I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiations until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Coronavirus Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Businesses. – Tweet by President Donald Trump on Tuesday, October 6th
This statement is not as moronic as the president’s suggestion that we inject ourselves with household bleach to ward off the coronavirus, but it is arguably the worst strategic move he could have made just four weeks before Election Day.
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What can he possibly gain by making this extremely ill-advised political maneuver? It would give the Senate move time to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. But most Americans would prefer that this vote be put off until after the election, and then too only if Trump were to win. Otherwise, let Joe Biden would nominate someone else after he took office.
In immediate response to his decision to put off a vote on a stimulus bill until after the election, the president’s favorite economic indicator -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average -- plunged more than 600 points. Who knows: Maybe he thought that postponing the stimulus bill would have raised the Dow 600 points?
What Trump did accomplish by putting off the passage of the stimulus bill was basically forfeit his last best hope of being reelected. After all, his strongest issue has long been his stewardship of our economy.
Even though we have been mired in a deep recession since March, many voters were willing to give the president a pass. While he did inherit a prosperous economy from President Barack Obama, for the next three years under Trump, our economy did continue to prosper.
It wasn’t until the quickly spreading coronavirus that we plunged into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. But Trump was able to avoid most of the blame. And to this day, he still gets good grades from most voters on how well he has managed the economy.
Soon after the $3.4 trillion economic stimulus act was passed in March, economic activity began to pick up, and millions of unemployed Americans went back to work. But by late summer, the recovery had begun to run out of steam.
Clearly, Congress needed to pass another massive economic stimulus bill. After weeks of negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, early this week they were still trying to resolve a basic disagreement.
Enough Was Enough
Pelosi and House Democrats wanted a bill costing $2.4 trillion, but Mnuchin held out for one with a ceiling of no more than $1.6 trillion. On Tuesday, President Trump suddenly decided that enough was enough!
Now let’s consider why this precipitous move put the last nail in the president’s political coffin. Most importantly, tens of millions of Americans were counting on receiving $1,200 stimulus checks, supplementary unemployment insurance benefits, and other monetary assistance. State and local governments that were hoping for hundreds of billions in aid must now lay off hundreds of thousands of employees.
What’s especially ironic is that Trump should have been pushing for a much larger spending bill rather than a much smaller one. Think about it! The bigger the stimulus, the faster the economic recovery. Giving our economy a big shot in the arm weeks before election day would have made the president look like he really knew what he was doing.
Trump will now be perceived as building us up for a tremendous let-down.
Passing a “great” stimulus bill after the election will not get the president any votes. But our “stable genius” evidently wasn’t able to figure this out.
A muti-trillion-dollar Coronavirus stimulus bill was Trump’s last best shot at salvaging his presidency. To paraphrase the remarkable plea made by President John Kennedy in his inaugural address, “Ask not what President Trump was thinking when he jettisoned the October stimulus bill, but rather – was he thinking at all?”