Robert Reich Claims “Trump’s four-step plan to reopen the US economy” will be lethal

In a new Op-Ed for the Guardian, Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley claims President Trump has a four-step plan to reopen the US economy that will be “lethal.”

In the opinion piece, Reich claims the 4 steps are

Step 1 – Remove income support, so people have no choice but to return to work.

Step 2 – Hide the facts.

Step 3 – Pretend it’s about “freedom”.

Step 4 – Shield businesses against lawsuits for spreading the infection.

Reich writes:

Donald Trump is getting nervous. Internal polls show him losing in November unless the economy comes roaring back.

But much of the economy remains closed because of the pandemic. The number of infections and deaths continue to climb.

So what is Trump’s re-election strategy? Reopen the economy anyway, despite the risks.

Step 1
Remove income support, so people have no choice but to return to work.

Trump’s labor department has decided that furloughed employees “must accept” an employer’s offer to return to work and therefore forfeit unemployment benefits, regardless of Covid-19.

Trump’s ally, Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, says employees cannot refuse to return to work for fear of contracting the disease. “That’s a voluntary quit,” making someone ineligible for benefits.

GOP officials in Oklahoma are even threatening to withhold the $600 a week of extra unemployment benefits Congress has provided workers, if an employer wants to hire them. Safety is irrelevant.

“If the employer will contact us … we will cut off their benefits,” says Teresa Thomas Keller of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Forcing people to choose between getting Covid-19 or losing their livelihood is inhumane. It is also nonsensical. Public health still depends on as many workers as possible staying home. That’s a big reason why Congress provided the extra benefits.

Step 2
Hide the facts.

No one knows how many Americans are infected because the Trump administration continues to drag its heels on testing. To date only 6.5m tests have been completed in a population of more than 200 million adults.

Florida, one of the first states to reopen, has stopped releasing medical examiners’ statistics on the number of Covid-19 victims because the figures are higher than the state’s official count.

But it’s impossible to fight the virus without adequate data. Dr Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading infectious disease expert, warns that reopening poses “a really significant risk” without more testing.

Not surprisingly, the White House has blocked Fauci from testifying before the House.

Step 3
Pretend it’s about “freedom”.

Weeks ago, Trump called on citizens to “LIBERATE” states like Michigan, whose Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, imposed strict stay-at-home rules.

Michigan has the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in America, although it is 10th in population. When on Thursday Whitmer extended the rules to 28 May, gun-toting protesters rushed the state house chanting: “Lock her up!”

Rather than condemn their behavior, Trump suggested Whitmer “make a deal” with them.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” he tweeted. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!”

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