Mr. President, Don't Be the Poster Child for CV19 Misery
There are three reasons the president is at high risk of bearing blame for the current economic crisis.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” —Bill of Rights (1791)
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It is incredibly important for the future of Liberty that President Donald Trump be reelected in November. These are extraordinary times. It is for that reason that I hope that the Trump campaign and all Republicans will heed this constructive criticism from far outside the Beltway.
First, let me state where our national effort to mitigate the COVID-19 disease infection and death rate stands.
Unlike ad-driven click-bait mainstream-media “news,” The Patriot Post does not dramatize our analysis. For the purpose of this column, however, let me note some data that all Americans are watching. By the time you read this column, there will be more than 30,000 deaths associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. Those numbers are increasing rapidly and most of these fatalities are associated with advanced age, preexisting conditions, or both.
Clearly the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing CV19 disease is highly contagious for various reasons, and thus a greater threat to those with the high-risk health factors that decrease their CV19 survival rates. That being said, in New York City, the epicenter for CV19 deaths in the U.S., the fatality data indicates that 1.9% of fatalities had “no underlying conditions.” In other words, it may turn out that 98% of CV19 fatalities had known preexisting risk factors.
Notably, some researchers estimate that many individuals with preexisting conditions who died after developing CV19 disease would have died by the end of the year even if they had not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Because we have no data on how many people have recovered from the virus after having few if any symptoms, I should also note that the CV19 mortality rate in the U.S. will be significantly lower than the current 4.1% fatality estimate. Recent studies both here and abroad indicate that our mortality rate could be orders of magnitude lower, given the high percentage of people who already have the CV19 antibodies — those who have recovered. That is why nationwide random sampling for antibodies among those who have recovered from CV19 (many of whom were asymptomatic) will put the fatality rate in perspective.
The CDC and the Trump administration’s CV19 Task Force have issued reasonable guidelines to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. State and local governments officials have taken additional actions they believe necessary for their circumstances.
I believe we are going to find, as I have previously noted, that the CDC guidelines would have generally been adequate for most states and localities, to balance the health risks with the economic impact risks — although those guidelines alone would have resulted in more deaths. (Bottom line, if you or your children are feel sick, stay home. If you have significant risk factors, shelter in place. If you are not sheltering in place, stay away from those who, by necessity, are! Wear a mask in public places.)
The exception to using only the CDC guidelines would be extra measures required in densely populated cities like New York (28,000 people per square mile) and other higher density cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington.
That being said, all the political posturing and media handwringing right now about who should have done what and when is irrelevant. We do not have the benefit of hindsight, which is (occasionally) 20/20. We may look back in six months at hundreds of thousands of American deaths, or the number may be under 80,000 — the number of Americans who died in the 2017-18 flu season. Either way, politicians will claim that their extreme measures saved millions and that, therefore, we all owe them an eternal debt of gratitude. Then they will begin spinning who should have done what and when.
However, the real test of whether the federal, state, and local actions were right-sized for the cure will be a comparison to Third World CV19 deaths, where social isolation was virtually impossible. Those nations are essentially the control groups for analysis. If the percentage of deaths in those nations is dramatically higher than in the U.S., as expected, then the actions we’ve taken may be deemed appropriate.
But all of the above is academic fodder for future analysis. Not to be crass, but those who have died from CV19 in the U.S. will (in most cases) not be voting in November (thought their families will).
On the other hand, President Trump’s CV19 Task Force recommendations, and particularly the more restrictive measures by state and local governments, have resulted more than 22 million Americans out of work thus far — far more jobs lost in the last 20 days than in the first 20 months of the 2008-09 Great Recession. That unemployment number will surge again this week and in those to come, and the ripple effect will detrimentally impact the financial stability of tens of millions of additional Americans.
Many of those displaced Americans, and tens of millions of others who know them and/or fear for their future and that of their families, will be voting in November — and despite Trump’s best efforts, that is an ominous problem for him and his fellow Republicans in the House and Senate.
There are three reasons President Trump and every Republican downstream are at risk of bearing blame for the current economic crisis, which they have, out of necessity, shared in creating. The first two reasons are unforced errors, but fortunately there is time to correct course.
1. Trump is setting himself up to be the face of CV19 misery.
President Trump’s now-omnipresent lording over the nightly Task Force press briefings — endurance exercises that are anything but brief — is a mistake. Trump is commander-in-chief and accordingly, should only spend a few minutes delivering positive and encouraging remarks about — update his administration’s progress against the virus, then progress supporting our economic recovery efforts (something he actually knows something about) and then get off the stage. He should leave all the details and press questions to Vice President Mike Pence and his Task Force members. Instead, as our national economy is on a life support ventilator – having erased Trump’s re-election “greatest economy in history” platform, he is swapping stupid with jackasses – bantering with his Leftmedia agitators, while 26.4 million Americans have lost their jobs.
The result of these increasingly long and disjointed pressers is that Trump is rapidly becoming the poster child, the lightning rod, for the collective epidemic of economic misery that has spread nationwide. Trump’s CV19 Task Force members have done their best to prevent the dramatic 2.2 million U.S. deaths projected by the UK research models (which have now been substantially revised) upon which they heavily relied for their initial mitigation recommendations.
But those recommendations combined with the state and local restrictions that followed have come at enormous economic cost to families nationwide. There are legitimate questions about whether the cure was worse than the disease and concerns that the mandates to protect our people are, instead, destroying our Republic.
President Trump’s briefings have placed him at the epicenter of these questions and concerns, and he risks epitomizing the fear, frustration, and misery of millions.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s reliably conservative editorial board gave voice to similar concerns about the daily pressers: “The briefings began as a good idea to educate the public about the dangers of the virus, how Americans should change their behavior, and what the government is doing to combat it. They showed seriousness of purpose, action to mobilize public and private resources, and a sense of optimism. Mr. Trump benefitted in the polls not because he was the center of attention but because he showed he had put together a team of experts working to overcome a national health crisis. But sometime in the last three weeks Mr. Trump seems to have concluded that the briefings could be a showcase for him.”
The WSJ editors conclude: “If Mr. Trump wants to make his briefings more helpful to the country, here’s our advice. Make them no more than 45 minutes, except on rare occasions. Let Mr. Pence lead them each day, focusing on one issue or problem. Mr. Pence can take the questions, and Mr. Trump can show up twice a week to reinforce the message.”
Trump responded to the WSJ editors: “The Wall Street Journal always ‘forgets’ to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are ‘through the roof’ [and it] is [the] only way for me to escape the Fake News and get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!”
Actually, WSJ is not “fake news,” and Trump’s response makes plain a perception problem and the implosion to come if he does not correct course. The only rating that matters is the one that will post on Election Night in November, and if he keeps up this nightly reality-TV bit and the economy does not recover soon and swiftly, he’ll be out of a job.
As the CV19 death toll mounts, ostensibly the focus of these briefings, the president should have higher priorities than spending two hours “swapping spit with jackasses” in the Leftmedia propaganda machine.
It is critical that Trump extract himself from these briefings if he, and we, will have another shot at Making America Great Again.
2. Where is the “Back to Work Task Force”?
President Trump has appeared to be “asleep at the economic wheel” for not having established a “Back to Work Task Force” four weeks ago. I note “appears” because I have no doubt that Trump and his current CV19 Task Force have been evaluating an exit strategy for weeks.
For the record, let me state again that balancing the CV19 mitigation efforts with the economic and social consequences has been extremely challenging, and formulating and implementing a mitigation plan and an exit strategy is the most difficult and complex policy decision faced by any president in decades. Let me also restate that, to the Trump administration’s great credit, our nation was in a better position to take this enormous economic hit than it would’ve been under the status quo of a President Hillary Clinton. Until a month ago, we had the strongest economy in U.S. history. Trump is also well equipped by his considerable business experience to evaluate an effective path forward.
But appearances matter, and rolling out his economic restoration task force is critical to rebuilding business and consumer confidence.
On 25 March, reinforcing his encouragement and optimism, President Trump stated: “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go. Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy. They don’t want to be locked into a house or an apartment or some space. It’s not for our country, and we are not built that way. … You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down. We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu, but we don’t turn the country off. … [But] our decision will be based on hard facts and data. Rest assured, every decision we make is grounded in the health, safety, and well-being of our American citizens.”
On the necessity to reopen the idled sectors of our economy, Trump said: “We’re all working very hard to make that a reality. Easter [12 April] is a very special day for a lot of reasons. What a great timeline that would be.”
Unfortunately, the president missed an opportunity then (and in all the days since) to announce a “Back to Work Task Force,” which would reassure the nation that restoring our vital economy was the administration’s second-highest priority, especially after having extended the partial economic shutdown for the entire month of April.
After weeks of waiting on Trump to take the lead on getting America back to work, state governors are now beginning to do what they should do.
Last Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) previewed his plan to get Texas back to work, saying, “I will outline both safe and healthy strategies where we can begin the process of going about reopening businesses in Texas.” Other Republican governors are on that same track, and 10 East and West Coast Democrat governors, with Trump’s New York adversary Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading the way, announced they were preparing plans to get their states back to work.
In response, Trump shot federalism in the foot over who will control the nation’s economic reopening.
As I noted in late February, one of the brilliant things Trump exercised in issuing federal CV19 guidance, was to observe the principles of constitutional federalism — Rule of Law — and leave mitigation and recovery efforts to the states. This is the Tenth Amendment constitutional framework, and the best approach both strategically and politically, because it forces governors to take responsibility for their decisions. Were Trump to make this critical decision entirely on his own, he’d be pilloried by both Democrat and Republican governors, and the mainstream media regardless of the outcome.
But the president undermined his federalist approach by responding: “For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the governors’ decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States and the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect. It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.” He then added insult to injury: “When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total. And that’s the way it’s gotta be. … I have the ultimate authority.”
Trump did make this concession: “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly.” But, he then repeated the erroneous assertion that he holds the power to override what governors are doing in their respective states: “We would have the right to close down what they’re doing if we want to do that.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) quickly corrected Trump, saying, “The federal government does not have absolute power.”
The president (kind of) walked back his earlier statements, saying: “The Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly. … I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate.”
All that now said, on Monday Trump promised to finally announce his “Back to Work Task Force” (or whatever it will be called) on Tuesday.
But at Tuesday’s briefing, he did not announce that task force; he just read long lists of corporate and government folks the administration will be consulting in order to chart a path for bringing the economy back on line. Those more than 200 business and political leaders will form “Economic Revival Industry Groups” – which makes sense. (It would have been a good idea to notify some of these CEOs before calling them out by name in a national press briefing.)
However, the announcement of these groups begs the question, who is going to be their grand leader?
Is Trump setting himself up to be the Super CEO and autocratic director of these industry and service sectors, in effect appointing himself the CEO for all of corporate America? If so, he is also setting himself up to bear sole responsibility for whatever happens from here forward with brining the economy back online. If CV19 cases surge requiring economic constriction, he alone will be blamed. If the re-opening succeeds, everyone will take credit and steal Trump’s thunder.
Once again, there needs to be a Back to Work Task Force that will serve as a clearinghouse for all these industry groups, providing a unified voice and continuity for the reopening process – much as the CV19 Task Force serves as a clearinghouse for all the organizations and groups it coordinates. Otherwise members of those industry groups will end up in media interviews espousing their own agendas and objections, and create chaos. (Yes, there are CEOs with bigger egos than President Trump.)
3. The Pelosi/Schumer Demo tag team is the greatest reelection threat to Trump and congressional Republicans.
Combined with his “misery poster child” and “asleep at the economic wheel” vulnerabilities, President Trump faces the certainty that Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer will try to hang him with their politically motivated congressional pandemic inquisition.
Last week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced his partisan so-called “Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic” bill with Senate cosponsors Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). According to Schiff, “It’s clear we’ll need a bipartisan commission to ensure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic.” Translation: “It’s clear we need a partisan commission to ensure we can hang Trump with this pandemic ahead of the 2020 election.”
To be sure, nobody is more prepared to politicize this pandemic than Nancy Pelosi, and as I noted in February, that has been the Democrat plan all along. As I also noted previously, if ever there were a justification for the reinstitution of public stockades, if not public gallows, the Pelosi/Schumer traitorous tag team is just that.
In December 2018, I asked a key question in a column titled “Will Democrats Get the Pre-Election Recession They Want?” We now have our answer to that question compliments of the CV19 shutdown, and Pelosi and Schumer can set about to defeat Trump without his booming economic platform centerpiece.
Some suggest that even if Trump pays a heavy political price for the consequences of the CV19 shutdown, Joe Biden still won’t defeat him in November. Let me say that I’m not sure, given Biden’s notable cognitive decline, that he’ll even survive the Democrat convention. Assuming he is the nominee, if Pelosi and Schumer succeed with their strategy to hang Trump from a CV19 misery rope, the Democrats could run just about anyone and defeat Trump.
For the record, given all the comparisons with the 1918 pandemic, Woodrow Wilson’s Democrats got hammered at the polls in 1920, as the nation was still reeling from the pandemic. Republican Warren Harding won in a landslide victory, taking every state outside the Democrat Party’s southern states (and Tennessee), with a popular-vote margin of 26.2%. Republicans had big pickups in the Senate (+10) and House (+63) to retain control of both, and Republicans picked up seven governorships. That’s what we call a “tidal wave” election, and I hope Trump 2020 is taking note.
I hope President Trump will get out of the press briefings and get his Back to Work Task Force up and running to rebuild business and consumer confidence. Moreover, for the sake of all Americans, I hope that never-before seen “V-shaped” recovery will materialize.
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