March 3, 2024

for Livelihoods

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Lives for livelihoods
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – A booming economy was President Trump’s ticket to a second term. With millions of Americans filing unemployment claims each week, Trump is ready to turn the page away from the coronavirus and toward rebuilding the economy in a calloused program of lives for livelihoods, an apparent emulation of China’s priorities.
          “We’ve done everything right, but now it’s time to go back to work,” he says. Notice the past tense about having done everything right. Trump is done with the virus. Now it is every man, woman, and child for him or herself, as Trump urges people who venture out into the world of commerce to think of themselves as “warriors” in the war against the virus.
          Callous yes, cold-blooded yes, it is part of Trump’s plan, to the extent he has one, of re-opening the economy and keeping the stock market humming.
          He is like the general losing the war who pulls out the troops and declares victory. Critics of the Vietnam War urged that strategy.
          A premature pull-out from the war on the coronavirus will cost more lives. It is simple math. The more people go out and engage with others without a vaccine, or without robust testing and contact tracing, the number of those infected will rise, and so will the number of those who die.
          Trump is done with those numbers. The model he is watching is the stock market. It is how he measures his political strength. When the virus first hit, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked, dropping from 29,000 in January to 18,000, and then – since March 23rd – climbing back to 24,000, enough of a comeback for Trump to tell himself he is on the right track.
          He could look like a real hero here if he took command of the situation instead of shifting responsibility to the states. He could set up a contact-and-tracing corps that would rival New Deal-era programs in putting people back to work. He could accept the findings of the Center for Disease Control, the preeminent health agency in the world, which compiled a report with safety guidelines to open up every aspect of American life from summer camps to retail establishments, and everything in between.
          Instead, he suppressed the CDC’s report, finding it too restrictive. An earlier set of guidelines he promoted from the White House said states should not open up until the number of virus infections declines for 14 days. That is not happening in any of the states currently in the forefront of opening-up – Texas, Georgia, and Florida.
          The number of Covid-19 cases is rising everywhere except in New York, the epicenter where they have leveled off thanks to stringent stay-in-place orders.
          That is not the metric Trump is heeding. He is looking at an economy flooded with money from the Federal Reserve and the federal government, and he is banking on a recovery that will look like a “V” that goes up as fast as it came down. He has his foot on the gas pedal to do what he can to make that happen even it means egging on the protestors who show up in state capitals, sometimes with guns in tow. He says they are good people.
          Trump is making a big bet on the stock market. It reflects Wall Street, not Main Street, and the recovery he gets could be a “W” with a couple of dangerous dips, or an “L,” an economy so flattened by the coronavirus that no president, not even Donald Trump, a master of illusion, can ride to reelection.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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