As America begins to awaken from her plague-induced economic slumber, government and markets must work collaboratively to reverse the damage that has wounded the most robust economy of our lifetimes. Markets are powerful. They will find ways to adapt to new realities, provided government stays in a supportive, rather than a micro-managing role.
Congress has created critical rescue packages intended to serve as bridges for small businesses, health care providers, and front-line workers to traverse the abyss of a full economic lockdown. I was happy to support the Paycheck Protection Program, which has been an unmitigated success in attracting applicants and in dispensing monetary assistance. Though federal assistance is a poor substitute for economic productivity, I am confident this and other federal programs have helped businesses weather the potentially catastrophic damage of the last six weeks.
Though federal assistance helps in the short term, the path to recovery in the long term runs through the American marketplace. Our businesses are smart, innovative, and motivated to meet the needs of pent-up consumer demand. Government must get out of the way to enable our businesses to adapt to the demands of a socially distant reality.
To fully reopen our economy and develop an effective exit strategy post-lockdown, we must determine how to divide limited government and medical resources. This will allow the economy to continue undisturbed, until a vaccination or reliable treatment regimen is found.
Our limited resources should first be directed at those with the highest risk of infection. The complexity and expense of applying a single, one-size-fits-all standard across the population is neither necessary nor effective. Lives lost on the Coronavirus side of the leger are unfortunately joined by lives lost from untreated medical conditions, suicide, domestic abuse, national security risks, and other direct impacts of closing the economy.
In many locations, social distancing, hygiene rules, and masks can protect the low-risk population while ensuring that the health system is not flooded. The high risk population can shelter in place with greater access to goods and services from a functioning economy.
Shifting our strategy from widespread lockdowns to more targeted efforts will not just preserve our prosperity, it will save lives. By dividing into risk groups, we can tailor guidelines and direct finite resources to those who need them the most. Government continues to have a supporting role to play. But our markets should be the star of the show, adapting and innovating their way to financial recovery.