ROBERT FRANK: I'm Robert Frank. I'm a professor of economics in the Johnson School. I've got some questions in front of me. One is how do I think that COVID-19 pandemic will change the country going forward?
We know that this will not be the last pandemic. So going forward, we have a choice. We could enact very simple policies that would redistribute the way we spend our money away from things that don't seem to be doing much for us and toward those things that we know would make a big difference in our ability to cope with the problems that we face, so huge investments in medical research and hospital surge capacity. Why should we be caught the next time without enough ICU beds and enough ventilators?
That's only money, and we could get that money. I'm not as wealthy as Michael Bloomberg, but I could certainly afford to pay higher taxes, and so could a lot of us. And all that would mean would be that we'd spend a little bit less on private consumption. And those gains in public investment would be far more than enough to compensate us for all of that.
The second question on my list is how do I think the COVID-19 pandemic will impact my field of study. I think we do see a refocusing of research efforts in the wake of major crises like this. The whole question of how we allocate our resources is the central question facing economics, even in normal circumstances. Now that we'll be staring in the face of vivid evidence that we haven't allocated them very well, I think there'll be a lot of study going forward on that issue.
And the last question on my list is how has the pandemic changed my perspective. My youngest son is a first responder. He's an EMT here in Ithaca. He's going to be exposed to heavy loads of the virus, and we do know that viral load is one of the factors that determines how seriously you're stricken with it.
I fear every day for his well-being. I feel deeply resentful that we didn't make the preparations that we knew we had to make to confront this problem in a timely and effective way, and I'm hoping for the best.
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Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank discusses how COVID-19 will impact economic policy, such as public investments in medical research and hospital surge capacity. For Frank, concern over the pandemic has hit close to home; his youngest son is on the front lines as an EMT in Ithaca, New York. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. He is the author, most recently, of Under the Influence: Putting Peer Pressure to Work.