What If the Grand Re-Opening Fizzles?

Although the original Trump Show is gone, there will soon be a spinoff — The Grand Re-Opening Starring Trump. Paul Waldman explains,

It’ll be a show about a great American economic comeback, and Trump will be the star. It will involve a running series of photo ops and media events, buttressed by fantastical lies and deception.  …

…What Trump does is PR. So that’s what he’ll do.

He’ll visit factories carefully chosen with MAGA hat-wearing CEOs who will play their part and thank him profusely for getting America back on its feet. He’ll hold events at the White House where he can sit inside a truck and honk the horn like a real big boy. He’ll tout the progress of the stock market. He’ll have rallies again — so many rallies — where he’ll say that no one has ever seen such an amazing comeback, it’s fantastic, it’s incredible, world leaders are calling me to say how impressed they are. He’ll remind us that the pandemic was the fault of China and Democratic governors and Barack Obama, but he brought prosperity back.

I don’t doubt that’s exactly what he’s planning. He’s already started The Re-Opening Tour by touring a mask factory, without a mask, while a loudspeaker played “Live and Let Die.” I’m hearing now the tour was also accompanied by “House of the Rising Sun.”

Whoever was in charge of the factory sound system: We salute you.

One possible drawback to this plan, beside mass death, is that nobody expects the economy be anything to brag about come November. In December 2019 — before anyone had heard of covid-19 —  economists seemed kind of meh about 2020. Personal debt already was unusually high, as were auto-loan delinquencies. A number of factors, including Trump’s trade war with China, pointed to a global slowdown.

In November, 53 forecasters surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics predicted growth of 1.8% in 2020, down from an expected 2.3% in 2019, with recession odds rising from 5% currently to 43% by the end of 2020.

Again, that was before we knew there would be a pandemic. Now, we’re all in unknown territory. I doubt anyone can predict exactly what the economy will do the remainder of the year.

… investors could be in for another shock as Covid-19 continues to kill Americans and devastate the private sector. A parade of companies, including some of the nation’s largest profit machines, are reporting lower profits or warning that earnings could struggle in the coming months as consumers stay cautious and businesses assume the crash position. Many other CEOs are simply throwing up their hands and offering a giant shrug.

“Companies have no idea what is going to happen whatsoever,” said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc. “I’m an optimist. I had a happy childhood. But you have to be a realist here that there are going to be aftershocks and no V-shaped recovery. Plenty of companies — especially retail, hotels, restaurants and airlines — would be happy to get 50 percent of their peak business back a year from now.”

Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe it’ll be worse. Predictions are all over the map. Personally, I predict that small businesses will continue to be screwed, and huge numbers of them simply will not come back. That prediction is based partly on what’s going on in the Senate right now:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill that would require the Trump administration to report new details on how small-business aid is being dispersed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Translation: Money allocated for small business will mostly end up in the pockets of people who have little connection to small business. Bye bye, small business.

Although Republican voters on the whole may still think Trump walks on water, a majority of them are not behind a big re-opening of the economy just yet. And a whopping majority of the rest of us think Trump is pushing the economy to re-open too fast.

A poll from The Washington Post and the University of Maryland released yesterday finds that eight in 10 Americans oppose reopening movie theaters and gyms; three-quarters don’t support letting sit-down restaurants and nail salons reopen; and a third or less would allow barber shops, gun stores, and retail stores to operate. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last week found similar numbers: Nine in 10 Americans don’t think sporting events should have crowds without more testing; 85 percent would keep schools closed, and 80 percent would keep dine-in restaurants shut. There is no significant difference in views between residents of states that have begun loosening restrictions and those that have not.

Here in Missouri, the utterly worthless Gov. Mike Parsons has decided live music concerts can resume, as of two days ago, stipulating that concert-goers must be spaced six feet apart. I’ve been looking for evidence that anybody is holding a live music concert anytime soon. No announcements so far. The biggest cities — St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield — are keeping venues closed. Some live entertainment venues will begin opening in tourist town Branson on May 15.  We’ll see how that works out.

The Kansas City Star: 

Inexplicably, the governor’s “Show Me Strong” economic recovery plan included a woefully premature green light for socially distanced concerts. What, exactly, a distanced concert looks like is still unclear and why anyone would attend a live event during a pandemic remains an unanswered question.

Fortunately, most concert organizers and venue operators so far are exercising better judgment than the governor.

With so many people out of work, or worried they soon could be out of work, I’m betting that people will hang on to their money for a while and spend it only on essentials. But again, we’ll see. There may be enough people willing to risk their lives to go mall shopping or attend the Branson Elvis Festival to make the re-opening profitable. Not me, but other people. I just plan on surviving until November, so I can vote.