Economic toll of pandemic is greater than cost of all post-9/11 wars, former treasury secretary says


The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic is greater than the cost of all the wars waged by the United States since 2001, according to former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

“The economic loss is more than twice the total monetary outlay for all the wars the US has fought since September 11, 2001, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria,” Summers, the Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton and a top adviser to President Barack Obama, wrote in an analysis published Tuesday with David Cutler, an economist at Harvard University.

“By another metric, this cost is approximately the estimate of damages (such as from decreased agricultural productivity and more frequent severe weather events) from 50 years of climate change,” the economists wrote in the analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said.

They estimated the total cost of the pandemic, measured in terms of lost output and health reductions, was more than $16 trillion, or approximately 90% of the annual GDP of the U.S. For a family of four, the estimated loss would be nearly $200,000.

Approximately half of the losses are due to lost income from the coronavirus–induced recession, and the remainder is due to the economic effects of shorter and less-healthy lives.

The economic cost of premature deaths expected through the next year is estimated at $4.4 trillion, based on the conservative value of $7 million per life often used in environmental and health policy calculations.

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