I know, I know, the usual suspects will say that the calls for economic relief are just more big-government liberalism. But warnings about the dangers of failing to provide more relief aren’t just coming from progressive Democrats; they’re coming from Wall Street analysts and Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Yet negotiations over relief have been stalled for months, even as special aid to the unemployed and small businesses has expired. The main stumbling block, I’d argue, has been the adamant refusal of Senate Republicans to consider aid to state and local governments; Democrats would probably have agreed to a deal that included significant aid, even though it would have helped Trump politically.
But Republicans have insisted — falsely — that this is all about rescuing badly run blue states. And Trump echoed that falsehood as he pulled the plug on Tuesday, claiming that Pelosi’s proposals are nothing but a bailout of “high crime, poorly run, Democrat States.” (Not that facts matter, but Democratic states actually have lower crime rates, on average, than Republican states.)
The question is, why did Trump choose to reject even the possibility of a deal less than a month before Election Day? True, it’s too late for legislation to make much difference to the state of the economy on Nov. 3, although a deal might have averted some corporate layoffs. But it would surely be in Trump’s political interest to at least look as if he’s trying to help Americans in distress. Why would Trump choose this, of all moments, to torpedo economic policy?
As far as I can tell, nobody has offered a plausible political motive, any way in which refusing even to try rescuing the economy helps Trump’s prospects. What this looks like, instead, is vindictiveness.
I don’t know whether Trump expects to lose the election. But he’s already acting like a deeply embittered man, lashing out at people he feels have treated him unfairly, which is basically everyone. And as usual he reserves special rage for smart, tough women; on Thursday he called Kamala Harris a “monster.”
Yet getting a relief deal would have required accepting a compromise with that “nasty” woman Nancy Pelosi. And it seems that he would rather let the economy burn.