How President Trump handles the fast-spreading coronavirus crisis will prove as important to his re-election campaign as Hurricane Sandy was to President Obama’s.
He should stop trying to minimize public concern and should address a joint session of Congress to propose a massive loan, aid and stimulus package to combat the economic effects of the virus.
Short-term loans and grants should be made available to those infected, to small businesses whose revenues are threatened and to specific industries like airlines to prevent bankruptcies.
The virus will not be around forever. A vaccine must be coming soon (hopefully with expedited FDA approval).
Some experts predict a slowdown when the weather gets warmer.
But short-term aid is vital now.
Congress would not dare to reject Trump’s proposals and partisan opposition from Democrats is unlikely — unless the package is too small.
But the kind of truly massive package Trump should propose would go through quickly and easily.
Trump has proven a master at mobilizing Americans to take action and he must do so now.
Much as we enjoy them, the president should curtail his rallies during this period.
He can still tweet to his heart’s content.
So as not to react out of proportion to the true threat, we need to bear in mind that regular influenza kills between 10,000 and 60,000 every year in the U.S.
Five hundred thousand need to be hospitalized in some years.
But thousands will, unfortunately, die from coronavirus and we must hasten research and publicize measures to stop it from spreading.
The economic impact of the virus is likely to be the most widespread of its impacts.
And the federal government is uniquely suited to take the kind of action vital to cushioning its effects.
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