States like Georgia should experiment with reopening their economies from their coronavirus shutdowns in order to save small businesses, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Monday, calling it “the biggest story there is.”
“I’m in the camp that just says. ‘We’ve got to try something.’ We have to. And if that makes me into a right-wing lunatic, then so be it,” Cramer said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
The closure of businesses around the country, designed to curb the spread of the virus, has led to a record rise in unemployment, with over 22 million Americans filing for first-time jobless benefits in the past four weeks.
On Monday, Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that several types of businesses, including hair salons and gyms, would be allowed to open at the end of the week. Other red states, including Ohio and Tennessee, are also planning partial reopening in the coming weeks.
Cramer said the Georgia plan seemed sensible and that the state’s medical system seemed to be prepared if cases did spike after an attempt to reopen.
“Initially when I saw this, I said this governor is a reckless fellow,” the “Mad Money” host explained. “The more I read [Kemp’s] excellent speech yesterday and the more I realized that the stakes are so high for so many people, I am rooting for this man. I think he’s doing it in a way that makes me feel like if you’re going to open it, open it this way.”
There have been more than 788,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and at least 42,374 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday morning.
Cramer said that it was worth risking another strict closure later on to reopen the economy now because of the issues small businesses are facing, including the Payroll Protection Program authorized by Congress running out of money.
“There has been a view … that if we had to be closed and then reopen and fail, it would be catastrophic. All I’ve got to say is, catastrophic for who? Catastrophic for what? We’ve got a catastrophic situation going on right now,” Cramer said.
Cramer, who owns two restaurants in Brooklyn, New York, said he had wanted political leaders to wait to reopen businesses until there was more of a medical solution, like a vaccine or widespread antibody testing, but now believes that opening more quickly is the better strategy. ”It’s not working to wait.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.