Yahoo Finance: The U.S. economy is at a ‘tipping point’ as COVID-19 cases rise: Sen. Tester

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest with stimulus as COVID-19 cases rise.

Video Transcript
ZACK GUZMAN: Senator, we heard today about a bipartisan plan here of a $908 billion proposal here in terms of a next stimulus package. Of course, that’s much less than the $2 trillion that the Democrats here have come down to.

I want to get your take on that, but first, I mean, since you’ve been so outspoken here– a couple weeks ago, you challenged Fed Vice Chair Randy Quarles at a Senate Banking hearing for playing politics and backing away from calls from the Fed here on more stimulus, to get that out, due to what he cited as a quicker-than-expected recovery. I just want to play for our viewers what you told him and ask you about stimulus talks now as they stand. But here, take a listen.

RANDY QUARLES: As a central banker, I should leave those decisions to the Congress. I don’t think–

JON TESTER: [INAUDIBLE] Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. A month ago, it wasn’t– you gave us your two bits on this deal, and now you’re not. I voted for you, OK? I thought you’d be– I thought you wouldn’t have politics into this. It seems to me that since the election there’s a different point of view now, and that kind of [BLEEP] drives me crazy.

ZACK GUZMAN: So Senator Tester, I mean, your brand is telling it how it is. So, I mean, when we talk about this, we heard from Fed Chair Jay Powell today just talking about that $908 billion proposal here, saying that it would hit a lot of the areas that could benefit and solve some of the question marks that we have right now in this recovery. But it sounds like your thinking is the Republicans here continue to want to play politics, claims that they want to hamstring a Biden administration. So what’s your expectations on maybe even getting a smaller package than what Democrats want through here at 908?

JON TESTER: Well, I would just tell you, I think this economy is at a tipping point. It can either tip to full recovery or it can tip back into a recession slash depression mode. I think what we do right now in Congress is really important, and I think that if we put forth a bill that solves a quarter of the problem or half the problem, we’re really not doing justice to the American economy.

I can tell you for a fact because I hear it on the ground in Montana nearly every day, our health-care sector needs help. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, not only for testing and contract tracing but also from the blast of the people who are sick from this coronavirus.

I can tell you that we’ve got businesses, particularly in the hospitality business, that need help. We’ve got folks that haven’t been able to find work for so long that they’re falling off the unemployment rolls because they’ve given up hope. We have local governments because of the decrease in taxes, because of the downturn in the economy don’t have the dollars to be able to provide the services they do or will shortly run out of those dollars. We’ve got educational units that are running in-person and distanced learning, both K-12 and in college, that are seeing additional costs– significant additional costs– that need help.

So what I’m telling you is this. Then we see that the VA issue with veterans out there that are being put under additional pressure. So what I’m saying to you is this. There’s plenty of places to put the money that won’t be a waste. I’m willing to look at anything that comes down the pipe, but I really want to get something done that’s meaningful that actually helps because, quite frankly, there’s a lot of folks out there that are hurting. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a lot of folks out there that are working in government that are trying to do the best they can, but they understand that the money’s going to run out and run out pretty darn quick if we don’t do something.

I came out of that Banking Committee with Powell here about 45 minutes ago, and one of the previous folks who testified said, you know, we should be opening up restaurants and letting people do whatever they want to do. Look, we’ve got a pandemic on our hands. This economy is not going to turn around until we act responsibly. It’s not– the economy is not going to be all it can be until we get the pandemic under control.

And I think that’s what the governors are trying to do across this country, and that’s what we need to do here is act responsibly, be fiscally prudent, but understand that this economy is not going to turn around, as Powell said, to the extent that we want it to unless we make an investment in that economy. For those folks–


JON TESTER: For those folks who are fiscal hawks who don’t want to add to the debt, I agree with you, but you’ve got to have an economy that’s moving if you’re going to be able to pay that debt down.

AKIKO FUJITA: And what we have now on the table, this proposal that came out today is a bipartisan proposal that amounts to a $908 billion bridge. You can’t get the big package that you wanted to several months ago, but it seems like there are Republicans and Democrats that are on board with this. What’s your expectation on whether the remaining Democrats are willing to come on board and how quickly this can get passed?

JON TESTER: Well, I will tell you that I think it could get passed by the 11th of December if we can come together and get something moving. I’ve got to look at it and see where the money goes, truthfully. I hate to– I don’t want to sound like a cop-out to you guys, but it really is important to see how that money is distributed and if it’s going to– if this is a stopgap measure to require another package come the middle of January, the middle of February, or if we’re actually going to do something that’ll help push the economy forward.

As I said before, there are a lot of folks out there that are hurting. We’re probably not going to solve all the problems, but we do need to make a bona fide effort to solve some of them, and hopefully this package does that.

AKIKO FUJITA: Montana Senator Jon Tester, appreciate your time. It’s great to talk to you today.

JON TESTER: Good to talk to you guys. Take care. Be safe.