In an op-ed published at the New York Times this Friday, economist Paul Krugman warned that the growing health crisis of the coronavirus is the test of the Trump administration that his critics have been fearing, and the results “aren’t looking good.”
Krugman writes that President Trump’s unpreparedness for a disease outbreak first began when he started cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention almost as soon as he took office, in addition to his shutting down of the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council — despite warnings from experts. “But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition,” Krugman writes.
“The first reaction of the Trumpers was to see the coronavirus as a Chinese problem — and to see whatever is bad for China as being good for us,” he continues. “Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, cheered it on as a development that would ‘accelerate the return of jobs to North America.'”
But that changed once it became clear that the virus was spreading beyond China, prompting Trumpers to claim it was a hoax perpetrated by the news media — a claim that financial markets clearly don’t agree with, with the Dow dropping more than 3,000 points since last week.
“Falling markets appear to worry the administration more than the prospect of, you know, people dying,” writes Krugman. “So Larry Kudlow, the administration’s top economist, made a point of declaring that the virus was ‘contained’ — contradicting the C.D.C. — and suggested that Americans buy stocks. The market continued to drop.”
That reality finally kicked Trump into gear, but instead of putting a health professional in charge, Trump handed the job to Vice President Mike Pence, “who has an interesting relationship with both health policy and science,” according to Krugman.
“So the Trumpian response to crisis is completely self-centered, entirely focused on making Trump look good rather than protecting America,” he writes. “If the facts don’t make Trump look good, he and his allies attack the messengers, blaming the news media and the Democrats — while trying to prevent scientists from keeping us informed.”
Read the full op-ed over at The New York Times.
Editor’s note: Krugman states in his op-ed that “Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” at the start of his presidency, but according to an AP fact check, Trump proposed cuts but Congress ignored him and increased financing instead.