Mervin Jebaraj works at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business so it is apropos that he has a grade for the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, the grade is incomplete because, you know, the pandemic isn’t over and the economy is still roiling in its wake.
Jebaraj, the executive director of the Center for Business & Economic Research, said the federal government deserves a “B” for its CARES Act, the $2 trillion aid package passed in March.
“Unlike previous recessions, we actually addressed this recession with a substantial amount of stimulus or counter-recessionary measures,” Jebaraj said. “It wasn’t so much stimulus as it was to try to fill in some of the huge hole that the pandemic was leaving.”
Jebaraj is less complimentary about the rest of the government’s action, or inaction. He criticized the political dickering over the details of a second aid package and added that the pandemic itself will continue to be a money pit unless it is properly addressed.
“They may not have had to do a second large CARES Act if they had controlled the pandemic,” Jebaraj said. “The economic response originally was good; the pandemic response was terrible. We could have spent $2.5 trillion and a couple of hundred billion of dollars on a testing and tracing program and not had to spend another $2.5 trillion.
“We are going to have to spend gobs more money to bail out businesses because we can’t control the pandemic. It is cheaper to control the pandemic.”