A Dramatic Attitude Shift on the Virus Sweeps Through Washington
Author: Greg Valliere
March 24, 2020
IN DECADES OF COVERING WASHINGTON, we have never seen an attitude shift as dramatic as the one that has swept through this city: America cannot be kept on lockdown for weeks or months to come; this could rip apart the social and economic fabric of the country. So the mantra has become “the cure can’t be worse than the disease.”
THIS OBVIOUSLY APPEALS TO DONALD TRUMP, who is desperate to jump-start the economy ahead of the November elections. So the war-time commander who just a week ago said the lockdown might last until July or August is now considering a loosening of restrictions within weeks (the “social distancing” decree expires next Tuesday).
A FIERCE PUSH-BACK is coming from scientists; Dr. Anthony Fauci, hailed as a saint last week, may be on thin ice this week. He and other virologists want an even more aggressive lockdown, and they’re dubious at best that there are drugs that would offer a quick fix.
THIS STUNNING ATTITUDE SHIFT comes at a most inopportune time, as new infections and deaths spike and hospitals are overwhelmed. The news this week will be horrible, but the focus already is on April and May.
WE’RE HEARING THAT WITHIN THE WHITE HOUSE there’s growing support for allowing healthy young people — especially in areas that haven’t been hit badly by the virus — to re-enter the work force within two or three weeks, then gradually loosening restraints on older Americans. There will be casualties in this scenario, but there will be casualties in the lockdown scenario.
IN THE MEANTIME, there’s a growing chance that the dysfunctional Congress will approve its $2 trillion stimulus plan, which was shorn last night of several extraneous provisions that had nothing to do with the virus. We reiterate our comment yesterday that many on the left view this crisis as an opportunity to advance their activist agenda.
WHILE WE EXPECT PASSAGE LATER TODAY or tomorrow at the latest, there’s one potential complication: the spread of the disease in the halls of Congress will reduce the number of lawmakers needed to pass the measure before the ranks are further depleted.
OUR BOTTOM LINE: A passionate debate will intensify over allowing some people to venture out in April. Some people will excoriate Trump for cynical political expediency. Others will argue that it’s un-thinkable to lock down the country for months.
THERE’S A MIDDLE GROUND that may emerge soon, as restrictions are gradually lifted, especially in areas that have not been devastated, mostly in the South.
IN THE MEANTIME, THERE’S ONE KEY PLAYER: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the economic and market crisis. He will do whatever it takes to avoid another Great Depression, acting so boldly that Trump himself called Powell yesterday to offer congratulations to his one-time whipping boy.
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