Donald Trump is one of the few Western leaders who understand that it is not so much the coronavirus itself that is scary, but the possible consequences of an overreaction of the state to the spread of the disease. And he – just as importantly-is not afraid to talk about this understanding and act within it, and not in the way that populists demand of him.
The United States is at the center of a global coronavirus epidemic. More than a hundred thousand infected, thousands of dead.
Of course, the White House is also to blame for the current spread of coronavirus in the United States. The United States had about a month (between the outbreak in China and the outbreak on American soil) to prepare for the epidemic – if only to replenish the supply of ventilators and personal protective equipment, which is now critically lacking. Not to mention organizing mass testing of the population.
However, now Donald Trump is behaving absolutely correctly – that is, balanced. On the one hand, it announces measures of “social distancing”, as a result of which all entertainment events have been stopped in the country. A number of states have taken additional measures, such as closing schools and requiring most businesses to let employees go home.
In more than 20 States, the national guard controls the situation, and the White House and Congress are directing two trillion dollars to save the national economy (direct assistance to families, support for small businesses and the medical sector, as well as increasing assistance to the unemployed). On the other hand, the President is trying not to overdo the restrictions. For example, first trying to make a good deal with the same General Motors about the production of ventilators, and only then, when the top management of the company did not show the proper level of understanding, trump used his authority under the law on the production of defense products (adopted in 1950) and ordered GM to produce the necessary amount of ventilators. Moreover, he makes it clear that he wants to abandon social distancing measures as soon as possible and resume economic activity in the country. While some experts claim at least a multi-month history with the epidemic, trump first promises to lift restrictions by Easter (that is, by mid-April), and then moves this date, but not too far ahead – to April 30.
The economy above all else
The President’s haste is due to a sober calculation – and this is now rare in the Western world -. Understanding that certain types of medication can be much more dangerous than the disease itself – for example, prolonged and strict quarantine in the context of specific American economic realities. After all, as Mark Zandi, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, correctly points out, a severe reaction to the coronavirus can cause an economic tsunami.
The first wave is the largest drop in economic activity in the entire country in modern history. It is already underway, because, in fact, even measures of social distancing are stopping going to bars, restaurants, and entertainment events. Everyone distances themselves from everything. The second wave will be a sharp increase in the unemployment rate. The third is the panic that people (who have lost their jobs and money invested in the collapsed stock markets) are left penniless. Finally, the fourth wave is the rejection of all long-term investment projects by businesses. In fact, because of the same unemployment and personal bankruptcy, more people will die than from the coronavirus. First of all, we are talking about direct deaths – especially in the conditions of total debt of the American population and the lack of sufficient savings for many people to pay their mortgage and medical bills if they lose their jobs.
According to some very average estimates, an increase in unemployment by one percent leads to one additional suicide per 100,000 people. Even more will die from negative consequences. According to other estimates, an increase in unemployment by the same one percent leads to an increase in opioid overdose deaths by 3%.
Of course, Trump cares not only about ordinary Americans, but also about himself – he wants to stay in the White house after the election in November 2020. His campaign is focused on the economic achievements of the cadence, and he simply can’t approach November with a recession. Yes, he is risking if the end result is that moderate measures trump can’t stop the coronavirus (or epidemic itself will not cease to fly), the States will eventually get a massive epidemic with millions of sick and closed economies.
And then all the blame will be laid on trump. However, the President is willing to take a risk – and, interestingly, the US population supports him. Trump’s rating has grown – now more than half of Americans approve of his activities.
We can’t stand the price
It is clear that the Democrats do not like this very much – they do not want to stand up to Trump, the Saviour of the Economy, in November. And the Democrats did what was expected of them-they decided to use the hour of great trouble not to consolidate society, but to fight against the President they hated. “Trump is not responsible for the coronavirus – but he is responsible for how we respond to this threat,” says Joseph Biden. While forgetting to recall that Biden himself is responsible for his own words – for example, “hysteria and xenophobia”, which he used in relation to trump’s January decision to suspend air traffic with China.
To date, the main message of criticism of the Democrats is that Trump and his Republicans do not think about the needs of “ordinary people”. So, Trump is ready to help American corporations with money – but at the same time does not set a strict ban on employee layoffs as a condition of this assistance. And the Democrats are already hooked on this, and the liberal media in support of them write editorials about how bad Republicans refuse to help ordinary workers. Democrats understand that this is their chance to bring working-class whites (who are considered trump voters) back into the Democratic party’s electoral base. In addition, they talk about the reluctance of Trump to be a truly “wartime President” and use their capabilities – although they understand that a significant proportion of mistakes are made not by the Federal government, but because of the weak work of local governors (who have much more authority to overcome the crisis in their States). They demand that the President stop swearing at the press (which whips up panic and hysteria even at trump’s press conferences). They talk about the need for a sharp increase in the package of assistance to the population, knowing full well that this is a difficult process that requires a redrawing of the budget.
“In times of crisis, the President should calm and heal everyone, be a leader, a beacon of hope for the people of America. Donald Trump is not capable of this,” says Joe Biden. Which, judging by its behavior during the crisis, is not capable and does not deserve to be such a beacon. The question is whether the American people will understand this in the November elections.