Alan Tonelson: Republicans Face Political ‘Extinction’ if They Refuse to Help Americans Hurt by Coronavirus

A sparse international departure terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) as concern over the coronavirus grows on March 7, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

Republicans face a political “extinction event” if they are viewed as blocking economic relief to Americans financially harmed by the coronavirus outbreak, warned economist Alan Tonelson, founder of the economics and public policy website RealityChek, during a Friday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host Ed Martin.

Mansour asked what policy measures could assist contractors and others in the “gig economy.”

“I think [emergency relief packages] will help and in this regard — I think that Congress’s Republicans are simply going to have to hold their noses and vote for a bill that contains a great many programs that in normal times they understandably wouldn’t like, because these aren’t normal times.”

Tonelson added, “It seems very clear to me that Republicans and conservatives faced a genuine extinction event back in 2007 and 2008, when not only didn’t they anticipate a truly menacing housing and credit bubble that was building up that various others were warning about, but when those bubbles burst they seemed paralyzed because of this extreme anti-government ideology that had swept over the entire party and nearly the entire conservative movement.”

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Tonelson continued, “It’s almost like the way that Republicans failed to react to the Great Depression back in 1929, ’30, ’31, when they also faced something of an extinction event because they simply couldn’t get off that ideological diet.”

“There’s no doubt that this House Democratic bill is also full of a lot of items that have nothing to do with the virus,” Tonelson cautioned, “but if the Republicans don’t want to be branded as public enemy number one, again, they’ve got to swallow their pride, they’ve got a swallow their ideology, and get with this program.”

Asked about a payroll tax holiday’s utility to contract employees who are unemployed due to the coronavirus’s economic fallout, Tonelson estimated, “[A payroll tax holiday] might help them in one sense. It might help them in that their employers might be able to carry them on their payrolls, even though, again, I realize that that these are part-time contracting jobs, but they might be able to to come to some arrangements with them to keep money flowing to them without going bust themselves.”

Tonelson continued, “But I do think that because these jobs are so irregular, some kind of direct government income support is going to be needed. Maybe it would be some kind of tax holiday for individuals. It could take any number of forms, and I don’t think it’s especially important what exact form it takes. What’s important is that Washington moves now and gets that money flowing.”

Mansour asked about a temporary “universal basic income” measure to provide financial relief to Americans economically damaged by the coronavirus’s impact.

“Certainly conservatives and small government types are not crazy [about this],” replied Tonelson, “[they] fear that these kinds of temporary programs could too easily become permanent programs, but frankly, that’s a problem for down the road. We have to get past this, what I think will be a short- or medium-term crisis, and conservatives and Republicans cannot afford to be depicted, rightly, as standing in the way, even if they don’t have the votes in the House, which they clearly don’t. 

American workers are not to blame for the coronavirus outbreak, Tonelson stated.

“The value of individual responsibility — which conservatives rightly prize and which everybody else should prize more — it just doesn’t apply now,” determined Tonelson. “This is not these workers’ fault. They’re not in this predicament because of some personal failing, [or] because they themselves didn’t uniquely didn’t anticipate this virus. This is not their fault, and they shouldn’t have to pay extremely severe consequences. Nobody’s going to escape all consequences entirely, that’s not realistic, either. But something must be done, and Republicans and conservatives cannot let themselves be depicted as having stood in the way. 

Breitbart News Tonight broadcasts live on SiriusXM Patriot channel 125 weeknights from 9:00 p.m. to midnight Eastern or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.

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