In an interview with comedian Bill Maher broadcast Friday night, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont weighed in on the looming economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, reports Newsweek.
Sanders warned that the United States is on the brink of a catastrophe, claiming that the government needs to intervene in the economy before it’s too late.
“The main point is we have to prevent a breakdown in the entire system — that’s how dangerous it is right now,” the senator said, arguing that robust economic intervention is necessary because it is “easier to maintain the system” instead of fixing it after a collapse.
Workers have to be protected, according to Sanders, who argued that the government needs to ensure that every worker in the nation receives “100 percent” of their paycheck.
“From an economic point of view, it means we tell every worker in America: ‘You will continue to get your paycheck. We know you’re not working, we know you’re at home, we know the business that you’re working for is not functioning, but… you will continue to receive 100 percent of your paycheck.'”
Maher pushed back against the suggestion, asking Sanders whether such a maneuver would be too risky since it could lead to inflation, given that the federal government would be forced to inject more money into the economy. According to Sanders, however, this has to be done because “the alternative is worse.”
Sanders said that not doing everything to prevent a major crisis would wreak havoc on the economy. He pointed to data which suggests that between 30 and 40 million people could lose their jobs in the coming months. According to Sanders, unless workers are protected, there will be a “collapse of the economy and it will take more money to put it back together.”
The senator then pointed to a number of European nations that have implemented similar measures, arguing that the United States should do what countries such as Germany and Denmark have done, and have the government cover health care costs and finance paychecks.
If he were president, Sanders told Maher, he would activate the Defense Production Act and direct the private sector to produce the medical equipment necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, the senator said, he would protect families with student loans, car loans, and mortgages.
With the United States Congress scrambling to put together legislation to aid corporations, small businesses, and workers, senators from both sides of the aisle are releasing ambitious policy proposals. On Friday, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri unveiled an initiative that would help companies keep workers on the payroll until the pandemic ends. The senator’s proposal would also incentivize companies to rehire workers laid off during the crisis.