Havre Daily News
New economic thinking for coronavirus pandemic

When the Great Recession happened in 2008-09, resulting in double-digit unemployment and the destruction of trillions of dollars of wealth, few economists, including Nobel Prize-winning laureates, had seen it coming. And, those who had, like the University of Chicago’s Raghuram Rajan, had been widely mocked by their fellow economists for being alarmist.

Of course, just as a good doctor can’t always predict her or his patient’s deep illness and a good mechanic can’t always anticipate a spun rod bearing in a car engine, a world-class economist won’t always be ahead of the next economic downturn.

That said, few would characterize economists’ performances during the Great Recession, as well as now, during the coronavirus pandemic, as confidence-inspiring. We need new, bolder thinking.

Thus, where is the cogent plan for nations to weather a prolonged loss of global economic demand, an extended shutdown of our economy? (And, for the sake of robustness, let’s plan for a worst-case scenario, while hoping for the best: A multi-year pandemic that halts most all economic activity.)

In the words of Tess Vigeland, one of the hosts of a new podcast, “Pandemic Economics,” “I don’t see any solutions out there. And that’s what scares me.”

In the context of the economy, there has essentially been only one camp for helping everyday Americans and their small businesses: Compensate, by either re-opening the economy, issuing subsidies, issuing bridge loans, or some combination of the aforementioned, their lost revenue.

However, in focusing on compensating for lost revenue, we risk a mismatch between one’s expenses and the revenue needed to satisfy them. While people await their government checks, they also know that that assistance will probably be inadequate to paying the bills. In other words, bankruptcy, in many cases, will be delayed, not prevented.

Focusing, instead, on waiving expenses — while still providing government subsidies for various essential items — gets to the root worry on most people’s mind: paying their bills.

This starts with the banks, which were generously bailed out by the federal government during the Great Recession. Payments for car loans, home mortgages, credit cards, student loans (which should be, at least in part, forgiven), and consumer loans should be halted, without interest and missed payment accrual. The situation should be frozen, to be restarted once the pandemic has passed. On the other side, the payments banks must pay to others can likewise be forgiven until society is truly ready to be re-opened.

It extends to rent payments, as well, which should be halted until the pandemic has passed (and, of course, evictions must be disallowed). And, regarding essential goods and services like health care, utilities and food — where Cost of Goods Sold is incurred, workers are being paid, and a complex (even multinational) supply chain may need protecting — the federal government should commit to paying for those goods and services in full. (During emergent, disinflationary conditions, large deficits are required.)

The fundamental tenet here is that your revenue is my expenses, and my revenue is your expenses. When we remove the expense variable from the relationship, there is no existential need for revenue — for persons or businesses. In other words, lost revenue — lost wages, salaries, investment income — becomes inconsequential in the pursuit of financial solvency.

The key advantage in removing expenses from the picture is that the government need not have to guess or customize what the revenue needs of millions of people and businesses are — a task for which, on shortest notice, it is poorly suited. In addition, this approach is sustainable, no matter how long the pandemic should last.

As I heard a worker once say who was stuck in a minimum wage job, “I’d be willing to work for free if they’d just pay my bills.”

That’s where things stand today: The bills of the American people and their businesses need to be addressed and the federal government should take the lead on that. It starts with congressional legislation waiving our expenses — for all Americans and small businesses.

Otherwise, if the pandemic persists and compensatory revenue schemes, however well-intentioned, predictably undershoot expenses, we could actually lose our country.

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Montana Standard
Out of coronavirus should come universal health care

What will America’s health care system look like after the coronavirus pandemic?

Indeed, we’re in the middle of the battle and shouldn’t be distracted from our mission of flattening the curve, mobilizing our nation to supply needed ventilators, masks, and gloves, building out hospital bed capacity, creating a vaccine, and assisting individuals and businesses impacted by the economy’s shutdown.

But if we don’t accept the challenge of simultaneously fighting the virus and laying down a foundation for a better America, then the virus will have won – even after it has run its course.

The virus has exposed what no politician’s rhetoric could: America is in dire need of a universal health care system that ensures every person in our country is comprehensively and affordably covered.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, was a step in the right direction. But, it was inadequate. Tens of millions remained uninsured or underinsured. Co-payments, premiums, and deductibles have continued their inexorable rise.

With the coronavirus, our nation is discovering a fundamental truth: affordable, quality health care is not only a human right but essential to our national security and economy. As it turns out, our mobility, prosperity, and lives depend on the health of our neighbors and even strangers.

Scientists have been predicting an outbreak of a highly transmissible novel virus for decades, for which there is no vaccine or immunity, and the current coronavirus – SARS CoV-2 – is, statistically speaking, probably not the only such virus in the world. Combined with climate change’s contribution to disease proliferation, globalization, and an ever-expanding human population reducing standoff distance to such deadly, locked-away viruses, we should assume that another pandemic in our lifetime is possible.

Moreover, the mounting, unserved health care needs of our communities – independent of the virus – are undermining the nation. Essential procedures are being skipped by too many in our country who simply cannot afford the medical visits or the related opportunity costs, including the risk of losing one’s job. Preventative care is too seldom pursued, enabling illnesses to get an unfair head start.

That is not only immoral, it’s anti-business. After all, how many potential entrepreneurs with the next big thing in mind – the next Steve Jobs, perhaps – will forgo materializing their dreams into business reality – and the thousands of associated livable-wage American jobs – because of the likelihood of losing employer-dominated health care coverage for their families and themselves? How many companies’ productivity – and profits – would increase if their workers and the country’s labor pool were healthier? How could other nations possibly compete with an America that properly, finally, invests in the health of its people?

As a nation, we’ve lost thousands of our fellow citizens to this pandemic, with a full-blown war’s worth of casualties likely to come. Congress owes it to them and their families that they did not lose their lives in vain, that their fate helped transform America into a more just, secure, and prosperous nation.

Congress should pass emergent legislation this year that establishes Medicare for All or a public option of full Medicare benefits to every person in our country, in perpetuity. And the president should sign it into law.

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Jim Murry Endorses John Mues

Jim Murry, one of Montana’s greatest leaders and a powerful champion for workers, endorsed John Mues for U.S. Senate. “As the former head of the Montana State AFL-CIO, I enthusiastically endorse John Mues, a 4th generation Montanan, for the U.S. Senate. I know that workers can trust John because of his humble upbringing in small, … Continued

Captain Dave Ruff Endorses John Mues

Captain Dave Ruff (USN, ret.), one of the most respected U.S. Nuclear Submarine Force officers, former Commanding Officer of the nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Louisiana (SSBN-743), and a senior officer at Combined Task Force 69, COMSUBGRU EIGHT, and Navy BUPERS, has endorsed John Mues. John served under Captain Ruff during the initial combat phase … Continued

Strong Statewide Endorsements, Grassroots Outreach, Fundraising Effort Build Momentum for the Candidacy of John Mues to Serve as Montana’s Next U.S. Senator

MONTANA – Strong grassroots support, growing endorsements and a broad base of fundraising continue to propel John Mues and his candidacy to serve as Montana’s next U.S. Senator forward toward the June 2020 Primary election. “As I meet with Montanans from all walks of life and hear about their concerns and priorities, I am more … Continued

Jessica Karjala Endorses John Mues

Jessica Karjala of Billings and Yellowstone County issued the following statement today, officially endorsing the candidacy of John Mues to serve as Montana’s next U.S. Senator, replacing extreme right-wing U.S. Senator Steve Daines. ____________________________________ Though my endorsement may come as one of many, I am asking my supporters and Montana voters to throw their support … Continued