Mick Mulvaney. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney wrote in a CNBC op-ed published Monday that if Congress seeks to pass another relief package, it should treat the economic crisis as "public-health driven" and avoid traditional fiscal measures like providing stimulus checks.

The big picture: Striking a vastly different tone from that of President Trump, who has boasted about the U.S.' testing capabilities and downplayed the severity of the health crisis, Mulvaney called for any stimulus package to "be directed at the root cause of our recession: dealing with Covid."

  • "I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country," wrote the former Office of Management and Budget director and current special envoy to Northern Ireland.
  • "My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn’t qualify. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic."

What he's saying: Mulvaney wrote that "ordinary fiscal tools might not be particularly efficacious" in combating the crisis.

  • "Put another way, the fact that people aren’t going on vacation probably has more to do with fear of getting sick than it does with their economic condition. Giving people a check, or some financial incentive to travel, won’t solve their problem. Make people feel safe to go back on an airplane or cruise ship, and they will of their own accord."
  • "We could also direct more money for research. Or more temporary hospital beds or therapeutics. If we are going to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars, let’s do it to treat the cause of our economic illness, not just the symptoms."
  • Mulvaney also called for a payroll tax cut and for tying capital gains to inflation: "The former is one of the rare federal steps that can get money to the middle class quickly; the latter could unlock trillions in free-market economic activity that has been sidelined because of unrealized gains."

Flashback: Mulvaney, who was removed as chief of staff in March, defended the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus in February and accused the media of exploiting it as their "hoax of the day" intended to damage the president.

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