Congress this week scrambled to cobble together a coronavirus stimulus package that will exceed $1 trillion. As expected, politicians of both parties have seized the opportunity to use the legislation as a vehicle to advance partisan proposals that have only a tangential relationship, if any, to the ongoing crisis.
This is unfortunate, but it is the way of Washington. Nevertheless, the measure represents a useful exercise in messaging. While the efficacy of such assistance is a matter of debate, the intent is to telegraph to the nation and the financial markets that the federal government is willing to take drastic steps to keep the economy afloat during these times of unprecedented stress.
No doubt there will be plenty of cost-benefit analyses conducted once this pandemic passes. At this point, however, the emphasis should be on containing the virus rather than on debating who will eventually get what from the federal treasury.
Many states and municipalities have already taken such an approach. On Wednesday, the vast majority of Nevada businesses closed their doors for the next 30 days at the behest of Gov. Steve Sisolak in order to slow the spread of the illness. Grocery stores, banks, gas stations and medical offices will remain open.
“I know the impacts of this decision will reach far and wide into the home and lives of our Nevada families,” the governor said in a Tuesday night address, later adding, “Lives are at stake, and each passing day, this pandemic is growing.”
Gov. Sisolak’s pronouncement was met mostly with widespread praise — but not at Las Vegas City Hall. Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday continued to downplay the coronavirus threat and asked the governor to consider halving his monthlong closure mandate, citing the obvious problems associated with such massive economic displacement.
Mayor Goodman may be echoing sentiments popular in some quarters, but she’s an increasingly lonely voice in this regard. It’s true that many other states have yet to take such drastic measures, and there are indeed legitimate questions about how Nevadans will respond to this unprecedented action, particularly if it drags on. As Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. noted this week, “There is a vast gap between people washing their hands, avoiding crowds, shielding the old and using good judgment, and sweeping lockdowns and curfews.”
Indeed. But right now the primary concern for Mayor Goodman — as it should be for members of Congress — must be charting a route to containment and urging constituents to respect the advice of public health professions. That’s the quickest path toward easing the pain.