By Isaac Cohen*
As there are tradeoffs in economics, for example, between wage inflation and unemployment, in medicine they are called “triage.” Scarcity is the mother of triage, as when there is only one respirator to serve several high-risk patients.
President Donald Trump, last week, unleashed a discussion about tradeoffs in the present emergency, when he said he wanted people to get back to work by Easter, on April 12. Using a common description of a tradeoff, President Trump said: “THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM.”
The health experts who are advising the White House said the cost of lifting the economic shutdown prematurely, before there is evidence that the spread of the pandemic is slowing down, is an unacceptable increase in the number of infected persons and of deaths. By last Sunday 29, the number of US cases reached 142,106 and 2,479 deaths. At the same time, the number of persons applying for unemployment insurance, for the week that ended on March 21, was 3.28 million workers, the highest recorded since 1953, when the unemployment register started. Thus, the pandemic has put an end the longest economic expansion in U.S. history and the 3.5 percent unemployment figure, the lowest in half a century.
Facing those dismal alternatives, last Sunday, the White House announced that, the economic shutdown will last, at least, until the end of April. As the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell declared on Thursday 26, at a rare television interview, “the first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control, and then to resume economic activity.”
*International analyst and consultant, former Director ECLAC Washington. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio, TELEMUNDO and UNVISION and other media.