Cost of another economic shutdown would be unprecedented and catastrophic


There are a lot of issues on the forefront of this election. One of the biggest issues is how to deal with the continuing coronavirus pandemic and its far reaching impacts, not just on normal everyday life, but also on the economy. In late August, Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, said he would be open to shutting down the economy again, if he were elected, as long as that is what scientists recommended. 

There is a fundamental issue with this line of thought, however: the economic downturn that occurred during the first shutdown may still take months, even years, to recover from.  If we shut down again, it would spark total and utter chaos, and would be a wound that the U.S. may never truly heal from. 

While that may seem like an overstatement, no matter how long Biden decides to shut down the economy, the consequences would be immense. It would make problems that America faces even worse and destroy thousands of small businesses.

While the shutdown may have saved up to 2.7 million lives, according to CBS news, it may be fair to say it ended up costing thousands of other lives. The shutdown exacerbated huge problems already plaguing America, including suicide rates and the overall mental health of millions of Americans. According to research done by Reeves, McKee, and Stuckler at Oxford University, suicide rates rise about 1% for every percentage point increase in unemployment. 

Although there is not a total tally of how many suicides occurred during the first shutdown, if the above research is accurate, an estimated 20,000 suicides may have occured on top of the estimated 48,000 deaths that occur from suicide each year, according to Quartz. The effect of the shutdown on suicides and mental health may extend even further than 2020, experts say. The number of deaths from suicide has raised an estimated 35% from 1999 to 2018, according to Pychology Today, and the shutdown may have only accelerated this alarming increase.  

The shutdown has added extra stresses, including economic stresses, social isolation, and barriers to mental health issues, to millions of Americans. Is it really worth destroying the mental health of millions of Americans again with a second shutdown? The evidence provides a clear answer-shutting down the economy again would cost thousands of more lives and make the mental impact of COVID-19 truly disastrous to the overall health of the nation.

Another shutdown of the economy would be devastating to tens of thousands of small businesses. Small businesses are extremely important to the nation’s overall economy, and are a defining feature of democracy by letting people have a choice in what they want to do for a living. The loss of just a few small businesses hurts the economy, but the loss of tens of thousands of small businesses, all within a span of just a few months, is something that has not happened since the Great Depression and holds truly immense consequences. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 80,000 businesses permanently closed from March 1st to July 25th, including around 60,000 local businesses. The effect of these closures are not yet fully understood, but most agree that they may have set the U.S. economy behind to the point where it may take years until it can fully recover. Most small businesses only have enough money set aside to survive a month of closure. For the small businesses that did survive the first shutdown, they can not and will not survive another, as they do not have the income to sustain themselves. 

Infographic by Lucas Johnson. Sources: Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, Quartz, Times of San Diego

As shocking as the 80,000 tally from the first shutdown was, if the economy is shut down for a second time, that number will likely be higher, erasing any positive progress the economy has made since the first shutdown and set it even further back.  

So, this begs the question: What is the best solution? It cannot be a total nationwide shut down, but must be decided state-by-state based on the number of cases and whether they are increasing or decreasing, along with other factors. It is not fair to shut down entire states like Wyoming (5,948 cases) or Alaska (8,707 cases) when they have so few cases. 

Many of the states that have had a large number of cases or a significant spike in cases, like Florida, New York, and California have all seen their case numbers decreasing, according to the latest numbers from the Washington Post. If the numbers are going down in nearly every state with the economy up and running, what is the point of shutting it all down again? The negative consequences of another economic shutdown would far outweigh the positives, and would be a truly horrific misstep that would harm and potentially destroy America’s already rebuilding economy.

Lucas Johnson, Staff Reporter