Americans need relief — and Trump is standing in the way

Americans need relief — and Trump is standing in the way
White House

by Karen Dolan

Is Donald Trump's medication making him delirious?

How else could we explain his abrupt decision to stop the Democrats from helping him lift the economy and distribute millions of dollars to desperate voters and small businesses just before election day?

When Trump called off negotiations on a new COVID-19 relief package, the Dow dropped sharply—and so did the hopes of millions of out-of-work Americans and families.

His stated reason was that he wants the Senate to focus on ramming through his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. But three-quarters of Americans, and a strong majority of small business owners, want the Senate to focus on relief before moving onto the court.

When Trump called off negotiations on a new COVID-19 relief package, the Dow dropped sharply—and so did the hopes of millions of out-of-work Americans and families. That very day, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had warned of a "weak recovery," "unnecessary hardship," and an altogether "tragic" scenario if Congress fails to pass relief measures.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has already passed two relief bills aimed at continuing the now-expired assistance provided by the March CARES Act. The Republican-led Senate has declined to take up either version of the new legislation, slowing what was already a "K-shaped" recovery favoring only the already wealthy.

Before Trump's announcement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had been in close negotiations about some sort of deal.

The stakes are high.

A weak jobs report at the end of September highlights a stalled recovery, with nearly 11 million workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 still unemployed. Nearly half of all Americans report COVID-related financial hardship, and one in three children now live in households without enough food or sufficient means to pay the rent.

Racial and gender wealth gaps, already huge in this country, have widened to an almost unbreachable chasm as the virus disproportionately affects the health and jobs of Black and brown people, along with mothers and transgender people.

Workers in several sectors face a full-blown crisis. According to White House economics reporter Jeff Stein, 40 percent of all restaurants face closure in the next six months. Some 50,000 airline workers face layoffs. And the Economic Policy Institute's Heidi Shierholz told me that more than 20 million jobless workers face an income reduction of more than 60 percent on average.

With a relief package, there will also be no aid for cash-strapped state and local governments to retain teachers and first responders, government workers, and state health care and education programs. There will be no more money for coronavirus testing and tracking. There will be no more money for Medicaid, even as at least 12 million people have lost their employer-based health coverage along with their jobs.

After the stock market took a dive following his irresponsible order, Trump erratically tweeted that he'd support a standalone airline bailout, or another round of stimulus checks for voters (no doubt with his name on them). These conflicting messages are mucking up the process to say the least.

Standing in the way of relief for the 140 million poor and low-income people in this country in the middle of a pandemic is as callous as telling them not to be afraid of the coronavirus. The president, always one to put his own aggrandizement over the health and security of people at home and abroad, appears to have taken this disregard for human life to even greater heights.

Trump declares his physical health is improving. Without a doubt, he's benefited from lifesaving, taxpayer-funded measures. He has no business standing in the way of Americans getting the same.

Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty project there. She is author of "The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty." Follow her on Twitter: @karendolan


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