Former Obama administration economic adviser Jason Furman spoke with CNBC on Thursday, saying that the U.S. government should send every American a face mask as a form of "stimulus." Furman argued that the government could do a lot of good both economically and in terms of public health by sending masks out in the mail. He also imagined that this would help Americans embrace masks as a normal part of life until this pandemic is over.
"A fiscal stimulus plan that would have incredibly high bang for the buck would be for the government to print up masks... and mail them out to every American and tell every American to wear them," Furman said on Closing Bell. "It's really not that hard." Furman was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration, and he was not convinced that another stimulus check was the right move for the U.S., but he thought that sending masks out might be.
"There's really not a lot monetary or fiscal policy can do in the face of an out-of-control virus," Furman argued. "A mask is one of the steps that can control that virus."
Furman even joked that government printed masks might be more appealing to President Donald Trump, as he could order every mask to say "Thank You Donald Trump" on them. Trump's name was printed in the memo section of every paper stimulus check this spring, with an early report by The Washington Post claiming that this was Trump's idea. His administration later refuted this report.
Masks are shown to be even more effective against the coronavirus than previously believed, with makeshift cloth masks offering up to 80 percent protection from the virus. Some state and local governments have now made masks mandatory, and on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the CDC to enact a nationwide mask mandate.
However, a vocal sect of people around the country are vehemently opposed to face masks, calling them in some cases an infringement on civil liberties. Last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that the government's stance on masks has been inconsistent in an interview with The Street. He blamed this on changing circumstances.0comments
Fauci noted that when COVID-19 first reached the U.S., the country had not stockpiled face masks, so there was a shortage for nurses and doctors. Now, however, the new data shows that cloth masks are acceptable for most Americans during their daily errands. It has been difficult to turn this messaging around.
Outside of Furman's interview, there has been no serious talk of a government agency providing masks for the American people. However, there are officials in the Senate, Congress and the White House who are prepared to support another stimulus check. The Senate will begin debating this measure later this month.