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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow likes to compare the coronavirus pandemic to a hurricane, arguing it's a devastating but finite event that doesn't leave a lasting economic mark.

Why it matters: It's a flawed analogy being used to inform America's economic policy.

Here's what Kudlow told Axios' Jonathan Swan, for an "Axios on HBO" interview that aired Monday night:

"It's like a big bad hurricane or a bad snowstorm. It's a natural disaster. And we've seen in the past with natural disasters, they come and they inflict enormous pain. And this virus has inflicted horrible pain. But the disaster passes and therefore has very little damage to what I call the structural aspects of the economy."

Yes, the disaster will eventually pass. But, unlike with a hurricane, we have no reliable forecast for when the skies will clear. Maybe we get a working therapeutic or vaccine by year-end. Maybe by the middle of 2021. Maybe later.

  • Businesses physically destroyed by natural disasters can usually rely on insurance to rebuild. That's not generally true during this pandemic, with interruption-of-business claims being denied.
  • Businesses don't reopen while the winds are still whipping, unlike what we're doing right now. Imagine a New Orleans restaurant during Hurricane Katrina saying: "Yeah, the roads are flooded and our ceiling might collapse, but come get dinner anyway."

Natural disasters also don't play geographical whack-a-mole like we're seeing now with the coronavirus pandemic. Kudlow says we won't shut down the economy again. That's akin to saying Houston wouldn't shut again were it to get hit with another hurricane like Harvey.

  • Nor is there ever politicization of public safety measures like wearing masks.

The bottom line: We're facing something novel to our lifetimes. Comparing it to natural disasters, even horrific ones, doesn't do it justice. It also doesn't help us set adequate, sober-minded policy.

Go deeper ... Kudlow: "There is no second wave coming"

Go deeper

Updated Sep 17, 2020 - Science

Hundreds rescued as deadly Tropical Depression Sally sweeps Gulf Coast

A street flooded by Tropical Storm Sally in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

"Catastrophic" flooding from Tropical Depression Sally spilled inland across eastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia on Wednesday, bringing peak winds down to 45 mph winds, per the National Hurricane Center.

Why it matters: The mayor of Orange Beach, Ala., said one person died in the storm and hundreds of others have been rescued, per AP. Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores, before later being downgraded to a tropical storm and later a depression. But the NHC warned late Wednesday it's "still causing torrential rains over eastern Alabama and western Georgia."

Scoop: Former OMB director to set up Pro-Trump think tanks

OMB Director Russ Vought parfticipates in a photo-op for the printing of President Donald Trumps budget for Fiscal Year 2020 at the Government Publishing Office in Washington on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Russ Vought, who led Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget, plans to announce two pro-Trump organizations Tuesday, aiming to provide the ideological ammunition to sustain Trump's political movement after his departure from the White House.

Why it matters: The Center for American Restoration and an advocacy arm, America Restoration Action, will try to keep cultural issues that animated Trump’s presidency on the public agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.