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Wilbur Ross: Always Look On The Bright Side Of The Coronavirus

China

The SARS-like coronavirus has spread rapidly in China. The death toll is now at 170 people, and almost 8,000 people are infected, including 7,711 on the Chinese mainland. It's very unfortunate -- unless you're an absolute ghoul like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in which case this is all great news for the US economy.

The commerce secretary was on Fox Business this morning, boasting to host Maria Bartiromo that it was "physically impossible" for the US to experience a recession this year. The American economy has no corporeal form, so this seems a safe bet. The topic turned to the coronavirus, and Bartiromo mentioned how "you could see the Chinese economy come to a halt." Did that threaten Ross's cheerful outlook on the global economy? Not at all, the old Grinchy Claus hissed. The coronavirus will deliver economic gifts for America we don't want to miss!


ROSS: First of all, every American's heart has to go out to the victims of the coronavirus, so I don't want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease. But the fact is this does give businesses ...

Then he coughed, like a sick person. The timing was glorious. He recovered quickly and continued.

ROSS: ... yet another thing to consider when they go through their review of their supply chain. On top of all the other things, you have SARS, you have the African swine virus there, now you have this ...

It's always something! Yeah, Ross is implying China is a disaster movie set, and any serious business with a zero-tolerance cooties policy will want to stay far way.

ROSS: It's another risk factor that people need to take into account. So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.

This is both grotesque and stupid. Donald Trump thought his dumb trade war would drive US companies out of China and back into America's waiting arms. It didn't work. We also don't have the workers. Ross can fearmonger all he wants but it won't convince businesses to abandon China. Besides, gun violence kills about 100 Americans daily. At least China doesn't think the answer to the coronavirus is more "good guys with the coronavirus." We also have purely preventable measles outbreaks. No one's part in the supply chain is perfect.

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro confirmed Wednesday that Trump has no intention of removing tariffs on Chinese imports, despite the coronavirus's impact on China's economy. Navarro said we should remember why the tariffs exist in the first place, and he repeated Trump's anti-China talking points.

NAVARRO: The tariffs are in place because China engages in massive unfair subsidies. They use their state-owned enterprises to put American companies and workers out of business.

Yes indeed, the 1950s post-war labor market is returning to the US and we only have a potential international public health emergency to thank!

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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