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Wall Street on Edge over Coronavirus Concerns; Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is Interviewed about the Stimulus Bill in Congress; Flacons Quarterback Donates to Charities. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Government, this thing is going to last a whole lot longer than a month. They're preparing for even 18 months of this and multiple iterations of the virus. Looking into April and May, what's going to happen to U.S. jobs?

KEVIN HASSETT, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: Right. And I think that we should remind ourselves, Poppy, that you and I started talking about this in early February. And I think back then we said that the odds of a recession from this globally were about 50/50, right? Do you remember that?

HARLOW: I do.

HASSETT: And -- and I think that while, you know, it might seem like I've been a pessimist, I think actually we've just been as accurate as we can be.

The thing is that the million jobs number is even looking low compared to some other things that I've seen. Deutsche Bank has GDP in the second quarter now looking like north of minus 10 percent. And so the fact is, if you just stop all activity, then it puts an enormous stress on the whole economy because firms have no revenue, they've got payrolls to meet. You know, I'm hearing anecdotally that firms aren't paying insurance, health insurance companies, and so the health insurance companies that have to pay for all the medical care are kind of -- might run out of cash, and that might have to be something the government steps into.

The fact is that if this drags on, then everything starts to unwind. And even the big moves that we're seeing right now in Congress are not going to be enough. And so we really -- you know, we've got three things that have to happen to recover. We need big Fed action, big federal action, and it's nice to see the partisanship put aside and people focus on that, right?

HARLOW: Yes.

HASSETT: But then the third thing is that we've got to make progress on -- on the virus.

HARLOW: Yes. HASSETT: And that third thing is still very, very uncertain.

HARLOW: Of course it is.

HASSETT: If it runs into the summer and the fall, then I think that we're -- we're going to have to either have a great depression, or figure out a way to send people back to work, even though that's risky, because at some point, you know, we can't not have an economy, right?

HARLOW: Wait, what did you just say about a great depression?

HASSETT: Well, I'm saying that if we -- if we just -- if everybody stays home for six months, then, you know, it's hard to -- it's going to be like the Great Depression. And so the question is just like, if we don't make any progress on the virus, then they're going to have to figure something out to get people back to work.

HARLOW: My goodness.

HASSETT: And, you know, maybe it's people work with masks on and things like that. But -- but you really can't shut down the global economy for six months and expect anything to -- to continue.

HARLOW: Kevin, wow, in terms of job numbers, you're now saying that losing a million jobs in the month of March, this month, is maybe on the low end. So are you looking at a million plus, 2 million job losses, March, April, May?

HASSETT: Well, what -- you know, I've had a lot of -- as you noticed right when I said it, right, you said oh that's pretty newsworthy that it's that big. I've had a lot of response from some serious numbers people, and I think that people are really sure that there are going to be numbers of the sort of 2 million range by the April number. But there's some hope that --

HARLOW: A month. Two million -- 2 million job losses a month this spring?

HASSETT: A month, that's correct. But that that's going to be more like the April number than the March number because the March number was actually surveyed a week earlier than I said on your show.

HARLOW: Yes.

HASSETT: I just misspoke.

HARLOW: OK.

HASSETT: And so, therefore, it's possible that the March number will -- will be like closer to what I said or even a little better than this.

HARLOW: So what --

HASSETT: But -- but by April you're going to see the worst jobs number you ever saw, and that's like a virtual certainty.

HARLOW: By April, the worst job number you ever saw, a virtual certainty. And you were, up until, you know, a year -- less than a year ago the president's top economist.

OK, Kevin, before you go, what -- what can we do? Short of sending people back to work sick, which is not ideal --

HASSETT: No.

HARLOW: What -- you know, you've got the Republicans coming out with a trillion dollar stimulus package now. You've got a lot of economists, I know you've read and I've been reading what Ian Sheperdson (ph) has been saying out of Britain, that that's not nearly enough. When you have an economy so based on overconsumption, not just what we need but what we want, is a trillion dollar stimulus nearly enough when you can't spend it at most places?

HASSETT: You know, I think that it -- again, not being a health professional, but being a numbers guy, that the only thing we can do to really start making progress is to test just about everybody, right? We need to have widespread testing and then maybe hopefully we can find big pockets of the country where people don't have the virus and then we can tell them to turn the lights in the factories back on.

And I think that absent some kind of massive acquisition of information, we're just going to be flying in the dark until there's an absolute cure. And I think that there are steps that we can take, especially, you know, random sampling all over the country. You know -- you know one idea that we're bopping around is that you can test everybody in the military, because they're all over the country and they're sort of -- if they volunteer to take the test, they're right there, you could do that this weekend. And I think we need information so that we can start to turn things back on.

HARLOW: OK, Kevin Hassett, thank you very much. Come back soon.

HASSETT: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Let's see what today brings. The market's already down once again.

Next, I will ask a Republican senator about that $1 trillion stimulus deal that looks like it's coming and about his effort as a physician as well to try to make private insurance companies cover all coronavirus treatment costs. Does he have support of Congress and the White House on that? Senator Cassidy joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:39:13]

HARLOW: So right now Senate Republicans are trying to reach a deal on a huge what would be a $1 trillion stimulus package to ease the economic fallout of the coronavirus. It would be the third and largest yet stimulus plan from Congress amid -- in just the past few weeks amid this crisis.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana joins me now.

And, notably, and importantly, you're also a physician. Sir, thank you for being with me.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Let's get to the stimulus package in a moment. But I'd like to talk about what you're pushing for with your lens, not only as a lawmaker, but as a physician, and that is a bill, you have bipartisan support from some Democrats in the Senate as well, to ensure that any private health insurer in this country would have to totally cover the costs of vaccines and treatments for coronavirus once we have them.

Are -- do you have support from enough across the aisle on this, on both sides, and do you have the support of the White House?

[09:40:06]

CASSIDY: Absolutely it's bipartisan. Absolutely vaccine will be made available. It may be available made -- it may be made available through other means, but if not through other means, it will be made -- it will be made available through this.

Under current law, if the United States Public Health Task Force says that a vaccine is approved, it must be covered. And so we want to make sure that a Covid-19 vaccine would be covered under that.

Now, it's also possible, under legislation Congress has previously passed, which set up vaccine manufacturing units in which the taxpayer owns 75 percent, that the federal government would just take that vaccine produced and distribute directly.

When I was a child, I remember going to my elementary school and taking a polio vaccine. All everybody was lined up and everybody took their polio vaccine, paid for by the government.

HARLOW: But --

CASSIDY: That may be another mechanism. We're going to make sure this happens.

HARLOW: As I understand it, though, your legislation wouldn't just be about a vaccine, it would be about fully covering treatment, is that the case?

CASSIDY: Yes, so we also want to make sure that folks have the therapy that they need. We're also concerned about the high cost of any drug which may be shown to be effective.

HARLOW: Right.

CASSIDY: If it's an oral drug, for example, I want to make sure the Medicare Part D Beneficiary

has access to it. That would be through a different bill we're putting forward. But whatever legislation we can put forward to make sure the American people's health is taken care of, we're going to put it forward.

HARLOW: That's right, because I believe under Medicare Part D you're still responsible for at least 5 percent of the cost there. So if they're overwhelmingly expensive --

CASSIDY: Oh, Poppy, you're good. You're good. Because above a certain level, the Medicare Part D Beneficiary is responsible for 5 percent of list price.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

CASSIDY: Not the rebated price, but list --

HARLOW: The list.

CASSIDY: We're trying to change that to cap what the out of pocket is and then to allow the senior to pay it over 12 months as opposed to having to pay it in January and February.

HARLOW: Understood.

Let's move on to the stimulus.

So a trillion dollar stimulus. This would include a few things, cash payments to Americans, about half of it, but also about half of it going towards small businesses that are reeling right now that cannot keep their doors open and some for other affected sectors. Is it -- is it enough because the projections I just heard from Kevin Hassett, who was the president's top economist, is that this isn't -- this isn't nearly enough. Is this just one of what is to come, a lot more?

CASSIDY: This is phase three. There will be a phase four.

HARLOW: OK.

CASSIDY: I'm pushing for a massive infrastructure package. We can borrow money at record low rates. Let's put working Americans that work in construction, which begins to drive demand for manufactured goods, which then drives demand for service goods.

And, by the way, when you do construction, you can socially distance. When you manufacture, you can set it up so that you socially distance. And so I think that would be an engine, if you will, to pull everybody forward but, by the way, making investments that benefit our GDP in the long-term.

HARLOW: That's an interesting point. In terms of cash assistance going to businesses, you know there's been some pushback on potential bailouts of larger industries that have paid out in recent months big dividends, for example. There's also a concern about, you know, big companies and assistance if they get it. Elizabeth Warren I thought, has an interesting proposal, and I wonder

what you think your fellow senator on the other side of the aisle who has a list of things she's calling for should this happen, including a $15 minimum wage guarantee, a permanent ban on share buybacks, no dividends or executive bonuses while receiving relief. Are those good ideas?

CASSIDY: I would have to look at those. But it's hard to think that if executive bonus is set upon profitability that anybody is getting an executive bonus. I mean right now companies are just trying to keep from bankruptcy. I'm actually --

HARLOW: But perhaps even more importantly wages. That's certainly what stood out to me in terms of $15 minimum at least.

CASSIDY: You know, right now, small businesses don't even know if they're going to keep people employed.

HARLOW: Yes.

CASSIDY: If you're going to put a $15 benefit upon somebody, there are restaurants that have already closed in New York City because of their $15 minimum wage. When I speak to small businesses back home, their decision isn't whether to pay $15 or not, their decision is whether to continue to employ people.

HARLOW: Yes.

CASSIDY: I think that it sounds very nice as populism. I think it is very insensitive to the employers who are trying to keep the door open.

HARLOW: I believe, and I could be wrong, I'll double-check, but this is geared towards the bigger employers. But -- but I hear you.

But before -- before you go, talk about your position as a physician when you hear something like this from your fellow Republican in the Senate, Ron Johnson, who told "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" yesterday, quote, I'm not denying what a nasty disease Covid-19 can be, and how it's obviously devastating somewhere between 1 to 3.4 percent of the population. But that means 97 to 99 percent will get through this and develop immunities and will be able to move beyond this. We don't shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It's a risk we accept so we can move on. We don't shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu.

[09:45:03]

Does it worry you to hear that, the comparison to the flu?

CASSIDY: So, clearly, there has to be a sensitivity to the economy. We have to take care of people's financial health and their physical health. Perhaps as a physician, I can -- I've been reading the medical literature. Every night before I go to bed, I just read "The New England Journal of Medicine" Lancet (ph) and Jama (ph) and other articles. And when conservative projections are that as many as 500,000 Americans will die and more expansive even more, of course you understand that impacts the economy otherwise. If a 40-year-old physician suddenly becomes ill, then her kids are not taken care of, then suddenly you understand the impact it has upon the economy. So I see that in the relationship between the two. I totally get we've got to take care of people's jobs, hence these packages, but I think that we have to have the credible plan to limit the spread of this disease.

HARLOW: Fair enough. Health first.

Senator Cassidy, that message is pretty clear. Thanks for your time. Good luck.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Tonight, a lot of your questions, we all have so many of them, will be answered. Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will host our third global town hall on coronavirus. It is a two hour special and it begins tonight at 8:00 Eastern only right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:41]

HARLOW: As coronavirus sidelines, of course, sports teams across the country, they're stepping up. A number of athletes, owners stepping up in response in ways that they can to the pandemic.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and his wife, Ciara, announcing they are donating $1 million to a food bank in Seattle. Major League Baseball announcing that all 30 of its teams will each donate $1 million to cover the wages lost of all of those people who work at ballparks across the country.

NFL quarterback Matt Ryan and his wife Sarah donating hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to two organizations in Georgia.

Atlanta Falcon Matt Ryan joins me now.

Thank you so much for being here.

I should note you're in your car because that's why the Wi-Fi worked, right?

MATT RYAN, DONATING $100K ATLANTA CHARITIES: Yes, in the car, and, you know, just trying to survive this like everybody else. Heading out for some groceries now and getting a little break from being in the house.

HARLOW: There you go.

All right, well, Matt, thank you for what you're doing. You're giving equally to the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Giving Kitchen to help the folks most in need, right? You're lucky to go to the grocery store and afford what you want. I was lucky to do the same this last weekend.

Tell me why you guys are giving to these organizations.

RYAN: Well, you know, there's -- there's certainly a lot that a lot of industries that need help right now, but my wife and I felt like that the restaurant industry and the food bank were two things that could use a lot of help right now. I know we have lots of friends in that industry that are struggling, their businesses are struggling right now. So to try and be able to help some of the servers or managers at places that are closed or not operating at a full capacity right now was important to us. And then the food bank is a place that, you know, you can't give enough support. And to help children that are out of school right now that depend on meals for breakfast and lunch, it just felt like the right thing for us to do.

HARLOW: Yes. Great for you guys for doing it.

And, you know, this goes beyond players like you. As I understand it, Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons, has pledged to continue paying all those folks that would usually be working in the stadium that aren't now because of coronavirus. Do you hope to see that across the country, because I just think of all -- I mean, you know, my dad, when he was young, used to sell, you know, peanuts walking up and down the stairs of the Metrodome for the Minnesota Twins. I mean you think about all these -- all these folks that aren't going to be able to do that for a long time.

RYAN: Yes, it's -- you know, it employs so many people. And -- and you mentioned Arthur. There's nobody more generous or more kind with their time and resources than him. And he set an incredible example for all of our organization to, you know, to give back into the community. And at times like this where, you know, we're fortunate to be in the situation we're in, to be able to help other people out I think shows, you know, the good in people and the good in our community here in Atlanta.

HARLOW: What is your message to young folks, because it's sad to see that there are a number of young people on spring break now not adhering to the guidelines? And if they're not going to listen to the medical professionals, maybe they'll listen to you, Matt.

RYAN: I think the biggest thing is to just, you know, do what people are asking you to do and to try to help pull our own weight, to make sure that this gets handled as quickly as possible and as safely as possible. And I think we're all responsible in our own way to help out. And I hope that, you know, everybody takes this seriously.

HARLOW: What has it been like for you at home? Obviously you're more fortunate than most, right? But I think every parent is coping and juggling a little differently. You've got two-year-old twins at home, you guys. What's it been like going through this, staying mostly at home?

RYAN: Well, I've definitely got a greater appreciation for what my wife does on the day to day. She's at home with the guys all the time, and is the primary caregiver for them. So it's tough. You know, it's tough with little ones, but it's also a great opportunity to be able to spend a lot of time that otherwise you might not have or be able to do with your family. And, you know, I think you've always got to look for the best in situations and, you know, making those relationships a little bit closer and spending quality time together is one of the benefits of this.

[09:55:06]

HARLOW: Yes. Very good point, right? I was thinking yesterday afternoon at home with the kids, you don't get this time back, so now we have a lot of it.

Matt, thank you very much for being with me and for what you and Sarah are doing for the community.

RYAN: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Talk to you soon.

Ahead for us, as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in country rises, the Trump administration and health experts have a warning for young people, as we were just talking about, and the numbers show they can get infected just like everyone else, and they are. Much more on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

[10:00:00]

The time to act is now, and that means every American, young and old. Supplies to fight coronavirus vanishing. In one day, the number of --