BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
In case you missed it, there is a pandemic-level event occurring called the coronavirus (CoVID-19). Emanating from China, the disease has spread slowly-but-surely all across the world. As I have been one of the few people accurately reporting this outbreak, I will tell you that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been woefully behind in declaring this thing a pandemic. What’s more, until very recently, both the Trump Administration and its attendant healthcare agencies have been far less proactive than I am comfortable with.
Nevertheless, the Trump Administration has responded to the disease.
Slow-and-Steady Might Not Win the Race
Yet, there may be something to the idea that preventing the spread of the coronavirus was an impossibility (though, according to the “experts” China’s centrally-planned government has been excellent in containing the disease–which is not something I agree with at all). What’s more, medical professionals are not necessarily wrong to cast doubt on the severity of the disease. They say that it has a mortality rate of only two percent.
Of course, what few acknowledge is that most of the data on the disease comes from China. Therefore, what data we have is likely on some level corrupted by the political minders of China’s authoritarian regime (which is in total CYA mode right now).
Fact is, we will never know the extent, origin, and severity of the disease so long as we rely on China to disseminate data on the disease. This is partly because, as reports suggest, the Chinese authorities have been behind-the-curve in terms of preparation for this disease (which is why their response to its outbreak has been so ham-fisted). This is also because anything less than the appearance of total control and competence in the face of the disease will weaken the Chinese Communist Party’s claim to monopolistic power in the country and would directly threaten China’s president-for-life, Xi Jinping.
So, don’t expect much honesty in terms of data on the disease coming from China.
Besides, logically speaking, the disease has broken out of China. Can everyone stop praising the glories of China’s centrally-planned system now?
Still, the Trump Administration has responded–albeit slowly, like much of the rest of the world. You see, when the Chinese admitted to the disease, the president did allow for airports and individual air carriers to begin restricting flights to and from China.
Of course, without an official declaration from the government the states were able to keep their airports open and flights both from mainland China and from Asia overall continued flying into and out of the United States with ease.
Eventually, the president did sign a travel ban.
But, as both myself and Forbes reported earlier this month, Chinese air carriers were still allowed into the country and individual international airports were allowed to determine whether they would admit flights coming in from affected areas or not. What’s more, the ban on Air China flights coming into the United States from China is set to be lifted tomorrow (unless the president extends it, which he should).
Meanwhile, many of Air China’s subsidiaries have still made it into the United States–and this is to say nothing of the wealthy Chinese citizens who have access to private air travel to and from the United States (private air travel is far less restrictive in the United States than the air travel for the rest of the country).
Over the last week, as reports that the disease had spread from Asia to Italy, Iran, and was starting to appear on American shores, the president appeared indignant. He is reported to have claimed that the disease was not a serious threat yet and that it was being overhyped by his political enemies to drive down the economy. And, it certainly has driven down the economy. Trump might not be entirely wrong about the political aspect to this disease outbreak either.
Although, the implication that the disease was engineered or being used by his political enemies only as a way to bludgeon him is a bit extreme. As I said above, we don’t have all of the data that we need to make heads-or-tails of the disease. Further, even the Chinese regime is unsure as to when or whether the disease will abate.
Both Presidents Xi of China and Trump of the United States hope that the disease will abate in the warmer weather that’s coming with spring and summer. Trump has explicitly proclaimed that April is the magic month. For the sake of his credibility, let us hope this is so. As it stands, though, the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services are preparing for disaster (as well they should, that’s what we pay them for!)
Yesterday, also, the president staged an excellent press conference where he addressed the coronavirus head on. He also appointed his main wingman, Vice-President Mike Pence, to head up the coordination efforts to stem the disease in the United States. All of this is great.
Still, the media cannot help itself in dinging Trump. As I have said, the president’s response has been slower than I would have liked. On the flip side, though, Dr. Drew’s recent comments on-air attacking the media for overhyping the disease are not necessarily wrong either: the fatality rate of the disease is not high–yet.
Again, though, that could be the calm before the storm.
We won’t know at least until April.
I prefer in instances like this to take a proactive stance. That is why we spend so lavishly on these organizations meant to curb, contain, and cure epidemics and pandemics, like the CoVID-19 outbreak, after all.
The president is also not wrong to be concerned how the spread of the coronavirus in the United States will impact the contentious 2020 presidential election already underway here.
After all, this pandemic-level event has all of the stuff that could prove fatal to the president’s reelection campaign, particularly if the openly socialist candidate, Bernie Sanders, manages to survive what is promising to be a bruising Democratic National Convention this summer (the moneyed interests behind the Democratic Party loathe Bernie almost as much as they do Trump).
Should the CoVID-19 outbreak in the United States eventuate into anything that is like what’s happening in China, Italy, and the rest of the world, it will have deleterious impacts on his reelection bid. Just look at what’s happening to the economy already.
Trump’s Reelection In Peril
Since the start of this week, the Dow has plunged from its historic highs to extreme lows. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the market dropped so low today that it is set to close “about 10% below their February highs, a decline known as a correction.”
The WSJ continued:
Markets have shown increasing pessimism this week about the potential economic impact as the virus emerges in new locations. Some U.S. companies say the could lose as much as half their annual revenue from China if the coronavirus epidemic extends through the summer. American businesses will generate no earnings growth in 2020 if the virus becomes widespread, Goldman Sachs Group’s equity analysts warned on Thursday.
Or, as Paul O’Connor, the head of multi asset at Janus Henderson Investors told the WSJ, “The globalization of the virus extinguishes confidence in the V-shaped recovery that was the view last week.”
That is all concerning, but it should be more so for a president who has tethered the success of his economic policies to the historic highs that the Dow has reached since he took office in January 2017. The economy is Trump’s strongest case for reelection. If that is viewed by most voters as declining under him–even if it is due to a totally unknown even, like a pandemic–then Trump’s reelection is in danger.
In China, despite the supposed glories of the centrally-planned system there, the medical infrastructure is already at a breaking point. We see similar problems occurring in just about every country that has been exposed to the coronavirus. As time progresses and the disease spreads throughout the United States (which it will), our own medical system may become overburdened.
All of this plays into the extreme Left’s ongoing war on America and its institutions.
Consider this story of a man who has one of many “junk” health insurance plans provided by his employer, who checked himself into an American hospital after returning from a recent trip to China, while exhibiting flu-like symptoms:
Azcue said his experience underscores how the costs of healthcare in the U.S. could interfere with preventing public health crises.
“How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3,270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?” he said.
If you don’t think that this is going to play into the Democratic Party’s hands in November, you’re mistaken–particularly if this disease proliferates throughout the country over the next several months and there are people who either refuse to be seen by doctors (because they can’t afford to be seen by them) or people who end up going broke because they went to the hospital to get checked and got stuck with a huge bill. This, as waiting times to be seen prolong, and hospitals are swamped.
Whoever is the Democratic Party’s nominee will be able to argue in favor of greater government action more generally; they will then be able to ding Trump for what might become a turgid economy, they will be able to hit the president for his poor healthcare policies, all while bashing his subpar response to the coronavirus outbreak. We are already witnessing the making of the media’s narrative against the Trump Administration.
Last night, after the president told the press that his vice-president would be coordinating the White House response to the disease, Buzzfeed and other news outlets ran with the headline that the vice-president once wrote an article in the USA Today back in 2000 claiming there were no provable linkages between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes. This, in turn, created a hashtag on Twitter the following day (#Pencedemic).
Meanwhile, the press attacked the president and his administration for appearing more concerned about containing any media criticism of its response to the coronavirus thus far rather than talking about ways to mitigate the disease.
Of course, the president does have legitimate concerns for not wanting to exacerbate economic worries in a time in which the economy is rebounding. This is not just about his reelection, this is a duty that all American leaders have: to not stoke the fears and concerns of America during a crisis.
So, in this way, we can commend the president for appearing strong and confident that the country can make it out of its current predicament (which, of course, inevitably we will and can).
If analysts, like Mohamed El-Arian, are correct then the conventional stock investor wisdom of buying the dip won’t work on the coronavirus scare:
For a long time I thought the market sentiment was so strong that we could overcome a mounting list of economic uncertainty. But the coronavirus is different. It is big. It’s going to paralyze China. It’s going to cascade throughout the global economy. Importantly, it cannot be countered by central bank policy. We should pay more attention to this. And we should try and resist our inclination to buy the dip.
With China accounting for such a large share of the global supply chain, and with that country basically being taken offline (until the last twenty-four hours when China’s regime forced workers to get back to their factories), the entire world economy will be contracting over the next year.
Failure to figure out a cure will only likely exacerbate the economic woes.
Meanwhile, should the socialist Bernie Sanders become the DNC nominee, he will use the crisis to press forward with his full-throated embrace of socialism. Fear and disaster tend to be the handmaidens historically of socialism in a country.
The president will need more than a plucky attitude and witty tweets (though those will help him) to overcome the “consistent” Bernie Sanders, who will play both on the fear of Americans during this crisis and their need for tangible hope (which he will argue will come in the form of greater centralized planning).
Trump will need to figure out a longer-term, more comprehensive set of policy prescriptions that does not involve socialism to overcome a candidate like Bernie in the context of an ongoing health and/or economic crisis.
President Trump Should Fight Fire with Fire
What’s strange thus far is that, while Trump’s opponents will clearly be taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak for their own political ends in 2020, the president is not doing the same. Having scoured the net, I believe I and Gordon G. Chang are the only analysts who have thus far posited the concept that the president could–and should–use the coronavirus outbreak as a chance to further the more “radical” bits of his 2016 “Make America Great Again” agenda.
For example, the president campaigned on stricter immigration into the United States; he advocated for stiffer trade policies that would force companies to return their supply chain operations either to the United States or to diversify their operations away from an over reliance on China to other, “safer” countries (preferably nearer to the United States either geographically and/or diplomatically).
The president promised in 2016 to revitalize America’s ailing interior by making the country less reliant on international trade. While those were his most popular campaign promises, the president has, at times, had difficulty implementing these controversial bits of his agenda–if only because the initial shocks to the overall economy would wound him politically.
But, if the coronavirus is truly being proliferated as it is by “globalization,” as the above-quoted WSJ article suggested–and if slumping demand globally will not abate any time soon–the time is now for Trump to decisively reorient the United States away from its heavy reliance on international trade and open borders mania.
We have correctly identified the need for wages to rise for most American workers and we have correctly proclaimed that trade, while beneficial, can also be damaging for ordinary Americans–particularly those in the Heartland–but the administration has long needed political context to push its policy reforms through.
If the Democrats plan on using the coronavirus as political weapon against Trump then he should fight back by doubling-down on his longer-term, much more important reform programs for US trade and immigration policies. He should also couple this with his innovative infrastructure program that the Democrats have senselessly fought against for years.
The World Bank reports that roughly 28 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP) is generated from trade (21 percent of US GDP is generated by federal government spending, for example). That’s not insignificant but the US can handle the kind of trade reforms that Trump campaigned on without significant long-term economic loss.
Fundamentally reforming the supply chain and making it more American-centric while tightening America’s hopelessly incompetent immigration policies would be a great, long-term solution to ameliorating the more extreme impacts that globalization has had on the country–notably being exposed to now this Chinese CoVID-19 outbreak. We might have always been due to endure such an outbreak, but it is likely we could have delayed exposure had we not had so much of a heavy reliance on international trade and open borders.
Frankly, the president cannot turn the clock back now on what will become a bludgeon to hit him with: what many perceive to be a weak-kneed response to the coronavirus. Whether fair or not, the president should now pivot and begin arguing for long-term reform. This will reinvigorate his base of support going into a contentious election while preparing the country to better withstand future crises that come from abroad.
Yes, there will be economic downturns from the decision to reduce America’s overall reliance on International trade and easy immigration (I do not favor completely shutting down immigration, particularly for high-skilled workers, fyi). In the long-run, however, the country will be better suited and more survivable from a global catastrophe.
Whingeing about how terrible the Left is for weaponizing a crisis, such as coronavirus, is useless. Instead, the president should work to become the face of stability during what will inevitably become a political and health crisis in the United States (if only from fear) while at the same time offering real solutions to overcoming the problem and preventing another crisis from forming.
The themes he ran on in 2016: immigration, trade, healthcare, and infrastructure reform are the paths to his reelection in 2020. With the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States a real possibility, he must return to these themes with great alacrity before the Democrats come to dominate the debate going forward.