Parvez Ahmed Ph.D
To mitigate the health and economic impact of COVID-19, besides a national testing and contact tracing program, President Donald Trump had to do three things: mandate masks nationwide, institute a near nationwide extended lockdown and provide stimulus money to cover the economic hole created by the lockdown.
If he did all this in March and April, the country would be returning to a semblance of normality by now, as much of Europe is beginning to do. Instead, we are in the middle of the worst public health crisis since the H1N1 flu pandemic of 1918, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929-33 and the worst civil unrest since the Civil Rights Movement of 1954-68. That all three crises have converged is not coincidental.
The U.S. is 4.2 percent of the world’s population but accounts for nearly 25 percent of all COVID-19 cases and deaths. Over the past two weeks, the U.S. has been averaging nearly nine times the number of cases and deaths than in the European Union.
Although EU’s gross domestic product shrank more, due to widespread and strict lockdowns, it did not suffer higher unemployment because of a well implemented stimulus program. The U.S. spent 13 percent of its GDP on stimulus spending while the EU is spending about 4 percent. The EU got more for its sacrifices because they realized that what is good for the public’s health is also good for their pocketbook.
Following the death of George Floyd, our ongoing quest for racial justice erupted into an unprecedented national movement partly because the public is tired of an inept and divisive administration.
As the initial COVID-19 victims turned out to be disproportionately Black and Brown in mostly Blue states, the Trump administration’s response was unmistakably political. A new report in Vanity Fair suggests that in the early days of the pandemic the Trump administration had crafted a national response plan. But the plan never came to fruition because the White House determined that the virus was going to be limited to primarily Blue states, which would “benefit” Trump as he pinned the failures on Democratic governors.
Only in the last few weeks, as the pandemic spiked in several Republican-led states, has the crisis begun to resonate with Trump, according to a report in The Washington Post. And yet there still is no sign of a nationwide mask mandate or targeted shutdowns. As Trump and his supporters clamor for opening schools, \ there is no desire to learn from the experiences of other countries. Israel, for example, reopened schools on May 17 after reporting 10 new cases on that day. That several weeks later, daily cases are once again in the thousands and several schools were shut down again.
An unprecedented 8 in 10 Americans believe that drove an estimated 15 million to 26 million the country is heading in the wrong direction. The president, despite a grudging nod toward the efficacy of masks, still by-and-large refuses to wear one in public. Through tweets and golf trips, he demonstrates how little he cares about the lives and livelihood of ordinary Americans. This callousness is a factor in the outrage that people to engage in mostly peaceful demonstrations for Black Lives Matter — the largest and the most diverse gathering of Americans ever engaged in direct action. The specter of unnamed and unmarked federal security forces pointing guns and firing tear gas at unarmed protestors should make all of us fearful that our democracy could be slipping out of our hands.
Trump’s recent flirtation with postponing the November election drew a sharp rebuke from Steven Calabresi, a staunch ally and co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society. After describing Trump’s tweet as “fascistic,” he called for a second impeachment inquiry.
Congressman John Lewis in an opinion column published on the day of his funeral poignantly reminded us, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. … I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.”
Solving the unprecedented confluence of three major crises will require many John Lewis’ creating a lot of good trouble.
Since this article was penned down, President Trump and many others, including his wife, who attended an event at the White House for the nomination of the Supreme Court Justice, without wearing masks and hugging each other, were found positive for Covid.
Parvez Ahmed is Director for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Finance at UNF’s Coggin College of Business. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of UNF or the Coggin College of Business.