Donald Trump has so mishandled the coronavirus crisis in America that the US president has “blood on his hands” according to Nobel prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz.
Professor Stiglitz, who was called upon to advise Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said the White House incumbent was culpable for cutting the Government budget for pandemic preparedness and failing, in recent weeks, to use his powers to get ventilators to hospitals and vital protective equipment to front-line health care workers.
“He has equivocated over and over again”, Professor Stiglitz told Econ Films’ CoronaNomics show.
“Many people will die as a result. So, in short, there is blood on his hand. And let me emphasise, [it’s] unnecessary, totally. If he had simply looked at what the science said, he would have acted much earlier. It’s that he doesn’t understand the science, hasn’t understood the science from the beginning…That has left us unprotected.”
27,085 people have died in the US as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, a higher death toll than in any other country in the world.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the official leading the US’s own pandemic response, admitted to CNN on Sunday 12 April, that earlier action to shut down activity in the US “could have saved lives”.
Professor Stiglitz also warned that almost a third of the US workforce could end up jobless as a result of the lockdowns imposed across America to suppress the outbreak.
That would take unemployment rates to the heights seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s, an era that has scarred the American psyche for generations.
“We’ve never had anything quite like this where it’s being so sudden,” he said.
“The estimates are that we already are have around 15 per cent unemployment, the highest since the Great Depression. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 20, 30 percent.”
Some 16 million Americans have applied for unemployment insurance in the past three weeks a surge unseen in American history.
During the global financial crisis 12 years ago, when unemployment surged to 10 per cent, the weekly insurance claims were never higher than 700,000.
In the most recent week 6.6 million Americans registered claims, indicating a tidal wave of layoffs.
Sir Vince Cable, the former leader of the Liberal Democrat, also appearing on CoronaNomics, said that something similar could happen in the UK.
“We’re already seeing signs of it,” he said, pointing to “massive job losses” in the informal as well as formal employment sectors.
Around 1.2 million people in the UK have made claims for Universal Credit in the past three weeks, indicating a surge in unemployment.
Sir Vince, who made his name for warning about the fragility of the UK economy prior to the credit crunch of 2007, also cautioned against assuming that the British recovery would be rapid.
“What really matters is not how far the economy falls in the next few weeks, but how quickly it recovers and then what kind of profile,” he said.
“We could well progress from this to a balance sheet recession of the Japanese kind. And we just never get back to normal.”
Professor Stiglitz said the economic support packages devised by European governments, including the UK – paying companies to keep on their workers rather than lay them off – was superior to the US approach of sending every adult a $1,200 cheque.
“For most Americans, they rely on their employer for their health insurance. In this time of Covid-19 that’s a disaster,” he said.
Professor Stiglitz said he favoured sending cheques to individuals but warned that they would not reach those who needed it the most.
“Unfortunately, the way it’s being administered by the Trump administration, those very individuals who are most in need are those who did not file tax returns,” he said.
“The administration now says it’s going to be months before they get their cheques, leaving these individuals, the most vulnerable, without life support.”
Watch the first episode of CoronaNomics here