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Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe

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20.04.2020

President Trump’s current pandemic strategy — emphasize current; like the cliché about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few hours — is a baffling knot of contradictions. He is hurling all responsibility to state governments, leaving it to them to devise effective tests and to decide when to relax social distancing.

At the same time, he is starving them of the resources to handle the job. And even as Trump hides behind a policy of deference to governors, he is goading right-wing protesters to force their hand. Trump is “saying things that seem contradictory,” as the New York Times puts it, “like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to ‘liberate’ their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.”

Yet there does appear to be a strategy here. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has “asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for successes while offering enough flexibility to assign fault for any failures to others.” Trump’s seemingly paradoxical stance is an attempt to hoard credit and shirk risk, straddling the demands of his business allies with the pleas of his public health advisers. On the surface, he is deferring responsibility and blame to the governors. Just below the surface, he is coercing them to resume economic activity as fast as possible, regardless of what public-health officials say.

Trump’s plan to coerce the states into reopening has at least three discernible elements. The first is, or was, the formation of a........

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