Financial fallout from coronavirus stirs Trump to action. As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., the Trump administration is floating potential payroll tax cuts, subsidies for hourly wage earners, and "relief" for affected industries.
President Donald Trump alluded to these proposals at a White House briefing on Monday. "We are going to be asking tomorrow, we're seeing the Senate. We're going to be meeting with House Republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief," Trump told reporters. He said more information about his "very dramatic" plans would be released at a press conference held today.
"While some members of Congress have publicly floated ideas to spur the US economy and help affected industries, before Monday the President had not yet endorsed any specific action and officials have offered differing views of how sweeping a stimulus plan could be," notes CNN. More:
Some ideas under consideration include steps to defer taxes on the airline, cruise and hospitality industries, all battered by the virus. The White House has also weighed an expansion of paid sick leave—a major focus for some White House officials, who fear the virus could spread further if service workers go to work sick.
Some of Trump's Republican allies have also lobbied him on a payroll tax holiday, though prior to Monday Democrats in Congress and top administration officials downplayed the prospect for such a move.
In public—and, reportedly, in private talks with colleagues, too—Trump has been dismissing the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and urging people not to panic. (The second part is good advice!)
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
But Trump has also been a bit too keen on trying to turn the whole outbreak into a familiar narrative in which he is the true victim. In statements at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in late February and on Twitter, Trump has suggested that not only is everything fine, but that fear about coronavirus is just another red herring being served up by Democrats and the "Fake News" media who are eager to do him in.
In any case, the outbreak's effect on the economy is something that concerns Trump, according to myriad sources.
The relatively healthy U.S. economy during his term has been something Trump loves to take credit for. And supporters outside of his unconditional-love base often cite the economy as the reason to stick with Trump despite some of his more boorish behavior. This means an economic downturn or crash at this point could be very bad for Trump's re-election campaign.
On the other hand, if everything with the economy goes back to normal relatively quickly, it could be very good for Trump 2020—especially if the president can point to "dramatic" actions he green-lit that at least look like they may have helped out.
In related news:
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah talks Sen. Kamala Harris' (D–Calif.) endorsement video for former Vice President Joe Biden. "I don't understand why Kamala Harris shot this hostage-style video to show her support for Joe Biden. It looks weird!" the host said on his show Monday night. "I mean, even the Taliban is looking at this video like, 'We had better lighting and we were in a cave!'"
But Noah's criticism of Harris' endorsement goes beyond the aesthetic. "How is Kamala gonna endorse Joe Biden and not acknowledge that she once called him a friend of racists who opposed integrated public schools?" asked Noah, going on to accuse Harris of "gaslighting" voters in acting as though she had never had problems with Biden.
This sort of totally unexplained flip-flop (on issues from health policy to racism and beyond) is the exact kind of thing that made Harris come across like a politics-first phony when she was running for president.
- The U.S. is starting to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan.
- Two interesting new court cases pit data privacy against the First Amendment.
- The entire country of Italy is on lockdown to try and stop further spread of COVID-19.
- A D.C. reverend at Christ Church Georgetown has tested positive for coronavirus, and Mayor Muriel Bowser is asking anyone who attended church on certain days in late February and early this month to self-quarantine.
- Many members of the media who were at CPAC are being asked by their employers to stay home.
- In South Korea, "no one is leaving their home without a mask, if they are even leaving at all," writes one U.S. expat teaching there. "Seoul looks like a ghost town. … When I arrive at work, my temperature is taken before I may enter, and I'm told to hurry into my classroom. But no kids come to school. We close until further notice."
- Westworld season three premieres on Sunday! Here's a refresher on what went down last season.