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‘It is like a third world country’: Nobel economist predicts dire economic conditions in the US from Trump and GOP's botched coronavirus response

Joseph Stiglitz, Screengrab

Robert Reich, former secretary of labor for the Clinton Administration, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman aren’t the only major economists who are highly critical of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Joseph Stiglitz is voicing his displeasure as well, and as the Nobel prize-winning economist sees it, Trump’s response to the crisis has been a failure from both a health/safety standpoint and an economic standpoint.

Stiglitz made some grim predictions for the United States during an interview with The Guardian — including an economic depression and unemployment that could reach 30%. And the U.S., Stiglitz laments, doesn’t have the social safety net needed to address such economic conditions.

“The numbers turning to food banks are just enormous and beyond the capacity of them to supply,” Stiglitz told The Guardian. “It is like a third world country. The public social safety net is not working.”

In the U.S., Stiglitz noted, coronavirus has been especially hard on those who are least able to cope it.

“The safety net is not adequate and is propagating the disease,” Stiglitz warned. “There is very weak unemployment insurance, and people don’t think they can rely on it.”

The Great Recession of the late 2000s and early 2010s was the worst economic downturn in the U.S. since the 1929 crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s. And Stiglitz believes that coronavirus and the GOP’s disastrous response to it will bring on an economic event worse than the Great Recession.

When The Guardian asked Stiglitz if he believes the U.S. is headed for “another Great Depression,” the economist responded, “Yes is the answer in short. If you leave it to Donald Trump and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, we will have a Great Depression. If we had the right policy structure in place, we could avoid it easily.”

But according to Stiglitz, many GOP policies will make the crisis much worse than it has to be — including the defunding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Trump Administration deciding to close a White House office that focused on pandemics. And the Republican push to prematurely ease up on social distancing and stay-at-home orders will only make things worse by causing an increase in coronavirus-related deaths.

“In those circumstances,” Stiglitz told The Guardian, “it won’t be the government enforcing the lockdown — it will be fear. The concern is that people are not going to be spending on anything other than food, and that’s the definition of a Great Depression.”

Stiglitz added, “We were unprepared, but even given the degree of unpreparedness, Trump’s decision to make this about politics rather than about science has meant we have responded far more poorly.”

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