Bill Ackman: Shut down the economy for a month

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Posted: Mar 27, 2020 1:41 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 1:41 PM

Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman has a solution to end the coronavirus threat and prevent the US economy from total collapse: shut down everything for a month.

"The interests of the economy and the interests of the health care system are really identical here," Ackman told CNN's Christine Romans in a new episode of the CNN podcast series "Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction." "The economy will recover quickly if we can shut down the virus. And the way to shut down the virus is the ultimate in social distancing, i.e. a total country shutdown."

Ackman said the proposal isn't radical: Many states are already implementing stay-at-home orders, except for essential businesses, such as grocery stores and hospitals. But Ackman believes that should be implemented across the country.

"What I'm proposing is a 30-day lock-in to the entire country, a coordinated 50 state lockdown," he said. "It allows companies to plan for the future as they don't need to fire employees, particularly with the government backstop.... I call it the rip-the-Band-Aid-off strategy."

Ackman said he's spoke with CEOs of large banks, asset managers and food businesses, and they are unanimous in their support for this plan.

His strategy is similar to President Donald Trump's, who has pledged to open the US economy for business after Easter. Ackman's plan would keep the economy closed for a couple more weeks. And it would mandate stay-at-home practices across the entire country, rather than leaving those mandates up to the states. But both Ackman and Trump said they're concerned shutting down the economy for too long would ultimately hurt people more than the coronavirus.

"You know, the president himself said he doesn't want the cure to be worse than the problem," Ackman noted. "Do we risk sort of dragging this out and really crushing capitalism if we can't fix it now and then move on and have it behind us? Yes. So the president is right."

The problem with that strategy is epidemiologists are unconvinced that a couple weeks or a month is sufficient time to control the outbreak. Parts of China, for example, were in lockdown for longer, and critics have said the country's decision to ease restrictions could cause the virus outbreak to run rampant again.

Those fits and starts could pose an even greater threat to the US economy than if stay-at-home orders were put in place until scientists agreed it was safe to return. If the country had to re-enter lockdown, the American economy could plunge into a Great Depression, some economists argue.

Ackman, however, is hopeful. He said he and his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, have been buying up stocks -- about $2.5 billion worth -- in the past week, as values have plummeted in a sharp sell-off.

"We bought a large hedge that became much more valuable when markets declined," Ackman said. "And over the last 10 days or so, we've been aggressively buying stocks that have been marked down. So we've been, you know, betting that the economy is going to recover and that great companies like a Starbucks ... and other consumer type franchises that we've specialized in are going to are going to recover from here."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
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