commerce is the lifeblood of our free-market economy, and commerce is temporarily on hold. That has to change.
What we should ask ourselves is whether we are doing everything in our power to expedite an economic recovery. And President Trump, for one, is doing just that.
We are fortunate to have a proven business leader in the White House. Now more than ever, Americans need an expert on economic matters — from the stock market to unemployment and GDP growth — in charge, and President Trump is that leader.
Lest we forget: It was under the Trump administration that the U.S. economy reached its greatest heights yet. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent, leaving Americans across the socioeconomic spectrum (and the racial divide) with the highest levels of take-home pay in history. With GDP on the rise, the stock market also peaked, as the Dow Jones surpassed 29,500 in February.
President Trump did it before. He, of all people, can do it again.
In a recent town hall, President Trump emphasized the need to reopen the economy, so that millions of unemployed Americans can regain their financial security. In his words: “We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible.” He also criticized Democratic governors who are unnecessarily prolonging stay-at-home orders: “Some states, frankly, I think aren’t going fast enough.”
He’s right. The entire rationale for closing America was to “flatten the curve” and keep Americans safe while not overrunning our health care system. To a large degree, we have accomplished that goal. If anything, hospitals have been underused since the pandemic broke out.
Take my home state of Colorado, with a population of nearly six million people. The volume of patients in Colorado’s emergency rooms is down 30 to 40 percent. Hospitals are not, in fact, running out of supplies — only revenue. As Dylan Luyten, medical director for the emergency room at Denver’s Swedish Medical Center, said, “We’re sitting in a lovely, clean, empty waiting room.”
Colorado is not New York City. What may be necessary in the Big Apple doesn’t necessarily apply to less densely populated states like mine, where the medical system can cope with a reopened economy. We shouldn’t be bankrupting entire towns and cities because there are COVID-19 hotspots in other parts of the country.
As President Trump pivots to “phase two” of economic reopening, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But those states that are ready should open their economies post-haste. There is simply too much at stake, with tens of millions of Americans falling upon harder times.
Our freedom is at stake too. In states like Michigan, economic closures are depriving citizens of their basic rights. Many Democratic governors have overstepped the boundaries laid out in the Constitution by closing down churches, gun shops and other businesses they’ve deemed “nonessential” while allowing liquor stores, pot shops and abortion clinics to stay open.
This is unacceptable. A “return to normal” isn’t just a return to economic prosperity; it’s also a reaffirmation of individual liberty.
Following President Trump’s lead, it’s time for the U.S. economy to open again. Let’s unleash the American ingenuity that made America, America.