Surprise, surprise. Less than 48 hours after dramatically decreeing that he was striking down stimulus bill negotiations until after he “won” the election, President Trump backtracked this morning. The next stimulus package — which will almost certainly contain a $1,200 direct payment to most Americans — is now back on.
During a call on the Fox Business program Mornings with Maria, Trump said, “I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they’re starting to work out. We’re starting to have some very productive talks.” It’s an about-face from his Tuesday afternoon tweets, in which he said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith.” In another tweet that day, he wrote, “Crazy Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left Democrats were just playing ‘games’ with the desperately needed Workers Stimulus Payments.”
But apparently, the so-called Radical Left Democrats have stopped playing. Perhaps worried by the 300-plus drop in the Dow Jones immediately following his tweets on Tuesday, Trump sounded more conciliatory toward Democratic negotiators today, saying of Pelosi, “She wants it to happen too. She doesn’t want it not to happen.”
Then, acknowledging how important the stimulus is for Americans struggling with the COVID-19 economic recession, the president quickly pivoted to deflecting any personal blame onto the great red specter of China. “It wasn’t our workers’ fault, it wasn’t our airlines’ fault that China did this terrible thing to us and I will not be forgetting that. China did this, this was all done by China. And we shouldn’t be hurting our workers because China put the curse on.”
His racist blaming of China as the reason why American workers are hurting flies in the face of the fact that the GOP has dragged their feet on swift, generous aid in a time when over 25 million Americans remain unemployed. In mid-May, when the House passed the Heroes Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was still maintaining that there was no need for another stimulus. While House Democrats have called to reinstate the $600/week unemployment boost that expired at the end of July, Senate Republicans have balked at the idea, insisting that an unemployment benefit that pays laid-off workers as if they were making $15/hour for a 40-hour workweek would make them lazy and give them no incentive to work again. The White House has created a temporary stopgap through an executive order, but it provides just $300/week.
Furthermore, it’s the Trump administration that scrapped a federal COVID-19 testing plan that could have controlled the spread in its earlier days, because they decided it would be politically advantageous to blame the governors of blue states, where the virus was hitting hardest initially. The lack of a sensible, science-backed, coordinated federal response to the virus has led not only to 211,750 Americans’ deaths at time of writing, but mass business closures and industry disruptions leaving millions wondering how they’ll pay their rent. While the total number of unemployed Americans has been declining recently, economists note that it’s partly because many people are giving up looking for jobs, at which point they’re no longer counted in unemployment numbers. Furthermore, the rate of jobs added to the economy has slowed recently, which is a sign that the economic recovery could take years.
The will-they-won’t-they stimulus talks that have been dragging on since July is enough to give anyone whiplash. American livelihoods are being tossed back and forth like a hot potato, depending on the whims of the president and lawmakers on a given day. On Fox Business this morning, Trump claimed that the next stimulus bill would provide aid for airlines, another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, and “other things.” While a standalone bill for airline aid has been floated recently, in a press conference this morning Pelosi said that she would not support a standalone airline bill unless Republicans promised a larger stimulus bill as well. Recently, the White House offered a stimulus relief proposal giving $1.6 trillion in aid, while Democrats want at least $2.2 trillion.