EDITORIAL: U.S. economy needs strong preventative medicine now

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Working to save the nation from the ravages of the pandemic crisis isn’t a partisan issue, but Democrats are right about the meager and latent GOP Senate plan: It’s not enough. Not by far.

After weeks of pressure from the American public to produce more, desperately needed economic assistance to struggling families, schools and businesses, Senate Republicans pitched a vote on a $500 billion “targeted” aid package. In contrast, House Democrats in May proposed $3.5 trillion in aid.

Like the COVID-19 pandemic itself, too many Republicans, managing the Senate, have not taken the economic crisis seriously. Some point to a surging stock market as proof that the worst economic crisis in the nation and the world since the Great Depression, isn’t that bad.

Credible economic experts and others have assured, it’s that bad. Waiting to create an inevitable aid package will only make the crisis worse by pushing more businesses into closure or bankruptcy, more households into the threat of eviction and more students further behind because of schools overwhelmed by the pandemic.

The widening calamity will wash over the nation for generations as the economic affect of shutting down the nation to avoid massive death and illness takes its toll.

Doing the smart thing appeals to real conservatives. The cost of the pandemic crisis to the government and the nation will either be paid now, or it will be paid at an even greater cost later.

Too many American families have now depleted savings, assistance or borrowed time and now face inevitable homelessness and even hunger. Too many businesses can no longer continue, exponentially worsening the crisis by pushing even more people into joblessness. The waves created by job loss will wash across every segment of the economy for months, if not years.

The nation is in a poor position to borrow huge sums of money right now, but the alternative is far worse.

The Senate should work with House Democrats to create a program that realistically funds tens of thousands of schools to allow them to truly, safely bring students into real, not virtual, classrooms.

Credible experts have made clear that even under the most promising timelines, it will be many months before an effective vaccine program creates the “herd immunity” needed to relax social distancing and masking requirements. Schools will need large sums of money to keep hundreds of millions of students on track under nearly impossible circumstances. Allowing students, already behind from the last school year, to fall further behind will have life-long consequences for students and society alike.

Likewise, as businesses — unable to make money in a nation that must shut down and limit wide sectors — are pushed into closure, a cascading number of employees will be forced onto public assistance.

Allowing so many businesses to shutter now will only slow recovery when it happens. Republicans earlier this year were right. Instead of paying money through unemployment checks, pushing those funds through existing company payrolls saves jobs now and will expedite economic recovery when the nation’s economy begins to normalize.

Finally, cities and other governments are already reeling from the economic downturn caused by just a few months of crisis. These governments will be decimated if the crisis deepens. Allowing these governments to fall over the cliff will only make desperate health and economic crises worse by causing widespread public safety emergencies.

The last chance for Congress to act is now, even though the time to address the problem was months ago. Whether it’s pressure applied by the threat of election or the loss of political power, lawmakers must act to prevent one of the biggest U.S. disasters to become the worst ever.