"People will die. People do die."

Kim Fennebresque, a longtime Wall Street investment banker, has had successful stints at First Boston, Lazard (where I met him), UBS, and as the former CEO of Cowen & Co., a small, independent investment bank. He’s had enough health issues lately to make him especially vulnerable to COVID-19, if he were to contract it. Nevertheless, Fennebresque believes the time has come to open up the economy, especially in those regions of the country where, so far anyway, it has had less of a devastating impact. He agrees the debate has been poorly framed. “In terms of money versus lives, it really reduces it to a silly trade-off, because that’s not what it is,” he says “People will die. People do die. People my age die. It happens, right? It can happen with a flu epidemic. People can die. People have to take care of themselves and wash their hands. People have to stay in and do lots of things, and 5,000 people can’t go running to a beach the day it opens. You do that and it has consequences. People have to take responsibility for their own lives. And people do die. That is kind of what happens.”

He makes the analogy, too, to fighting World War II. “When Eisenhower and Churchill sat and talked about D-Day they said, You know, how many people did we lose? 150,000? 200,000? What? 50,000? 100,000? But you know what? The country is on the precipice, I think, of a really dire, dire circumstance. I am highly at risk if I catch it. Highly. I was a smoker. I’ve had double pneumonia three times, and I’m 70. My doctor told me if I get it, I’m fighting for my life. But you know what? Just like I agreed with repealing the SALT deduction”—the cap the new tax law put on deducting state and local taxes—“even though it hurt me, I thought it was the right thing to do. This thing, I know my life’s at risk. But I think opening up is the right thing to do. And I think you know what? I have to take care of myself. It’s my problem. It’s a real responsibility to take care of myself.”