The U.S. must "think big" in responding to the coronavirus crisis or risk conceding influence to China, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Wednesday.
Businesses that were forced to close in China after the coronavirus outbreak began there in December have slowly reopened.
"The rest of the world's looking to China for leadership, not us," he said. "That's going to be permanent if we don't get our act together."
The "Mad Money" host said the federal government needs to take action on wide-reaching measures that protect the interests of both everyday people and American business.
Cramer's comments come after the Senate passed coronavirus legislation directed at workers that passed the House last week and now waits for a signature from President Donald Trump, who has voiced support for the bill. It targets businesses with more than 50 but fewer than 500 employees to offer two weeks paid sick leave. There are also measures to increase funding for food assistance programs and provide free testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The package follows an $8.3 billion bill that Trump signed nearly two weeks ago for vaccine and prevention efforts. Next, the White House hopes to assemble an economic stimulus package worth as much as $1 trillion to provide direct payments to Americans and relief to companies that have taken a hit due to the pandemic.
In order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, businesses have shut down all over the world and commerce has nearly come to a halt. Investors and the public are concerned a recession or worse is on the horizon.
"We have no choice but to win. It's time to dust off your Churchill. Study your FDR. The only way to beat this pandemic is to go on a war footing here," Cramer said, adding that there is no danger of doing too much, but "there is a huge risk of doing too little."
Cramer is a vocal supporter of a variety of measures offered by lawmakers to offer assistance to average people and businesses both large and small. He recommended writing checks to each American as a safety net for people at risk of losing their jobs, providing business interruption insurance for small businesses that could crumble during the health crisis and pumping $60 billion into saving Boeing, while taking a "big chunk of change in equity in exchange."
In the case of company bailouts, the host said beneficiary companies should be banned from doing stock buybacks — cosigning the sentiment of Mark Cuban — and add a government-sponsored member to the board, he said.
"Pretty much the same concessions they'd give to any other major shareholder," Cramer said. "[D]on't think of it as state interference, think of it as normal activist investing."
Stocks continued their downward trend during the trading day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1,338.46, or 6.3%, to 19,898.92, to close below 20,000 for the first time in a little more than three years. The S&P 500 fell 5.2% to 2,398.10, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.7% to 6,989.84.
"Once this pandemic is over, most stocks will bounce back with a vengeance," Cramer said. "This could be the single greatest buying opportunity since the bottom during the financial crisis, but only the government has enough capital and wherewithal to tide these companies over until the economy can recover."