August 17, 2022

Trump Guts Covid-19 Relief Talks As A Reelection Strategy

This headline sounds like classic clickbait, except it’s nothing more than a cold-blooded measure of what politics has become in this country.

After coming down with Covid-19, getting whisked off for care that is unattainable by 99% of the population, being brought back to the White House where, visually weak and fighting for breath, he pulled the mask from his face to become a knowing disease vector among everyone living with and working for him, Donald Trump threw down an iron gauntlet before the massive portions of the country’s population that are physically and economically suffering:

As my son put it, “No money for you unless I win.”

It is painfully clear to anyone with a drop of humanity, or even a dollop of economic or business sense, that the country is in desperate straits. Lock-downs necessary to prevent a literal exponential explosion of cases—which continue to grow at an alarming rate, including currently the third highest cumulative number of deaths per 100,000 population in the world, according to Johns Hopkins—have hurt.

An economy, like a society, has interconnected parts that all affect one another. Almost 70% of GDP depends on consumer spending, and that’s the result of the mass of the have-nots, who, by number, purchase far more than the wealthiest.

The stock market is not the real economy, but even that has reeled since Trump’s threatening tweet at 2:48 p.m. today. Falling were the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq
—all, within a brief hour of that social media communique, down between 1.2% and 1.6%, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. All had previously been up.

Move into the real economy of actual people and things are beyond concerning. The Census Bureau weekly survey statistics (all at a 90% confidence interval, which indicates greater uncertainty than in most surveys that look at a 95% interval) show 10.5% of adults (+/- 0.5%) without enough to eat in the previous seven days. About 7.3% of adults (+/- 0.4%) either are behind on rent or mortgage or aren’t confident they can pay next month’s. (No telling how many children are caught up in that.) A third (33.5%, +/- 2.1%) say eviction or foreclosure within the next two months is either somewhat or very likely. And 32.7% (+/- 0.6%) are finding it difficult to pay for usual household expenses.

No wonder. Although the official numbers show falling unemployment, there is significant evidence that these figures are grossly understated. Tens of millions have been dependent on relief and stimulus measures.

The Census also has data on small businesses. According to the national average, 30.7% of businesses have felt a “large negative effect” as a result of the virus. Almost 10% of businesses have lost more than $500,000; 18.5% lost between $50,001 and $125,000. About 9.7% have reduced their number of employees, while only 4.3% are rehiring. And 72.6% have received assistance. Any guess as to how well they’d be faring if they hadn’t?

Put people on the streets, leave them without the money for normal bills, damage the small businesses that employ roughly half the country, and you begin a shock wave through landlords, utilities, grocery stores, gas stations, retail—every aspect of the economy that depends on consumer spending.

Remember how entire states—the biggest that have the largest impact on the national economy—had to close to head off the spiraling disaster rapid infection rate could cause? What are they supposed to do now? Let growing numbers get sicker until eventually hospitals do get swamped with cases again? A condition that pushed many of those institutions to the edge of fiscal viability.

Trump, either backed by what seems to be the entire GOP or having cowed those politicians, has decided to wage war on the country, its people, and its economy. While claiming that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is bargaining in bad faith, Trump is insisting that a hard demand for a $1.6 trillion figure and no more because that’s what he wants is in good faith. Total nonsense, even though Pelosi has shown more accommodation than he. (Not to canonize her, because Pelosi has been playing her share of political hardball as well during negotiations.)

But, for better or worse, at least she started her end of the process back in May. Republican senators, and Trump, are too busy salivating over the still warm body of Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the prospect of cementing an even more decisively conservative Supreme Court to continue pushing an agenda through the sort of judicial activism that only bothers them when Democrats have access.

The amounts that Trump wants to offer—and the prospect that he’d actually deliver on a “major Stimulus Bill” in short order when he hasn’t built the “wall” let alone get Mexico to pay for it, provided a healthcare plan in two weeks on repeated occasions, put China in its place, brought back manufacturing jobs that are gone for good, or a multitude of other promises—are bitterly laughable.

This isn’t about pork. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has been calling for higher levels of stimulus, noting that while there are reasons to be concerned about the debt, now isn’t the time to focus on it.

The reason why is akin to oncologists aggressively treating patients must balance the inherently toxic nature of chemotherapy against the likelihood of a cancer growing, expanding into other parts of the body, and killing the person.

The real danger now, according to Powell, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal from a speech today to the National Association of Business Economics, is that “[t]oo little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship.”

Too much support, on the contrary, “will not go to waste.”

Instead, Trump decides to lock out the potential for any aid until after the election. Even though the House is likely to remain controlled by Democrats, whose sign-off would be needed on any plan.

This reads clearly as a threat to the country. Elect Trump or face the consequences.

Unfortunately, those consequences have already begun, like a boulder beginning its roll down the hill, and are unlikely at this point to stop.

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