CEPR on the Coronavirus

March 13, 2020

The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Universities are shutting their doors and events are being cancelled by the hour. The media is laser focused on all things coronavirus.  People are worried that they will get sick, and they are worried that they won’t be able to afford their rent or food if they can’t work. Even if they aren’t sick, they worry that their employer will close due to lost demand.

The policies and ideas that CEPR has been promoting for decades are exactly the policy responses we need at this time. Paid sick days and paid medical and family leave are at the top of that list. CEPR has been one of the strongest voices calling for these paid leave policies, and Co-director Eileen Appelbaum has written extensively on how paid leave policies benefit both workers and employers. Yesterday she called out Senate Republicans for blocking emergency paid sick leave legislation. Now is the time.

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Our healthcare system is broken, thanks in part to patent monopolies on prescription drugs. Senior Economist Dean Baker has been a leading voice in calling for changes in the way drugs are developed and marketed. As he notes here, at this time “we want our researchers not only sharing their findings with each other so that all can benefit from new results, but also with researchers in Europe, China, and elsewhere. Science advances most quickly when it is open. And when we do get a vaccine, it should be in the public domain so that it can be sold as a cheap generic from Day One. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether a vaccine will be affordable, it will be cheap if the government doesn’t grant a patent monopoly.”

CEPR has fought against the notion that the stock market is the economy. The recent crash of the market has resurrected this beast.  We repeat: The stock market is not the economy! And we’ll keep saying it until people really get it. Here is a nice reminder from Dean.

And then there is Social Security. The Trump Administration is pushing for a payroll tax cut to offset the damage to the economy caused by the crisis. Payroll taxes have been the main designated funding source for Social Security since its creation. It’s a long-standing Republican ploy to use a temporary cut in the payroll tax to worsen the program’s finances so they can call for cuts to the program later. A better solution, promoted by CEPR, would be to enact a progressive tax cut that is not tied to the Social Security payroll tax. As we have since our inception, CEPR will continue to fight against cuts to this crucial piece of our social safety net.

“…we still don’t know the full impact that this pandemic will have. But we do know that there are policies and prescriptions that can help us get through it with the least amount of damage to the most vulnerable among us.”

Meanwhile, CEPR’s Revolving Door Project has been investigating the Trump Administration’s botched response to the coronavirus with hard-hitting pieces like this one in the American Prospect.

At this date we still don’t know the full impact that this pandemic will have. But we do know that there are policies and prescriptions that can help us get through it with the least amount of damage to the most vulnerable among us. And while we understand that this might not be the best time to send a fundraising plea, we really do need your support to help us to break through the noise and misinformation that’s out there and to reach people in positions of power who can join with us to fight for the right response to this crisis.

In the meantime, stay healthy. 

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