Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the line during the program’s second hour by Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts.
During the third hour, Leahy and Roberts discussed whether the coronavirus itself was worse than the American economy collapsing. After reviewing Mike Murray’s recent three-step “Military Option“, both men agreed that Trump has signaled a move in this direction and that it was time to start focusing on the consequences of a failed economy and more data as the virus unfolds.
Leahy: We are talking with State Senator Kerry Roberts. Kerry, I want to go through if you’ve got a few minutes here to listen. I want to go through Mike Murray’s summary who is the former Vice President at Microsoft and my classmate at Stanford Business School.
I haven’t talked to him for a long time. Here’s what he says. We have to fight a war. It’s the COVID-19 war. And it has two elements. One, fighting the virus by minimizing infections. And two keeping people in jobs. We’ve focused 90% of our attention on fighting the virus but we need to now spend more of our time focusing on the national challenges that will come keeping people in jobs.
And so here are the three steps. Now he calls it and I think you and I agree, he probably shouldn’t have called it the “Military Option.” OK? But that’s what he called it. Step number one: Encourage all healthy people ages 20-55 to get back to work immediately.
Back to restaurants. Back to barbershops. We’re not a country of dummies. This large group can walk and talk and chew gum at the same time. Number two: Protect our most vulnerable citizens.
That is those over 60 and those with significant chronic illnesses. And number three: We open all schools immediately using the same science-driven logic. If there are shortages of staff we should employ people healthy ages 20-55. OK. A lot of readers didn’t like that and you read that and thought there was some merit in that. Tell us your consideration.
Roberts: Well, its worth consideration. When you are trying to make decisions that are going to have a lasting economic impact you have to get feedback. More importantly, you have to get data from a wide range of sources. Data and isolation is a dangerous thing.
It reinforces in some cases bad behavior because you don’t have a complete picture. So what this guy does is he presents the fact that all of our focus is on COVID-19 and in other words, we are letting the medical people make all the decisions right now.
But it’s going to lead to an economic collapse. And what people have not spent a lot of time talking about is what is the medical or health outcome of an economic collapse? Our government is funded by what?
Our government is funded because it takes money from one person and pays for all these services or gives money to another person. There is not an infinite pool of money. And if you collapse the American economy then there’s no money to help people in need.
And that’s going to have devastation in and of itself. I think somethings are rather obvious. If somebody loses a business that they worked all their life in they feel like they don’t have anything or hopeless you could see an uptick in suicide for example.
If you have rural hospitals that were already teetering on collapse and they collapse with no money to bail them out from the government because the government has collapsed then you have people who don’t receive healthcare. Whether they have insurance or not.
So there is a lot of devastating outcomes that come if the American economy collapses. And at some point, the question which nails it on the head is at what point is the cure worse than the disease itself. And that’s kind of where he’s going with this.
Leahy: And that’s where the president’s head is right now.
Roberts: I love the fact that he brought that up yesterday. That’s like a week past due. Two weeks past due.
Leahy: Yeah. Its a signal of what government policy changes at the federal level are going to be. I mean he’s marshaled all these resources to address the fact that coronavirus is going to keep growing and there are going to be more and more people hospitalized. There are treatments going on right now that will hopefully bring down the mortality rate.
Equipment is being rushed to the hot spots in New York, Illinois, and Washington. But, I think and when you look at it former Nobel laureate Mike Levitt from Stanford said, “Look if you shut down the economy just as you said there are all sorts of problems that come with poverty and depression.” Poverty kills as many people Kerry as the coronavirus.
Leahy: And perhaps more. And that’s I think our long term deal going on here right now.
Roberts: There is. There is a much much larger context that all policymakers have to consider. Michael, I was in Washington D.C. in 2010 listening to a national security briefing to the Republican House caucus and in that briefing, they were talking about the various threats to national security and to America.
And they talked about the usual things like an EMP being detonated by North Korea. They talked about the natural disasters of the New Madrid fault or Yellowstone. Just some kind of calamity. A solar flare similar to the Carrington event of the 1800s. But the one they said was most realistic was this.
The threat of an epidemic or the threat of a virus, keep in mind this was 2010. So we are passed whatever it was that came through in 2008 and 2009. They said if the American public stays home from work for two weeks and if there is no productivity for two weeks we risk the collapse of the American economy.
Leahy: That’s where we are right now. OK?
Roberts: That’s exactly where we are. That’s something in all the voices that have been left out. The problem is people portray you as not caring. People are going to die. And it’s like no no, no I see a bigger picture here. I see the long term devastation and consequence if we let the American economy die. And I think some people don’t believe its a possibility.
Leahy: It’s a possibility alright.
Roberts: It positively is a possibility. People don’t have any idea how indebted America is if you add up all of our unfunded liabilities. If the government kept books like a business every taxpayers share of the American debt is approaching a million dollars.
Roberts: What a stunning number.
Leahy: And that’s not a strong position to be in when you are shutting down the economy. I think the President has signaled. I heard a report on the news that we’re going to stop social distancing. I don’t think that’s true. We’re not going to stop social distancing we are just going to do it in a more selective targeted way.
People have got to be smart. You can keep washing your hands and keep six feet away. But that doesn’t mean that you should shut down every business in areas of the country that really are not facing the same kind of levels.
Roberts: That’s exactly right. We’re shutting down businesses in areas where people are looking at each other saying whats going on.
Roberts: We don’t understand this. And of course, the medical people say you could be affected. You could be affected.
Leahy: I think people will be affected the question is the degree. I think we’re going to see the number of cases this week will go up and I think then we’ll start…
Roberts: Can I make a prediction?
Leahy: I’m listening.
Roberts: Here’s what I suspect we’ll see in the next week or two. I think we’re going to start hearing a lot of stories from people who had it and they say you know what? I went through two or three weeks of this and felt like I had a bad cold or the flu. I’m fine now. And as soon as those stories start to emerge a very stir crazy is not going to sit at home anymore.
Leahy: I read what purported to one of those stories by a 42-year-old man who had it. And the man he said this is not the regular flu. This guy was in very very serious shape. He’s come around now. Again, it’s more than the flu and it has to be dealt with.
And I think we’re dealing with it perhaps a little slower than it should have been. But now we’re full steam ahead to address it. And I think it’s very clear that you’ve got to keep the economy going. That’s where the president is going I think.
Roberts: I think there is a range of outcomes here. This guy said its worse than the flu. but you’ve had some other reports from people saying it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Again, we need data. We need data. We need to know a lot. We don’t need to go on anecdotal…
Leahy: Data is it.
Roberts: We’ve got to have data. And I don’t know the percentage of people that have a severe outcome versus people who just say I was dragging around for two or three weeks but otherwise I am fine.
Listen to the second hour here:
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