President Trump, in a somewhat stunning announcement, expressed a strong desire to get the economy up again as the country continues to reel from the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even as his surgeon general warned that things were headed in a bad direction and the World Health Organization said the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has shutdown nations and states, was accelerating, the American president said March 23 that the time was coming to restart the economy by having businesses reopen—not in months but in weeks.
The stunning announcement was made during a White House briefing where there was more social distancing, fewer reporters and fewer Trump administration coronavirus task force members present. The lack of reporters followed news that someone in the press corps had come down with the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading voice on infectious diseases, was notably absent and the president’s declaration followed media reports that the president was weary of the shutdown.
“I’m not looking at months,” said the president when questioned about his plans and timelines. Mr. Trump insisted the country could do two things at once, fight the virus and get the economy back to work. It was a puzzling analysis given how the fear of the pandemic has shuttered businesses, schools and changed the country’s way of life. Millions of Americans are living under shelter-in-place orders issued by governors or local politicians.
Mr. Trump insisted the coronavirus was not spread evenly across the country. New York, which is under a statewide shutdown, is an epicenter for the disease but Nebraska has a few cases, he noted. The president seemed to discount travel as a way to spread the disease as Florida’s governor announced those coming into the state from New York or New Jersey would face a mandatory quarantine.
Governors in New York, California, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington and Connecticut have limited travel, shutdown businesses and other activity in their respective states.
Questioned by reporters, the president admitted governors would control what is happening in their state in terms of movement and getting back to business.
But, he insisted, “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.” The president argued the economic woes the U.S. is facing were an unacceptable consequence of the pandemic, which had cost over 500 lives in the country with more than 43,000 people infected with the disease as of March 23.
“We have to open our country because (economic disarray) causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems,” Mr. Trump said.
The president compared coronavirus deaths to traffic fatalities and thousands of annual deaths from the flu. “You look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than what we’re talking about,” Mr. Trump said. “It doesn’t mean we’re talking about telling people not to drive cars.”
“At some point we’re going to open up our country, and it will be fairly soon,” Mr. Trump added. “I’m not looking at months.”
The Trump administration’s 15-day shutdown was ticking away and will expire in early April. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!” the president tweeted the night before the press conference.
The president’s declaration came as the Senate failed to pass an estimated $2 trillion bill, which was supposed to offer economic relief to workers, small businesses, corporations and other remedies to help a battered economy and volatile stock market at Final Call presstime. Democrats accused the GOP of trying to do too much for big business and the Republicans accused the Dems of trying to add unnecessary items to the emergency measure.
Asked by a reporter if the massive spending measure was necessary if the economy was going to restart soon, Mr. Trump answered in the affirmative, saying the economy had been pummeled.
Official guesstimates are that it will take weeks for the U.S. to see the peak of the global pandemic and months after that for the disease to run its course. Low-wage and middle-income workers are bearing the brunt of the economic disarray coronavirus has brought with it.
All over the country as governors impose partial or near-total shutdowns and restrict the movement of their respective populations, those in the hospitality and service industries—owners or operators of bars, restaurants, gyms, daycare centers, hair and nail salons, barbershops and other establishments—are watching revenue dry up.
Economists and other financial experts warn of a global recession that will be deepened as businesses close and workers lose hours or their jobs as officials attempt to stop the spread of the virus. If businesses close permanently or there are waves of layoffs over time, it is feared these changes will have an enduring impact on local economies if companies are shuttered for good.
But, analysts warned, a premature reopening of the economy and going back to the “old” normal could be deadly and have a devastating economic impact. The first thing to do is control the spread of the virus, they said. Social distancing, limited movement and other measures are aimed at blunting a wave of Covid-19 cases that could overwhelm the U.S. medical system, said health professionals.
“#PressBriefing The virus hasn’t even gotten close to peaking yet, and Trump is concentrating on opening up the country already, and there’s no Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Brix has obviously assimilated into the Cult now. We’re on our own (thank you state governors for caring),” tweeted @HathorEarthFyre. The hashtag #PressBriefing trended on Twitter.
“Somebody ask the president how many deaths are acceptable losses to him. How many are okay so that his bank account isn’t too badly impacted? #PressBriefing,” asked @miriamlclarkep
By Barrington Salmon/Final Call
Posted by The non-Conformist