As I’ve observed the response of the U.S. government to the coronavirus pandemic, my level of concern has been on the same trajectory as the number of reported cases in our country.
My two primary areas of concern are combatting the pandemic efficiently and simultaneously dealing with the economic implications that come with it.
As of now, the U.S. has dethroned China in the total number of official cases (if you trust China’s numbers). According to the surgeon general, the number of official cases are two weeks behind Italy, a country in which 10% of people known to be infected have died.
Originally, it was believed that only older people and those with underlying conditions were at risk of dying from the virus, but there have now been many reports of people dying who do not fit those profiles. Additionally, the virus has proven to be sometimes asymptomatic.
Due to the nature of the virus, health officials have emphasized that our best bet is to practice social distancing and to limit gatherings to 10 people to help slow down the spread.
These recommendations have been urged in several states, with some states even enforcing stay-at-home orders. Consequently, it has resulted in people having to work from home, not being able to go to work or being laid off.
This is where Congress is faced with two difficult choices.
Do we put the whole country on lockdown until we can control the spread of the virus, which will surely result in economic depression? Or do we order everyone to go back to work, allowing a new disease that we don’t have a vaccine for to run its course, so we don’t experience economic breakdown?
Faced with these challenges, Congress put together a solution that would help keep people afloat, make investors optimistic and keep the economy from falling apart. Hence, a $2 trillion stimulus package was passed Friday, March 27.
Arguably, the most notable feature is the $1,200 check (which people who have filed as dependents won’t qualify for). The catch is that it is only a one-time payment. There is also the question of how long it would take to get the checks delivered.
In addition, money in the bill is directed to be allocated for other, nonessential purposes. This includes $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $25 million for the Kennedy Center, and $350 million for migration and refugee assistance, just to name a few. This part of the funding does nothing for the coronavirus relief and could have gone to the people.
Even during this time of economic uncertainty, the Department of Homeland Security also told companies that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would accept electronic signatures instead of ink signatures typically required on I-129 forms. This will speed the inflow of foreign H1B workers into U.S. jobs.
It is beyond unfathomable that even during a time in which Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said the U.S. could see 20% unemployment, our government is not only still handing out work visas like candy, but is making it even easier for “economic migrants” to come and take U.S. jobs.
Worst of all, the Senate breezed out of town as soon as they passed the stimulus package, adjourning until April 20. It really says a lot that even during a pandemic and economic crisis, the Senate cares so much about U.S. citizens that they take time off.
It goes to follow that if the federal government hasn’t figured out how to combat the decade-old opioid crisis, then I wouldn’t count on them to handle a pandemic well either. The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t peaked in the U.S. quite yet, but with what our government has shown us so far, I see no reason to believe that its efforts will bring about an quick end to the crisis.
We will see the end of this disease eventually, but it must first get worse before it gets better. Be prepared for a challenging April.
Written by Grant Palmer, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of The Spectator.