National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow has defended comments where he claimed coronavirus was ‘relatively contained’ and that ‘the vast majority of Americans are not at risk from this virus’.
Kudlow was seemingly trying to reassure people the financial markets would be okay and encouraged Americans to continue their usual routines, despite directions on the contrary coming from the World Health Organization and Trump admin health experts.
But more than a month after the comment on CNBC‘s Squawk on the Street, Kudlow has backtracked and suggested he wasn’t trying to play down the true danger of COVID-19.
‘Look, I’m as good as the facts are. At the time I made that statement, the facts were contained,’ Kudlow told Martha Raddatz on ABC News‘ This Week, Sunday morning. ‘The President has just put the travel restrictions on China, and a lot of people agreed with me. In fact, at the time, a lot of people thought that the flu was worse than this virus.
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Larry Kudlow defended his comments last month saying that coronavirus was contained
‘But as soon as the facts change, we changed our whole posture and our whole strategy and we’ve gone full bore. No package like this has ever passed Congress before. And, look, as the President has said, we will do more if need be.’
At the time of the original interview, February 25, there were less than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US.
By Sunday there had been over 132,600 confirmed cases and 2,355 related deaths.
States have shut down non-essential businesses in a bid to stop to the spread of coronavirus.
This week saw the largest number of US unemployment claims filed in history. Over 3 million Americans flocked to apply for benefits.
During the older interview he reassured viewers the consequences of the virus would not lead to ‘economic tragedy’.
‘We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,’ Kudlow said last month.
He repeated the claim again on CNBC March 6.
Several weeks later, on Sunday Kudlow was praising Donald Trump for a $2trillion relief package aimed in part to help small businesses and employees get back on their feet after coronavirus has affected the livelihoods of millions of Americans.
From the package, $600 billion will go to 175 million people and $350 billion will go towards loans for small businesses.
Individuals making up to $75,000 per year will get a $1,200 handout. Married couples with an income of up to $2,400 will get $150,000. Families with children will get an additional $500 per child.
‘I think it will be enough,’ Kudlow said about the funds. ‘One-third of the whole economy is being covered by this package. That’s really quite remarkable.’
Kudlow on Sunday claimed the assistance package ‘may not be perfect’, but said he thinks it’s going to ‘give a tremendous amount of resources to get us through what we still believe is going to be a question of weeks and months’.
‘It’s the largest mainstream financial assistance package in the history of the United States, so it’s hard to know if we could get everything, help everybody,’ he added on Sunday. ‘But I’m an optimist. I think the sheer resources here — we are putting in whatever it takes, we’re using every federal power lever possible to help folks and it’s going right into middle, lower-middle class people.’
Raddatz asked Kudlow how the stimulus package was possible without raising taxes.
President Donald J. Trump (C) during a signing ceremony for the The CARES Act in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on March 27. The CARES Act, is a coronavirus COVID-19 stimulus package worth more than $2trillion. Kudlow is pictured left and says the package is ‘enough’
But the National Economic Director reassured viewers that taxpayers would feel the relief.
‘Well, we’re not raising taxes. We’re cutting taxes right now,’ Kudlow responded. ‘The whole package is essentially direct assistance on the spending side and large-scale tax cuts … probably half of the companies in the U.S., are going to get rebates or deferred payroll tax holidays.’
‘So, we have tried to hit both sides,’ Kudlow continued. ‘We’re helping the individuals. We’re helping the small business. Those are the major components of the American economy. I hope that the machinery works.’
Trump has been criticized for playing down the crisis. Experts in his administrative have advised that lockdowns may need to continue for months. But Trump has said in contradiction that it will not be months.
Kudlow on Sunday admitted that reopening the country in one or two months is wishful thinking.
‘It could be four weeks. It could be eight weeks. I say that hopefully and I say that prayerfully,’ he said. ‘That’s what some of the science experts are telling us. I don’t know if they’ll be right.’
WHAT’S IN $2 TRILLION ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE?
Loans and guarantees to businesses, state and local governments: $500 billion. Includes up to $50 billion for passenger airlines, $8 billion for cargo carriers, $17 billion for “businesses critical to maintaining national security.” Companies accepting loans may not repurchase outstanding stock; must maintain their employment levels as of March 13, 2020 “to the extent practicable”; and bar raises for two years to executives earning over $425,000 annually. Companies are not eligible for loans if top administration officials, members of Congress or their families have 20% control.
Small businesses: Includes $350 billion in loans for companies with 500 employees or fewer, including nonprofits, self-employed people and hotel and restaurant chains with no more than 500 workers per location. Government provides eight weeks of cash assistance through loans to cover payroll, rent and other expenses, much of which would be forgiven if the company retains workers. Also $17 billion to help small businesses repay existing loans; $10 billion for grants up to $10,000 for small businesses to pay operating costs.
Emergency unemployment insurance: $260 billion. Includes extra 13 weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted existing benefits. Also covers part-time, self-employed, gig economy workers. Weekly benefit increase of up to $600.
Health care: $150 billion. Includes $100 billion for grants to hospitals, public and nonprofit health organizations and Medicare and Medicaid suppliers.
Aid to state and local governments: $150 billion, with at least $1.5 billion for smallest states.
Direct payments to people: One-time payments of $1,200 per adult, $2,400 per couple, $500 per child. Amounts begin phasing out at $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 per couple.
Tax breaks: Temporarily waives penalties for virus-related early withdrawals and eases required minimum annual disbursements from some retirement accounts; increases deductions for charitable contributions. Employers who pay furloughed workers can get tax credits for some of those payments. Postpones business payments of payroll taxes until 2021 or 2022.
Department of Homeland Security: $45 billion for a disaster relief fund to reimburse state and local governments for medical response, community services, other safety measures. Extends federal deadline for people getting driver’s licenses with enhanced security features, called REAL ID, from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.
Education: $31 billion. Includes $13.5 billion for states to distribute to local schools and programs, $14 billion to help universities and colleges.
Coronavirus treatments: $27 billion for research and development of vaccines and treatments, stockpiling medical supplies.
Transportation: Includes $25 billion for public transit systems; $10 billion for publicly owned commercial airports, intended to sustain 430,000 transit jobs; $1 billion for Amtrak.
Veterans: $20 billion, including $16 billion for treating veterans at VA facilities; $3 billion for temporary and mobile facilities.
Food and agriculture: $15.5 billion for food stamps; $14 billion for supporting farm income and crop prices; $9.5 billion for specific producers including specialty crops, dairy and livestock; $8.8 billion child nutrition. Money for food banks, farmers’ markets.
Defense: $10.5 billion for Defense Department, including $1.5 billion to nearly triple the 4,300 beds currently in military hospitals; $1.4 billion for states to deploy up to 20,000 members of National Guard for six months; $1 billion under Defense Production Act to help private industry boost production of medical gear. Money cannot be used to build President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along Mexican border.
Social programs: Includes $3.5 billion in grants for child care and early education programs; $1 billion in grants to help communities address local economic problems; $900 million in heating, cooling aid for low-income families; $750 million for extra staffing for Head Start programs.
Economic aid to communities: $5 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help state and local governments expand health facilities, child care centers, food banks and senior services; $4 billion in assistance for homeless people; $3 billion for low-income renters; $1.5 billion to help communities rebuild local industries including tourism, industry supply chains, business loans; $300 million for fishing industry.
Native American communities: $2 billion for health care, equipment schools and other needs.
Diplomacy: $1.1 billion, including $324 million to evacuate Americans and diplomats overseas; $350 million to help refugees; $258 million in international disaster aid; $88 million for the Peace Corps to evacuate its volunteers abroad.
Elections: $400 million to help states prepare for 2020 elections with steps including expanded vote by mail, additional polling locations.
Arts: $150 million for federal grants to state and local arts and humanities programs; $75 million for Corporation for Public Broadcasting; $25 million for Washington, D.C., Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Congress: $93 million, including $25 million for the House and $10 million for the smaller Senate for teleworking and other costs; $25 million for cleaning the Capitol and congressional office buildings.
Source: | WHO