Layoffs are coming, probably on a very large scale, as travel collapses and people hunker down at home. Any word for those about to lose their jobs? Only the vaguest indication that something might be announced sometime soon.
It’s good to hear that there will be no co-pays on the tests nobody seems able to get. What about other health-care coverage? Any word on that? Nothing.
The financial markets have plunged into a 2008-style crash, auguring a recession, perhaps a severe one. The Trump administration has had almost two months to think about this crisis. It has trial-ballooned some ideas. But, of course, fiscal policy would require assent from the House of Representatives. Trump is still pouting at Speaker Nancy Pelosi. So—aside from some preposterously unconvincing happy talk about the economy—again: nothing.
Conor Friedersdorf: You will adjust to the new normal
There was one something in the speech: a ban on travel from Europe, but not the United Kingdom. It’s a classic Trump formulation. It seeks to protect America by erecting a wall against the world, without thinking very hard how or whether the wall can work. The disease is already here. The numbers only look low because of our prior failure to provide adequate testing. They will not look low even four days from now. And those infected with the virus can travel from other countries and on other routes. Trump himself has already met some.
The travel ban is an act of panic. Financial futures began crashing even as Trump was talking, perhaps shocked by his lack of an economic plan, perhaps aghast at his latest attack on world trade. (The speech seemed to suggest an embargo on European-sourced cargo as well, but that looks more like a mental lapse of Trump’s than a real policy announcement. The ban on cargo was retracted by a post-speech tweet, although the ban remains in the posted transcript of the speech.) Among other things, the ban represents one more refutation by Trump of any idea of collective security against collective threats. While China offers medical assistance to Italy, he wants to sever ties to former friends—isolating America and abandoning the world.
This crisis is not of Trump’s making. What he is responsible for is his failure to respond promptly, and then his perverse and counterproductive choice of how to respond when action could be avoided no longer. Trump, in his speech, pleaded for an end to finger-pointing. It’s a strange thing for this president of all presidents to say. No American president, and precious few American politicians, have ever pointed so many fingers or hurled so much abuse as Donald Trump. What he means, of course, is: Don’t hold me to account for the things I did.
But he did do them, and he owns responsibility for those things. He cannot escape it, and he will not escape it.