White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow firmly opposes the idea of a hard lockdown to suppress another COVID-19 surge, telling Fox Business in an Aug. 4 interview that the health and economic toll on Americans would be “enormous.”
Kudlow said he doesn’t think any form of lockdown is a good idea, and people should instead rely on precautions such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing to stem the outbreak, while allowing businesses and schools to stay open.
“This idea of more lockdowns, people just throw this out willy-nilly, forgetting the enormous human cost as well as the enormous economic cost,” Kudlow said. “The country can’t take that.”
He argued that the risk to Americans comes not just from the direct threat of infection but from the impact of heavy-handed mitigation.
“It’s also our well-being, it’s also our psychological well-being, it’s our personal well-being,” Kudlow said. “I think we should do everything we can, everything humanly possible, with safety and security, to keep the stores open, to keep the schools open, to keep the economy open.”
Arguing that the current COVID-19 mitigation efforts appear to be working, Kudlow said: “Let’s get America moving again. You’ll get your 20 percent; the V-shaped recovery, I think, is still in place.”
Kudlow’s reference to “20 percent” relates to an earlier comment he made about the Atlanta Fed’s latest estimate of U.S. economic activity for the third quarter of this year. The Atlanta Fed’s third-quarter-growth prediction stands at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 19.6 percent, updated on Aug. 3, according to a so-called nowcast statistical model that uses high-frequency economic data-points to estimate the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Prompting Kudlow’s remarks was a request by the interviewer for comment on a statement made by a top Federal Reserve official on Aug. 2, who argued that the U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for 4 to 6 weeks.
“I hate to even suggest it,” said Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari, in remarks on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“People will be frustrated by it. But if we were to lock down hard for a month or six weeks, we could get the case count down so that our testing and our contact tracing was actually enough to control it the way that it’s happening in the Northeast right now,” Kashkari said.
He said the economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control.
“If we don’t do that, and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.
“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.”
Reinforcing Kudlow’s perspective, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing on Aug. 4 that the administration wasn’t considering a lockdown.
“The president is not considering a national lockdown,” she said. “What he is encouraging is mitigation efforts like wearing a mask, which is patriotic; like social distancing; and engaging in these really commonsense, safe measures to safely reopen and avoid the health consequences of a lockdown.”
McEnany cited a series of negative outcomes that she linked to lockdowns, including a surge in drug overdoses and suicides.
“Overdoses do go up, suicides do go up, cancer cases are missed, as Dr. Scott Atlas has pointed out that, ‘In the U.S. alone, there are 150,000 new cancer cases that arise every month among patients … most have not been seen.’ And that was referring to the lockdown,” she said.