Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to express confidence that economic setbacks experienced from the response to the Chinese virus will be a short-term problem that will be resolved in a matter of months.
In fact, the secretary predicted the U.S. will be “back to where we were beforehand.”
“I don’t know what the numbers are gonna be this quarter. What I do think is, we are gonna kill this virus,” Mnuchin said. “We’re gonna re-open this economy. And in the third quarter of this year, you’re gonna see this economy bounce back with very large GDP numbers and low unemployment back to where we were beforehand.”
Citing the president’s stated hope to reopen the economy by Easter, host Chris Wallace asked Mnuchin, “Do you think that’s realistic, to open up parts of the country, to open up parts of the economy as soon as two weeks from today, which will be Easter?”
Mnuchin replied that he would “leave that decision to the medical professionals and the president,” stressing his “full-time focus” is delivering on the massive $2 trillion relief package Congress just passed.
He said the Small Business Association is working very closely with the Treasury and that they expect to have a program up and running on Friday.
“I encourage all small businesses to take out these loans because, if you go and hire back your workers for eight weeks, you’ll have a forgivable loan and the government will pay for that,” Mnuchin said.
Much like others in the media, Wallace pushed back on the idea of reopening parts of the country too soon, risking further spreading of the disease, asking if that would be “the worst thing for the economy.”
Mnuchin explained that the administration can walk and chew gum at the same time.
“I can assure you the president’s number one objective is the health of the American public and protecting the American public,” he said. “And we’re going to do everything to support the economy.”
The secretary also reminded Wallace that no decisions on the matter have been made yet.
Wallace would then shift his focus to the $500 billion set aside in the relief package for corporations reeling from the shutdown, asking what discretion does the White House have in deciding who gets what — this too being a popular media narrative.
Mnuchin explained that “approximately $50 billion” is for direct Treasury loans for the airline and cargo businesses, “which are national security concerns,” noting that these loans are subject to the approval of the president and himself.
Loans that he said taxpayers “will be fully compensated for.”
The rest of the package involves working with the Federal Reserve, Mnuchin added.
Wallace continued to push on the issue for a bit, before shifting to unemployment and the impact this may have on the GPD.
“It’s hard to predict these numbers because we’ve never had anything like this, where we’ve shut down the US economy for medical reasons,” Mnuchin said. “The economy was in very, very good health, and we shut it down.”
“And let me just say we’re very sympathetic to the people who don’t have jobs,” he added. “And that’s why the president was very clear that he wanted me to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis quickly to support those people.”
In that regard, Mnuchin said, “people will have direct deposit money in their accounts to provide liquidity.”
In an appearance on CNN, Mnuchin said Americans should start to see checks direct deposited into their accounts over the next three weeks — Wallace had little interest in the topic, opting instead to focus on politics.
The package provides one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under the age of 17, with married couples receiving $2,400 — this is for those who make $75,000 or less.
On a side note, while the established media narrative is that Trump needs to listen more to the experts on the White House coronavirus task force, Mnuchin was clear that the president is doing just that.
Asked about the considerations for a quarantine of New York, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic, the Treasury Secretary said that the decision to instead go with a travel advisory was in accordance with the advice of the task force.
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