“There isn’t any clear direction”

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Trump wants to see the economy reopen next month because he believes his reelection depends on it, but there is currently no plan or effort underway that would even make it possible to reopen the economy without triggering another outbreak and an even wider calamity.

One very big reason why there is no plan is because is because there are now at least four sub-groups within the White House coronavirus task force, according to the Washington Post, and these groups cannot agree on even basic needs or plans.

There is the official task force led by Vice President Pence that meets daily and is supposed to oversee the government’s sprawling response to the pandemic that has cratered the economy and, as of Saturday, killed more than 20,000 in the United States alone. There is the “Opening Our Country Council,” an economic task force announced Friday that is focused on reopening portions of the economy as quickly as possible. There is the group that reports directly to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, a cadre dismissively dubbed “the shadow task force” that helps Kushner with his roving list of virus troubleshooting.

And there is also the “doctors group,” a previously unreported offshoot of the original task force that huddles daily to discuss medical and public health issues, created in part to push back against demands that the health experts view as too reckless.

At the top of these groups and the entire federal government is Trump himself, of course, and while these groups are vying for power and direction between each other, they're also subject to Trump's whims and whatever nonsense he spews during his daily press briefings.

Experts who spoke to the Washington Post say that except for within the so-called "doctors groups," there is no scarcely any comprehension of the scale of testing and tracing we're going need if we want to reopen the economy before a vaccine is available.

It's worth pointing out that, to some extent, it doesn't matter if Trump calls for reopening the economy next month because he never closed it to begin with and it's not his decision to make. State governments are the parties responsible for putting the law behind stay-at-home orders, not the federal government. Trump also cannot force states to lift their orders.

With that said, a direction from Trump would probably be followed by Republican-controlled state governments in densely populated states like Florida and Texas and it would also put pressure on other governments and corporations to restart their own operations. A direction from Trump would also be heard directly by his own supporters who may resume gathering in large crowds in defiance of stay-at-home orders. It would not surprise me to see Trump stage a campaign rally next month under this scenario.

Jack Chow, a U.S. ambassador for global HIV/AIDS during the George W. Bush administration and former World Health Organization assistant director-general, said the problem is that the administration has yet to decide what the national recovery should look like.

“The whole response has been lagging the curve of the epidemic, and what ought to be happening is the designation of key strategic goals, key accomplishments that can happen within a specified timeline,” Chow said. “It sounds like they’re groping for that. There isn’t any clear direction as to what the strategic goals are in each different line of effort, and what the prospective timeline could be given the assets they have to deploy.”

It may be a fool's errand to predict the future under Trump, but it's easy for me to see Trump's efforts collapsing while state governments figure out their own plans for reopening. And that could take months without the power of the federal government supporting them.