To ... not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues. Sun Tzu
One of President Trump’s favorite catchphrases has been: “We are going to win, so much”. The aftermath of the coronavirus in the United States hardly feels like winning, unless you’re an undertaker or the Grim Reaper. It does no good to report numbers, the count of infected and dead grows every day and even when there’s a lull or a decline, there is a possibility of a second wave.
The one thing that experts agree on is that it will come to an end. Maybe not as sharp and defined an end as desired but an end nonetheless. And then…what?
The saying: The buck stops here, was made famous by a sign that former President Harry Truman had on his desk and which meant that a president must make decisions and accept responsibility for those decisions, whether they are good or bad. But the only buck that seems to stop on President Trump’s desk is one that he can put in his wallet. Perhaps one of the most telling statements to come from him to date was made on March 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all”, when he was asked about the ongoing problems with testing and other failures.
When the tests finally did start showing up, they were discovered to have a flaw, one that made their findings unreliable and caused further delays to correct it. Once they were finally able to start testing, the results are well known: massive numbers of infected Americans and a mounting death toll. Now Trump wants to start opening up the country again, probably because of the pressure he’s feeling to look like he’s finally doing something positive.
One other well-known Trumpism is “America First”. Well, he has delivered at least on this campaign promise. America is first in corona infections and first in the number of deaths. On the other hand, once the scale of the crisis fully sank in, the Trump administration was able to swiftly get the US Senate aligned to pass a mind-numbing number of a $2 trillion stimulus package to save the economy.
As of April 30, there were over 30 million newly unemployed in the US that had filed claims, with an average rate of over 5 million per week. It had taken nearly nine-and-a-half-years to create that many jobs after the last recession. The unemployment rate will soon pass 18 percent this month, up from 4.4 percent in March and higher than any mark since the Great Depression.
Because of people staying at home causing a decreasing demand, plus the fall in manufacturing, the price of oil recently dropped to prices not seen in years. These signs are contributing to a growing fear that this could become the worst economic downturn in modern history.
The United States Congress has taken unprecedented steps to try and stem the damage starting. They have now approved another package, primarily to help small businesses, amounting to another 480 billion dollars. The numbers are so large, they almost stop having any meaning to the average person. On top of this, there have been several proposals to pay people a monthly amount to help offset lost incomes. The trillion-dollar question, which has never been asked before, is: Will it work?
And there is no easy answer. Because this is uncharted territory and we still don’t know how bad things will get. Even if Trump has his way and things start up again sooner rather than later, it will take quite a while to ramp things up. People will naturally be cautious when it comes to eating in a restaurant with others in close proximity. The travel industry will also undoubtedly suffer from the same concerns. Now, with the looming contraction in the oil industry due to falling prices, there are going to be many more unemployed to join the ranks. This is likely to contribute to an accelerating downward spiral in which it’s difficult to see how throwing money at it will help.
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The one bright spot - at least in Trump’s eyes - is the increased nationalistic attitude among many people, and not just Americans. This will likely contribute to the recent trend of US companies decoupling from their Chinese suppliers. Trump often expressed his desire to ‘bring back jobs’ to American soil and although impractical in so many ways, he may just be getting his wish.
There is little doubt that the government needs to do something, and more than what they have so far. It will be a monumental task for Donald Trump to push the economy back on track and go back to the all-time record low unemployment rate.
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