Alexandria, VA

Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer believes that Governor Ralph Northam’s phased plan to start reopen Virginia is premature for Alexandria, and also heavily criticized the Trump administrations response to the coronavirus in a recent interview with ALXnow.

“The disgrace here is we’re so many months behind the curve on testing availability, on PPE availability,” Beyer said. “We weren’t ready as a country and still don’t have a coordinated national response.”

Beyer agreed with regional leaders, who asked that the Governor’s reopening be delayed.

In a brief phone interview, the Democrat Congressman told ALXnow that the next federal COVID-19 aid package will help out state and local governments more, in addition to first responders and teachers.

ALXnow: What do you think about Governor Northam’s recent declaration to reopen the Virginia economy by May 15?

Beyer: I think the guidelines the governor laid out a week ago were very responsible based on what we know about the science right now. His decision to open up all of Virginia, though, I think we’re gonna resist in Northern Virginia. Southern Virginia is rural and people live far apart. They don’t travel a lot and they have a different disease profile there and can move around a lot more freely than we do, but we’re in a dense urban area with a lot of mobility and tend to be older. I think for the city of Alexandria specifically that the governor’s reopening is probably premature.

ALXnow: Do Democrats in Congress you have a partner with the Republicans in the Trump administration during this crisis?

Beyer: There’s a fundamental difference in values. And the values are expressed in the legislation that we’re trying to pass and then the political fights we have. We’re gonna continue to try to do the best we can to help those people, most impacted by the by the epidemic, if that means extending unemployment insurance and making sure that the small businesses have enough capital to survive, and really investing in the science.

In many ways, this is what you get when you starve government for 40 years, with insufficient capacity in the Small Business Administration, insufficient capacity with the IRS, at the Virginia Employment Commission. And certainly way too little resources multiplied over time at the National Science Foundation and NIH. You probably saw that Dr. Peter Hotez and others were very close to a vaccine for SARS in 2015, and the budget kept getting shrunk. And they had to abandon it.

We could be way ahead of this right now, but for the overall lack of leadership at the federal level. Some of it was a couple months where Donald Trump didn’t want to didn’t want to believe it was real. You know, that the coronavirus was just going to go away magically. And now we have tremendous worries about, perhaps, opening up too soon in some of these southern states.

ALXnow: What will CARES Act II look like, the Heroes Fund? What are we looking at?

Beyer: I think first and foremost, a lot. It’s going to be the money for the firefighters and the police and the teachers and protective services and the people that pick up the trash and all the things that make the community function.

ALXnow: Are you concerned about the value of the dollar?

Beyer: No one’s shirking that responsibility. But One half of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate is to keep a close eye on inflation, and right now it is at 1.1%. There’s a date there’s a danger that we will be in a deflationary period, which is even worse. There’s plenty of times to put on the brakes if inflation figures begin to spin out of control, but at this point now there’s very little danger that, especially with oil prices, negative and interest rates near zero,

ALXnow: What do you believe an economic recovery will look like? Will it take five years?

Beyer: I don’t think we know. I think there’s no reason to think it will be a V-shaped recovery, that we will be back where we were by the end of this year. And there’s no reason to think that it will be a U-shaped recovery, and better public policies we’ll make that view as narrow as possible. But see, we know that until there’s a vaccine that’s effective and has been given almost everybody and that the social distancing is necessarily going to restrain businesses like restaurants and theaters and airplanes and cruise ships and many other things that depend on a lot of people together.

ALXnow: How should high-level politicians and other leaders be held accountable regarding the U.S. response to the coronavirus?

Beyer: There are a variety of oversight committees, including the new special oversight committee set up by the house to try to hold all the various players in this accountable. And that’s everything from requiring the big public companies to give back their PPP loans which were intended for small businesses, to making sure the administration isn’t seizing states’ protective equipment and giving it to private entities to sell to the highest bidder.

A big accountability is going to come on election day in November, when the public has a chance to vote on whether they thought this administration served us well through the pandemic. I will argue that they did not at all. They’re very late, very uncoordinated and you have a president who is all over the place in his messaging.

ALXnow: If you could advise the Trump administration, what would you tell them?

Beyer: Start telling the truth and taking responsibility. And people are afraid and they’re uncertain. They just want to know what the truth is. They don’t need some politician blowhard for two and a half hours every night talking about how popular he is and how good his ratings are.

ALXnow: What do you mean when you say, “Start telling the truth and taking responsibility?” Please be specific.

Beyer: Get rid of the political hacks, like [Vice President Mike] Pence and [Trump’s son in law and advisor Jared] Kushner and stand up somebody with a very proven record of success in science management. The president’s press briefings have been about himself, they’ve not been about what people need to do to protect themselves, they’ve not been about the science.

The Lysol thing, injecting yourself with bleach. There’s just been far too much of that. The comparison between Donald Trump and (New York Governor) Andrew Cuomo is instructive. Cuomo has been doing his damnedest to be the responsible political leader, and Trump is doing his narcissistic best to talk about himself with a complete lack of empathy. Trump’s not inspiring anybody to draw their best reserves and courage to get through this. It’s a sadly wasted opportunity.

ALXnow: Is there anything else people need to know at this time?

Beyer: Just follow the science and remember that we don’t want to go through a second wave. Let’s err on the side of caution. The downside is just too great.

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