President Trump’s latest gambit in attempting to revive the economy is to demand the opening of America’s public schools this fall. The logic is obvious: Getting the kids back into the classroom will allow parents to return to the workplace and thereby contribute to our economic recovery. Moreover, a reviving economy will enhance his chances for re-election. But his push to reopen the economy seems premature.
Initial efforts to reopen the economy have been followed by a surge in the pandemic. This makes going to work more risky, not only for workers themselves, but for the economy as a whole. It may deteriorate even further should too many people become too ill to work and contribute to our much-needed economic recovery.
And what about school children? Won’t concentrating children in classrooms increase the risk of illness? It’s widely believed that children are less likely to get covid-19, and that cases of covid-19 in children are usually less severe than those in adults. But these data, if true, would nonetheless be cold comfort to parents of children who contract it anyway. It’s telling that according to a Texas Tribune poll, 65% of Texans think reopening the schools now would be premature. Of course, these figures could change by the time the school year begins, but whether for better or worse remains to be seen.
The safer approach for President Trump to take in reviving the economy is to recognize that the economic collapse is due to the public health crisis: End the crisis, and the economy will more quickly—and more safely—revive. To that end, the President must exercise more leadership in the creation and implementation of programs to:
- Test, trace, and treat—a strategy employed by those nations, notably Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and New Zealand, which have brought the pandemic under control with less economic disruption and—better yet–far fewer deaths per capita;
- Develop cures for the ill and vaccines to prevent future illness;
- Educate the public on the virtues of vaccination, especially by convincing those open to reason that vaccination programs are intended to reduce disease and not spread autism or make us slaves to Bill Gates, George Soros, Big Pharma, or the federal government.
And until we develop the medical resources to bring an end to this plague, we must provide more relief to businesses, individuals, and state and local governments hit by the crisis. Businesses are still shuttered, people are still out of work, and state and local governments are becoming increasingly unable to collect the tax and fee revenue with which to finance essential services. Of course, in the granting of federal aid, care must be taken to avoid the sort of favoritism which has produced large grants to the well-connected, and it must be recognized that governments whose fiscal predicaments are due to incompetent money management should receive no aid unless it comes with mandates for them to restore fiscal responsibility and integrity.
President Trump is absolutely correct to want to open the economy as soon as possible. Too many lives have been hurt, if not ruined, by our current economic collapse. But to open it up prematurely will do more harm than good, as Governor Abbott has recognized, which is why he’s warning of future necessary shutdowns in Texas should the situation deteriorate further. And of course the state and local governments should continue to encourage the reopening of segments of the economy at a pace and under such conditions which help meet legitimate health and safety concerns.
And as for President Trump’s political fortunes—his fate is of secondary importance. The public’s health and safety trump, so to speak, any president’s re-election chances, and nobody who doesn’t understand that is fit to be president or even dog catcher. But good policy can be good politics. Accelerating the quest for cures and preventives, aiding those who are suffering, and helping state and local governments more effectively meet their responsibilities can’t possibly hurt anyone’s political fortunes.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.