When Barack Obama assumed office in January 2009, the U.S. economy was shedding about 800,000 jobs per month as a result of the Great Recession and we were mired in two seemingly endless wars in the Middle East. What many people forget is that Obama soon faced the H1N1 pandemic, which affected over 60 million Americans, claiming more than 12,000 lives.
If Democrats win in November, they will probably face something similar in January 2021. It is increasingly looking like the coronavirus pandemic will send this country’s economy into recession.
While it is impossible to say what might have happened with a thoughtful response to this pandemic, we know that the Trump administration has failed on almost every level. David Remnick points out that the president “is incapable of truth, heedless of science, and hostage to the demands of his insatiable ego.” He then goes on to chronicle some of the lies Trump has told since the outbreak began.
“We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
“By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”…
“We’re going very substantially down, not up. . . . We have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.”
“As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test [can have one], that’s the thing, and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect—the transcription was perfect.”
The resulting impact on both American lives and the economy will overshadow Trump’s claim that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and his supporters wouldn’t abandon him. Over the next few months, we’ll learn whether or not they stick with him through the devastation that is about to arrive.
But it isn’t just Trump’s lies about this pandemic that will be his legacy. This is the administration that has crippled the federal government’s ability to respond to a crisis. Perhaps you remember that back in February 2017, Steve Bannon spoke at CPAC and vowed that the Trump administration would “battle for the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Through a combination of incompetence, malevolence, and loyalty tests, that prediction has come true. To get some idea of the impact of that, take a look at what the Obama administration did very early in their response to the H1N1 outbreak.
President Obama convened his cabinet on Friday and instructed every agency to play a role in preparing the United States for a pandemic.
Mr. Obama said the Department of Education was consulting with school districts across the country. The State Department was coordinating efforts with 11 other nations affected by the virus. In coordination with the federal government, he said, the United States Chamber of Commerce was urging employers to let parents stay home with sick children. And the Commerce Department was urging China and Russia to lift bans on American pork imports.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration didn’t have a plan on Sunday for how to handle a ship carrying coronavirus victims that is scheduled to dock on Monday.
Pressed on plans to handle 3,500 people on board the Grand Princess Cruise ship where 21 passengers tested positive for COVID-19, Sec. Carson tells @GStephanopoulos he doesn't "want to preview the plan right now." https://t.co/sk3xGytf04 pic.twitter.com/ryko0w52ml
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 8, 2020
As the possibility of a major recession looms in response to this pandemic, Republicans and the Trump administration have crippled the federal government’s options in developing a response. Even as the economy soared, they managed to increase the federal deficit via tax cuts aimed primarily at the wealthy—a move that was fiscally reckless and irresponsible. This leaves the government with precious few options to stimulate the economy in response to a recession.
Finally, a response to this kind of pandemic calls for global cooperation. Trump has squandered our relationships with allies while pretending that the United States can wall ourselves off from the spread of a virus via isolationism.
That is the mess that Democrats will face if they prevail in November. But frankly, that’s nothing new. Bill Clinton had to clean up the mess made by Reagan’s “trickle-down economics,” while Obama had his hands full with the crash left by Bush/Cheney. Simon Rosenberg tallied the results so far.
It has always been clear that Democrats would face a major challenge in cleaning up the mess that Trump made. Over the next few months, that will likely turn into a massive task. One has to wonder when voters will give us all a break and realize the risks of electing Republicans.