Erratic Trump adds chaos to prospects for economic recovery

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28 days before the elections, the virus has returned to the center of the US presidential campaign and, despite his attempts to regain the initiative, this is not good news for Donald Trump, who is moving further away from his Democratic rival in the polls . Locked up in a White House besieged by the covid outbreak, where he is recovering from the disease while doing politics with the coup of a tweet, the president has starred in an erratic lurch that moves away the possibility of an agreement to approve a new stimulus plan that corrects the downward trend of economic recovery.

The duel between the president and the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has become a contrast of two divergent ways of dealing with the health crisis, symbolized in a photograph released by the Democratic campaign: Trump removing his mask, Biden putting it on. The president does not seem to have been able to electorally capitalize on his three days of hospitalization and, at least for now, his display of skepticism towards the health crisis does not seem to be convincing voters. Nor does his erratic behavior help him towards the momentous negotiation of a new bailout for the economy, stuck since July in the Capitol, which has left his team this Wednesday trying to save some of the elements of a plan to which the president had little less than administered the extreme unction on Tuesday.

A Tuesday that, according to the aggregator of The New York Times, It was the worst polling day for Donald Trump this election cycle: Most national polls gave Biden an advantage of at least 10 points, reaching 16 in one published by CNN. The Democrat extended his advantage in numerous decisive states, including Pennsylvania, where a poll gave him an advantage of 10 points (in 2016 Trump won the state with one point more than Hillary Clinton). All the polls agree on a significant deterioration in Trump’s position in the last 10 days. The trend is clear, but the dizzying speed at which news has been happening capable of changing the dynamics of the campaign invites us to be extremely cautious.

The economic outlook is not smiling at the president either. Six months after the first severe impact of the pandemic on the labor market, the promising rebound that began in the summer, greater than that predicted by experts and fueled mainly by injections of public money, is stagnating. September was the third month in a row with a slowdown in job growth. And everything indicates that the aid, except perhaps a few patches, will not arrive before the elections.

The first measures to stimulate the economy were approved in spring with large majorities. But, afterwards, the president has opted for the recipe of lifting the restrictions on activity recommended by scientists to control the pandemic, instead of injecting more public money. There is friction with the Democrats, whom the Republicans also accuse of hindering the processing of the new bailout so as not to provide the president with something that he can sell as a political victory before the elections.

Two months ago, some of the aid included in the colossal stimulus plan of more than two trillion dollars that contributed decisively to boost the economy in the spring expired. The processing of a new bailout is paralyzed in Congress and President Trump announced on Tuesday that he will cancel the negotiations until after the elections, to focus the activity of the Capitol on the confirmation of his candidate for the Supreme Court. Hours earlier, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned that the economy would see “tragic” results without robust public support.

Although Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi were on the verge of resuming negotiations shortly before Trump canceled them in a series of tweets, the likelihood of that an agreement was reached before the elections was already low. But by intervening directly, the president assumes personal responsibility for the failure of the negotiations, a political calculation whose reading is not entirely clear.

Nor is it obvious why the president made the announcement while financial markets were still open. The breakdown of negotiations until after the elections probably implies that there will be no stimulus plan until the next presidential term begins and the next legislature, in January 2021, a perspective that was greeted with falls in the main stock indexes. Falls that have been neutralized this Wednesday morning, after, in another series of tweets on Tuesday night, the president seemed to rectify, by ordering the two Chambers to “immediately approve” two aid programs, to companies small and airlines.

The president continued on Wednesday asking for more fiscal stimuli, without ever being clear about the strategy behind the erratic succession of messages. From the hospital, over the weekend, he urged Congress to reach an agreement; on Tuesday he broke off negotiations, and on Wednesday he gives signs of a correction, at least partial. His Administration is, as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has recognized, trying to reach agreement on some of the president’s favorite elements in the rescue plan, such as checks to citizens and aid to airlines, a piecemeal approach. which Pelosi has rejected from the start.

All this happens with Trump locked in the White House, still convalescing from covid and away from the spotlight. At least as of Wednesday afternoon, the president has not made a public appearance since returning to the White House on Monday.

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