Right Opinion

Setting a 'D-Day' to Restart the American Economy

Guest Commentary · Apr. 7, 2020

By Paul S. Gardiner

Much is being said these days about how the two-week period of April 5-19 is expected to experience a peak in coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths. This prediction applies to the city of New York as well as certain other cities and areas of the United States.

Concurrent with the above time period and continuing thereafter, the nationwide supplies of essential face masks, protective clothing, ventilators, protective gloves, and other needed medical supplies to combat the virus are exponentially mushrooming. As of the last week in April, there should be little or no scarcity of the above items to treat dangerously infected Americans, no matter where they live. Furthermore, by the end of April, one or more therapies will most likely receive greater approval as effective treatments against COVID-19.

It is well known that the president and state governors have a delicate balancing challenge. On the one hand, they must consider COVID-19 death rates. On the other hand, they must consider the ongoing tremendous damage and harm being done to the mental and physical health of millions of Americans who have suddenly lost jobs, lost savings, become bankrupt, or otherwise are experiencing severe mental anxiety, hopelessness, and/or depression.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far rightfully have concentrated on the number of people infected, recoveries, and deaths. Largely overlooked, however, are predictions that the ultimate death toll from the pandemic could be higher due to job losses, bankruptcies, lost savings, and containment/mitigation efforts than from the actual virus itself.

It is well established that unemployed individuals often suffer from loss of self-esteem and a sense of shame, humiliation, or despair. They may suffer from hopelessness, depression, and social isolation, which are all serious risk factors for suicide.

Given the above, this article suggests that in order to establish a degree of certainty, and absent any further catastrophic event(s), President Trump and his administration should designate a day in May as the target day — D-Day, if you will — for America’s $22 trillion economy to be “back in business.” A possible date to consider is May 12, which happens to be the 75th anniversary celebration of the allied victory over Nazi Germany in Europe.

In taking this action, the president will, of course, need to defer actual implementation to the governors of the 50 states according to their own assessments of their containment, mitigation, and recovery efforts in their respective states. But the president can set an example by, among other things, authorizing the opening of federal buildings and other facilities and services under his control.

The president’s decision and recommendation for when people should return to their jobs is similar in at least one important aspect to the decision General Dwight Eisenhower had to make concerning the launching of the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Both decisions revolve around life-and-death issues. Eisenhower knew that the allied death rate could be very high (many tens of thousands) if the invasion was unsuccessful, whereas President Trump understands that the number of COVID-19 deaths could be in the many hundreds of thousands if he acts too early or, conversely, too late. As with Eisenhower, President Trump ultimately must make his decision for all Americans, not just those who unfortunately happen to be directly in harm’s way.

No doubt many will say that the president is “between a rock and a hard place.” He will be criticized no matter when he eventually recommends that people return to their jobs even with the understanding that critical mitigation actions need to be maintained for the foreseeable future such as frequently washing hands, not touching one’s face, and maintaining a safe distance from another person.

Thus, Mr. President, please work with the state governors and push for the American economy largely to be “back in business” during May 2020. This senior citizen is more than willing to take responsibility for my own personal COVID-19 mitigation actions, as I am sure many others like me will do the same. Get the economy rolling again — soon.

Paul S. Gardiner is a retired Army officer, Vietnam veteran, and avid lover of America. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College.

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