By Duncan Smith
Figuring out how to grow an economy really isn’t difficult.
The first lesson is: Let businesses open.
The second lesson is: Let people work.
Much of the blue portion of the country has yet to figure these two very simple principles out, as evidenced by the fact that they continue to a) keep businesses shuttered so that b) fewer people can work.
And, lo and behold, that’s having a deleterious effect on regional economies where COVID-19 lockdowns and mandated closures continue.
Conversely, there are regions of the country that are doing much better — like the South, where restrictions and lockdowns, for the most part, are a thing of the past.
Many economists say the pace of economic recovery depends on the path of the virus. The South's economic resilience shows the relationship is more complicated, at least in the short term.
The South is diverse with 16 states, including Texas, Florida, Virginia and Oklahoma, and not all shared the same pattern. Nonetheless, as a whole it owes its stronger economic trajectory since the initial shutdown not to success in containing the virus but to its relatively aggressive reopening of business and a greater willingness by consumers to venture out despite risks.
'In the South, I think that the more pro-business policies that Southern governors have largely followed for decades allowed much more flexibility earlier,' said Mark Vitner, a Charlotte, N.C.-based economist at Wells Fargo Securities. 'We did see a rise in Covid infections over the summer. That slowed the pace of reopenings, but it didn't reverse it.'
Public-health experts say the South's early reopening came at a price: higher rates of virus infections and deaths starting over the summer, illustrating a trade-off between the economy and health.
No. 1, regardless of where coronavirus sprang up this year, the disease rarely maxed available hospital space, including New York City, where buffoons like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo continue to duke it out over whose policies will kill more businesses and nursing home patients.
No. 2, regardless of ‘mitigation efforts’ the virus continues to spread. In fact, the ‘hunker down and hide’ policy has no doubt prolonged the duration of the spread.
No. 3, the country cannot survive a perpetual lockdown. It’s got to be reopened if we’re ever going to maintain our global economic status.
The South, obviously, is leading the way.
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