US Billionaires Want People Back At Work, Even If It Kills Them

Lydia O'Connor

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As President Donald Trump pushes for an end to the nationwide social distancing practices that health professionals say are essential to saving lives during the coronavirus outbreak, incredibly wealthy Americans are eager to get employees back to work ― and some say they’re OK with people dying if that’s what it takes.

A number of the country’s richest businesspeople spoke frankly about the matter for a Bloomberg story published Wednesday. Dick Kovacevich, who ran Wells Fargo until 2007, said he wants healthy people under age 55 to return to work in late April if the outbreak is contained enough.

“We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know,” he said. “Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you’ll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose.”

That’s a false choice, ethicists and economists have pointed out. Keeping businesses closed across the US on the advice of scientists and health professionals will do economic damage. But rushing people back to work ― thereby prolonging the outbreak, straining the hospital system and adding to the death count from the virus ― would also be disastrous for the economy. Moreover, testing still isn’t available enough in the US to determine who doesn’t have COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and so determine who could theoretically return to work.

But Tom Golisano, the founder and chairman of the payroll processor Paychex Inc, thinks he can prove that wrong ― dead workers be damned.

“The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people,” he told Bloomberg, saying he expected businesses would have to fold. He wants states that haven’t been hit hard by the virus to return to normalcy.

“You’re picking the better...

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