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The United States is headed for a prolonged and very painful recession if we don’t reopen the economy and get back to business soon, warns Andy Puzder, a Senior Fellow at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and former chief executive of CKE Restaurants.

“There was an article in the John Hopkins University Medical School Coronavirus Task Force Publication, which had a great sentence in it,” Puzder told WIBC’s Hammer and Nigel Tuesday. “The virus is lethal, but so is poverty.”

Puzder, who also serves as a policy advisor to America First Policies and is the national council co-chair of the American Enterprise Institute, said policymakers are dealing with a lot of unknowns, essentially playing chicken with the U.S. economy.

“Nobody knows how long you can shut an economy like ours down. If we don’t get it going again soon,” cautioned Puzder, “people are going to lose a lot more than their jobs and their incomes.”

He continued: “Soon, we’re not going to be able to pay the police department, the fire department, the garbage pick-up, the electricity will go off, and you end up in a situation that is out of control. So we really need to get the economy back on track.”

Puzder said a multi-step strategy to reopening the economy makes sense provided the process unfolds quickly.

“I think it’s a good approach,” he said, later adding that “people are ready to get out,” get back to work and start going about their daily business.

Puzder, who spent 16 years as the CEO of CKE Restaurants, said adjustments to the foodservice industry were inevitable as a result of the changing times.

“Young people were already moving to third party delivery and eating at home rather than going out to a restaurant,” he explained. “So I think this accelerated some of those changes, but sitdown restaurants like Ruth’s Chris and Mortons are going to have a much harder time surviving this – even after this pandemic dies down.”

Puzder said higher-end restaurants will likely struggle until after American consumers become more comfortable in social situations, which may not occur until a vaccine has been fully developed.

“I think you’re going to see those restaurants suffer over the next 6, 12, 18 months; however, I think fast casual and quick service are going to come through this pretty well.”

Mr. Puzder, who served as an economic adviser and a spokesman for the Trump Campaign in 2016, gave the President praise for his handling of the economy and the pandemic.

“This is not the time to be talking about ‘fundamentally changing America’,” said Puzder, referencing recent comments from presumptive Democrat nominee for president, Joe Biden. “This is the time to be getting the economy going, getting our prosperity back, and doing the kinds of things that President Trump did to get the economy ignited,” he added. “We don’t need to go back to the doldrums of the Obama/Biden era.”

Click the link below to hear Hammer and Nigel’s full interview with Andrew Puzder.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)