Wilbur Ross: Coronavirus Good for US Business

America first.

“Wilbur Ross” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

While most of our attention was focused on the impeachment trial, the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, had the following to say about the coronavirus outbreak in China during an interview on the Fox Business channel:

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Chinese coronavirus — which has killed 171 in China and infected more than 8,100 people — could “help” to bring jobs to the United States because companies will be moving operations away from impacted areas.

During an appearance Thursday morning on Fox Business, Ross said that he didn’t “want to talk about a victory lap over a very unfortunate, very malignant disease,” and expressed sympathy for the victims. But he said the pneumonia-like virus would be a consideration for American businesses that are scrambling to determine how the outbreak will affect their supply chains. He pointed to the 2003 SARS epidemic, the “African swine virus” and now coronavirus as “another risk factor that people need to take into account.”

Source: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says China’s coronavirus ‘will help’ bring jobs back to U.S.WaPo.

He went on to say “I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to [the] U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.”

This is just, well, grotesque. To suggest that a possible pandemic could be good for US business would, in a normal administration, been scandalous.

Instead, it is just another day at the office.

Regardless, it doesn’t even make sense. Does he think that this is going to go on for years?

Not to mention, irresponsible: “public health experts were quick to criticize Ross’s comments as inaccurate and dangerous, saying such messaging could suppress reports of new infections. ” Indeed–this is the kind of talk that encourages an authoritarian regime from speaking up in these cases.

Like my post about Rudy, one has to wonder how Republicans justify supporting this kind of stuff.

It strikes me as noteworthy because it really is normal for this administration to get this kind of nonsense, which underscores, yet again, why electing a total amateur who has no sense of public service to the office is a bad idea.

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:

    Don’t be a ghoul. Don’t be explicitly evil.

    Those words from the PR pro advising Mr. Ross went right out of his head when they pointed a camera at him.

  2. Mikey says:

    Does anyone think he wouldn’t be absolutely fine with a few hundred thousand Chinese dying if it meant another 2% bump for the Dow?

  3. de stijl says:


    A few million would be a bigger bump.

    I am not totally anti-capitalist, but the cheer-leaders for it are way too often openly ghoulish.

    Maybe I should be anti-capitalist. Might need a re-think.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    The economic consequences of the SAR virus 20 years ago makes a lie of Ross’ statement.

  5. rachel says:

    The coronavirus has killed it’s first foreign victim in China, and it is a US citizen. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how this disease is going to make our economy better if it’s not going to respect our awesomeness and stick to killing not-Americans.

  6. Robert C says:

    Wait til biomedical supplies dry up-most of which come from China and specifically the Wuhan area for antibodies used in research-now that’ll be a boon to the economy!

  7. de stijl says:

    We can sell medical supplies to China like crazy at enormous margins because of market demand.

    No way this bites us in the butt. We are Masters Of The Universe!

    We are professionals. We evaluate risk continually. If coronavirus breaks containment, we will adjust.

  8. Slugger says:

    Many American companies have supplier chains in China. Companies like Apple, Nike, and Walmart make or get much of their merchandise from China. If the Chinese sources are impaired then these companies will have rebuild their sources. This will take time and raise costs in the short term. In the long term this infection will subside, and we’re back to the current status quo. All of this is so obvious that I feel silly writing it out.
    I wish that high government officials would make me believe that they are smarter than me which is not that great of a hurdle.

  9. PJ says:

    The elderly are most vulnerable to the virus.

    Wilbur Ross is 82, I guess the corona virus could be good for the US.

    Also, Trump is 73.

  10. PJ says:

    Like my post about Rudy, one has to wonder how Republicans justify supporting this kind of stuff.

    They truly are a basket of deplorables.

  11. de stijl says:


    Ms. Clinton, there is no need for a pseudonym here.

  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Just when you think the Administration can’t say anything stupider than what they’ve already said…

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Remember when the Bush Administration seemed like it had the most repulsive group of individuals in it? Nice to see the GOP continuing to define deviancy down…

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Could someone release my comment from moderation? Thank you…

  15. Otto says:

    Another benefit would be that a pandemic would spread to the US. The death rate is highest for the elderly and the future costs of Social Security benefits and Medicare would be greatly reduced. Wilbur has a better chance of being one of the ones to succumb.

    Perhaps there are some investment opportunities in funeral and burial equities?

    Just in case …. /s

  16. Kathy says:

    So this guy is secretary of commerce, and he can’t tell a transient emergency from structural conditions?

  17. @Kathy: Well, you know: the best people, and all that.

  18. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:


    I’m sure the selection process is arduous. after all, how hard must it be to find people that won’t seem smarter or more knowledgeable than Trump?

  19. Mu Yixiao says:

    There’s a kernel of truth in what Secretary Ross is saying, but his conclusions are way off target.

    The Wuhan virus is causing foreign companies to leave China–but as a “final straw”, not a “primary cause”. And it’s not the virus itself, but the way in which the government has been handling it. Dan Harris at China Law Blog has been writing about the progression from foreign-friendly to foreign-hostile for quite a while. It’s one of the main reasons I moved back to the US after 6 years in China–and I didn’t exactly have my thumb on the pulse of Chinese politics. If “a guy at a factory” can see it, it’s pretty obvious.

    A lot of companies have been teetering on the decision of which will hurt less: staying in China and dealing with all that’s going on, or writing off their losses and starting somewhere else. More and more, it’s tipping to the latter.

    The response to the Wuhan virus from the CCP in general, and Xi in particular, has pushed a lot of companies over the edge. So… Ross is “sorta” right that the virus will cause companies to leave China.

    But they’re not coming to the US. They’re going to Vietnam, Thailand, and other low-cost countries in SE Asia. A few might look at Africa or South America (both have possibilities for high returns if a company is willing to invest enough up-front in both capital and infrastructure), but nobody that’s manufacturing in China is going to bring that (back) to the US.

    My numbers are out of date, but I don’t think they’ve changed much (numbers in parentheses are annual totals at current exchange rates of ~7:1). In 2017:

    * Minimum wage in an industrial east-coast city near Shanghai was $250/mo ($3k)
    * An average factory worker made about $450/mo ($5.4k) (with overtime; housing and meals were provided by the factory)
    * A salesman in our factory made $300/mo plus 2% commission ($3.6k + c)
    * Office staff made $430/mo plus bonuses (it was common to have a “13-month” or “14-month” salary, where the extra was paid at the Chinese New Year.)($6k)

    It should be noted that those were good wages. The cost of living (outside of Shanghai) was really cheap. $6k/year was solid middle-class.

    Bring those jobs to the US, and the costs would go up by a factor of 5–at the minimum. And that’s not even considering all the other increased costs (e.g., utilities (I paid $10/yr for water; $15/yr for cooking gas; $30/year for internet; and $50/mo for electricity, including heat and AC)).

    I can only hope that Ross is “riling up the rubes” during the election season. Because… if he actually believes what he’s saying? Nope…. Don’t want to go there.

  20. mattbernius says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    But they’re not coming to the US. They’re going to Vietnam, Thailand, and other low-cost countries in SE Asia. A few might look at Africa or South America (both have possibilities for high returns if a company is willing to invest enough up-front in both capital and infrastructure), but nobody that’s manufacturing in China is going to bring that (back) to the US.

    To this point:


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