How do we protect both the health and the livelihoods of Americans once we emerge out of this coronavirus outbreak?
How should America approach the re-opening of the economy ?
And how has “ misguided compassion” inside our coronavirus response led to some unintended consequences?
In this episode, we sit down with Kay Cole James, President of The Heritage Foundation and chair of the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. She’s worked in the local, state, and federal levels of government, and she previously served as Director of the U. S. Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺 🇸, and I’ m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Kay Coles James, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Kay Coles James: Well, many thanks. It is a pleasure to be here.
Mr. Jekielek: So Kay, you are the top of the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. You’ lso are the head of the Heritage Foundation. You’ ve come up with a group of some of the most distinguished experts on issues related to recovery. Tell me, where are we at today with regards to this recovery process?
Ms. James: Yes. And many thanks. It is an excellent commission. We were delighted to bring together, as your program implies, some of the best thought leaders, both on healthcare and on the economy, from all sectors of the economy. It is a racially, culturally diverse group. And the reason that has been important to us is because this virus has such an effect on so many people in so many different ways, and it is a very complex issue and it required thoughtful visitors to come together, do the effort of trying to figure out one of the most difficult problems this country has ever faced.
Where are we at this time? Well, as you know, states are beginning to open up. The president has turned his attention, not away from the healthcare crisis; it’ s still focused there, but also concentrating on how to get this country open, running, and the economy going. All of us are very concerned that sometimes the cure might be worse than the illness. So , while people are putting up with physically there’ s a lot of hurt financially and emotionally, we don’ t think with this commission that it must be either or— either lives or livelihoods. We must, we must, protect both. Also it makes sense; good health policy is good economic policy. Good economic policy is a healthy body policy.
So we’ re seeing the united states begin to open up. We’ re hoping that they will follow the rules as they do that, and that it would be done safely in order that we won’ t see another spike in the numbers on the health side.
Mr. Jekielek: Kay, so how is your commission dealing with this 200-person recovery panel that the president has put together?
Ms. James: Yes. As you may know, I’m also a member of that panel. And as a result of that, we have a straight line into the policymakers at the White House. So we are taking the recommendations as we are producing them. We didn’ t wait till the end to create one set. We are producing recommendations as we go along. So when soon as they are completed, I feed them into the larger commission at the White House, to the President, the Vice President’ s office, and to relevant cabinet secretaries. We also ensure that information is available to the governors, all of them, to the leadership, and all of the members and staff on Capitol Hill.
So this isn’ t one particular commission reports that is produced and then gathers dust. It really is being used by policymakers already.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Let me try a difficult question here. At least this is problematic for me personally. I had Victor Davis Hanson on the show a little while ago, and something of the things that came out is really a concern of many people on the market; which is that the guidelines regarding coronavirus keep changing. For example: masks, no masks, maybe masks, definitely masks. After all, that was one example that he used. There’ s many types of this, and then of course, at exactly the same time, never mind the guidelines that are coming from the federal government or state governments, there’ s also a whole series of more info that’ s going around in social media and so forth. How do we make sense of this from your view?
Ms. James: Well, first of all, I never miss an opportunity to say what a fan of Victor’ s I’m. He is extraordinary, and when that he speaks, we all listen. But he’ s absolutely right. It is very confusing. We are hearing reports daily coming from the White House report. , FDA, we hear the governor speaking, and we even have to sit through and listen to the telephone and conferences coming from the mayors.
So what do we do with all of that? That’ s one of the reasons that people believe that our particular commission is so important. It’ s because we gather all that data, all of that information, synthesize it and try to produce it in a format that’ s actually usable. And he’ s right. The advice that we’ re being given changes, sometimes almost daily.
And I like to remind individuals who there’ s a reason they call it the novel coronavirus. And that’ s because it’ s completely new. What we know about this virus today is far more than what we knew in late February, early March or even April. And so the human body of information and the data base is growing. And so we must extend a little grace to your policymakers, as they absorb this data as they research, do the fact-checking, do the analysis and try to seem sensible out of all of this. We’ re hoping that by the end of this process with our commission, we will have in one place, a good source where all that information has been gathered— the most up to date data, probably the most up to date information. But I believe it’ s important for the American people to understand, we’ re in new territory. We are learning as we go. As the old adage says, we’ re building the airplane as we fly it, and we just have to extend grace to our policymakers because they are struggling to catch up. And they will. They will catch up and we will have solid data and solid research that people can depend on, but give us time.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you label of President Trump taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically?
Ms. James: I think it’ s none of my business. what I believe. What the President does for his own personal health with his physician, that’ s their decision, their selection. And I don’ t discover why so many people find it necessary to opine about that. I do recognize that he could be a leader. And that as a result of that individuals look to him and they wish to either mimic what this individual does, or they take exactly what he does seriously. Yet anyone with any grain associated with intelligence would have that discussion with their own physician plus make the best choices for by themselves.
Mister. Jekielek: Properly, right, exactly. And certainly, these sorts of decisions are only created using the doctor helping figure out your specific health realities. I think this really is something that’ s bizarrely often glossed over.
So let me embark on this hydroxychloroquine vantage stage a little bit further. Does the particular commission have a position upon any of the potential treatments just for coronavirus including hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral remdesivir?
Ms. James: We don’t. We do have some physicians that actually serve on the commission. But that is not our role. We are not prescribers. We are not medical doctors, many of us. And so as a result of that, our recommendations, usually centered around doing the research so that we are able to get to the bottom of this and figure out what works, what doesn’ t work, and let physicians make those decisions with their patients.
Mr. Jekielek: Very interesting. It creates so much sense.
Ms. James: Not rocket science.
Mr. Jekielek: So you have recently published these 12 urgent tips just a few days ago and I’ m wondering in the event that you could outline those for me personally. This is basically the newest position of the Commission, when i understand it.
Ms. James: It is. … To start with, allow businesses in counties with low incidents to reopen. … you know, it is a very diverse country. So the decisions that are made in one state may not necessarily connect with another. It needs to get down seriously to the county and even probably the zip code level and where there are high incidents, we should allow them to reopen as soon as possible.
We recommend using stay in the home orders sparingly and only if necessary. And sometimes it could be that in a community that’s a hotspot, that we do have stay at home orders. But maybe they could be more specific and aligned with those individuals that could most take advantage of those stay at home orders— the elderly, those with underlying conditions, and not applied to the entire citizenry.
It makes sense to us that medical offices should be open. And I realize that in the early days, there was a concern about PPEs or the personal protection equipment, and they wanted to reserve that for those individuals who were on the front lines and so they shut everything down. We think those medical offices should get opened again. What one person views as elective surgery— if it’ s your life, you may not view it as elective. We have patients struggling with cancer and other debilitating diseases that need to have their health practitioners appointments and to have their treatments.
We believe that this is a tremendous opportunity, and the president is acting on this one, to use this as an opportunity to look at all the unnecessary regulations that individuals have in place. And we’ re hoping that people with been for a period of time, that we look seriously at them, and make a decision about whether or not those regulations should be gotten reduce entirely, particularly .
And I’ ll go through the others quickly: Expand our liability protections. The trial lawyers are lining up. And we think we need some liability protections in place for organizations and even churches as folks are beginning to look at their lawsuits.
Congress is already looking at the Paycheck Protection Program and some tweaks that they may do to that. So we’ re pleased about this.
Tax liability for small businesses; make legislation and regulatory changes to expand access to capital for small businesses, incentivize research and development and infrastructure investments. We think that’ s really going to help honor and enforce contractual insurance obligations. This virus has caused a lot of property damage and many businesses are getting their businesses interruption coverage, and we want to make sure that insurance is available.
And eliminate all tariffs imposed since 2018. Trade freedom is absolutely vital to getting this country back on its economic footing. So in summary, those are the things that we think are really urgent, should happen immediately, and would go a long way towards helping recovery economically.
Mr. Jekielek: The economy has been absolutely decimated by this voluntary economic destruction, so to speak. Let’ s pretend that we would implement many of these 12 items robustly, what exactly is the time period to getting back once again to something like what we had before?
Ms. James: Among the things that I have learned from the expert economists which are serving on our commission is that even they hesitate to make those forms of predictions. So I certainly won’ t, but we can say for certain that the road to recovery is going to be a difficult one and probably longer than we anticipated initially. I don’ t think that the real economic damage that has been done for this country is as evident or clear as it should be to the American people. Some of these measures that need to happen and need certainly to take place will take months and maybe some even years before we are fully reestablished and returned.
But I am optimistic about that. I really believe that with the economic policies of this administration, that given the opportunity to get this economy open and running again, I am very optimistic about the eventual outcomes.
Mr. Jekielek: A while right back I remember reading a column which I thought was very interesting. It talked about a situation where there were restaurants which were looking to get back into business. However it turned out that the unemployment insurance that the people were consistently getting, that the workers at the restaurants was actually getting more than what they made before. So it was quite difficult for the owners to entice the people to go back to work. And the University of Chicago’ s Becker Friedman Institute released a study where they’ re saying that the majority of people that are getting unemployment benefits, actually exceed the wages that they lost. In this type of a scenario, how do people go back to work?
Ms. James: We need to fix that, and at the Heritage Foundation, we’ re asking Congress to address that. There’ s a phrase that I have used in other contexts, which I say “ the unintended consequences of your misguided compassion. ” You know, it had been done for all the best & most compassionate reasons. But we all know that it is best for the united states, for the individual, for the firms, to keep those individuals linked to their employers. And so whenever you institute policies, which are disincentives from going back to work, it really doesn’ t help anyone. And I do believe that’ s what we’ re seeing right now with that particular policy. So we’ re asking Congress to take a look at that and to put a fix in place such that it isn’ t more profitable to stay home and gather a check from the us government than it is to venture out and earn a paycheck.
And i would ike to add quickly to that, because I think it’ s vital that you say. I would dare say most people would rather work than sit at home and gather a check. I don’ t think this is an issue of blaming the worker, I believe it is a policy problem also it needs to be fixed. People enjoy the motivation of getting up, getting dressed, going to work being useful and adding to our country. So it must be fixed, but not because we want to punish the worker, but because it’ s just good economic policy.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of this new stimulus package which is being proposed at present that’ s being discussed?
Ms. James: Well, as I said around the virtual Mother’ s Day dinner table as we celebrated by way of some of the technology that exists today: I hate to think of what I’ m doing to my grandchildren— with the amount of that debt, to my great-grandchildren— since they will be assuming that. It is unmanageable. I think, and at Heritage, we talk about the fact that whatever we do should be targeted, should be limited to the coronavirus and should be transparent so the American people can see in which that money is going.
It disturbs me greatly that every crazy liberal program is seizing upon the opportunity to fund it on the backs of coronavirus victims. This is not an opportunity to open the government coffers and fund every liberal experiment. It’ s just not right. We as a people, we as Americans, are generous. We are kind; we want to help each other. That should be evident. But what’ s happening during that bill is anything but. Well, it’ s not a bill yet, but the suggestions of where the House Democrats wish to take that. It’ s mind-boggling. And I think we need to take a firm stand and make sure that we are not contributing even more to the debt for the children, our grandchildren— and the numbers are so high now— our great-grandchildren.
Mr. Jekielek: Ok, let me jump back to the purpose that stuck out if you ask me from the 12 that individuals were discussing earlier, that has been the 2018 tariffs. I’ m thinking of course about tariffs pertaining to China, the people I’ m most knowledgeable about. The purpose of the tariffs wasn’ t to stop free trade, but to create a more free playing field. The argument is that the Chinese Communist Party has stacked things in its favor, dramatically abusing the rules of free trade, for its own benefit. So these tariffs are supposed to even the playing field. I’ ve heard arguments back and forth in both directions. So I’ m wondering, are you discussing those tariffs? Are you discussing something else?
Ms. James: Well we’ re speaing frankly about the fact that so many US jobs are at stake here. And as we look at our tariff policy, we must make sure that we are doing items that bring those jobs back; of course, free trade, needless to say fair trade. And we’ re talking more specifically about the administration removing section 201 and section 232 and section 301; those tariffs that would benefit all parties. We think that could be a good policy move to make as of this particular point in time.
Mr. Jekielek: So here we have been in this very interesting moment. We have Georgia, which can be opened up completely.
Ms. James: I don’ t think that’ s entirely fair, because the governor, once you say open up completely, that implies to people without the safety precautions in place. So that they have opened up, but I believe that the governor has been doing it responsibly by saying that where it makes sense, we still have to have social distancing and wearing a mask, and still encouraging us to make use of good health protocols by washing their hands and doing all the things that we know. So we say open up, but to open up safely. And all indications are that’ s what’ s happened in Georgia. So I believe that caveat always has to be placed in.
Mr. Jekielek: No, absolutely. And thanks for mentioning that. The brand new normal isn’ t planning to be exactly like what was previously. I think that’ s an excellent point you’ re making.
Microsoft. James: You are aware, it isn’ t as news got around, and I think all of us have got to be prepared for that. So what that means hardly any we will be changing how we conduct, how we do business. We will be in need of things from clients while they come and go in our buildings throughout our restaurants in our offices, & it’ s going to be as part of your for a while. And that’ ings what’ s coming to amount to known as the new normal.
I think that there is an inclination of some of us to see that experts claim as an infringement upon involving our personal liberties and liberties and responsibilities; I a great deal anyone am concerned about the things i have seen from some of many government officials, as they are usually overbearing, overreaching, autocratic, and have now assumed upon themselves vigor which they just do not have, constitutionally.
That’ states not what I’ mirielle talking about here. I’ d talking about what your grandmother alerted you anyway. Your grandmother alerted you to cover your mouth when you coughing, your grandmothers said thoroughly clean your hands frequently and often. But, with a few more of those a wise practice health things added to our everyday rituals, I think we can get the us open and running once, using common sense, using good manners. We can do this.
Mr. Jekielek: Heritage Foundation promoters deregulation, you’ re encouraging small business, and you see an as the engine of building spain up— am I reading where right?
Ms. James: Oh, you certainly are. We decided we do believe that the small business organisations in this country are the spinal column of this country. And we be sure that so many people have their pathway back to the dreams through opening up their valuable businesses. So that’ vertisements Main Street in America and that we care desperately about them and the ability to operate and get his / her business up and running again.
Mr. Jekielek: What is your tips and advice? What would you say to one of the millions of small business owners right now that suffer and are concerned that they’ re not going to make it?
Ms. Randy: You know, that’ s a tough one in my position because just looking at the particular, I can tell you, some of them are not going to becoming. But even if they don’ t, I have such am optimistic and such aspiration for those that out of true grit, grouped together a business and got it traveling.
It’ states difficult. I’ m never gonna say we’ maest? all in the same boat considering we’ re not. Many are suffering more than others. Sadly I think that with the what make this country great; be able to have a dream and to note it to fruition, even if this fails in a time like this, we now as a country have got to beseige those businesses, those individuals, is there. I’ m looking that the capital and fluid opens up so that they can start over where required. I have great hope; There is great optimism about the long term future, but it’ s not without some very, very, enormously tough and dark amount of days. But sometimes it’ south darkest right before the morning. So I am an traditional optimist. What can I say?
Mr. Jekielek: You’ comienza spoken a bit to the individuals who are worried that we’ re also staying hunkered down excessively. What would you say to the individuals that are worried that we don’ t want to open too quickly, or more people will welche?
Microsoft. James: Most likely, and I understand that. I am together of those high-risk categories. Me over 70. I have a few underlying health issues. I purchase it. I understand how important it is. And as well as I’ m going to do all that I can to protect my health and well-being. And I would encourage them to achieve that.
But I’ve never lived in fear. And so I’ ve never fin anxiety rule. And so after that, I think we have to proceed in confidence and in discerning that there will be some issues involved. But you know, when we do what this percentage of the sale is suggesting, that we give protection lives and livelihoods, We that we can get this country backside on track. I know of individuals, on top of that know personally people who have struggled with horribly because of this disease; it’ s nothing that I would interest on my worst enemy. U wish people, some people are likely to take that a little more honestly. But I also recognize finally the horrible, horrible situation which is some of our individuals are undergoing financially and with their business concerns. There’ s no fundamental answer here. All Actually, i know is we must protect who and we must protect livelihoods. And we can and we has to, we must do both.
Mr. Jekielek: Some commanding words. Any final characters before we finish up?
Ms. Louis: No, save for the fact that this is a great country. We’ ve come through worse price this before. And I continue to be optimistic because I love the precise that is America and I like the American spirit. It’ ring going to be difficult, difficult, frustrating, but we’ re seeing get through this.
Mr. Jekielek: Kay Coles Randy, such a pleasure to have your organization on the show.
Ms. James: Oh, thank you. The gratification is mine.
This interview will be edited for clarity and additionally brevity.