Discussing the government’s response to coronavirus on the Monday night edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity called for President Donald Trump to set up an economic task force featuring right-wing economists Art Laffer and Stephen Moore — two of the most staunch opponents of economic relief measures, who instead favor moving the country back to work and lifting restrictions on businesses.
To be clear, a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to cause permanent changes in the country’s economic order, just as past economic and national security crises resulted in changes that Americans now take for granted. (Such examples include Social Security, unemployment insurance, and more unpleasant aspects such as security lines at airports and other public places.)
But while Fox News has seemingly discovered the needs of working people during the pandemic — after years of trashing pro-worker policies — when it really comes down to it, the network can be counted on to oppose any measures to actually help vulnerable people in meaningful ways, opting instead for an aggressive back-to-work campaign at the cost of public health.
The Washington Post reported on March 23:
Conservative economists Steven Moore and Art Laffer have been lobbying the White House for more than a week to consider scaling back the recommendation that restaurants, stores and other gathering spots be closed, although exactly what that would entail remains unclear. Leading Wall Street and conservative media figures have also embraced the idea.
Moore was one of Donald Trump’s top economic advisers for his 2016 presidential campaign. In March 2019, Trump announced he would nominate Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, but he withdrew from consideration in May 2019 due to multiple controversies over his past political comments.
At this time of writing, the top pinned entry on Moore’s Twitter account is an outright rejection of economic stimulus policies in response to the pandemic — even including the popular idea of sending out checks to the public:
Moore’s tweet in turn links to an op-ed that he co-authored with Laffer in The Wall Street Journal, declaring: “Democrats want to repeat the 2009 strategy of paying Americans not to work.”
On March 20, Moore appeared with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo for a panel segment in which the two of them spoke positively about the “U.K. strategy” of encouraging the population to get the virus in order to develop herd immunity, instead of restricting the economy in order to slow the outbreak:
MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): What is your take on the U.K. strategy, Steve? I mean, when you look at what the U.K. has done — encouraging people to go out, pretty much expecting that everybody will get it, and that's the point. If you have everybody who has coronavirus, maybe it's less of a threat, because the immunity goes up. Do you have any comments about the U.K. strategy?
STEPHEN MOORE: I'm not a public health expert, so you know, I can't, you know, weigh in, in terms of any special knowledge about that. But I do think, you know, that's a better strategy than putting, you know, 150 million people in lockdown, or 200 million people in lockdown. You know, it's just not going to work. It's going to — you know, there is a — when you have a high economic cost like this —
BARTIROMO: It's called — it's called the herd immunity strategy, the herd immunity strategy. Move in herds, and everybody gets it.
Later that very same day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the imposition of lockdown measures across the U.K. (Johnson later tested positive for coronavirus, and is currently in intensive care.)
Moore also appeared with Fox host Mark Levin, another staunch opponent of stimulus relief and the lockdowns. (Back in February, Levin had dismissed concerns about the emerging pandemic, declaring that “the Democrats use these health issues to create health scares.”)
On the March 29 edition of Levin’s Fox News show, Moore compared the economic lockdowns in some U.S. cities and states to life in the Soviet Union. And even as he said one of his own good friends was “in a coma right now” from coronavirus, he claimed that the country also needed to “reopen our $20 trillion economic engine.”
Laffer was an economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and is famous for his economic theory describing the relationship between tax rates and levels of revenue collected by the government, called the Laffer Curve. In earlier Fox appearances, he has claimed that raising the minimum wage is “really anti-poor,” and said that stimulus measures enacted in response to the 2008 financial collapse “were the things that caused the Great Recession.” Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.
In his recent interviews on Fox networks, Laffer has opposed nearly all proposed stimulus measures — except for cutting the payroll tax, which would gravely endanger the fiscal health of Social Security and Medicare, and not directly help those workers who have actually lost their jobs. On March 18, Laffer had appeared with Fox Business host Stuart Varney to argue against the ongoing economic stimulus packages, which even the very conservative and free market-oriented Varney was supporting:
And just last week, Laffer appeared again with Varney to argue that an additional stimulus package “will make the economy worse, not better”:
“Now, when we are rich and when prosperous, government spending is perfect then because we can afford to take resources away from producers,” Laffer further explained. “But right now, we need to be the fans of producers, not the fans of consumers. I'm very sorry, but that's what has to be done now. We need free markets more than ever.”