Last spring, as COVID-19 engulfed the nation, Donald Trump repeatedly pressed for an end to stay-at-home orders so the economy could get back to business, lethal virus be damned. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he tweeted in various iterations over and over and over again. “The president is right,” economic adviser Larry Kudlow proclaimed on Fox News, explaining why some people would have to just take one for the team and die. “The economic cost to individuals is just too great … The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re gonna have to make some difficult trade-offs.” Fast-forward six months later, and not only have nearly 200,000 Americans died, but the economy is also in the toilet. And while it’s not all Trump’s fault, a lot of it definitely is, given his decision to outright lie about the deadliness of COVID-19, allowing the virus to gain a foothold in the country and squandering the opportunity to take action that could’ve saved thousands of lives and a large chunk of businesses. (In Germany, where Angela Merkel took the virus seriously, the economy began partially reopening in April.) Now, with less than two months to go until the election, Trump is inexplicably still running on the economy, despite actively prolonging the recession out of spite.
As the Washington Post notes, the president’s daily assaults on “Democratic run cities,” and outlandish claims of “rampant crime” and children being “slaughtered by violence on the streets,” threaten to worsen economic decline because metropolitan areas drive the nation’s growth. The greater Washington area, for example, accounts for 4% of the nation’s economy, while 15 metropolitan areas — which the president demonizes to rile up his base — make up more than 40%. And it’s not just Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric about burnt-out hellscapes where no white Republican is safe that’s doing damage — it’s his rejection of aid to state and local governments that could exacerbate and drag out the economic pain for who knows how long.
About 1.3 million state and local government employees have lost their jobs since March, and economists project that number will more than double in the next 18 months without help from Congress and the White House. “Cities are the economic drivers for future growth,” said Nan Whaley (D), mayor of Dayton, Ohio, and vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “If you want to get out of a recession caused by a pandemic, you surely don’t want to have state and local governments laying off people across the country, which is what is happening right now.”
Economic researchers say a major mistake by policymakers in the Great Recession of 2008 was a lack of adequate federal funding for state and local governments. Those governments support critical frontline services, including for schools, public health, and small businesses, and their spending goes straight into the economy. “It really does boggle the mind that we’re going to stiff the economic engine of the country here,” said Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “We saw last time it led to a kind of scarring of the economy.”
While the House, controlled by Democrats, approved a $3 trillion stimulus bill in May, which would have sent around $1 trillion to state and local governments, Republicans in the Senate have refused to approve any bill and have insisted that they won’t approve any bill that provides direct help for state and local governments. (In April human stain Mitch McConnell publicly accused cities of trying to use the pandemic to “[solve] their pension problems,” saying that rather than receive federal assistance, they should be forced to “use the bankruptcy route.”) While Trump’s vilification of cities is clearly an attempt to rally supporters in rural areas, as with everything when it comes to the former real estate developer, it also partly has to do with his deep-seated sense of being rejected by the people whose respect he’s always desperately craved. “Trump just viscerally hates cities,” Richard Florida, a researcher and author of books on urban areas, told the Post. “I think it’s partly psychological. He was raised in New York but never felt respected [by elites] there.”
Unsurprisingly, the president’s oft-repeated claim of Democrats mismanaging their jurisdictions is not true at all, said Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, who described the baseless argument as “a false narrative,” noting that, in fact, local and state governments have to balance their budgets, while the federal government does not. Meanwhile, cities and states are not actually looking for the federal government to bail them out but rather to help make up for lost revenue as a result of the pandemic until the economy can safely pick up. “If you want the recovery to be rapid, you need to keep businesses — and cities and states — afloat until the recovery starts. Otherwise the recovery will be very slow, just as it was in 2008,” D.C.’s chief financial officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, told the Post. And as someone should probably point out to the president, giving the middle finger to “Democratic run cities” isn’t just a dumb idea when it comes to local economies:
Several analysts said Republican opposition to federal aid for metropolitan areas was self-defeating because GOP-led states and counties need help too. The economies of large red states such as Texas and Florida rely heavily on urban areas such as Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Tampa. Also, Republican-led counties bordering urban areas benefit from economic dynamism in the cities, even if the latter are led by Democrats.
“While the impact on the major economic engines is in the foreground, there’s a lot of collateral damage on the red areas,” said Muro, of Brookings. “No one is a winner with this kind of approach.”
Source: Bess Levin, vanityfair.com/news/2020/09/donald-trump-economy-killing-spite