When elected officials can’t get the job done, businesses reluctantly step in. That’s happening now, as President Trump continues to downplay the alarming surge in coronavirus cases that is prolonging the recession and spreading economic pain much further than it needs to go.
Walmart announced this week it will require shoppers to wear masks in all of its 5,000 stores. Walmart shouldn’t have to do this. It’s the government’s job to set public health guidelines and enforce them as necessary. It’s obvious by now that Trump is paralyzed by the coronavirus, unable to enact any federal policy that reverses a prior Trump policy or acknowledges any kind of failure. Yet it’s an even bigger failure when private-sector firms have to do the job of government, because government can’t or won’t.
Other big retailers have imposed their own mask requirements in recent days: Target, CVS, Kroger, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Publix. In many areas, there are already state or local rules requiring masks and other protective measures. But the patchwork of rules and lack of national standards creates confusion and encourages defiance among reckless fools willing to tempt the virus. So Big Retail is now showing an inept government how to govern.
We don’t need a national law saying everybody out in public must wear a mask, everywhere. What Trump should do is establish a federal threshold for when masks become required, so that it becomes automatic when infection rates rise above a level indicating a worrisome rate of spread. This wouldn’t subdue every anti-mask freedom fighter, but it would eliminate a lot of nonsense, such as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s effort to prevent Atlanta from requiring masks. No, that’s not a TV parody of government, it’s just Georgia.
Trump seems oblivious to the fact that masks are crucial to his reelection effort. Masks are the best silver bullet we have against the coronavirus, at the moment. Along with other precautions, they help contain the virus, allowing businesses to reopen—as is happening in the northeast, where masks are largely mandatory. Instead, Trump continues to insist that everything reopen, regardless of the risk or the number of bodies piling up at hospitals. This week’s Trump-o-meter reads FAILING, because that’s what Trump’s coronavirus strategy is doing, week after week after week.
Trump’s reelection campaign is tanking, with many polls showing Democrat Joe Biden with a double-digit lead nationally, and low- to mid-single-digit leads in the handful of swing states that will decide the election. A recent forecast by Moody’s Analytics, based on economic data, predicts Biden will win in November with at least 308 electoral votes, 38 more than the 270 needed to win. If voter turnout is high, the forecasting firm thinks Biden could trounce Trump, winning 352 electoral votes.
Trump demoted his campaign manager this week, and put somebody else in charge. But Trump is the problem, not his campaign manager. The coronavirus is surging in areas that did exactly what Trump wanted—fully reopen, and pretend there’s no risk. Now those areas are shutting down again, as consumer confidence declines once more. Trump supports a huge new stimulus program, which he’ll probably get, but that wouldn’t even be needed if there had been a competent effort to control the virus the first time around, starting in February. Or in May, for that matter.
The next fiasco will involve reopening schools in the fall. Trump’s press secretary actually said this week that “science should not stand in the way of this.” Some school districts will probably comply with this Trumpian brainlessness, which means kids will bring the virus home to their parents and grandparents, as the science of transmissibility asserts itself. In other areas, schools will open partially or with strict limits on attendance, earning Trump’s wrath all through the fall. Maybe we should ask Walmart and Target to handle the schools, and do it right.
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.