We created three vignettes of potential futures for our experts to react to. This is our most hopeful vignette: America comes together, makes the best decisions and makes a conscious effort to invest in our future in a meaningful way — while working to keep our people and our economy alive and well.
The recovery isn’t quick — but it’s quicker. All things considered, things might just turn out OK in this timeline and maybe we even emerge a stronger, safer, healthier nation on the other side. As you plan, this is the option to aim for. But it’s going to take some coordinated work to get us there.
Testing for COVID-19 and for antibodies turns a corner and gains speed leading to widespread testing available for anyone who wants it and many who are ordered to get tested before they are allowed to return to work. But by fall, a vaccine has been discovered and a massive national effort gets underway to produce enough to meet demand. People begin to feel comfortable venturing out in at least small groups.
Fueled by conservative money from familiar sources, protesters in some states, the federal government and some Republican governors, anxious to get the economy opened, begin slowly removing restrictions. This is exacerbated by the media which presents this as a partisan conflict with winners and losers, all with predictable results. Hot spots initially flare up in areas where beaches, religious services, schools and sporting events are allowed to resume. But as the testing gathers steam, people know to self-quarantine and follow distancing norms if they have been exposed. And as the virus ebbs over the summer, people can return to some sense of restricted normal and the virus doesn’t hit as hard in fall because known carriers are identified, and the spread is vastly slowed.
As the economy starts to open, doctors, health care workers, gig economy and many bar and restaurant workers, who were laid off to both reduce costs as well as allow them to file for unemployment benefits, are rehired as quickly as they can be and the unemployment rate starts dropping. It’s a long road but it’s helped by a bipartisan “new deal” focused on infrastructure (both physical and technology) and an acceleration of a trend toward reshoring of manufacturing with an eye toward national security preparedness initiatives, making sure that key equipment, supplies and technology components can and will be built in America.
This “new deal” of sorts pays off both in the short term by helping businesses get back on their feet and in the long term by preparing the U.S. and retooling to a degree for the future of 5G, autonomous travel and more. Investing more broadly than a pure physical infrastructure investment creates good jobs for a wider range of skilled workers. Restrictions put in place by Congress on the bail-out funds ensure that money is invested in keeping the workforce employed and businesses open, rather than stock buybacks and executive bonuses. Confidence returns and people are buoyed by a sense of resilience unseen since the post-War period.
State and local governments work together with the FEC to ensure a safe election with a heavy focus on absentee balloting and voting by mail. It’s contentious. It’s close. The nation is frustrated because it takes time for the mail-in ballots to be counted and the results are not immediate. But in the end, the elections happen on schedule and the results are accepted by both sides.