WASHINGTON—As local and state officials prepare for a gradual reopening of the economy, boosting employee confidence about returning to work will play a key role in getting the economy back to normal, said Congressman Warren Davidson (R-Ohio).
Davidson joined the newly formed White House task force to provide counsel on reopening the economy. He’s part of the “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group” that includes 32 representatives and 65 senators from both sides of the aisle.
“I think the key is getting the confidence back in the American people to be able to work and to be able to work safely,” Davidson told The Epoch Times.
The Ohio congressman said companies might face difficulties in getting workers to show up, as most people are taking the risks to their health into account.
In addition, he said, “The unemployment [package] is so generous that you’re going to have a hard time getting people back to work.”
Roughly 22 million people across the country have filed unemployment claims in the last four weeks due to CCP virus-related shutdowns. The unemployment rate before the pandemic was 3.5 percent, while market estimates show that April’s jobless rate will surge to 20 percent.
“Prior to just two months ago, the biggest constraint for most employers was workforce, the ability to hire more people,” Davidson said. “We’re not going to go back to that immediately. But I do think there’s a path back to that as soon as we can do it safely.”
When confidence returns, the economy will start to come back and companies will be hiring again, he said.
The most important step, he noted, would be to end the distinction between essential and nonessential businesses so companies can get back to work and provide a “uniform framework to safeguard” their employees.
President Donald Trump unveiled last week guidelines for opening the economy in a three-phased approach. The guidelines are meant to help state and local officials gradually reopen businesses, while ensuring that a second wave of infections doesn’t happen.
The likely path of the economic recovery will also depend on the virus, Davidson said.
“In aggregate across the total population, as we’re doing sampling now, it looks like far more people have been exposed to this virus and the fatality rate looks lower. And if the fatal spread of it stays under control, I think you’ll start to see a pretty strong recovery,” he said. “It could obviously be very different if the virus becomes somehow worse and much more aggressive.”
The president’s guidelines give state governors discretion as to when to relax lockdown measures, allowing some places to reopen even before May 1.
The stay-at-home order in Ohio began on March 23, and Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that he might start reopening the state on May 1. The governor also told reporters that he was awaiting federal approval on a newly developed reagent, which would help significantly increase the state’s capacity for testing.
Davidson believes the challenge essentially is a three-way tug of war between public health, growing the economy, and civil liberties. He said he pointed out this during the task force conference call with Trump last week.
“Let’s not forget about freedom and the principles that built our country that are protecting the Bill of Rights. Because some of the ideas about how to successfully open up the economy, frankly, are gross violations of the right to privacy,” he said. “That’s a temptation that often happens in an emergency.”
Decoupling From China
Governments and businesses have learned hard lessons from the rapid spread of the CCP virus, often called novel coronavirus. And the pandemic may cause drastic changes to the global supply chain, accelerating the trend of moving production outside of China.
During a White House press briefing on April 19, Trump said the supply chains would be coming back to the United States.
“We’ve learned a lot about supply chains. We’ve learned that it’s nice to make things in the United States.”
Davidson believes many Western countries will reduce their reliance on China after the pandemic.
“That momentum had already started partially due to the cost of doing business—not just in terms of rising costs inside China but the cost in terms of intellectual property and lack of ability to control your own company,” he said.
“China has essentially become too difficult to operate in and now maybe too dangerous to operate.”