Yes, Donald Trump is to blame for this depression

This depression is absolutely Trump’s fault. He made a series of disastrous decisions that led us to this point, and other countries that have had far different experiences illustrate what might have happened if we had a president who wasn’t so utterly incompetent.

The story as Trump would tell it goes like this: Everything was great with the economy until this virus came from China and upended everything, then we shut down commerce, and that’s why we now have 36 million unemployed people. The only point in this story where Trump himself has any agency is when he forbade non-Americans from traveling to and from China (though Americans could still go back and forth, and did), which he portrays as a stroke of unparalleled genius that prevented untold numbers of deaths.

Among the things that story leaves out is the original sin of Trump’s failure: The fact that we lost two months when we could have been preparing for the pandemic that would inevitably arrive in the United States. Though Trump was repeatedly warned by people inside and outside his administration beginning in early January that a pandemic was on its way, he continued to dismiss the threat, praise the Chinese government for its response and insist that there was nothing to worry about.

Though the economic effects were not yet being felt on a wide scale, it was this failure to act that made the national lockdown almost inevitable. Then Trump exacerbated the problem with his chaotic and bumbling efforts to create a coordinated national response. Incredibly, it’s now mid-May and we still don’t have a national testing and tracing strategy to contain the pandemic.

What’s more, when we wound up with little choice but to shut down much of the economy — because of the administration’s incompetence — Trump resisted every effort to use government’s power to mitigate the impact. We’ve gone through round after round of stimulus negotiations in which Democrats plead for more spending on testing, more help for the unemployed, more help for families, more help for small businesses, more assistance to states to keep their budgets from imploding — and Trump and congressional Republicans resist.

The result has been a series of measures that have been inadequate to the challenge, which is why we keep having to come back to do more.

This economic cataclysm didn’t have to happen, and it wouldn’t have if Trump wasn’t so shortsighted, so ignorant, so inept and so unwilling to believe what experts were telling him. He put us in this hole that will now be so terribly hard to claw our way out of. It’s past time we started giving him the blame he deserves.

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