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“The US is handling Covid-19 like a Third World country,” says Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist with a reputation for plain speaking analysis. Exploring globalisation and unemployment, the Columbia University professor predicts that US President Trump’s handling of the pandemic has put America on track for a second Great Depression. Stiglitz says that there are good reasons to believe that developing and emerging economies will be ravaged far more by the pandemic as compared to the advanced economies.

For Trump, who describes himself as a “wartime” leader, the challenge is on two fronts—medical and political. But the mathematics of the struggle are not lining up for Trump or the American people. Health experts say too little testing data exists to re-open commerce and public life. On the political side, unemployment figures have soared by nearly 30,000,000 people in less than a month. As Stiglitz suggests, Trump’s belief that the economy will bring his re-election is, perhaps, shattered.

Americans supporting Trump have been organised by well-financed groups to use street theatre tactics in an effort to sway public opinion. “Freedom Trumps the Virus” was a typical slogan in states where Democrats elected as governors have imposed lockdowns or stay-at-home measures. No one is happy with the situation, except perhaps food delivery folks, but all measures of public opinion indicate that most people want to avoid dying. The virus has killed 45,000 Americans with no solid signs of a flattening of the rate of transmission. The protesters argue that 1 percent of the population shouldn’t hold 99 percent hostage. This doesn’t resonate when that 1 percent is stated as 3,300,000 potential dead people.

Trump encouraged the protests with tweets to liberate certain states. But when Georgia governor Brian Kemp, a Trump friend, announced substantial commercial re-openings, Trump publicly rebuked him, saying it was premature. Did this mean anything to the people who marched for the freedom to be infected? Probably not because there is a steady diet of right-wing media pushing concepts which sow division between people with different opinions.

Trump played the immigration card again, suspending legal immigration for 60 days, clearly designed to impress upon his own voters that the virus is the responsibility of “outsiders” and not his government’s handling of the crisis.

Political journalist Heather Parton wrote, “Trump is still engaging in magical thinking, believing that if he vamps long enough, this crisis will go away. And his aides have obviously devised a strategy for him to blame others when it doesn’t. Since there is no national testing strategy, the president of the United States is essentially washing his hands of the crisis.”

—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels

Lead Picture: UNI

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