March 19, 2020

‘The Government Is Here to Help’

Trump and Congress makes moves to mitigate the toll taken by COVID-19.

President Donald Trump made a couple of significant moves Wednesday for confronting the coronavirus pandemic. One was signing the second aid package passed by Congress. The other was taking a wartime posture. We’ll start with the latter.

“I view it as … [I’m] a wartime president,” Trump said. “I mean, that’s what we’re fighting.” He then elaborated, “Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation. In World War II, young people in their teenage years volunteered to fight. They wanted to fight so badly because they love our country. Workers refused to go home and slept on factory floors to keep assembly lines running. … The numbers of ships that they built during World War II, to this day … nothing like that has ever been equal. And now it’s our time. We must sacrifice together because we are all in this together and we’ll come through together. It’s the invisible enemy. That’s always the toughest enemy: the invisible enemy. But we’re going to defeat the invisible enemy. I think we’re going to do it even faster than we thought. And it will be a complete victory. It’ll be a total victory.”

One move Trump made along these lines was invoking the Korean War-era Defense Production Act. Fox News summarizes, “The act ensures the private sector can ramp-up manufacturing and distribution of emergency medical supplies and equipment. The move gives the White House the authority to increase production of masks, ventilators and respirators, as well as expand hospital capacity to combat the coronavirus.”

The president has yet to give any indication that he will use the act to mandate anything, but Trump evidently wants it in his back pocket. GM and Tesla have each voluntarily offered their manufacturing capabilities for producing medical supplies if needed.

Back to the aid package, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a vote of 90-8 Wednesday, and Trump signed it yesterday evening. NBC News reports, “The measure provides free coronavirus testing and ensures paid emergency leave for those who are infected or caring for a family member with the illness. The bill also provides additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits.”

Congress will now turn its attention to “the big one” — a $1 trillion-plus spending bonanza that will almost certainly include multiple sizable payments to Americans, probably at a threshold income of around $100,000. It will also include aid for businesses most affected by “social distancing,” cancellations, and shutdowns. The hotel industry seeks $150 billion, and airlines want $50 billion. Another $300 billion may go toward financing loans for small businesses.

In any case, the economic shockwaves are being felt daily by American workers and their families. There’s no end in sight, so we should do what Americans always do: buckle down and fight.

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