When you get old enough and have some success in business, people start asking you for your opinion on issues. (In my case, it’s a funny thing because I built Ameritrade on the idea that the advice brokerage firms were peddling wasn’t worth all that much and some people would prefer to make up their own minds about how to manage their financial futures.) So even though I’m not a doctor, people have been asking me what my thoughts, attitudes, and opinions are as we go on with the war against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
A lot of decisions were made in March reflecting a rapid evolutionary response. At my companies and philanthropies, we’ve been able to keep most of the jobs although I have needed to make some difficult personnel decisions.
My wife and I aren’t young so we haven’t been taking any chances. Whether at home or in my office, I’m effectively self-quarantined with everyone on my payroll who’s able to do so working remotely.
On the Health Front:
As we go through the next 30-60 days, we will learn more about immunity, mortality, and treatments. I don’t think the country will have any large gatherings of any kind until we have a vaccine, and that will not be right away. In the meantime, I think medicines and treatments will be developed that will help to prevent people from getting the virus and to heal those who have acquired it. This spring and summer will be an anxious and tough time for everyone. Hopefully we’ll have a serum soon, and I’m sure there will be an easier and quicker test developed before too long.
On the Business Front:
Globalization is changed forever. Old supply lines will disappear, and new ones will open. Each country has its own culture, so each will experience its own health and business conditions. I think the United States will come out of this war not only the strongest, but stronger economically, somewhat similar to our position coming out of World War II. But this is only if we can get our unemployed back to work. For the long-term economic viability of our country, we need to get people back to work as soon as it’s reasonable to do so. The items mentioned in the Health section above will need to support what’s reasonable. We need to know that we are a nation at work or going back to work soon.
I have lived through four previous severe economic recessions, and I have faith in our Free Enterprise system; so much so that I’m willing to look across the valley of economic downturns to guesstimate how we might come out, take risks, and make investments for what I see as attractive possibilities. However, achieving our health goals and not achieving economic goals will have dire consequences, and we need to be realistic about that as we make trade offs.
We as a country need to develop an attitude and systems for getting the unemployed back to work while continuing to fight this virus. It won’t be an easy path but I am confident we’re up to the challenge.