Thanks to Trump, We Have No Good Options

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve chair Jerome H. Powell are testifying to the Senate Banking Committee today.

Mnuchin warned that there would be “risk of permanent damage” to the economy if businesses do not re-open right away. This is the same guy who has been sitting on billions of dollars in stimulus funds since March, but he hasn’t gotten around to disbursing most of it. This was a major point of concern for some senators.

The Fed is in the process of rolling out a series of emergency lending programs to keep credit flowing into the economy.

More recently, it has announced five new or revamped programs that will be backed by $195 billion in funding, focused on large corporations, the municipal bond market, midsize businesses and asset-backed securities, which are essentially bundles of loans built on students loans, credit cards and other types of debt.

Of those programs, only a portion of one of the corporate credit facilities is up and running. The various facilities have taken time to design, because they are legally complex and have never before been attempted.

Lawmakers repeatedly urged Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Powell to get the midsize business “Main Street” facility up quickly. Mr. Powell faced questions over why the corporate programs were helping shakier large companies.

“You’ve pointed out that most of the people being hurt are those earning less than $40,000 a year,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat. “It’s not clear to me how putting money into junk bonds is helping Main Street.”

There were also concerns about the safety of workers.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) pressed Mnuchin on the White House’s push to rapidly reopen parts of the economy even as health care advisers have urged more caution.

“How many workers should give their lives to increase our [gross domestic product] by half a percent?” Brown asked Mnuchin.

For the record, Mnuchin didn’t think it was a fair question. But this is the question of the moment — the economy versus lives. Which do we prioritize? Yes, the nation is taking a terrible economic hit, and the longer the restrictions continue, the worse the damage will be. And yes, this is causing terrible stress and harm to millions of individuals who are suddenly without a paycheck. Hey, I’ve been there; I know what being suddenly laid off feels like. It’s a real punch in the gut.

On the other hand, the science guys tell us that if we move to reopen too soon, a lot of people will die who didn’t have to die. The virus is still out there, folks. And because we still don’t have adequate testing, we’re stumbling around in the dark. Maybe if we had better testing, we could be making informed decisions about how much economic activity can be restarted safely. But as it is, we’re all guessing.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that we have no good options. There is no visible course of action that will bring the jobs back in the next few weeks without risking lives. And we’re in this mess because we have no national leadership. The pandemic “response” has been grossly mismanaged from the very beginning and never got better. And that’s why we have no good options. People can argue economy versus lives until they turn purple. No matter what we do, we’ll be stumbling around between deprivation and death for the next several months. That’s just how it is. Do your best and stay safe.

There is no way we’re going to avoid a world of hurt for a lot more people. That would be true even if a miracle happened and we suddenly had a competent federal government going forward. But, unfortunately, Donald Trump is still POTUS. Corrupt wastes of space like Mnuchin are managing what policy Congress creates. Republicans who are opposed to spending that benefits workers — they think spending should only flow to their big-buck donors and themselves — still control the Senate. So it’s not going to get any better.

If we had shut down a lot sooner, if we had tested a lot more, if we could be throwing much more federal money at the states and cities and small businesses and the unemployed to decrease the damage, it wouldn’t be nearly so bad. But Trump is president and Mitch McConnell runs the Senate. So it’s a mess.

See also Max Boot, If Trump had been in charge during World War II, this column would be in German.

And then there are the governors. We’re getting clues that at least some of them are suppressing covid-19 data so that people don’t know how bad it is. Today we learned that the scientist in charge of providing covid-19 data for Florida was fired for refusing to manipulate the data. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on similar shenanigans in Georgia. Georgia’s coronavirus numbers looked good because officials misrepresented the data. See also Georgia’s coronavirus data made reopening look safe. The numbers were a lie.

I’ve written about little else but the pandemic, and Trump’s non-response to it, for the past several weeks. I believe this is truly the biggest failure of leadership in U.S. history.  I’m glad to see at least one pundit who has come around to my view of why Trump has been such a disaster — that he is too bleeping stupid to have any idea what is going on.

Why did Trump keep offering estimates so unrealistically low that they were overtaken by events mere weeks later, exposing him to mockery and providing fodder for attack ads? Lies are typically self-serving. Those statements were not. If he was trying to lowball death estimates so that Americans would reelect him, he needed to pick a number that wouldn’t be exceeded until after Election Day. Whether he intended to lie or attempted to tell the truth, he showed an inability to think just weeks ahead in an emergency that could last months or years.

Similarly, why did Trump declare that the virus would disappear when its spread was imminent? Why did he say we’re close to a vaccine when Americans are unlikely to get one before Election Day? Why did he suggest that injecting a disinfectant into the body might cure COVID-19? I used to worry that Trump’s serial mendacity might harm the nation. Now I worry even more that he isn’t lying, but rather lacks the capacity to see errors in the most obvious falsehoods. He appears to be so impulsive and attuned to the time horizon of an individual tweet, television appearance, or news cycle that he cannot strategize over a longer period.

If I believed in an anthropomorphic God, I’d be arguing that God sent the coronavirus to reveal Trump’s spectacular ineptitude so that he wouldn’t be elected again.

“Is it — does it remind you of something? Reminds you of this. Right? Ones a swab, ones a Q-tip. It’s actually different. It’s very sophisticated actually but it’s a little bit like — so this is the swab and we’ve ordered a lot of them.” Actual Trump quote from April 19 press briefing.

7 thoughts on “Thanks to Trump, We Have No Good Options

  1. The torch has been passed, to an elderly generation.  Demented and disoriented as they be, our common fate is linked to their stunning incompetence.  In spite of their meanderings,  we must do the physically impossible and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. or as we should be used to, make it work with piss poor leadership.  

    Those who have poor gurus will not in general prevail.  I pity those who cannot separate the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the lies.  There fate may be sealed, and lots of luck their best hope.  

    Maha, I have never heard the word anthropomorphism used in conjunction with a deity before.  In animal behaviorism studies it is an error, that of ascribing human characteristics to animals.  I assume it is the same here, which is the common error of creating deities with human characteristics. The tendency of humans to made God in their own image.   Let the gods be god-like, if you need them in your personal metaphysics. That seems like a very fine principle.  


  2. tRUMP:  "This looks like a regular Q-tip, only longer, right?  But you'd be wrong.  It's not.  It's the height of our  new plandermic sciencey stuf. …  Things.  This, this THING, is the new 'Super-Duper QAnon Tip!"  It's long, so it digs right into your brain, checking for the nasty Chinky Flu!  Of course, with MY UUUUUGE brain, they only needed a regular Q-tip.  And these Super-Duper QAnon Tips are available everwhere.  EVERYWHERE!  For the low, low price of $19.99!!!"

    Tonight, Steve Schmidt, my favorite "Never tRUMPer (along with Jennifer Rubin)," in an interview with the great Chris Hayes, called tRUMP what many others and myself have called him:  and imbecile.  (Sorry Swami, he didn't include that he's a piece of shit – but then, that now goes without saying!).

    In any other country, a non-stupid, non-imbecilic one, he probably would be told by his party to take a hike, they'd rather have ANYONE else but him running!  And of he DID decide to run, he'd lose in an absolutely epic landslide!!!

    But this is America.  An epically stupid country. 

    And an epically corrupt one.  One with voter suppression measures that might make Totalitarian regimes jealous  And so, this year's presidential race is a toss-up.  And every time I think of that, I want to "toss-up" my last meal.


    • gulag…I love listening to Steve Schmitd. He does a perfect job of articulating what an abomination Trump is. He does call Trump a big bag of shit except he does it with a more refined vernacular than I prefer to use. I resort to a vernacular more focused in geography and time ( Queens 1968) and culture to capture and describe the essence of Trump's being. Schmidt uses artful expressions like, manifestly unfit, to describe Trump. And although being manifestly unfit could encompass being a big bag of shit. To my mind it just doesn't go deep enough in addressing the fullness of Trump's despicable character.

  3. Trump's brain is shrinking by the moment, probably due to the virus chomping away in there.  Of course, this will only make the virus dumber not smarter.  And when the brain is completely gone, we will be able to hear the marbles rolling around in his head.

  4. If you've read a bit of history you'll have run into the situation of the "good" monarch.  Maybe he or she paid some modest attention to justice and the welfare of the common people, maybe just slackened the reins of oppression for a decade or so.  Things began to tick along towards a somewhat happy future.

    Next of course, something happens, some silly accident, dodgy food or old age send the tolerable leader on to the dirt nap.  The leader's idiot son takes the reins of power and things get frightfully awful very quickly.

    I have often wondered what that sort of upheaval was like, but, I think I'm beginning to get a handle on it.  Some events make history "come alive."


    • goatherd.. The point you bring up is one of the same issues that Thomas Paine pointed out in his pamphlet Common Sense. It was well understood by the people of those days that the succession of monarchs will ultimately produce at some point in the chain a complete inbred imbecile that wasn't fit to rule. I'm not sure whether his observations and comments were specifically targeted to George III or whether it was more broadly mentioned to include the historical realities of Europe and Russia.

       We are experiencing first hand the point that Paine was trying to convey, although through a different process acquiring leadership, but unfortunately that observation seems to be lost on a huge percentage of our population.

       In the inverse world of Donald Trump and his claim of being a stable genius it is correct to deduce that he is an unstable idiot.

  5. If it where not for misinformation, it seems, a significant number of Americans would get no information at all.  It seems the pandemic has spurred the Idiot Americans crowd to all-time lows.  It seems that if you have seen or heard of Plandemic as a must see, (yes it is a conspiracy  theory plan is part of the title) you are in a misinformation loop.  Misinformation channels seem to be working overtime, and the gullible are linked in and spreading the stupid virus at an alarming rate.  This virus has been around for a while and shows no signs of abating.  It may, in the long term, be a bigger danger than the Coronavirus.  A NYT article lists some of the super spreaders, and has some wonderful graphs.  A tease from the article:

    That same day, YouTube and Facebook removed “Plandemic” for violating their misinformation policies. By then, the video was fully in the mainstream.

    I hate to wax Freudian, but at this point some explanation of the moth to the light bulb behavior of Idiot Americans needs a frame-work.  Freud, in his later work, thought that Thanatos needed to be added to Eros as a primary motivator of human behavior.  The death wish does appear to be at work here.  That hoards of social media addicts are hooked in to dysfunctional super spreaders of  purely poisonous material is quite the social problem.   (As a note let me just say Freud and Thanatos are used here as a literary device only… His hydraulic model of psychology has been repeatedly been shown to have many leaks)

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