Michael Strain and Scott Gottlieb have policy proposals for coronavirus

Congress should make direct cash payments—mailed checks or direct deposits—to low-income households in places with severe outbreaks. Hourly wage workers should not feel compelled to show up to work sick because they need to pay bills. Congress can help these Americans recover and keep other people healthy by financing their time away from work.

In states experiencing severe outbreaks, Congress should waive the requirement that people receiving unemployment insurance payments look for work. Better that such unemployed workers receive financial assistance for rent, mortgages and groceries than to risk spreading the virus by applying and interviewing for jobs. Congress should also waive work requirements in the food-stamp program.

Children in low-income families will miss subsidized meals if schools are closed. Federal subsidies to those households should be increased to account for lost breakfasts and lunches. This might help relieve some of the pressure on low-income parents, who might otherwise feel the need to go to work even if ill.

Cash-strapped states may be reluctant to divert spending from other priorities toward health care, especially as more people use services. States that experience outbreaks may also lose tax revenue. Congress should increase the share of Medicaid spending financed by the federal government to alleviate the budget pressure.

So far the best proposals I have seen, here is more from the WSJ.  Note that paid sick leave can place a high burden on small and medium-sized businesses, here is a Yelowitz and Saltsman critique of paid sick leave, also WSJ.


This makes a lot of sense to me. I actually think we should go even further - what if we just mandated everyone has to stay home for two weeks, followed by self-quarantine for those who show symptoms for an additional couple of weeks? I'm not an expert on epidemics, but it seems like that might have a chance of at least dramatically slowing the spread and hopefully giving us a chance to get back in control. Having these sorts of supports that enable people to stay home financially would be key to making it work, but likely much less expensive than a protracted period dealing with high rates of infection.

Seems to me the economic damage caused by such extreme measures could far outweigh the health savings. And questionable how much it would even slow the spread, I'm in a university town that canceled classes for the rest of the year and I can look out my window and see students having a block party complete with beer pong (so sanitary!) as I write this.

I doubt that more than a fraction of the students are at the party.

So their belief is free stuff will stop the virus???

I'm sure all the nurses and doctors would enjoy a couple weeks off.

We'd need to impress on everyone the seriousness of the mandate to stay home, and also identify key personnel that are exempted.

There are LOT of KEY people - the ones who ship food, the ones who keep the water and sewer going and keep the lights on. The ones who work in grocery stores. Medical people, and all of the peopole who support them (who cooks the nurse's dinner if they're working super long shifts???)

Why don't we just identify the key people and fire everyone else permanently?


These sound fine. As I say, I'm not looking for perfect plans in an emergency.

By the way Gavin Newsom just made a bold move:

"California Gov. Gavin Newsom said late Wednesday that all public gatherings should be canceled until at least the end of March due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Newsom released a statement that said non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people should be postponed and smaller events could only proceed if people distance themselves from each other by at least 6 feet."

During the 1918/1919 Spanish Flu worldwide epidemic, Milwaukee was one of the more successful jurisdictions at limiting mortality by closing churches and schools. They didn't shut down the saloons. Thank God!

It depends on what problem you are trying to solve. If it is a supply-side shock instead of a demand-side shock then paying people to not work may not be the optimal policy. How do we feed the doctors and nurses if we shut down the food supply? How do we make health care supplies if we shut down manufacturing? How many doctors and nurses will have to stay at home to take care of their kids if we shut down schools and daycares?

Everyone is talking about how we need to flatten the curve (i.e. the rate at which people are admitted to hospitals for Covid-19 related issues). I think the economists in the room need to start talking about the cost of making the curve too flat.

I work in manufacturing. These days it is a challenge to get enough workers for the factory even in the best of times. If we pay everyone to stay home you there could be widespread shortages of, well, pretty much everything.

We need to be a bit more nuanced about who we keep at home and how we do it.

That's a fair point. But on the other hand, consider the impact of the exponential spread. If you take the average daily rate of increases in cases in the US and plot out the number of cases we can anticipate over time, we hit 400,000 by the end of March and 300,000,000 by April 24th. If we're going to hit the point where massive numbers of people are going to be out of work anyway, we should take the hit early and aggressively in order to try and stop it.

After this is over, we should look back and figure out other remedies that would achieve the same but be cheaper.

For example, what if we hired a personal assistant for every person over 50 years old, who could go out and buy things for them, disinfecting the packaging before delivering it. Twice-daily health checks on all assistants. That would normally be an insane cost, but it might be less insane than our current plan.

What is bold about that? Should be postponed. This is not mandated and there is no force behind this. Let’s just “ask” everyone to be kind or responsible . Nice dream world.

One problem with these new categories of entitlements is that I find it unlikely that they will ever go away.


Nonsense. It will be just like income tax.

In addition to being more government and more control, the proposals look a lot like stuff lobbyists have been pushing for decades.


No coincidence that it would appear here, too.

long-term disability 4 all.

Why SHOULD paid sick leave go away? Most firms use it anyway. Why not subsidize it so that all firms use it? It's just a small wage subsidy which is a good thing to offset part of the FICA wage tax.

Yeah, much better to just let them all die.

Why wouldn't a low-income worker simply pocket the payment and still go to work?

Good point; if going to work sick causes externalities, we shouldn’t just pay sick people; we should pay them only on the condition that they not go to work (or fine them for going to work).

In fact we could have a revenue neutral sick tax.

That's why we should pay/subsidize the firm to giver paid sick leave.

Don't give money to working poor just because Covid is in the neighborhood.

Give it for paid sick leave so there is no incentive to go into work with symptoms. And, modify UI. And also deal with folks in the gig economy who might be sick and driving you in his Uber car.

Give the money to the wealthy who have suffered greatly in the stock market rout. It will trickle down. And, by all means, take it from the SS contributions.

"And, by all means, take it from the SS contributions."

Yes, the federal government's Ponzi scheme must end.

Yes, the government should protect people from their own inclination to take care of themselves and their families. More Bernie stuff.

hysteria, scam, Dems turning this joke into an attack on the US economy and stock market to beat Trump for reelection. First, they trotted out Greta and the climate change hysteria, now this. As if Bernie or Joe could actually win an election without opposition. They are old dottering fools with odds of being alive in 4 years probably 50/50, much less able to lead.

Let me guess something about you:

"Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be taking precautionary measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has found.

In the survey, conducted from March 2 to 3, about 48 percent of Democratic respondents said they washed their hands more often to prevent transmission of the virus, 10 percentage points higher than the same share of Republicans.

Twenty-one percent of Democrats reported taking steps to avoid physical contact with others, 7 percentage points higher than Republicans who report the same. And 8 percent of Democrats have recently altered travel plans, nearly three times the share of Republicans who have also done so.

In fact, 54 percent of Republicans said they haven't changed their daily routine whatsoever, compared with just 40 percent of Democrats who say they haven't." https://www.newsweek.com/republicans-democrats-coronavirus-1491075

Fox News will be the death of you.

Whatever happened to small steps toward a much better world? What is small about these steps? The US government has virtually nothing in the way of a coronavirus policy. Why jump immediately to UBI?

Note that paid sick leave can place a high burden on small and medium-sized businesses

I think they should be considering direct payments to small and medium businesses as well as paid sick leave funded by the federal government rather than employers. Bigger businesses usually have cash reserves and enough access to credit to get them through stuff like this as long as it's just a couple of months - maybe consider loans, if absolutely necessary.

The main limiter on paid sick leave is that you need enough to cover the 14 day quarantine period plus maybe a week afterwards if you actually do get sick. If you don't have enough, then it won't help - you'll be spreading it during the incubation period.

Love all the authoritarians and big central government cryptos coming out of the woodwork. This isn't a Federal issue nor, for that matter, a state one either. If you want to make it a government issue though, it's the state.

TC, posting Bernie talking points now?

“Schools are closing? Where do I send my children?”

“How do I afford healthcare?”

“I can’t afford to take off work!”

The issues the virus is showing how broken the US healthcare system is and brings up the fact that some leftists candidate have been addressing these issues for years.

I am risking saying something stupid: is there a case to be made for younger healthy people to purposely infect themselves, isolate for the necessary person and then be available to work and take care of the rest of us?

These look like an almost exact recitation of the Australian response. (Minus the school meals - nobody here thinks kids will starve without government feeding. What do American kids do in the holidays?)

It's almost quaint that burdening businesses is used as a strong argument against them having healthy workers. Almost. but all these arguments that Trump apologists use are surely sickening. As always, TC speaks from a position of immense privilege but doesn't believe it taints his view. And in actuality, it IS his view.

You can maybe UBI this direct stimulus for this current crisis.

But as a policy, if you want workers to stay home and not make customers and coworkers sick, you need paid sick leave.

"I'll give them $1000 a month of UBI! Then they don't have to work!" And what happens if they get an apartment (or other lifestyle choice not easily undone) that requires them to show up for work or lose their job and their apartment? They are going to show up for work even if they infect everyone. With enough DayQuil, the job will never notice and be able to track them down to fire them.

Why not subsidize paid sick and family leave? The firm that grants it gets a partial tax credit. Why hasn't that been part of the proposal from day one? Covid-19 has nothing to do with it

My wife is a teacher in an urban school and these policy proposals are assuming way too much (state capacity libertarianism?). Her school doesn't have soap, lysol, hand sanitizer or wipes. Yes that is correct, there is no soap in any of the bathrooms. Some teachers have been paying for these supplies with their own money but they are also being stolen (I assume by other teachers or staff, not kids).

Meanwhile our kids in the middle class district wash their hands between classes, wipe their desks before the start of each class, and the school has a complete deep cleaning every two days.

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