March 17, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trump Asks the Democrats for Help

Now he wants to act like we're a nation.

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The president wants the US Congress to enact a massive economic stimulus package worth upwards of $850 billion. Don’t get me wrong. The United States government should step in during economic crises. But that brings me to ask: Is now that time?

For one thing, Donald Trump said during a primetime address last week that the coronavirus outbreak was a public health crisis, “not a financial crisis.” He said: “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation.”

Do we need a bailout? If so, is now the time?

For another, government intervention would seem necessary after banks stop lending, firms start shuttering (or filing for bankruptcy), and workers begin losing jobs. The time for action would be after economic indicators tell us to. Yes, Wall Street is in a dark mood, but Wall Street isn’t the real economy. That global equity markets are in a frenzy is insufficient reason to deepen an already historic $22 trillion national debt.

Trump’s stimulus package is similar to the one enacted in the last weeks of George W. Bush’s presidency. The housing and credit crisis was just starting. Even then, however, it was clear the Congress had to act and fast or, as Bush said then, “this sucker could go down.” It didn’t go down, no thanks to the House Republicans. Not one of them voted in support of the bill. The House Democrats were forced to rescue Bush.

This is important to note, because the same House Republicans would later blame Barack Obama for the bank bailout the House Democrats voted for at the request of a Republican president. They did this by blurring the difference between the Troubled Asset Relief Program (its official name) and the $787 billion economic stimulus package that the new president signed into law soon after taking office in 2009.

Instead of uniting to face an emergency together as a nation, the House Republicans, led by John Boehner (who became House speaker after 2010), told Obama he was on his own—whatever happened was his fault. They could have helped put out the fire. Instead, they defamed Obama and the firefighters. This was entirely in keeping with the Republicans’ No. 1 “policy goal” then: ensuring that he was a one-term president.

To that end, the congressional Republicans would not even debate Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act of 2011, which might have ended sooner the suffering wrought by the Great Recession. The Republicans were not going to help Obama win reelection. Sure, Republican voters would suffer, but that was a small price to pay. And anyway, they said they wanted to help, but couldn’t, alas. “We’re broke,” Boehner shrugged.

We weren’t broke. Economists said so. They also said a recession is the best time for governments to cut taxes across the board, but especially for workaday Americans, and borrow money to juice the economy. (This is called Keynesian economics.) After the economy recovers, and after a period of sustained growth, time to raise taxes, especially on the most affluent, to pay down debts incurred during a contraction.

The Republicans have done everything backward—for political reasons.

They allowed massive suffering in an attempt to bring down Obama. By the time Trump was elected, the economy was going gangbusters despite Republican efforts to sabotage it. By 2017, there was was no need for tax cuts. Indeed, it was time for tax increases. No can do, said Trump and his party. They pushed for and got the cuts, thus enriching by orders of magnitude the obscenely rich, stealing local tax dollars from blue states in the process, and sending the national debt to the highest it’s ever been.

Now Trump wants his own stimulus—again for political reasons.

For one thing, there are no economic indicators telling us to act right now. For another, his proposal includes some $50 billion to bail out airlines suffering from lack of global demand during a pandemic. Moreover, a huge chunk of it is in the form of payroll tax cuts. That might be fine otherwise but if job loss is the bar for government intervention, payroll tax cuts won’t prevent it, and they’ll be meaningless after it.

Unlike the GOP, the Democrats would unite to face an emergency together as a nation—even if a president they impeached got the credit.

Trump’s gambit seems to be pushing lots of cash into the economy, propping up demand and making Wall Street happy again. Don’t expect the Republicans to balk, though. If they weren’t concerned about debt when they enriched the obscenely rich, they aren’t going to be concerned this time. Debt, after all, is a Democratic problem.

It’s hard to see Trump doing anything in good faith. This new proposal is no exception. If he really wanted to prevent a recession—if he really wanted to aid and comfort workaday Americans rather than special interests close to the Republican Party and his business interests—he would take a look at what Chuck Schumer is doing.

The Senate minority leader is drafting his own $750 billion stimulus package to boost unemployment insurance, provide money for schools and public transportation, expand Medicaid funding, expand more investments in health care, provide loan assistance, and halt evictions and foreclosures, according to reporting by the Post.

To be sure, that’s not enough. The Democrats in both chambers should be demanding what Joe Biden is demanding: The passage of permanent paid sick leave. But at least Schumer’s proposal pushes money downward, where it does the most economic good.

And unlike the Republicans of 2010s, these Democrats really would unite to face an emergency together as a nation—even if a president they impeached got the credit. This isn’t because they don’t play politics. This is because their politics is better.

John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.

7 Comments

  1. Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

    So… I agree that if the shoe was on the other foot, the Republican party would not step in to help the situation. However, I also wonder if we aren’t already at the point where Trump and the GOP are toast regardless. Has enough already happened that they have no chance in November?

    It’s a very fine line between the Republicans getting blamed and accidentally destroying the economy by holding out on another bailout. I don’t know, I’m not an expert. But what I’m getting at is, if this situation is already bad enough to finish off Trump and the Republican Senate, then there’s zero point in letting it get any worse.

    Further, I imagine, if it gets bad enough, that will start to reduce the chances there even is an election. I’m worried about a collapse where the election gets “postponed.” The current postponements of primaries WILL help the GOP if it gives Russian asset Bernie an excuse to stay in the race until July or August.

    The Dems and Biden need to walk a very, very fine line here, and I think there’s a little more nuance, and several important factors you’re not considering in this piece… They need to get rid of Bernie and get rid of Trump while maintaining a country and functioning system to elect them.

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

      There’s a lot of nuance, certainly. Fodder for tomorrow!

      • Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

        Do you think everything that has happened so far with Coronavirus is enough to take down Trump? Keep in mind that this is only going to get worse for a while.

        Trump is extremely vulnerable on this because he got rid of the White House office that was there to counter pandemics and his budgets have slashed public health funding. The Dems can just HAMMER him on that over and over.

        I deeply understand that Trump HAS TO GO, and I think the severity of the current situation is largely his fault, but how far do we, as a country, have to fall until we’ve fallen too far and Trump becomes the least of our problems? I’m sure it’s a pretty fine line.

        • Chris Naden on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

          “how far do we, as a country, have to fall until we’ve fallen too far”

          Dude, that happened in 1875 when white America decided Reconstruction was too much like hard work, and let the Confederacy make a Hydra-style comeback as the Lost Cause.

          A country which only got to the point of admitting that black folks were real people inside of my lifetime (I’m 43) /has already/ fallen too far.

    • Martin on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

      Unfortunately, we need more suffering to have them really toasted. Too many now believe a conspiracy theory of Democrats unleashing the coronavirus panic to bring down the economy and Trump. And there fore they will support him. They need more pain and suffering (and the rest of us with them) to finally realize that he is a con man and entire GOP evil.

      • realsaramerica on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

        My husband was just reading me some comments on our local Nextdoor – fortunately most of the people were rational and science based, but there was someone pushing the theory that it Coronavirus has spread in China and Italy because of 5g networks. Her “evidence”? A video her friend made. Lord, give me strength to bear the stupidity.

    • Chris Naden on July 30, 2021 at 8:07 am

      Yes, it is completely correct that you are not an expert.

      We can tell this in several ways, including that you seem to think Sanders is a ‘Russian Asset’ – coming to that conclusion involves a) conflating democratic socialism with communism AND b) somehow believing that Putin’s Russia is either of those things.

      There’s a reason Putin put his spies to work to help elect Trump, and why his people were cosying up to the religious right and the NRA – Russia is a far-right authoritarian state, exactly like the kind of thing the GOP want America to be.

      Sanders isn’t even close to being a fan of Putin’s Russia. Nor is he even close to being a communist – in 34 out of 36 OECD nations, Sanders would be a moderate centre-right politician, his policies are that far from real democratic socialism.

      America does not have a left at all – it has moderate centre-right social democrats (Bernie, etc.) through moderate centre-right conservatives (Biden etc.) and then a big gap, and then the far right (‘moderate’ Republicans’), the lunatic right (‘mainstream’ Republicans) and the literal, walking through Charlottesville waving swastikas, shooting up black churches and Pittsburgh synagogues, MAGA-hat wearing ethnofascists (about 80% of the GOP voting base).

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