On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that he had told White House aides to cease talks with Congress on an economic stimulus package. Saying he didn’t want to “bail out poorly run, high crime, Democrat states,” Trump will wait until after the election to revisit stimulus negotiations — or in his words, “immediately after I win.”
This happened the same day Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, explained that not passing an adequate economic stimulus package would lead to “unnecessary hardship for households and businesses” and further exacerbate “existing [economic] disparities.”
Last week, the September jobs report from the Department of Labor showed that our recovery from the pandemic-recession is slowing significantly. We did not meet expectations in creating jobs, and we still have 11 million fewer jobs right now than we did six months ago. Unemployment is still high, with some of the improvement actually due to almost 700,000 people leaving the workforce. Many of the lost jobs we had hoped would return this year have turned out to be permanently cut.
The recovery itself has been uneven or absent for many, with job losses more prevalent for people of color and women (in other words, for those who aren’t white men), food insecurity spiking, and the weight of rent payments growing. Unemployment insurance claims are still being filed by the hundred-thousands each week. Thousands of layoffs loom following this development.
Perhaps the only signs of the crisis which Trump will recognize: Stocks took a hard tumble shortly after his announcement, and the outlook for his campaign now looks worse since a majority of Americans support another stimulus package.
So, with so much evidence, expertise, and polling pointing to the need for an additional stimulus package, the question comes to this: Why was this his move? We certainly knew Trump and his party would not sign off on a package to the tune of $3.4 trillion, which House Democrats passed back in May, nor the $2.6 trillion and $2.2 trillion versions they passed and proposed this month. But whittling these down is not the same as what Trump did, backing away from the table altogether while his constituents tread water.
Conservative obsession with the federal deficit notwithstanding, Trump has always been this way. He only cares enough to take action if it is an opportunity to boost his brand. With these stimulus negotiations, he was largely absent, because claiming ownership of any deal is out of the question when you haven’t had a part in it. This also explains the only real involvement he has had, executive orders promising to continue some of the provisions from the CARES Act, absent the effort or weight to carry them out. Now that’s showmanship.
Trump is “taking the ball and going home” because it’s too hard for him to go on — -not too hard to connect sides that were between $800 billion and $1 trillion apart, but too hard to simply try. If he can’t get an easy win, then he doesn’t find it worth his time.
Bipartisanship, even at a time like this, doesn’t personally help him. That’s why, when calling off the negotiations, he made sure to mention “poorly run, high crime, Democrat states,” because all he wants to do is signal to his base that he’s their candidate.
As countless other events over the last three and a half years have, this shows that Trump, not the dealmaker he claims to be, is a coward. He is scared of doing the right thing because it would mean he had to agree with opponents on something, harming his standing with some voters.
This also shows Trump is an abuser. Putting this off until after November 3 and promising a deal in the future — while wholly neglecting responsibilities right now — is Trump saying we only get what we need and deserve when it suits him. This is not moral governing; it’s a hostage situation.
To be fair, it’s not just President Trump displaying these characteristics. Throughout the negotiations, Congressional Republicans have been more interested in liability insurance for employers instead of protections for workers, and less interested in aid for state and local governments despite the these governments in danger of long-term financial ruin while chiefly managing the virus themselves. At the same time, they have similarly downplayed the threat of the virus while their party actively tries to erase health care coverage for at least 20 million Americans.
All of this, in the name of responsible government and economic stewardship.