Would Biden have done better than Trump, confinement or non-confinement? That is the question
By Louis Toronde . October 28 2020
The covid-19 crisis is entering its 3rd wave in the United States, after a first wave on the East Coast and a second wave in the southern and western states, this new wave concerns the Midwestern states. It is very likely that other countries will see this 3rd wave in the more or less long term, even considering that the management of the pandemic in the United States has facilitated the emergence of successive waves across the country.
It is certain that President Trump has differentiated himself from his counterparts in his approach to Covid-19. At the beginning of the crisis in March 2020, President Trump compared Covid-19 to a simple flu, encouraged his fellow citizens to live normally, without wearing masks, and favored the continuity of economic activity rather than strict containment measures. It was at the level of the governments of each state that decisions on containment were taken, particularly in New York. Meanwhile, other countries decided to confine their populations globally, such as Italy, France, Spain, and Great Britain. But it must be noted that these confinements did not prevent the arrival of a second wave in the fall. Consequently, crisis management seems to have little effect on the successive waves of Covid-19, unless major medical advances are made in the meantime.
In the early stages of the pandemic and until very recently, President Trump preferred a purely combative ("continue to live normally",….) and positive ("Covid-19 will disappear as quickly as the flu",…) speech whose objective was notably to maintain the economic leadership of the United States. This optimistic discourse gave the feeling to a part of the population that it did not take into account the American victims of Covid-19, and this feeling had repercussions in the polls. To this was added the principle of the reality of the pandemic, which did not and certainly would not disappear before or just after the presidential elections. These elements led President Trump to change his speech during the summer.
However, would a different strategy have had a different impact? Nothing is less certain, given the strategies adopted and the evolution of the pandemic in European countries. What could have been the strategy of candidate Biden if the roles had been reversed? In view of his campaign program, it is possible to imagine the measures that could have been decided upon: coordinating a response at the federal level to contain Covid-19, creating positions in the medical field or reimbursing more generously the costs related to Covid-19, for example.
In summary, the measures that could have been taken by the Democratic candidate are very close to the measures taken in many European countries and for all that the evolution of Covid-19 in these countries was not significantly different from that observed in the United States. On the other hand, through targeted and protective measures, a part of the Americans would certainly have felt that their government took better care of them and sought to protect them more, as could be observed in the polls of certain countries, such as New Zealand or Germany for example.
In regard of the data published on Covid-19, the United States can stand comparison with many countries even though it is the most mourning country with more than 220,000 deaths ahead of Brazil, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, in terms of population (per 100,000 inhabitants), the United States ranks as the 9th most bereaved country far behind Peru, Belgium, Brazil, and Spain.
In terms of confirmed cases, the United States leads the way with more than 8 million cases compared to 900,000 for Peru, ranked 10th, but in terms of population, this represents almost 3% of the population for Peru, 2.5% for the United States and 0.6% for India, the 2nd most affected country in the world.
In terms of recovery, the top trio is composed of India, Brazil, and the United States, with France for example ranking 30th and Spain 24th.
These elements shed another light on President Trump's management of the crisis, which can consider as inadequate as a response to a more humane approach and greater intervention by the federal state. But which appears, from a factual point of view, to be at the same level, if not better, than that of countries with more protective and interventionist social policies, since President Trump's decisions did not plunge the country into a worse health crisis than in those countries.
In economic terms, an initial assessment of the first two quarters of 2020 by the OECD shows that the economic guidelines adopted by President Trump have made it possible to limit the contraction of GDP in the United States, which contracted by 1.3% in the first quarter and 9.1% in the second quarter, compared with 3.3% and 11.4% respectively for the European Union, and up to 20% in the second quarter for the United Kingdom.
In terms of perspective, the National Bank of Canada estimates that the contraction of the GDP will be more limited in 2020 in the United States than in other countries but that the recovery in 2021 will also be weaker, 2.8% in the United States against 5.5% in the Euro zone for example. This difference is due in particular to the less protective labor market in the United States and the uncertainties linked to the sectors that will be able to rapidly recreate jobs depending on the evolution of Covid-19 in 2021.
While President Trump's economic assessment continues to appear positive over the period, the pandemic has led him to review his positioning. But his speech remains combative, and part of his message has now been adopted by other governments to improve the morale of their citizens ("Don't let him dominate you. Don't be afraid, you'll beat him").
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated tensions in the United States, as in other countries, such as France with the recent Islamist attacks, but these tensions were pre-existing and it is necessary to provide a substantive response and not just a crisis response. In the case of the United States, American society and the American economy were built on free enterprise and individual success, and the responses to be provided will have to be part of this context in order to reach a consensus. The mistake would be to use the crisis to bring theorized and implemented answers in other contexts of time and society. These include stimulus programs through fiscal spending, as provided for in the Democratic program, with a sharp increase in spending on social protection, even though this spending already constitutes a large part of the current deficit.
Under this scenario, inflation could rise and purchasing power could decline in the absence of measures to raise wage levels. At the same time, however, measures that would impose an increase in the minimum wage would have the effect of putting a lasting brake on job creation and thus on the recovery. This is exactly the situation that some European countries have been experiencing for many years with chronically low GDP growth.
In this sense, President Trump's positioning, and then his repositioning in the face of Covid-19, whose program favors tax cuts to create wealth in order to reduce deficits, corresponds well to the state of mind that has shaped the United States.
Finally, two other aspects of the Democratic candidacy could tip some of the votes in favor of President Trump. These are on the one hand the support of the Islamic Society of North America, an organization born of Muslim brothers, for the Democratic candidate and the relations maintained by the Democratic Party with the Islamist lobbies, while the pressure and dangerousness of radical Islam is increasing throughout the world.
On the other hand, it is about the environmental project of the Democratic candidate who foresees the replacement of the extraction of fossil energies, and thus of the hydraulic fracturing providing millions of jobs, by renewable energies. This project would destroy many jobs before recreating new ones, and it is not certain that this prospect will satisfy Americans whose jobs depend on the conventional oil industry in this period of health and economic crisis.