When Should Trump Restart the Economy?

As the world shudders into Easter and the death toll on the China virus continues to rise, the question is: should we quarantine or should we restart the economy before the shutdown kills us?

Or, more exactly, when should President Trump brave the sneers of the White House press corpse and proclaim that America is Back?

The answer, I think, is pretty clear. It will be midway between the point where only crazed libertarians propose a return to work and the point where Nancy Pelosi would announce that she is appointing a House Select Committee to investigate Trump’s criminal delay in restarting the economy.

In other words, effective political leadership is tricky.

To illustrate this, think about January. That was the month when the bureaucratic experts at the WHO were issuing scientific pronouncements that the virus did not propagate from human to human. It was the month when Sen. Tom Cotton went to the White House to get the president to get serious about the disease. And it ended with the President banning flights from China on the last day of January to universal disapprobation from all the usual suspects.

See what I mean? What’s the odds that if the President had banned flights from China a week earlier some Obama-appointed judge would have issued a nationwide injunction staying the President’s administrative action?

The (hydroxy)chloroquine flap illustrates the same thing. The President at his daily briefing raises the hope that the (hydroxy)chloroquine cocktail treatment might work. The usual suspects accuse him of raising false hopes. Dumb-as-a-post Democratic governors issue bans on (hydroxy)chloroquine. And a couple days later a general consensus forms that, yeah, we should try the treatment and pay no attention to that Democratic governor behind the curtain reversing his/her ban.

See what I mean? Despite what scientists say politics remains an art -- and when did politics become a science anyway?

Now, personally, I believe the shutdown -- although maybe not the social distancing -- is folly. Its real purpose is to protect the government’s centralized healthcare system from the humiliation of “geezers on gurneys” dying in the hallways and the even worse specter of bodies in the street. Guess what! If you build a centralized bureaucratic system you are building a system that is designed to fail. Because the idea of a bureaucratic system, Bernie, is that we experts at the top know everything. That is only true if the expert at the top is God. Lefty gods-on-earth need not apply.

But I realize that at least half of the human race that would disagree with me. Half of the human race believes in “sheltering in place” in a crisis. These people are called women. Then there is the other half that believes in “marching towards the sound of the guns” in a crisis. These people are called men.

I admit that there is personal interest here. Did you know that scientists say that when all the men in a tribe get killed off the women get absorbed into the neighboring tribes? So, for women, there is probably life after disaster. Or, as the sexists say: men are expendable.

My prediction is that President Trump will issue a back-to-work order about two weeks before the geniuses in the media and left-wing hate groups catch up to reality. There will be two weeks where all the usual suspects are telling us that the walls are closing in on Trump. A couple of Inspectors General will change the rules on whistleblowers and leak to their favorite House committees which will start super-secret investigations in the House basement.

Then it will become evident to all that Trump made the right decision. However, he did it the wrong way.

But will the economy ever recover?

My answer to that is World War II. In World War II the US government spent four years building useless stuff that didn’t build national wealth, sent millions of young men abroad to possible death, and ran the federal debt from the pre-war 40 percent to about 120 percent of GDP. Then it stopped the whole thing and sent a generation of young men to college where they still did nothing useful. The result was the Fifties and Ozzie and Harriet, Seeing the USA in a Chevrolet, and bringing the debt down to 30 percent of GDP by the Seventies.

Now, I believe there are only two things to fear, apart from fear itself. The first is the Federal Reserve Board. Its only job is to serve as “lender of last resort.” Hello! Anyone at home?

The second thing to fear is deflation, a repeat of the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. Civil War, and World War I, when governments attempted a “resumption” of the gold standard at the pre-war gold price, and only succeeded in making everyone mad.

Over to you, President Trump.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, usgovernmentspending.com. Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.