On Tuesday, President Trump appeared to openly consider various things he could blackmail state governments into giving him in exchange for desperately needed budget relief for states hit hard by the ravages of coronavirus.
The pandemic is projected to blow a half-trillion-dollar hole in the budgets of America’s 50 states. If the states are not bailed out, the shortfall is likely to trigger crushing austerity, massive job losses, and an abrupt end to critical public services that could push our economy into years of recession or even a great depression to rival the 1929 crash.
But, as heartless sociopaths are wont to do, Trump and his cronies see this as an opportunity for some good old shock doctrine — exploiting a crisis in order to force through a right-wing political agenda. That much was made obvious when the president rolled out a Republican wish list of unrelated concessions that he’s considering demanding in order to stave off mass layoffs and abrupt shuttering of public services that would surely follow state budget crises:
Well run States should not be bailing out poorly run States, using CoronaVirus as the excuse! The elimination of Sanctuary Cities, Payroll Taxes, and perhaps Capital Gains Taxes, must be put on the table. Also lawsuit indemnification & business deductions for restaurants & ent.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2020
The two big ones here are the Republican Party’s bread and butter: tax cuts and racism. Eliminating sanctuary cities would expose millions of undocumented workers to arrest, incarceration and deportation while eliminating the capital gains tax would funnel even more money into the pockets of the ultrawealthy — and explode the deficit even further.
Trump’s assertion that only blue states are “poorly run” and facing budget problems is ridiculous; the fact of the matter is that all kinds of states are facing severe budget shortfalls. While blue states like New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island face huge shortfalls due to lack of tax revenue and spending on healthcare supplies, red states like Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, and Louisiana are facing huge budget shortfalls due to the collapse of the fossil fuel industry and the bottom-barrel price of oil.
Coronavirus threatens $500bn hole in US state budgets – typically excellent piece by @bhgreeley on the huge financial stress on the budgets of US states. On the ground this matters at least as much as anything decided in DC. https://t.co/eQV0xrdmud pic.twitter.com/DQgstOyjMS
— Adam Tooze (@adam_tooze) April 22, 2020
It is beyond appalling for Trump and his cronies to try to use this crisis as an excuse to cut their taxes or implement white supremacist policies, but it’s par for the course for an administration that has shown nothing but malicious neglect and astonishing incompetence at every turn.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.