Former Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn says the federal government must spend $1 trillion now to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and save small businesses from coronavirus-related failure.
“Why don't we take a big chunk of this federal stimulus money and really turn it into something that we desperately need in this country,” Cohn said in an interview at Yahoo Finance’s (virtual) All Markets Summit on Monday.
“We not only need to modernize our existing infrastructure, we need to think about what a real true infrastructure for the next century looks like,” he said.
The Trump administration and Congress talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure bill when Cohn was the director of the National Economic Council in 2017. The plan went nowhere although President Trump revived it last February just before the coronavirus pandemic put a stranglehold on the U.S. economy.
While stimulus negotiations are all but dead on Capitol Hill, Cohn said an infrastructure bill would provide a needed boost for the economy. Cohn insists any bill must include funds immediately for Americans who are out of work.
“We've got to allow people to live, to get through this crisis,” he said.
‘A long slow slog’
As weather gets colder in much of the country, the lifeline of outdoor operations for restaurants and other small businesses gets harder. They need additional federal support now. This isn't a matter of politics, this is a matter of protecting our economy as we know it.
— Gary Cohn (@Gary_D_Cohn) October 14, 2020
In a series of recent tweets, Cohn has focused on the dire situation millions of people face who work in hospitality, leisure and travel.
“That is the toughest industry to come back. I think it's going to be a long, slow slog to get back,” said Cohn, but he argued unemployed Americans could be trained for other jobs in other industries as part of an infrastructure bill.
“Give them new job opportunities in a new industry, in a new place where they can get a new job, and we're going to move people from the waiter industry or from the restaurant industry or from being a chef or from being in the hair industry into a new industry,” he said.
Cohn suggested new jobs created to rebuild the country’s air traffic control system or a high-speed rail system could be part of an answer to pandemic-induced unemployment. “Why wouldn't we take some of this major fiscal stimulus and start building? Those are tens of millions of jobs, high paying jobs,” said Cohn.
But Cohn, who left the Trump administration in 2018, is on the outside looking in. He warned that ignoring the problems facing millions of Americans will impact everyone. “You’re talking about all the businesses that you see on Main Street America all over,” he said.
Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance’s On the Move.