By Jack Ciattarelli
First and foremost, we will, as we always have before, get through the crisis. It won’t be easy, but we will, and more sooner than later if everyone does their part.
During the 2008 financial meltdown and crisis, the federal government did what it needed to do; namely, it went forth with a ‘too big to fail” bailout of Wall Street that approximated $400 billion.
The federal government’s bailout wasn’t limited to just Wall Street, however. National, regional and local banks, as well as big auto makers, credit card companies and other Fortune 100 companies also benefited directly from an additional federal bailout of $300 billion.
The bailout was known as TARP — Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was created and run by the U.S. Treasury to “stabilize the country’s financial system, restore economic growth, and mitigate foreclosures in the wake of the crisis.”
The industries and companies that benefited from TARP also benefited, ironically, from payments made by Main Street. Payments made by everyday, hardworking small business owners and their employees. Payments in the form of car loans, mortgage payments, insurance premiums, small business loans, construction loans, credit card bills, etc.
Where we are today is different, but very clear. The COVID-19 health crisis has decimated Main Street. Hence, this time it’s Main Street that requires bailing.
The federal government needs to immediately get cash into the accounts of all small businesses so that payroll can be met through the end of the second quarter, repeating the process again in the third and fourth quarters, if necessary. The federal government also needs to allow individuals to tap their retirement funds without penalty. And the industries and companies that benefited from TARP and Main Street in 2008 can now return the favor by, for example, lessening the load for those with credit card debt, car loans, mortgages, insurance premiums, etc.
This kind of Main Street rescue plan will address the economic devastation caused by the public health crisis. But that’s not all that’s needed. Beyond the short term, the country desperately needs a bold plan that puts middle America back to work. Such a plan isn’t unprecedented.
First, if we all do the right thing, we will get through the public health crisis. Second, if our leadership does the right thing, we will get through the economic crisis. In the short term, that means adequately funding small businesses. Call it the Small Business Rescue Act. In the mid- to long-term, that means funding the greatest jobs program in our nation’s history and one that pays for itself — a trillion-dollar investment in our 100-plus-year-old infrastructure that’s crumbling before our eyes. Call it the American Infrastructure and Family Relief Act.
Every day, hard-working people will always do their part, if they’re compelled by true leadership. With that, we demand that our leadership — both in politics and business —be understandably measured, but also decisively bold in helping every day, hard-working people and our country get through the crises today, tomorrow and in the years ahead.
Ronald Reagan spoke of America as “that shining city upon a hill.” That is still our destiny. And so, we must, we can, and we will solve this health crisis while also saving our economy, our middle class and, therefore, our nation.
JACK CIATTARELLI (R-16) is a businessman, former State Assemblyman, and Republican candidate for the 2021 gubernatorial nomination.