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As crisis mounts, White House economic plan needs some work

It went largely unnoticed, but Trump quietly touted a new economic plan this week. It's based on reopening the country and simply waiting for prosperity.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with restaurant industry executives about the coronavirus response at the White House on May 18, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

At a White House event a few weeks ago, a reporter reminded Donald Trump that Americans are experiencing economic conditions unseen since the Great Depression and asked, "What is your plan to get the country out of this ditch?" The president initially responded by making some predictions about a future turnaround -- and predictions do not a plan make.

He quickly added, "There's tremendous pent-up demand.... I feel it. I feel it. I think sometimes what I feel is better than what I think, unfortunately or fortunately."

In other words, facing dire economic conditions, the president was asked for a plan. He responded by talking about how impressive his feelings are.

This week, Trump faced a nearly identical question. After a private gathering with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, a reporter asked the president, "36 million Americans out of work. Half of those jobs aren't coming back. Do you have a policy to help them get back to work?"

Trump replied, "We do," at which point he promptly ended the Q&A with reporters and walked away, failing to explain what exactly that policy might entail.

About an hour later, at a White House event, the president once again fielded a few questions, and CBS News' Paula Reid asked, "Mr. President, why haven't you announced a plan to get 36 million unemployed Americans back to work? You're overseeing historic economic despair. What's the delay? Where's the plan?" According to the official White House transcript, this was Trump's reply:

"Oh, I think -- I think we've announced a plan. We're opening up our country. Just a rude person you are. We're opening up our country. We're opening it up very fast. The plan is that each state is opening and it's opening up very effectively."

First, it's hard not to notice the frequency with which Trump has a problem with women journalists who ask questions he doesn't like.

Second, that's "the plan"? With 38 million Americans filing for unemployment since mid-March, the president has "announced a plan" that involves pretending the pandemic threat has dissipated and simply waiting for prosperity to wash over the country?

Given the circumstances, there's real policy work to do. There's no reason to believe Trump is prepared for the task at hand.