The staggering economic pain — perhaps the worst since the 1930s — of the American economy in the time of coronavirus will be graphically underscored in two new rounds of unemployment data that are due on Thursday and Friday.
The figures will show Americans who have and will lose their livelihoods as common victims of the most cruel public health crisis in 100 years, along with the sick and the more than 73,000 people who have so far died.
The prospect of a prolonged economic slump will have important implications in politics.
It is already threatening to dampen memories of the roaring economy that President Donald Trump was banking on to carry him to a second term. It may also provide an opening to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden who helped bring the country back from the last economic crisis in the Obama administration.
Every day brings signs that what first looked like temporary job cuts could turn into permanent layoffs. GE, Airbnb and United Airlines this week for instance announced cuts in thousands of positions as business dries up.
Discouraging news on the wider penetration of the virus raises the possibility of new spikes in infection that could further complicate the path to a full recovery.
The emerging reality that the “rocket” like rebound the President predicted is unlikely may be behind Trump’s increasingly frantic statements on a emergency he has also claimed will soon be over.
“We went through the worst attack we’ve ever had on our country,” he said on Wednesday. For weeks early this year, Trump was in denial and painted the threat from the virus as tiny
“This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center,” Trump said Wednesday.
Trump also called on schools to open and cut off a nurse visiting the Oval Office who observed that personal protective equipment had been “sporadic” in hospitals.
The worsening economic news will introduce a new dimension into the November presidential election clash between the President and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Biden.
Trump is already under heavy pressure over his erratic management of the coronavirus pandemic and his initial assurances that a disease that has now infected more than a million people in this country didn’t pose a threat.
The economy has generally been an area where Trump has enjoyed majority support during his three years in office. The President’s base is as firm as it ever was. But persuadable voters will now have two new questions to answer in the election: Is Trump the best candidate to lead the country out of both a prolonged duel with Covid-19 and to put the economy that has been shattered by the pandemic back together?
A Monmouth University poll this week found that Biden has widened his national lead over the President to nine points. Other polls have also shown the former vice president ahead.
The President insisted on Wednesday that he could not be blamed for the virus-related economic plunge and argued that he was the ideal choice to bring the good times rolling back.
“I built the greatest economy — with a lot of great people — that we’ve ever had, and I’m going to rebuild it again,” Trump vowed.
“We’re going to have a great economy very soon. Much sooner than people think. Much sooner.”