Stuart Varney told his fellow Fox host Steve Doocy that we need to "open up businesses as fast as possible to avoid economic catastrophe," the lessons from history be damned.
May 12, 2020

Before discussing a report from Moody Analytics examining which cities are most likely to have the strongest economic recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic, Fox Business host Stuart Varney joined this Monday's Fox & Friends, and continued the network's push to get all of the peons back to work (or church) as quickly as possible as they broadcast from the safety of their homes, consequences to their health and safety be damned.

Host Steve Doocy asked Varney about the "jaw-dropping" unemployment numbers, which are probably going to get worse before they get better, and Varney responded by bringing up the very real social costs of forcing people to stay at home, such as increases in domestic abuse and alcoholism, but then proceeded to completely ignore the lessons from history when it comes to economic recovery from a pandemic:

VARNEY: Look there are two reasons why we really need to get back to work and end the lockdown, as much as possible, in the immediate future.

Reason number one, there is an enormous social cost to the lockdown—child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, people being stuck and clamped down in their houses in an abusive relationship. There is untold cost, a social cost to continuing the lockdown indefinitely. It's a big cost.

The other point is, we've got to open up our businesses as fast as possible to avoid absolute economic catastrophe. Those number predictions on how high the unemployment rate is going to go are not unrealistic. That's why we have got to get back to work quickly.

Now look, it's not going to be easy, Steve. Point number one, there are some people making more money staying home than if they went back to work. That's disincentive to go back. Secondly, some people will be unwilling to return to work, because they fear infection. And then there is a third reason, some businesses will indeed slim down because of this lockdown and won't require all of their workers back again.

So look, you've got to open up, but it will be an uphill struggle, but we've got to do that struggle to limit the loss—the social damage and the economic damage.

As the Independent reported last month, during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, cities that had stronger social distancing measures and longer lockdown measures, actually recovered faster than those that didn't, as discussed in this article comparing the difference in the response in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul:

The comparison between the twin cities is instructive today not just for what it tells us about the health benefits of social distancing, but also for what it says about any economic costs that come with it.

In 1918, cities that committed earlier and longer to interventions like banning public gatherings and closing schools didn’t fare worse for disrupting their economies for longer. Many of those cities actually had relatively larger gains in manufacturing employment, manufacturing output and bank assets in 1919 and into the next few years, according to a new study from researchers at the Federal Reserve of New York and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This is particularly clear among Western cities that had more time to prepare for a pandemic that hit the east coast first.

For cities with the most aggressive interventions, there’s no trade-off apparent in this data between saving lives and hurting the economy.

“If anything, these places do better,” said Emil Verner, an economist at MIT, who wrote the paper with Sergio Correia and Stephan Luck of the Federal Reserve.


The outlook today is clearly grimmer. The economy is now global, leaving local communities susceptible to coronavirus effects on the other side of the world. And so much of the modern service-sector economy in the US is contingent on people getting together — on planes, in restaurants, at theatres, in tourism hubs.

But this lesson from 1918 is probably still true today: It’s the pandemic that really hurts the economy, not the things we do to try to contain it.

Opening up too quickly in areas where the number of cases is still on the rise is a recipe for disaster on all levels, and the decision by many states to do it may very well backfire, and quickly.

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