April 21, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 75 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
REOPENING THE ECONOMY; Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 75
(Senate - April 21, 2020)
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[Pages S2182-S2183] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] REOPENING THE ECONOMY Mr. PAUL. Mr. President, no amount of money--not all the money in China--will save us from ourselves. Our only hope of rescuing this great country is to reopen the economy. If you print up billions of dollars and give it to people, they are unlikely to spend it until you end the quarantine. The good news, though, is that the scientific community finally has facts instead of conjecture. The models that used 3.4 percent mortality were, fortunately, very wrong. Random samples of thousands of people have now been tested for antibodies or immunity to coronavirus. Two large randomized studies in California show similar results. The number of people who already developed antibodies to the coronavirus is 25 to 50 times higher than the number that is being reported as infected. This is great news. This study means that the mortality rate may well be 25 to 50 times less deadly than previously thought. The virus is still dangerous, and we shouldn't ignore the risks, but we should put those risks in perspective. These randomized tests indicate that, instead of a 3.4 percent mortality, that the rate could be as much as only 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent. We now have scientific evidence from randomized studies that we can manage this disease without continuing the draconian lockdown of the economy. The question before us isn't to do nothing or to print endless amounts of bailout cash. The debate should now include the one choice that will get our economy growing again: reopening American commerce. Today, I rise in opposition to spending $500 billion more. The virus bailouts have already cost over $2 trillion. Our annual deficit this year will approach $4 trillion. We can't continue on this course. No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine. It is not a lack of money that plagues us but a lack of commerce. This economic calamity only resolves when we begin to reopen the economy. Opening the economy will require Americans to rise above partisanship, to understand that deaths from infectious disease will continue, but that we cannot indefinitely quarantine. Make no mistake about it, this has been a difficult month for our country. For many of us, we have not seen a greater challenge. I am encouraged to see how our communities are responding. In Kentucky, we have seen tremendous collaboration. People from all walks of life have come together to help each other. We have worked to identify and supply additional protective gear, masks, and gloves to protect our doctors and nurses who risk their lives on a daily basis. UPS has set up an airlift operation out of Louisville that includes a healthcare facility for FEMA. This lets FEMA make overnight deliveries from anywhere in the country. Over 3 million pounds of masks, gloves, and other equipment have been shipped to the Louisville airport by UPS. We have worked with some of our bourbon distillers to assist them in transitioning to producing hand sanitizer. We helped repatriate Americans trapped overseas. We also have seen how our communities have banded together to support neighbors, businesses, and those in need. When protective equipment was in short supply, we discovered a way to use industrial masks, and we supported legislation to allow us to bring approximately 30 million masks into the medical community. When the FDA wouldn't approve COVID-19 tests other than the CDC's--a test that initially failed--we introduced legislation that circumvented the FDA and circumvented the redtape to get testing done quicker. Over the years, the U.S. has accumulated more than $23 trillion in debt, spending money that we do not have and borrowing from our kids' and our grandkids' future. The gargantuan Federal bailout that just passed over $2 trillion brings us closer and closer to a point of no return, a point in which the world loses confidence in the dollar and a point in which our debt becomes an existential threat to our security. The United States is already having to borrow simply to pay our promises to senior citizens. The U.S. is borrowing about $1 trillion a year just to pay for everyday obligations. This is before the pandemic bailout. The U.S. is already borrowing nearly $2 million every minute. With the recent $2 trillion bailout, we are borrowing faster than we have ever borrowed before. Had we practiced sound budgeting in the past, we would have been in a significantly better position to weather this storm. Congress' failures of the past, coupled with the pandemic prices of the present, could seriously jeopardize our economic future. In this moment, we need to think carefully about what we do next. To stop the spread of this virus, commerce has been disrupted, businesses have closed, and millions have lost their jobs. Right now, the number is 20 million unemployed. The job losses will continue no matter how much money you throw at it until you reopen the economy. Our government has intervened with unprecedented scale to prop up our economy. We have injected $2 trillion. I do believe it makes sense for the government to provide support to businesses and families who can't make it through this. I supported expanding unemployment benefits for workers displaced by government quarantine, including self-employed individuals that have lost their businesses. But make no mistake, the massive economic calamity we are experiencing right now was caused by government. Passing out $1,200 checks indiscriminately to people who haven't lost their jobs will do nothing to rescue the country. If we were going to make discrete direct payments, the criteria should have been sending checks to people who needed it, people who lost their jobs, people furloughed, people who had wage cuts. Instead of directing help to the unemployed, though, some of these bailout checks will go to couples who earn nearly $200,000 a year. But you could give everybody in the country $12,000, and it wouldn't end this recession. Our recovery only comes when the quarantine has ended. Experts will disagree on the exact date that we should reopen the economy, but sane, rational counsel should continue to push for the quickest end possible. Opining about never shaking hands again is a recipe for keeping the economy closed until no one dies from [[Page S2183]] infectious disease. While the infectious disease experts should be queried, so, too, should economists. We should seek counsel about balancing the harm to health caused by disease with the harm to health caused by enforcing dysfunction on the economy--not easy decisions. Most importantly, leaders in each State must weigh in on the problem. New York City's opening date will be different from Fargo, ND. We need to get past a one-size-fits-all approach to infectious disease. Realize that most of this money that is being loaned to small business is not a loan. Most of this money will not be repaid. It will ultimately be considered grants that will be added to our national debt. Let's be honest about this. Applications for the program opened to overwhelming initial demand. The current data indicates that the money is gone, so now, here we are again, with leadership from both parties saying, Let's do another $300 billion, what is another couple hundred billion dollars? But realize the money desired is not money we have saved for a rainy day. This money doesn't exist anywhere. It will be created or borrowed. Even more alarming than the money is the idea that one Senator can stand on the floor and pass legislation spending a half-trillion dollars and have no recorded vote and no debate. Look, I understand the hardships of Senators returning from around the country, so I have not invoked the Senate rules to demand a recorded vote. I did return today, though, so that history will record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating. My hope is that, across the country, there will remain a vibrant voice for limited government for our constitutional Republic. I don't want to see this massive accumulation of debt destroy this great country. My advice to the Senate and to the American people is let's be aware of what we are doing by creating all this new debt, and let's think before we jump to a terrible, terrible conclusion. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska. ____________________