Despite the immense need, Republicans appear uninterested in passing a second round of coronavirus stimulus — and many are beginning to demand that if one is passed, it be accompanied by savage government cuts to prevent deficit spending.
Writing for The Washington Post, columnist Paul Waldman argued this signifies a key shift: Republicans are no longer confident President Donald Trump can win a second term — and are planning to go into an obstructionist, tea party style posture in anticipation of an imminent Democratic presidency.
“As every conservative knows, if you’re worried about deficits, you want a thriving economy,” wrote Waldman. “Getting that economy back on its feet as quickly and strongly as possible will not only bring down the deficit over the long term, it’s also the only thing that will avoid a political disaster in November. So spend, spend, spend. In our fantasy land, that’s what every Republican would want to do right now. But it’s not. And the fact that Republicans don’t want to do this raises the possibility that at least some of them are starting to view Trump as a lost cause.”
“We won’t be able to turn the economy back on like a light switch,” wrote Waldman. “There are untold numbers of businesses that can hang on for a few weeks or months after their customers disappeared, but many have already closed their doors or will soon. There are ripple effects across the economy, in sectors such as real estate and energy. We don’t know how long it will be until people feel comfortable flying and going to movies and eating out — but if you think it’ll all happen in the next couple of months, you’re almost certainly fooling yourself.”
“This is something that Republicans, like everyone else, are coming to understand. So some of them may be looking ahead to when Trump is no longer president,” wrote Waldman. “That means, perhaps above all, resuming the deficit fear-mongering that was such an effective tool to hamstring Barack Obama’s presidency. It also means adjusting their policy and spending agenda to the defensive. They aren’t bothering to talk much about new tax cuts or anything else they’d like to pass. Instead, the focus is shifting to cutbacks and constraints.”
“It’s not that there’s no sincere sentiment underneath the Republican reticence to do too much to save the economy. Republicans are genuinely fearful that people will be too thankful if government helps them too much and that the crisis will make the passage of stronger safety-net programs more likely in the future,” wrote Waldman. “But if you thought Trump could still win, your best move would be to give the economy the biggest short-term boost possible with massive government spending, then worry about cutting it back later. Doing nothing now, even if you’re planning to promote cuts in a year or two, suggests only that you think the Trump presidency is all but a lost cause.”
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