The Main Squeeze on Main Street

April 7, 2020

This is a bad week that could've been a whole lot worse. Try to remember that, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Americans. Heading into the darkest valley of the virus fight, the Californian wants people to know that as bleak as things look now, the country will get through this. And when we do, we'll be stronger and more prepared because of it.

"The one thing you have to know," he said, "is that if President Trump hadn't taken those actions -- like stopping planes coming [in] from China, it could be [a different story]." In the meantime, we just try to cope. "Look," he conceded, "the virus is here. We did not invite it. We did not ask for it. But we will defeat it together." Every day, McCarthy pointed out, we're learning something new. We're getting farther along. "After SARS," he said by way of comparison, "it took us two years [to develop a treatment]." With coronavirus, he pointed out in amazement, "we're already into a clinical trial."

But as we go through this, McCarthy argued, "there are lessons we have to learn." At the top of the list, he insists, America needs to think long and hard about its dealings with China. He shook his head, thinking about all of the decades the world let the communist regime monopolize the supply chain. As recently as January, "China [was] buying billions of masks," then turning around and telling everyone the virus wasn't contagious. Then there's the control they have over the World Health Organization, McCarthy warned. "Now they have control over the personal protection equipment that our medical doctors need. They produce 50 percent there."

And what's happening now? They're refusing to sell anything to countries who don't agree to their conditions. "Had China not lied to us, 95 percent of this would never have happened. That's what our [studies] actually told us." When we turn the page on this catastrophic chapter in history, China shouldn't be making our pharmaceuticals, our medical supplies -- or frankly, any other product they can leverage over the U.S.

To America's small business owners, McCarthy's message is: Hang in there. For three years, we were operating from one of the strongest economies the country's ever seen. Now, employers are swimming against a once-in-a-lifetime tide, desperately trying to keep their heads above water. And that's not just bad news for small businesses. It's bad news for all of us. We're talking, the minority leader reminded everyone, about 47 percent of the workforce -- 100 million people. "We're going to have to get this country back up and running," he said.

The CARES Act will help. Washington wants to get everyone back working again. "We will actually provide you a loan through your community bank," McCarthy explained. It's what he's calling the Marshall Plan for Main Street. "If you take that money and you pay your employees -- even if you laid them off, bring them back. You pay them. You pay your rent, you pay utilities. That's no longer part of a loan. That's a grant just given to you. So we'll take care of you for the next two months, give you that bridge as we go across and get us through this... That way, we don't fall off the cliff."

It's designed to keep the engine idling until we get to the other side. That way, our economy can take off a lot more quickly and, hopefully, get back to where it was sooner. "Perfect description. Just think of your car. You're at a [red] light. When it's green, you'll have just enough energy to get going." At the end of the day, Leader McCarthy said, this won't last forever. "America has faced significant challenges before, and together we've gotten through them. Remember," he said, "tough times don't last. But tough people do."