Will Trump Choose Saving the Economy Over the Protection of American Lives?
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on March 24, 2020
Nationwide coronavirus testing never occurred in the United States. Our front-line emergency room and intensive care unit doctors, respiratory therapists, and nurses never got the adequate supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) they needed. America was 3 months late implementing social distancing, school and business closings, "shelter in place" directives, and other mitigation and suppression protocols that are designed to stop the spread of a deadly virus for which there is no cure nor vaccine.
COVID 19 is killing Americans in "hot zones" and taking down the entire U.S. economy at the same time. The American banking system is on the verge of collapsing, as well. Unemployment claims are skyrocketing and are expected to crest at 30% of the nation's workforce. Hourly workers are being laid off in droves. Small businesses are dying. Major corporations are running out of cash. The airline industry is crashing. America is rapidly approaching an economic depression.
If America continues its belated COVID 19 mitigation and suppression protocols, our economy will likely tank despite Congress' bipartisan effort to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package. Wall Street may collapse shortly thereafter. America is rapidly reaching the point of no return for restarting its shutdown economy.
Despite all of the medical advice about virus containment protocols, President Donald J. Trump seems to have decided that saving the U.S. economy and American banking system is more critical for the nation at this juncture than saving the lives of America's coronavirus patients. He has publicly stated that the cure for COVID 19 cannot be worst than the disease. He is eager and ready to bring the country's businesses and commerce back online by Easter Sunday.
Trump knows that the expected loss of human life from an executive decision to save the economy will be catastrophic. Patient death models based upon medical data collected on the virus from the hardest hit countries were published in a March 16, 2020 report prepared by the Imperial College in London for the World Health Organization. The report forecasts that up to 4 million Americans could die if America does nothing about COVID 19 and tries to ride it out. Included in this number are Americans who tested positive, who are in high risk groups, and who will likely die from other life-threatening medical conditions.
How many people is 4 million Americans? It's more Americans than have died all at once from anything, ever. It's the population of Los Angeles. It's four times the number of Americans who died in the American Civil War -- on both sides. It's two-thirds as many people as died in Adolf Hitler's Holocaust. If America's mitigation and suppression strategies are aggressively implemented like they were in South Korea, the country stands a fighting chance of reducing the COVID 19 death rate in America to 2 million deaths or less.
The COVID Virus is America's Invisible Enemy
The deadly and invisible COVID 19 virus invaded America in January of 2020 and spread across the country in record time. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in every state. It quickly exposed America's shocking lack of preparedness for a nationally declared public health crisis of this nature and magnitude.
Trump realizes that America is in the middle of a new kind of war. He is not inclined to allow the medical professionals at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to run the country via their medical advice and expertise during this COVID 19 war. In the President's eyes, it is far more important to keep the American economy afloat than it is to stop the virus from spreading.
No other president in the modern-era has faced this dilemma and has made the choice to save the economy over COVID patient lives. In all fairness, Trump has made a genuine effort to support governors in states that are "hot zones" for the virus -- California, Washington State, New York, and Louisiana. Twenty-two of the nation's 50 governors have issued "shelter in place" orders. Rightly or wrongly, Trump believes the primary responsibility for saving lives from the coronavirus rests largely with the nation's governors. The President feels that he must focus on the nation's economic health and national security during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Trump knows that the American banking system never fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008. Since the recession, the federal government has: (a) given adversely impacted banks $800 billion in bailout money [Note: Alamerica Bank, my Birmingham-based commercial bank, never needed, sought, or received federal bailout money]; (b) allowed the nation's big banks to secure trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and lend this money to government agencies and major corporations at attractive markets rates for the banks; (c) given all FDIC insured banks and other financial institutions a huge tax cut, which made them appear to be profitable on paper; (d) given big banks like Well Fargo a prosecutorial "pass" on a four-year crime spree that involved two million acts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and bank fraud; and (e) relaxed the liquidity and capital ratio requirements which, standing alone, makes the banks vulnerable during a pandemic.
Whether they know it or not, American taxpayers have been subsidizing the nation's banking industry since the 2008 recession. Despite the Federal Reserve's $3.2 trillion injection of cash into the nation's banking system this month, Trump realizes that the Federal Reserve's tools cannot save the America economy or the banking system. Only the President can prioritize the most important national interests and lead the action on them.
Trump truly believes that saving the economy may be the best of the bad options in this crisis.
History Provides Insight into How and Why Trump is Making His Decision
History provides important insight into how and why President Trump is making his decision. Several factors appear to be guiding his instincts, thought processes, and executive actions in this regard.
First, from 1906 to 1921, African-Americans once had a thriving "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma's Greenwood community. Black Wall Street allowed African-Americans in Oklahoma and around the nation to (a) generate significant wealth, (b) become self-reliant and self-sufficient, to network with each other in financial ventures and to pool their money as a means to achieve economic empowerment, and (c) create an epicenter of commerce and culture that uplifted their overall quality of life (even in the Jim Crow era). Before the dollar left Black Wall Street, it changed hands in black communities in Oklahoma and across America 19 times. Black Wall Street produced a level of economic prosperity for African-Americans in the nation that has not been seen since 1921.
Tragically, Black Wall Street was burned down in May 1921 by an angry mob of 1,500 white Tulsa residents and vigilantes. More than 3,000 blacks were killed. All of the business and financial institutions on Black Wall Street were destroyed. The African-American community nationwide never recovered from the destruction of Black Wall Street. Nearly one hundred years later, only 12 of the 4,000 publicly traded companies on New York's Wall Street are black owned businesses.
President Trump also knows that without a thriving Wall Street, a strong economy, and a sound banking system, America will become a "third world" country overnight. If America's economy collapses, the entire nation will experience a level of financial neglect, disrespect, and second class treatment in the international financial centers that is comparable to what blacks in the U.S. experienced in America's financial markets from 1921 to the early 2000s. No American, regardless of his/her ethnicity, wants to experience this kind of shabby treatment. Trump will never allow this kind of economic calamity to happen on his watch. No U.S. president would.
Second, the U.S. dollar is the world's most frequently used currency in business transactions. Even transactions not involving a U.S. party are often cited in dollars. If the economy collapses, the U.S. dollar would immediately lose its designation as the reserve currency of the world. The British Pound held this designation for decades before America obtained it, but Great Britain lost it due to the country's decimated economy from World War II.
America's designation of the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world, together with its impressive victory in the War, propelled America to the top as a global world power. America's most powerful adversaries -- China and Russia -- would love to see America lose this currency designation. In such an event, they would likely combine to form a new reserve currency of the world.
Third, if America loses the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of the world, the country's $17 trillion deficient would crash the domestic economy. This designation allows America to print money that is not backed by an adequate supply of gold reserves. In reality, much of America's seemingly unlimited check writing ability rests upon credit that is not backed by gold reserves. This is the primary reason why every U.S. dollar now is clearly marked as a "Federal Reserve Note."
Fourth, America also controls the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications or "SWIFT" system, a bank-owned network for processing securities trades and transferring cash and international messages between member banks. Major corporations have limited access to the SWIFT system through their banks.
SWIFT facilitates the international transfer of money between signatory banks around the world. All of the world's major banks participate in the SWIFT system. America's control of the SWIFT system protects the country's national interests and constitutes one of the most powerful tools America has in fighting (a) terrorist groups and nations, (b) international money launderers and black market arms dealers, and (c) international drug cartels. If America's banking system collapses, Russia or China would also control the SWIFT system.
Trump knows that the sacrifice of COVID 19 patient lives will likely be massive. The expected deaths will cut across all age groups, all ethnic groups, all religious groups, all income levels, and political parties. Most of these casualties will be men.
In times of war, there will always be casualties. During the "Spanish" flu in 1918, 675,000 Americans died in a matter of months while America was engaged in World War I.
Hopefully, the worse case scenario of .08% or 4 million deaths will never materialize in America. However, it appears that President Trump is prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent America's economy from collapsing, regardless of the number of COVID 19 war casualties. He seems ready to leave it up to history as to whether this is the right decision for America in its war against the coronavirus.