The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 10% of its value this week, probably two or three trillion dollars of wealth evaporated. Now, I think that the stock market is a foolish “bet” but I do have all of my retirement income tied up in it (for some complicated reasons I shouldn’t get into). I feel this very keenly since I lost $100,000 in the time it took my orchid to put out a flower. However, now we know what is causing the global contraction and the loss of profit. Commentator Joe Scarborough talked of the market usually as being “like witchcraft” – capricious – but there is a clear cause for all this volatility and fear: Supply chains have been shattered. Conferences being cancelled. “This terrifies investors,” he said. It’s much about loss of profits and uncertainty – will this slow-moving and hard-to-contain disease last for longer than 6 or 9 months? Scarborough said, “the snowball is just starting to roll down the hill.” I think the major reason America is in jeopardy is that Donald Trump leading America during a major crisis. This is more or less the chickens coming home to roost when it comes to Republicans in power, though. At bottom, this crisis is both an opportunity and a danger, one in which Trump faces a demanding test of his responsibility and prudence. It is about wisdom and virtue and character. Don’t hold your breath.
Economist Paul Krugman said that “[m]aybe Trump — and America — will be lucky, and this won’t be as bad as it might be. But anyone feeling confident right now isn’t paying attention.” (LINK) It is obvious we are ill-prepared to deal with an actual crisis (LINK). Trump has “cried wolf” and squandered his political capital and goodwill on bullshit, so he is a terrible person to be in charge – even if his judgment were astute, which it certainly is not.
It has the potential to be massively disruptive. Many companies stateside are deeply enmeshed with Chinese production facilities. As well, if folks don’t take flights, vacations, and buy new items in the marketplace, that depresses our economy.
For the record, I would happily exchange $100,000 – even $200,000 – if Trump were to be removed from office due to an economic recession. Hell, I’d pay $300,000 if he were then to serve time for one of his many misdeeds he perpetrated on this country. But I’m now beside the point. My main point is, I am deeply ambivalent about Trump losing in November 2020 due to an economic recession, since recessions have costs – not the least of which is a real human cost in unemployed people, more pressure that would allow Republican leaders to “starve the beast” and so on.
Real big problem for America. With the silver lining that if Trump is no longer leading the Idiot’s Rebellion, America has a decent chance of reversing some of the damaging (cutting EPA funding), inept (cutting interest rates in good economic times), preposterous (putting immigrating children in cages apart from their parents), and corrupt (emoluments clause, anyone??).
Here is a good summation of the issues as of late Februrary by MSNBC. Clearly, criticism of public health officials’ handling of the potential pandemic, and what it says about the leadership we are receiving as tax-paying citizens, is mounting. Responsibility, truth, leadership, trustworthiness, and public health are on the line.
But the political is only one small sliver of the problem for America. This virus is difficult to contain for a number of reasons, such as the fact that it has a long incubation period, some people can carry it and transmit it without being visibly ill, and with a 1-3% mortality rate, it kills more people than the flu by far. Like ten to thirty times as many. America has lost 50,000 people to the flu this year, so think about that. China has been only marginally effective controlling it in an authoritarian regime, and though we have some advantages China does not, it could be like herding a million cats here if we don’t get a vaccine soon. Which we won’t for a year or more. And then it will take a lot to distribute and administer it.
Meanwhile, folks aren’t going to work as much, buying consumer goods as much, or getting out in public as much. Some folks will be ignoring quarantine restrictions and either dying or transmitting it.
It’s very bad news. The only thing worse than this virus is this virus plus Donald Trump. He said right on television “Like a miracle, it will disappear someday.” You can’t make this up if you were a fabulous fiction writer tasked with writing a story about the decline of America.
He claimed that it should go away once Spring arrives (LINK). The flu tends to, but this man is woefully unqualified to make such epidemiological predictions. This is reminiscent of his repugnant claim that, first of all, when he provoked a war with Iran, no American was injured in a vicious rocket attack. Then, as soldiers started to fall ill with brain injuries, he claimed it was “basically a bad headache.” Now, I think the number of Americans with severe trauma to the most important organ is nearly 100. This is ineptitude and immorality on a scale consistent with Johnson about the war in Vietnam and Nixon when it came to going after M.L.K.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, in comparing the Chinese and the American response (and future success) toward the virus, declared: “In both countries, people who usually support the leader may not be as willing to do so when their own well-being is on the line. And in both countries, the leaders’ instincts conflict with the best practices of virus response.”
Trump’s response to everything is “How will this affect my public image, and my reelection?” Pretty much end of story.
So he has made various missteps along the way, from lying to dissembling to obfuscating to stalling. I won’t go through his malfeasance one by one, but suffice it to say, we are facing one of the worst crises this country has faced this millennium, and we are being led by the least trustworthy, least competent president in modern history.
One case is point: Seven hundred million dollars was subtracted from the Centers for Disease Control budget submitted by the Trump Administration. Wow, that is spectacularly bad timing: suggesting we cut desperately-needed spending to make up for a foolish and ineffective tax cut in a time of a potential pandemic. File under Corrupt or Inane Things Republicans Do When in Office.
That is pretty much par for the course when electing Republicans: they will say this and that about how the government is broken and needs a serious pruning, and it’s largely exaggerated. However, when they get elected, they fulfill a self-fulfilling prophesy: by mismanaging the budget and various financial, monetary, and economic aspects, they bring about a situation just like this. Also, the number of vacant positions in government is shocking. Further, the number of cronies, hacks, and yes-men Trump has put into place would make Stalin blanch.
One of the most telling examples in history was George W. Bush flying over New Orleans in Air Force One, and then touching down for a news conference and praising the head of the Federal Emergency Management Association
Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker of the Washington Postindicate, wisely: “With the first case of coronavirus not tied to foreign travel being announced in California on Wednesday, Trump finds himself grappling with a crisis for which his record suggests he is particularly ill-suited to respond. At a moment that demands sobriety and honesty, Trump is a leader prone to hyperbole and falsehoods. As the financial markets and the public crave order and clarity, Trump has a penchant for creating chaos and confusion. And at a time when expertise is paramount, Trump has hollowed out the government agencies responsible for the tasks at hand.”
“We will see what happens,” Trump in a televised address. “But we are very, very ready for this, for anything.”
Indeed, three New York Timeswriters reveals that Trump has a serious problem as this threat grows and mutates: his credibility (LINK). A snippet:
“When Hurricane Dorian crashed into the Atlantic Coast in September, President Trump assumed a take-charge role in response. But he undermined his own effectiveness after it became apparent that before displaying a map in front of the television cameras in the Oval Office, he had altered it with a Sharpie pen to match his inaccurate forecast of where the storm was headed.
For years, experts have warned that Mr. Trump has been squandering the credibility he could need in a moment of national emergency, like a terrorist attack or a public health crisis.
Now, as the coronavirus races across the globe and has begun to threaten the United States, Mr. Trump could face a moment of reckoning. Maintaining a calm and orderly response during an epidemic, in which countless lives could be at stake, requires that the president be a reliable public messenger.”
They then point out various past presidents and how they wisely managed to lead and set a good example and behave competently during crises. They had some political and social capital they spent when they needed it. We have been subjected to a barrage of lies, deceptions, and let-downs for so long, we both have trust issues with the president, and the evidence so far is that he is mis-stepping and mismanaging. The three journalists from the Timesthen illustrate:
“Mr. Trump, in contrast, contradicted his own health experts in a news conference Wednesday evening, insisting that the spread of the virus was not inevitable, and excoriating two of his favorite foils, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, for ‘trying to create a panic.’”
I could go on and on quoting that article because they really nail it, and the case against trusting or having faith that Trump will lead all Americans equally, and competently, is dismal. You really should read it, it reads like an indictment in a grand jury proceeding.
Peter Nicholas: “Trump insists on being the protagonist in every drama. He wants to promote the idea that everything on his watch is improving. Virology isn’t politics, though. Tweets don’t beget vaccines. Following his instincts in the face of an outbreak that has left the world on edge risks making things worse.”
We Americans deserve better than what we have gotten from the Trump Administration, and the CDC so far. Yes, even those who voted for him (or failed to vote for Clinton) and helped get us into this mess in the first place.
Each of us – even the foolish, the semi-racist, the quasi-misogynistic, the aggrieved, the jealous, the undereducated, the authoritarian-minded – deserve to not suffer or die of this obnoxious Chinese-created juggernaut.
There is a lot riding on this Administration’s response, ranging from the economic to the life-and-death. I take some heart in knowing that if there are two things that get Trump’s full attention, they are a) him looking foolish and b) a declining economy.
The first because he is a malignant narcissist, and the second because it will mean his removal from office, which will mean his prosecution and sentencing once the Department of Justice can no longer protect him from the logical and legal consequences of his nefarious deeds.
The man who has done more to flout the law and the karmic law of justice (if you will) than anyone in decades is now tasked with thinking and acting and deciding wisely and prudently, lest he face his worst nightmares. Let’s see if he is the man of legend and lore, or the man many of us know him to be. Ω