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Opinion The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic

A food truck owner rings up a customer in Seattle on Wednesday.
A food truck owner rings up a customer in Seattle on Wednesday. (Jason Redmond/Reuters)
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Regarding Steven Pearlstein’s March 18 Economy & Business column, “Let the bailouts begin: What to expect”:

What part of “free enterprise” do the airlines not understand? In all likelihood, flights will be dwindling to a trickle during the pandemic. The airlines are a service industry — an industry that survives off the demands of the marketplace, which are quickly diminishing. The precedent of bailing out the auto manufacturers, while effective at the time, was a response to an economic downturn rather than an (arguable) act of nature.

Life changes in random and unpredictable ways, as we are quickly discovering, that can and do have profound effects on our economic realities. Fortunately, we are a “free” people and can begin anew on a different path more relevant to the current circumstances. 

An investment-based economy is its own reward, as we are now discovering. The larger the entity, the less flexible it is to the unforeseen. I don’t see the logic in assisting the airlines while we are still woefully behind in addressing our current condition. 

Derek T. Havens, Mason Neck

The Treasury Department extended the deadline for most individuals to pay taxes without penalty or interest by 90 days but just Friday extended the tax filing deadline. This was a good decision.  

Millions of taxpayers have their tax returns prepared for free by Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers under programs run by AARP, cities, counties and other nonprofit groups. (I have volunteered in two of these programs for the past six years.) Frequently, the clients are low-income taxpayers who can qualify for the earned-income tax credit and other income-support credits if they have competent tax help. AARP’s national program and virtually all other regional and local volunteer tax assistance programs have been shut down because of the coronavirus. Millions of taxpayers who rely on these free services will be unable to file their tax returns competently, if at all, by April 15. At least some of these programs might be able to restart and help otherwise vulnerable taxpayers.

Because the federal government is waiving interest and penalties on amounts owed by most taxpayers for 90 days beyond April 15, there is no harm to the government to have extended the filing deadline.

Jeffrey Komarow, Bethesda

Would someone please explain how giving $1,000 to every American adult would reduce the expected 20 percent unemployment rate in any meaningful fashion [“Proposal to send $1,000 checks gains momentum,” news, March 18]? Giving big wads of cash to those who are employed mostly would go into savings and not cause stores, restaurants and theaters to reopen. Instead, the rescue plan should be targeted to give much more than $1,000 each to the workers and small-business owners who may lose a third of a year’s income or more. We should provide emergency small-business loans at zero percent interest and send out unemployment insurance checks with no waiting periods, in larger amounts and with more flexible qualification guidelines.

  Peter WerwathBuckfield, Maine

If hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money are given to airlines, hotels, etc., to help stabilize the economy during the virus pandemic, I hope the industries are required to repay the money before their chief executives and board members pay themselves multimillion-dollar bonuses and pay nice dividends to shareholders. This should not be a taxpayer grant to the wealthy.

Sheldon Cheney, Keedysville

Cathy Merrill’s March 19 Thursday Opinion essay, “A death sentence for small business,” suggested that mandatory closures because of covid-19 be reexamined every two weeks as new data comes in. That is reasonable — but only after we have widespread testing in place. We are weeks and weeks behind because of the Trump administration’s initial inaction, as well as lying by Chinese officials. We have little control over China’s perfidy, but come November, citizens can render judgment on the administration’s track record.

Martin Lawson, Fort Valley, Va.

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