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And here I thought that Americans were starting to understand that defeating the CCP Virus and thus protecting public health on the one hand, and restarting economic activity as soon as possible on the other, are not sharply conflicting imperatives. They’re mutually reinforcing – including for public health reasons. Silly me.

One sign was this column by The New York Times‘ Thomas L. Friedman – not someone who’s career-defining predictions and analysis (like the always beneficial and inevitable expansion of economic globalization) have stood up real well. All the same, as one expert quoted by Friedman observed:

Income is one of the stronger predictors of health outcomes — and of how long we live. Lost wages and job layoffs are leaving many workers without health insurance and forcing many families to forego health care and medications to pay for food, housing, and other basic needs. People of color and the poor, who have suffered for generations with higher death rates, will be hurt the most and probably helped the least. They are the housekeepers in the closed hotels and the families without options when public transit closes. Low-income workers who manage to save the money for groceries and reach the store may find empty shelves, left behind by panic shoppers with the resources for hoarding.’’

P.S. – This expert is a noted public health authority, not an economist callously focused on money and output.

If you still doubt how worsening economic fortunes can literally be a large-scale killer, check out the work of the husband-wife team of Angus Deaton and Ann Case. Yes, they’re economists. But since 2015, these Princeton University scholars have been documenting how deteriorating well-being has helped fuel an historic rise in mortality among middle aged, working class whites. This year, they’ve published the results of their research in a book (appropriately) titled Deaths of Despair. Serious health problems with economic roots have been identified among African Americans as well.

Nonetheless, President Trump’s statement yesterday setting a target date of Easter (April 12) for restarting economic activity was greeted by a howl of protests accusing him of ignoring public health experts’ pleas, and placing his reelection hopes (which, the argument goes, depend almost exclusively on his economic policy record) over the lives of [FILL IN YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER] of Americans. Could anything be eviller?

There’s a counter-argument of course, at least in theory: Cash payments to workers could keep their incomes up and address these economy-related health threats even as most of the economy remains closed. The problem, though, is that without support for business (especially smaller companies, which are big employers collectively but often lack big cash cushions or access to affordable credit even in the best of times), massive payments could (which would be needed as long as workers have regular bills to pay) last a lot longer than the current health emergency because many such companies are likely to close for good, and leave their workers in the lurch, if they don’t start regaining customers fast.

Moreover, these small business vulnerabilities don’t exist in isolation because so many make much of their money selling to big businesses. So when the latter run into trouble because of a weak economy, the little guys – and their workers – inevitably will suffer, too.

So unless you’re a diehard Never Trump-er, and/or know absolutely nothing about the economy or Americans’ health and are unwilling to learn, you’ll recognize that the supposed choice between reopening the economy before too long (if not necessarily by Easter) and saving American lives is a false one. American policy, in other words, will have to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time. The good news is that, as The Times‘ Friedman and others have noted, any number of approaches are available to achieve the best of both worlds that the nation urgently needs.