Americans, and Congress, Are Ready to Get Back to Work, Indiana Lawmaker Says

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American workers are more than ready to get back to work, according to Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

The Indiana Republican joins The Daily Signal Podcast to talk about how his state is handling the impact of the coronavirus, state bailouts, sheltering in place, what the economic effects of the coronavirus shutdown will be, and much more.

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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Congressman Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana. Congressman Hollingsworth, it’s great to have you on The Daily Signal Podcast.

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth: I’m excited to be with you. I appreciate you guys investing some time with me.

Del Guidice: Well, thanks so much for making time to be on here, we do appreciate it. To start things off, how is Indiana handling the impacts of coronavirus?

Hollingsworth: Certainly, we’re tremendously impacted, just like every other state, all the way across the country. We’ve seen our share of cases, we’ve seen, unfortunately, our share of fatalities, but also, we’ve seen businesses really struggling to get through this difficult time, generating zero revenue.

We’ve seen employees let go in droves, and unfortunately, we’ve seen lives interrupted, as family members aren’t able to visit other family members, as people aren’t able to visit loved ones in nursing homes, and as people weren’t able to go to church even on Easter Sunday.

[Those are] some of the challenges that we’re dealing with, not only from a biological perspective, but also just from our way of life as Americans.

Del Guidice: You recently tweeted about the importance of finding the right balance of minimizing coronavirus health risks, while still enabling and empowering Americans to get back to their normal way of life. And this is something, of course, that The Heritage Foundation’s National Coronavirus Recovery Commission is also studying and issuing recommendations on. So what do you think the right balance is?

Hollingsworth: I think that is the multitrillion-dollar question, frankly, is how we balance these two initiatives. But what I really hate is how conventional media talks about only two possible solutions. The corner solutions, right? Saying, “Oh, everyone needs to continue to remain in their homes, businesses need to continue to remain shuttered, lives need to continue to be interrupted or we’ll see massive total fatalities all the way across the country.”

I think that we have to be better than that. I think we need to find exactly what you said, a balanced solution in between those two corner solutions, such that we can enable people, as many people as possible, to get back to as much of their lives as possible.

I think that’s hugely important and frankly, we know how to do this. We know that we need to develop risks attached to individuals, based on their demographics. Whether they’re older or younger, whether they have comorbidities or not, and then geographies that are less susceptible to widespread infections or not, and then industries that have less contact, by virtue of what they do.

These are important aspects of ensuring that we don’t have another large-scale outbreak, but also that we can get people back to their normal everyday lives that they cherish so much.

Del Guidice: You had recently tweeted too about how sheltering in place forever is not a sustainable strategy, and that it was just a strategy meant to buy time and meant to flatten the curve, but not something that people can do forever, sitting at home and waiting for coronavirus to pass. Can you unpack that a little bit more for us?

Hollingsworth: Yeah, absolutely. I think it comes down to two very important aspects. No. 1, shelter in place was a strategy designed to flatten the curve, such that there wouldn’t, hopefully, be a peak that exceeded health care’s capacity to care for those that are symptomatic, to care for those that need intensive care to get through COVID-19.

The goal of that was to elongate the curve, but also ensure that the peak is below health care capacity, because you see a higher case fatality rate anytime you exceed health care’s capacity to care for those individuals that are symptomatic …

So the reality of where we started with shelter in place was a design strategy at the beginning to buy health care more time, to ensure that infections didn’t rise at such a precipitous rate that it would exceed the amount that health care can provide and care for at any single point in time.

That was really important, but what it has morphed into is seemingly a long-term strategy. And this we have to be careful about and we need to be more frank with the American public about.

This gets to my second point, the reality is that coronavirus risk is not going to zero anytime soon. We are not going to develop a vaccine that is 100% effective against coronavirus, and widespread vaccinated enough people such that there will be an instance rate of zero in our communities anytime soon. We have to recognize that.

We need to tell the American people that truth. It is a hard truth, but it is the truth about where we’re going forward.

We are always headed for a trade-off in ensuring that we can lessen the incidence rate in our communities by taking certain steps, but also ensure that we can get back to our normal way of life.

I think what I’ve continued to hear from the conventional media is that somehow sheltering in place for long enough will eradicate the risk of coronavirus, will take that risk all the way down to zero, but that flies in the face of what we know about epidemiology, virology, and frankly, basic biology.

So, we have to recognize the reality of us going forward, at least for the next month, at least for the next six months, at least for probably for the next year, is that we are going to face some non-zero risk of coronavirus.

There will be a non-zero number of infections. There will even, unfortunately, be a non-zero number of fatalities, but we have dealt with that in prior pandemics. We deal with it year in and year out with the flu. We deal with it every single day with other infectious diseases.

We have to find a way to mitigate and minimize risks, but also ensure that we are enabling Americans to get back to the freedoms that they enjoy, to get back to the businesses that they need in order to put food on their table, and get back to the religious freedoms that they value in their lives.

Del Guidice: In light of all of this, how would you encourage fellow colleagues in Congress who might not agree with you to consider your point of view?

Hollingsworth: I think that it comes down to a basic understanding that we have to count the costs on both sides of the ledger.

Every loss of life is tragic, every life that’s been impacted by sickness, even if it’s not lost, is a tragedy, is something we need to count up.

I have been a big believer in ensuring that we appropriately minimize and mitigate risks, so that we can protect every life as best we can. But we also have to count the cost on the other side of the ledger, the huge economic costs, the costs of families that have lost their livelihoods, their ability to put food on the table, the costs associated with giving up our freedoms to be able to go anywhere, to be able to travel as we see fit, to be able to go to church as we see fit.

These are real and genuine costs, and Hoosiers all the way across our district, all the way across the state, and Americans all the way across the country, frankly, are anxious and worried about those costs beginning to pile up and impact their lives in a real way that I think the only pathway forward is to ensure that we’re counting both sides of that ledger.

We need to be thoughtful about this. We cannot just say, “We need you to stay in your house healthily, but probably not happily, for forever until we get that coronavirus risk down to zero,” because that is not going to happen anytime soon.

We have to find a pathway forward—as America has done during famines, as America has done during previous pandemics, as America’s done during wartime as well—where we balance the risks, we mitigate the risks, but we also enable people to get back to the lives that they have so valued for so many decades.

Del Guidice: What is your perspective on some governors of states clamoring for federal bailouts of their state?

I know [New York City Mayor] Bill de Blasio on Tuesday, referring to [President Donald] Trump’s opposition to state bailouts, has said that Trump is a backstabbing hypocrite, given how much money he’s put in the hands of corporations and the wealthy, but talking about Trump’s refusal or not wanting to bail out these states.

What is your perspective on state bailouts, and what would your response be to the mayor?

Hollingsworth: Look, it’s very clear, when one looks at the finances of a state like Illinois, for example, you cannot believe that Illinois has been fiscally disciplined for the last 30 years, and that it was the coronavirus that pushed them to the brink of insolvency.

What you see is a long history, in the example of Illinois—that applies to so many other states, to so many other municipalities—a long history of fiscal irresponsibility, and the federal government cannot come in and bail out that irresponsibility.

De Blasio, [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo, [Illinois Gov. J.B.] Pritzker, others have demanded unrestricted monies be remitted from the federal government to these states, these municipalities, because of coronavirus, but they intend to use those funds to make up the shortfalls because of their gargantuan promises to pensions, because of their fiscal irresponsibility in the past.

How can we ever look states in the eye and demand that they balance their budget, demand that they do the right things for taxpayers, demand that they be stewards of the funds that are remitted to them by hardworking Americans, if we are just going to bail out every state and municipality any time a bad day comes along?

This is a very bad time right now in America, but the rainy day fund should be built for moments when it is raining, and those states, those municipalities that haven’t done the right thing for their taxpayers, [that] haven’t been stewards of taxpayer dollars for so many decades now should not get congratulated and rewarded by federal government bailouts for not doing those right things.

Instead, states like Indiana, which has an AAA bond rating, which has $2 billion in reserves, which has a balanced budget amendment, have done the right things for a long time for its taxpayers, and have built up a rainy day fund. Those states should be rewarded for taking the right actions far in advance of this terrible time, to ensure that they could get their citizens through these terrible times.

Del Guidice: Looking at the big picture, congressman, what do you think the economic effects long term of the coronavirus shutdown will be?

Hollingsworth: Look, Rachel, you’ve asked a great question. I wish I knew the answer to that. If I had a crystal ball that was so much better than every other economist out there, I promise you, I would be touting it from the rooftops everywhere.

What I do believe is that we will get through this. What I do believe is that the American worker is the most productive worker anywhere in the world, and in the long term, that leads to tremendous economic growth, which leads to tremendous real income growth for Americans.

So this certainly is an enormous, short-term exogenous shock to the economy. This is undoubtedly going to be the largest single quarter contraction since World War II that America’s economy has ever endured.

That is undoubtedly true, but we will recover from this. American ingenuity, American hard work, American enterprise will recover from this, and will continue to generate economic growth.

I read a lot of economist reports, many believe that this will be the worst recession that we have endured, but may also be one of the shortest recessions that we have endured, hopefully, much shorter than the 18 months roughly that the Great Recession was.

I hope to see us take steps to ensure that the economic recovery remains vigorous. That is really important, and I think deregulatory work, tax incentive work, champion enterprise champion those employers that are hiring employees back, will help ensure that this exogenous shock doesn’t become a long-term demand shock to the economy.

Del Guidice: We’ve seen frustration from different states across the country with these lockdowns. I know Michigan, and Maryland, as well as some people even in California have been protesting the lockdown. So I’m curious, what do you think of these anti-lockdown protests, and are you seeing any in Indiana?

Hollingsworth: We’ve actually seen quite a number of protests in Indiana as well. I think that Americans are rightfully anxious and worried about a government that now [has] taken much of their freedom for the last 60 days, has removed their ability to earn a wage and put food on many of their tables, and is, without their consent, in many instances, demanding that they sacrifice very much.

So, I think you will continue to see Americans that push back against that, that want to ensure that the right trade-off, the right balance is being struck between ensuring America’s future and every American’s future and the risk of a wider, longer spread of coronavirus.

I continue to talk to those that have been protesting in Indiana, I continue to talk to the governor as well, to make sure that we find the balance that meets the need of Hoosiers today, and also the need for continuing American economic growth, American education of our youth, and the American way of life going forward.

Del Guidice: House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she’s looking at another multitrillion-dollar bill that will reportedly also include provisions for mail-in voting. This will be another coronavirus funding package. Details are still kind of coming out, forming around this, but what is your perspective on this legislation that she’s talking about?

Hollingsworth: Well, I’ll tell you what, no one’s seen the legislation, and that’s the real challenge. Nancy Pelosi will not bring members back to Washington, D.C., and get members engaged in working on something that could be meaningfully bipartisan, that could yield real tangible results for Americans.

Instead, Nancy Pelosi is sitting in her office with her cronies, writing a bill that no one has seen, that no one has provided input on, and then she’s going to demand that members come back with 24 hours notice to vote “yes” or “no” on her bill.

This isn’t a bill that members of the House of Representatives put together because they thought it was in the best interest of their districts, of their constituents of America. This is Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to use this crisis, to use this challenging time in America’s history to get her pet projects done, to get her pet policies put in place, to get her bill written and passed by the House.

I hope the Senate will stand up against that, because this hasn’t been the work product of 435 members, this has been the work product of the speaker and her staff alone, because she won’t bring members back.

We need to be leaders. We need to set an example to this country that there is a way—wearing masks, social distancing, washing your hands, not coming into contact with other people—there is a way to get work done in this country.

We are asking employers and employees across the country to begin to open back up, to begin to get back to putting food on their tables, to begin to get back to educating their kids, to begin to get back to going to church.

We need to set an example as well, and be up in D.C. providing input on this very important legislation, not being told by the speaker when she has already written it, what is in it and whether we get to vote “yes” or “no” only on that.

Del Guidice: Speaking of, as you mentioned, the best interests of the American people, let’s just quickly go back to the economic effects of what we’re seeing right now.

There was a piece that an ABC affiliate had out saying that the federal government is set to borrow $3 trillion just this quarter in emergency funding to help the economy.

As we kind of look at this huge figure, what could the effects of borrowing so much money be economically on the country?

Hollingsworth: Undoubtedly, it will provide a drag in the future on economic growth. It will provide a drag on wealth creation in the country. It will provide a drag on real income growth across the country in the future. This is our big challenge.

What I continue to tell my colleagues is we cannot kick the can down the road, we must face the fiscal challenges that exist today and ensure that we solve them while interest rates are low, ensure that we solve them while time is still on our side, ensure that we solve them before we are threatened with a larger debt crisis.

I certainly believe that now is the time to begin to get America’s fiscal house in order. That now is the time, while interest rates are so low, to find a way to balance the budget over time, to find a way to ensure that we are not providing a mountain of debt to our children, to our grandchildren, to our great-grandchildren, but instead, providing them with an abundance of opportunity.

No economist in the world believes that borrowing trillions of dollars every year doesn’t have a deleterious impact on the economy going forward.

As the federal government soaks up more and more available capital that could otherwise be mobilized to investment in our businesses, to [research and development] and developing new cures, new technologies, investment in labor force mobility, and education, and skills, these are things that we want to see done, but the federal government is soaking up more and more of that capital, as it needs more and more funding, just to make ends meet.

We have got to find a way to ensure that our federal government balances its budget, so that opportunity is what the next generations of Americans have, not faced with the burdens of repaying for the profligance of this generation.

Del Guidice: In better, more positive news, there’s a business in your state, Shields Windshields, that is making medical supplies with glass that is typically used for their construction for vehicle windshield operations. Can you tell us a little bit about their work and how they’ve adapted to respond to the current needs?

Hollingsworth: I’ll tell you what, I have been so proud of America.

I’ve been so proud of Hoosiers all the way across the district, because we have got so many people that have stepped up—whether it’s businesses that have stopped making alcohol and are making hand sanitizer, or whether it’s this great firm that stopped making automobile windshields and is making face shields—we have got businesses across the country, employees across the country, health care heroes across the country, individuals in their homes across the country that have stepped up and said, “What can I do to help? How can I sew a mask? How can I send a nice note to one of our nursing homes, so that those patients know that people outside are thinking of them? How can I make something that will help our country get back on its feet?”

These are the things that Americans are asking themselves, and I think this is what we have to be so proud of.

This country has always had the perfect combination of ingenuity and resolve, and this has been spotlighted by this crisis.

I continue to be amazed by story after story of Hoosier businesses, of Hoosiers that are stepping up, helping their neighbors, that are going to get groceries for their senior citizen friends, that are bringing things to a nursing home and leaving them at the front door, just so their day is a little bit brighter.

These are the things that we do as Americans, these are the things that define us in moments of crisis as Americans, and these are the things I want to continue to see us do in good times and bad for the next 240 years.

Del Guidice: Well, Congressman Hollingsworth, you’re a millennial yourself, I believe. Do you think that being one of the younger members of Congress gives you a different perspective? And how would you talk to other millennials about conservative values?

Hollingsworth: I think it does give me a new perspective. I think that millennials have been able to solve problems in a new and innovative way that have been created by the last generation.

And that doesn’t make us unique, by the way. Every new generation solves many of the problems that were brought up by the last generation, and with the advent of just unbelievable technological capabilities, we have new ways to solve problems.

What I hope is that that ingenuity of millennials and of the generations that follow millennials, we can bring that to Congress as well, bring that to our institutions of government as well.

Certainly, it has revolutionized our lives, it has revolutionized our businesses, it has revolutionized the way that we think about life itself, and I want us to revolutionize Congress as well. I want new technologies in Congress, I want new ways of doing business in Congress, I want new ways of thinking in Congress.

As Albert Einstein famously remarked, “The same thinking that created the problem will not be the thinking that solves the problem.”

We have to ensure that we bring new thinking to Congress, as well as our youth. We have to make sure that we are approaching Congress as something that we can reform, we can fix, we can improve for the American people.

For the last 30 or 40 years, when Americans think of Washington, D.C., I promise you, they don’t think about it in laudatory terms, right? They don’t think about it with compliments. They don’t think about it as a place that’s genuinely working to solve problems for Americans. They say a lot of nasty words when they hear “Washington, D.C.”

We have got to change that. We have got to get back to that Washington, D.C., that federal government that my grandfather talked about, the federal government that defeated fascism, that brought 8 million GIs back home and got them into the middle class, that educated more people per capita than any other country around the world, that sent a man to the moon, that stopped the spread of communism.

This is who we were, this is who we can be. It just takes new, constant thought in Washington, D.C., and real and genuine leadership.

Del Guidice: Congressman Hollingsworth, thank you for sharing that perspective, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Daily Signal Podcast.

Hollingsworth: Thanks for having me, Rachel, and please keep up the great work in helping people understand how our conservative values are the values that have made this country great for 240 years, and will make this country great for the next 240 years.


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