Ian Bremmer: Re-opening the Economy

The health care system in New York City is not likely to get overwhelmed, with enough ventilators and equipment for the person needing critical care. If that's true in New York with a substantial breakout, then second tier cities should also get suitable support, both from states that have extra and from the federal government, with more time to secure it. We're not going to see Northern Italy in the United States, good news.


In Europe, in Italy, in Spain, social distancing is making a difference. Hopefully this is the week we've hit the peak in NYC. Can't say that about the US as a whole, but grateful it's not getting worse.

The developing market piece has not hit yet and is a very big problem. They don't have the health care systems; governance is more uneven than the US or Europe. You can't socially distance even if you want to. In Brazil, 25% of the population lives in slums and favelas. In India, Sub-Saharan Africa, a lot higher than that. Explosive outbreaks. Not only is the economic hit going to be worse, but also the ability to reintegrate into supply chains of the West. Reintegrate travel takes longer, until you get strong, serology tests; convinced that parts of the population have immunity and you can reintegrate them; get a vaccine at scale.

Here in the United States, talking about what it means to start reopening the economy. Governor Abbott of Texas did a good job yesterday, saying, "I'm going to make a big announcement, an executive order about reopening the economy," sounds like he's on board with Trump. But he hasn't said when, or exactly how - don't yet have the medical experts on board. Saying you're in favor of reopening the economy, moving in that direction without anything too explicit lest you get caught. Governor Abbott in TX and Governor Cuomo in New York sound different; actual policies are less disparate.

As much as the country is divided over Trump, they are less divided over the governors and the mayors, who actually implement shutdowns. The vast majority of the country is locked down. The country will come on the back of science, what doctors say. Even some Republican governors will be more cautious in following Trump on getting the economy restarted. I expect that in Massachusetts, in Maryland, in Ohio. Question will be: states that decide to open significantly early, especially when that changes people's behavior and they socially distance less. What happens in secondary outbreaks, do you shut it down? If you don't, what happens to other states and how they respond to people that may be traveling from your state? But more coordinated behavior from the governors and mayors than is being portrayed.

The broader question is how to restart the economy, companies? I've been impressed with efforts put in place by many CEOs. They understand that in order to get companies running again:

First, medical guidance from Fauci, Birx, etc, that there's testing, we understand immunity, confidence that the health care system and understanding of the virus is suitable.

Second, confidence around workplace infrastructure. Guidelines around cleaning, the availability of masks, hand sanitizers for employees. It's expensive, needs to be coordinated.

Finally, not only does the workplace have to be safe, but also public transport. Schools, daycares, cafeterias can be open and there is safe, healthy food supply daily.

Health care, medical guidance has to come from the CDC and NIH. Getting companies running can be done by the companies. Getting people into work and having public infrastructure, cities and states.

We can start to loosen lockdown, start to behave differently. That's different from the economy being reopened, we don't need relief efforts from the public sector. You can't start talking about getting the economy moving faster, until you're opening it up. I think we're looking at contraction this whole year.

I'd be surprised if we reopen in a way that suggests sustainable growth. Maybe end of fourth quarter, could start to see it. The country will feel better because we will have hit bottom. That's different from the economy growing. The impact that's going to have for the working and middle classes, is a real challenge.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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