Gazette-Mail editorial: Fighting a war on two fronts

As partisan targets go, few are more visible than America’s colorfully coiffed bombaster-in-chief. That routine raiser of eyebrows, President Donald Trump, was at it again over the weekend with a wee-hour tweet fretting over the economic impact of COVID-19, which has ground commerce to thin dust.

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” the president exclaimed in all capitals, using Twitter to shout once more into the night.

This precipitated the predictable jerking of knees with feet swinging in Trump’s direction. The Washington Post quoted the tweet and warned of the peril of pursuing “the chimera of economic rebound.” The Los Angeles Times’ Jon Healey declared the president had “jumped boldly across that line ... between calming people and misleading them.”

Both the Post and Healey passingly but dutifully noted the legitimacy of concerns about the economy. The New York Times, intriguingly, published an essay Friday March 20 carrying this headline: “Is our fight against coronavirus worse than the disease?” Given that Trump’s tweet appeared two days later, one might suspect the president of lifting the concept, but that would require him to be a reader of the damnable New York Times.

The author of that column was David L. Katz, president of the True Health Initiative and founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. He worries that the “consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life will be long lasting and calamitous” (foreshadowing Trump), “possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself.” Never mind whether the stock market recovers, the shuttering of businesses across the spectrum could spawn a global depression with tsunamic effects sending people not to their homes but the streets.

To be sure, fears are justified over the president tending to speak and act in haste, proclivities which carry exponential risk in a moment of crisis. If Trump’s stated zeal to restart the country’s idling economic engines translates to shattering the safeguards officials still are scrambling to assemble, then greater troubles loom.

What America and the world desperately require now is a plan, not one exclusively focused on containment of the virus but rather inclusive of that concern as well as the one over how to begin resetting the economy. This is a tall order and an extraordinarily complicated one. But this is what is needed.

Otherwise, it is no mere slowdown or recession that confronts us but unrivaled economic collapse. Trump, alas, was right about this much: Remaining locked in our homes might save us from the virus, but it will not save us from the catastrophe that could follow.

Averting that starts with recognizing the certain danger of maintaining the current course without regard to its ramifications.