Sun, 29 Mar 2020

Pressure on Trump personally as virus takes its toll

By Jay Jackson, Reno News.Net
25 Mar 2020, 03:44 GMT+10

NEW YORK, New York - There are two industries that stand to lose more from a prolongation of current lockdowns now saturating cities, states and countries across the world - the airline industry and the hotel industry.

Both have been brought to the brink of collapse as the world economy has come to a virtual standstill.

Airlines for the most part have stopped flying. Hotels are still operating, but there are no guests. Borders internationally and even interstate have been closed. More than one fifth of the approximate 8-billion population of the world have been asked to stay at home. There have been nationwide shutdowns of restaurants, pubs, cafes and shopping malls. There is no business. Widespread unemployment, at least to Great Depression levels are in sight.

The pressure on the Trump organization whose main focus is hotels, and to a lesser degree residential and commercial real estate, must be unimaginable. How the U.S. president is coping not only with the biggest challenge to face his country possibly since the Second World War, and at the same time be coping with the biggest ever challenge to his company, must be extraordinarily stressful. While the president has handed control of his empire over to his two sons, it would be difficult for him not to be conscious of the magnitude of the problems they face.

Mr Trump has made difficult decisions in the past over the Covid-19 crisis, shutting down travel from China in January, and earlier this month in Europe. Of course this affected the hotel industry, however it was fortunate that Mr Trump's company does not have any hotels in China or in Europe, other than in Ireland, which was not included in the travel ban. It was fortunate too he did not include the UK which houses two Trump hotels in Scotland. Within days however this decision was reversed.

The bulk of Mr Trump's businesses are in New York, now the epicenter of the virus in the United States. On Saturday Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the closure of all non-essential business in the state, acknowledging massive support from the Federal government through Mr Trump's efforts.

But with the United States, and essentially the world in lockdown, the pressure on his company is growing at an alarming level, as it is for most companies and businesses, large and small across the globe. There has been but muted criticism however as to the extent of measures imposed. Most people, and certainly governments recognize there is an imperative to save as many lives as possible. Most also recognize there is a cost. The world economy has been smashed in the process of protecting lives. Government interventions on regulations and in providing stimulus, directly, and through their central banks will help mitigate the disaster, but if the shutdowns continue the coming depression will be even more severe.

There is one person now suggesting this should not happen. That the measures taken, should be cancelled, as early as the end of this month, which is one week away.

That man is Donald Trump. Mr Trump has begrudgingly been addressing the coronavirus, playing it down and on 28 February even calling it a 'hoax' being promoted by the Democrats. Mr Trump is not just in a position where his company could be on its way to a cliff, he comes up for re-election in November, and until the virus hit was being openly flouted as almost certain to win another term. His major credentials, as he often promoted himself was the perception of a booming U.S. economy and record unemployment. That is now gone, so his presidency as well as his company is now at risk. At even greater risk of course is Mr Trump's country which he has sworn to protect.

"I would like to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," Mr Trump told Fox News on Tuesday.

"We have to go back to work sooner, much sooner, than people thought."

"You can destroy a country this way by closing it down," he said.

"You're gonna lose a number of people to the flu, but you're going to lose more people. By putting a country into a massive recession or depression," said the president. 'You're going to lose people, you're going to have suicides by the thousands, you're going to have all sorts of things happen. You're going to have instability. You can't just come in and say let's close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far."

Mr Trump began his change of narrative a day earlier.

"Our country was not built to be shut down," he warned on Monday. "We are going to be opening up our country for business because our country was meant to be open."

"We are going to get it all going again very soon," he said.

"You look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we're talking about. That doesn't mean we're going to tell everybody no more driving of cars. So we have to do things to get our country open," the president added.

Mr Trump was also confident that when the country did re-open it would take-off. That could well be true, but in what direction?

"You will see our economy skyrocket once this is over. I think it's going to skyrocket. It's a - it's a pent-up demand. It's a built-up demand. And I guess you really have to say, "Who knows?" But I think it's going to be a tremendous day when we win this war - and we will win the war. We want to win the war with as few - if you look at it - just deaths as possible. We want to have as few number of deaths as possible," he said at a press briefing on Sunday.

"But we will be totally victorious. We will then get our economy up to a level that it was and, in my opinion, beyond - because there will be a pent-up demand. There is a pent-up demand. And a lot of - a lot of great things will happen."

"I think it's going to go very rapidly because this wasn't a financial crisis - just the opposite. This was a medical crisis," he said.

The president went so far as to say that if the shutdowns continued more people would die from anxiety and suicide.

"People get tremendous anxiety and depression and you have suicide over things like this, when you have a terrible economy, you have death, definitely be in far greater numbers than we're talking about with regard to the virus," he said.

The president also promised financial support for companies such as his.

"We do have money for - one of the things is we do have money for saving small businesses. We have a lot of money set aside for small businesses. We also have a lot of money set aside for big businesses - you know, the big, powerful companies that were powerful four weeks ago and, today, they're overextended," he said.

One questioner noted the stimulus package currently before the Congress provides for hundreds of billions of dollars to be used to bail out states and localities as well as specific industries, such as cruises and hotels. Mr Trump was asked: "Will you commit publicly that none of that taxpayer money will go towards your own personal properties?"

Mr Trump's reply was:

"Well, you know, every time I do it - like, for instance, I committed publicly that I wouldn't take the $450,000 salary. It's a lot of money. Whether you're rich or not, it's a lot of money. And I did it and nobody cared. Nobody - nobody said, "Thank you." Nobody said, "Thank you very much."

Now, I didn't commit legally. I just said, "I don't want it. I don't want my salary. I work for zero. I don't want my salary." Nobody said, "Oh, thank you very much." But I guarantee you, if I ever took it, you would go out after me - you, in particular, would go out after me like crazy.

So I have no idea what they're talking about with regard to the one element. Everything is changing, just so you understand. It's all changing. But I have no idea. But every time I commit to do something - I've committed to do my - look, I ran and everybody knew I was a rich person. I built a great company and people knew that. But I agreed to do things I didn't have to. I still don't have to.

But my company - I told the kids, who are running it - I'm not running it. But I told them, "Don't deal with foreign companies. Don't deal" I didn't have to do that. I could have just ran and I have - I didn't have to do that at all. And instead of being thanked for, again, not agreeing to do, but just not doing it, I get excoriated all the time.

So I've learned - let's just see what happens because we have to save some of these great companies. They can be great companies, literally, in a matter of weeks. We have to save them."

On Monday Mr Trump posted a tweet in capital letters, an indication of his view that the 'lockdown' should end soon:

"WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!"

While the U.S. president is talking about re-starting the economy in a matter of days, India went into complete lockdown at midnight, and the WHO is warning the U.S. could be the next epicenter of the virus.

"We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential," WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris responded to a question along those lines on Tuesday.

More than 33,400 people have tested positive for Covid-19 across the United States and 400 have died as a result of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Monday.

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