In a column for Washington Monthly, Annie Kim suggested that Donald Trump will likely be handcuffed by his own economic policies as he attempts to deal with the collapse of the U.S. economy in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic that raged out of control on his watch.
With close to 40 million Americans now unemployed and the president’s administration pumping trillions into the economy to keep the country afloat as businesses shutter, Kim suggested that Trump is in a major bind of his own making that could cost him re-election.
Noting that the president has already taken to boasting “Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” as businesses slowly restart opening after shutdown orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, the columnist stated that the reality on the ground is quite different.
“For all his cheerleading, Trump is unlikely to get the kind of robust rebound he’s hoping for—in large part due to sabotage inflicted by his own policies,” she wrote. “Thanks to his administration’s early and ongoing failures to address the coronavirus outbreak, much of the nation still lacks the testing and contact tracing infrastructure necessary to control the virus’s inevitable resurgence. Mixed messaging from federal and state officials and patchwork guidance from location to location have also heightened the anxiety for Americans, most of whom remain reluctant to leave their homes.”
Complicating the president’s desire for a rapid economic recovery are his own fiscal policies put in place during his three and a half years in office.
“Another handicap will be the fragility of the American economy, brought upon by the Trump’s pre-pandemic fiscal recklessness. When the president assumed office in an emerging recovery from the Great Recession, he had a golden opportunity to shore up the nation’s fiscal reserves and invest in its economic resilience,” she explained. “Instead, he pushed through one of the largest corporate tax cuts in history, padding the bank balances of billionaires while miring the rest of the nation in eye-watering levels of debt. As a consequence, America entered the Covid-19 pandemic already financially crippled. Now, in the face of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, it is ill-positioned to aid its citizens, let alone rebuild for the future.”
Trump’s signing of the 2017 tax bill that “permanently slashed the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent,” is proving to be the biggest mistake of his presidency now that country has been ravaged the health crisis, she explains.
“At the time, Republicans touted the measure as a bonanza for job growth and worker wages. Predictably, however, companies didn’t respond to the tax cuts by creating more jobs. Instead, they engaged in a record-breaking number of stock buybacks to pump up share prices, while most of the individual tax breaks benefited the nation’s wealthiest families,” she wrote. “The only thing the legislation really accomplished was to blow a crater-sized hole in the federal budget, which until then had seen six straight years of declining deficits under President Barack Obama.”
“Since the passage of the first tranche of coronavirus relief bills, including the CARES Act, the federal budget deficit is projected to reach a whopping 17.9 percent of GDP this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a level unmatched since World War II. Public debt, meanwhile, will exceed the size of the entire economy, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB),” she elaborated, before adding, “Rather than tax cuts for corporations and the very rich, Trump could have pumped more resources into the nation’s workforce development and adjustment programs. That would have been beneficial no matter what, but it would have cushioned the blow of disruption for the more than 36 million Americans now unemployed since mid-March. He could have restored our infrastructure for public health, so that the nation could in fact have “the best testing in the world,” not just his empty boast to that effect. He could also have continued to pay down the national debt and built a rainy-day reserve for crises precisely like the one we’re facing now.”
“As badly bungled as his pandemic response has been, Trump’s pre-pandemic policies and priorities will prove equally destructive,” she wrote before concluding, “The result: Whenever the pandemic ends, America’s convalescence will be long and slow.”
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