The American economy has been the backbone of US President Donald Trump’s success, but the coronavirus has — for now at least — disrupted years of economic growth.
This is a significant risk to the Republicans’ electoral fortunes in November. Although the reliability of opinion polls has been questioned in recent years, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last week discovered that 44 percent of registered voters would back the Democrats’ presumptive nominee — former Vice President Joe Biden — if a general election was called tomorrow. Meanwhile, only 40 percent of them would support Trump.
Trump’s Fortunes Depend on the Economy
The President brushed off the Reuters poll. Considering most opinion polls hinted he was going to lose to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump has some reason for confidence, but he cannot afford to dismiss them entirely. This is likely to be a close election and the GOP must hope that the American economy surges before November. The coronavirus may not have been Trump’s fault, but many voters are quick to judge the governing party if the economy turns sour under its watch.
That is why Trump’s election strategy is to re-open the economy as soon as possible. The first part of his four-step plan to remove the US’s lockdown involves ending income support to force citizens back to work. The Labor Department has decided that furloughed employees ‘must accept’ an employer’s offer to return to work and ultimately forfeit any unemployment benefits they receive.
What is Trump’s Plan to End the Lockdown?
Former US Seretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote recently in The Guardian that other steps in Trump’s four-point strategy to lift America’s lockdown involve ending the current restrictions without knowing how many people have been infected. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Trump administration’s leading virus expert, warns that reopening poses ‘a really significant risk’ without more testing. The US President would do well to listen to Fauci instead of trying to block him from testifying before Congress. South Korea in particular has proved how effective testing can be.
Reich further argues that Trump’s plan involves strengthening the case for freedom by instructing his Attorney General, William Barr, to enable the Justice Department to issue legal action against any state or local authorities imposing lockdown measures that could be “violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”
Furthermore, the President is providing a “liability shield” against legal action by workers or customers who get infected with the virus. The proposed legislation would provide state and local governments with funding they desperately need which must include legal immunity for corporations that cause workers or consumers to become infected.
Testing is the Key to Ending the Lockdown
South Korea managed to initiate an effective response to Covid-19 without the need for a nationwide lockdown. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the nation’s tally of coronavirus cases currently stands at 10,765. 247 people have died because of the virus so far. The South Korean Government was able to “test, trace and contain” the pandemic in its early stages.
It is understandable why the Trump administration dislikes lockdowns. Investor Michael Burry, who earned fame for predicting the 2000s housing bubble, said there is no need for the current lockdown measures. Protesters in Michigan and Ohio are becoming increasingly impatient with their own statewide lockdowns.
Initially it was unclear how many tests the President would like to conduct. Trump said that he wanted to test five million people a day and later denied that. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir reiterated that he hopes the US will be able to test 8 million people per month by May.
Regardless of how many tests the Trump administration intends to conduct, they must do so soon if they are serious about reopening the economy. South Korea is a model to nations throughout the world, including the US. If the President does not increase the number of tests soon, he will not have the advantage of a booming economy by November, and that could cost him the election.