MSNBC’s Ali Velshi Reflects on State of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Economic Recovery
HOUSTON, October 14, 2021 — MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi returned to Asia Society Texas to discuss the outlook for the pandemic and global economic recovery in a lively conversation with moderator Martyn E. Goossen, Vice Chair of J.P. Morgan Private Bank and Vice Chair of the Asia Society Texas board. The discussion touched upon vaccines, the state of the economy, and the pandemic's impact on relations with China.
Reflecting on the state of the pandemic
Goossen began by comparing the state of the pandemic from March 2020 through today, with a particular emphasis on the delta variant, which has shifted the narrative from a “return to normal” to finding a way to live with COVID-19. Velshi praised the unbelievable scientific progress that brought about the vaccines, now widely available in the U.S., as well as the challenges that remain around the pandemic with only 56 percent of the population fully vaccinated — which ranks 44th among all countries in the percentage of population which has been vaccinated. He explained that hitting this hard ceiling of people who will get the vaccine has shifted how COVID will impact economic and public health policies moving forward, including the possibility of vaccine passports or continued contact tracing. Velshi also underscored the problem of misinformation that has pervaded the discourse around vaccines in the U.S.
A rebounding economy
Velshi noted that another challenge in tackling the pandemic was the lack of international structures for coordination on public health. He compared those to existing structures for the global economy, where different central banks could communicate and cooperate. In the U.S., he noted that the economy has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic unemployment — around 5.2 percent unemployment after peaking at 14.1 percent. There are now 10.9 million jobs available, he said, partly because the government invested significant amounts of money in responding to the effects of the pandemic, including paying some sectors — such as the airline industry — to keep employees on the payroll.
Nevertheless, Velshi acknowledged it is important to rethink every dollar the government spends — not with the view of reducing the national debt, he said, but rather to ensure there is return on interest for the American people. He emphasized not only looking at the amount spent, but where that money goes and what it will do to help the public.
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Impact on relations with China
Velshi indicated that the pandemic has also impacted the U.S.’s relationship with China, given the tensions around the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Compounding the political strain is China's impact on the global economy and its recovery, Velshi noted, pointing to the precarious financial state of Chinese real estate giant Evergrande. He went on to caution against the U.S. “making fights” with China, given how fully enmeshed the two are economically. Velshi instead said that we should ask: What are the long-term goals for the U.S.? In his view, strategic cooperation is the way forward.
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About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.