Washington, D.C. — Ahead of Friday’s Labor Department release, which could show the highest unemployment rate ever in the United States, a new analysis from the Center for American Progress looks at five ways that the Trump administration has exacerbated the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The analysis looks at the actions of peer nations and finds that a rapid and coordinated public health response from the Trump administration could have contained the pandemic more effectively in the United States and reduced the mounting economic losses. Instead, the United States is now home to the highest COVID-19-related death toll of any country and is experiencing what will likely be the sharpest economic contraction in American history. Notably, the analysis presents evidence that 11 million fewer Americans would be unemployed had the Trump administration responded to the coronavirus outbreak in a manner similar to international peers.
The column identifies five areas in which the Trump administration has worsened the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout:
- An inadequate public health response: Throughout the pandemic, but especially in the early months, the Trump administration did not stockpile personal protective equipment or increase testing capabilities, which led to a massive decrease in consumer activity and the subsequent recession. Countries that quickly ramped up testing and provided protective gear, such as South Korea, were able to avoid the consumer spending cliff.
- A failure to help workers: Other countries—including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France—enacted economic relief programs that kept workers connected to their jobs. The American equivalent, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), experienced a botched rollout in which workers at small and minority-owned businesses were left out. To make matters worse, the Trump administration is trying to prevent unemployment insurance benefits from being extended past June 30.
- Three years of slashing critical safety nets: The Trump administration’s efforts to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, health care programs such as the Affordable Care Act and Medicare, and safety guidelines for workers have made both the economic and health crises worse.
- A failure to prevent layoffs of state and local workers: President Donald Trump’s lack of federal leadership created a situation in which cash-strapped states and municipalities were forced to bid against each other for necessary medical supplies. Trump is also notably hostile to the idea of giving states and municipalities more aid to support the workers on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
- A failure to help small businesses: Early action in Germany and South Korea allowed them to keep many businesses open. However, more than 100,000 small businesses have closed permanently in the United States. Due to poor implementation by the Trump administration, PPP funding was siphoned off by large corporations, while minority-owned, woman-owned, and rural businesses were left behind.
“Over the past several months, more than 100,000 Americans have died, and the United States is experiencing what likely will be the swiftest economic contraction in American history,” said Ryan Zamarripa, associate director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Neither of these outcomes were inevitable. The experience of other countries shows that strong federal leadership during the early stages of the pandemic saved lives and dramatically softened the economic fallout. The Trump administration’s inaction has undoubtedly led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and millions of unnecessary job losses.”
Read the column: “5 Ways the Trump Administration’s Policy Failures Compounded the Coronavirus-Induced Economic Crisis” by Ryan Zamarripa
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