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Trump's Trifecta: Update

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Three months ago, I wrote: "We're in the middle of a slow-motion catastrophe. The consequence of disease, depression, and Donald." Sadly, U.S. conditions have gotten worse. The latest GALLUP POLL indicates, "[only] 13% of U.S. adults are satisfied with the state of the nation."

The Pandemic: Late in April, the U.S. had 1 million coronavirus cases (and 56,000 deaths). Now we have 5 million cases (and 163,000 deaths).
The best summation of our current situation was written on April 18 by New York Times science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr, "The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead." (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/18/health/coronavirus-america-future.html)

"In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us... Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus it will find us... Resolve to Save Lives, a public health advocacy group run by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former director of the C.D.C., has published detailed and strict criteria for when the economy can reopen... Reopening requires declining cases for 14 days, the tracing of 90 percent of contacts, an end to health care worker infections, recuperation places for mild cases and many other hard-to-reach goals." [Emphasis added]

Donald Trump has not been willing to apply these criteria. Instead he has asserted that the pandemic is not serious and pushed for an immediate reopening.

Trump has not provided the leadership required to deal with this tragedy. He has shown no remorse for our 163,000 deaths: "it is what it is." Writing in Mother Jones, David Corn observed: "Since the start of this epidemic, Trump has gushed out a series of idiotic and false remarks: The virus is no big deal. It will go away. This is a hoax. We will have a national testing program within days. We will have a vaccine within months. Try hydroxychloroquine. Maybe injecting bleach will help. Case numbers are high because of testing. I take no responsibility. I've been right all along. We've done an amazing job."

Given Trump's inadequate response, it comes as no surprise that most voters give him low marks on the health crisis. According to the 538 website (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/coronavirus-polls/ ) only 37.7 percent of Americans approve of how Trump has handled the pandemic.

The Economy: In June, the U.S. officially entered a recession (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/09/the-us-is-officially-in-a-recession-will-it-become-a-depression.html). In the first quarter the real GDP decreased by 5 percent and in the second quarter it decreased by a whopping 32.9 percent -- the worst plunge ever recorded. "The second-quarter cliff in economic activity was driven by a drop-off in consumer spending, which appeared as a 34.6% drop in the personal consumption metric in Thursday's report... Consumer spending comprises about two-thirds of the US economy, and prior to the pandemic had been the main engine of economic growth." (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/q2-gdp-us-economy-coronavirus-pandemic-consumer-171558880.html ) Consumer sentiment has also fallen off a cliff. (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/economic-impact-of-covid-h1-2020/)

The current unemployment rate is 12.1 percent -- down from 19.7 percent in April. The unemployment rate is the largest since it sunk to 25.6 percent at the depths of the Great Depression. To get back to where we were before the pandemic, the U.S. economy has to add 30 million jobs. ( https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/29/nearly-half-the-us-population-is-without-a-job-showing-how-far-the-labor-recovery-has-to-go.html)

Which workers are laid off depends upon where you live. Here in Sonoma County, in northern California, there are more than 40,000 furloughed workers: primarily hospitality jobs, agricultural work, and retail occupations. Most workers won't regain full employment until the economy can safely reopen. It's unclear when this can happen.

Donald Trump doesn't have a plan to deal with this recession. The latest Quinnipiac poll indicates that only 44% of people approve of the way Trump is handling the U.S. economy. (By the way, Trump plans to spend this weekend playing golf.)

At this writing, Congressional Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the form of a new stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, there's a historic disconnect between consumer perception of the economy and the Wall Street Indices -- such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average. (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/understanding-the-disconnect-between-consumers-and-the-stock-market/) Two factors have contributed to this: first, the DJIA is skewed (weighted) towards information technology technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook -- companies that have done well in the pandemic. Second, stock prices are being supported by the Federal Reserve. In any event, the relatively robust state of the stock indices presents a distorted view of the economy.

Donald Trump: Trump is incapable of the leadership this catastrophe requires.

On August 3rd, Trump was interviewed by Jonathan Swan -- an Australian journalist who works for Axios. (https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-interview-transcript-with-axios-on-hbo ) It's difficult to watch this interview and not be deeply disturbed by Trump's performance. For example,

"Trump [The pandemic is] under control.
Jonathan Swan: How? 1,000 Americans are dying a day.
Trump: They are dying. That's true. And it is what it is."

The interview indicates that Trump has no understanding of how serious the pandemic is and no idea of what to do about the situation.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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