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The COVID-19 Crisis Won’t Be Over by Easter, and $2 Trillion Is Not Enough

Trump’s claim that this will end by Easter cannot rationally exist in the same universe as the $2 trillion aid package.

President Trump arrives to deliver the daily briefing on COVID-19 at the White House on March 22, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

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Trump wants the country open by Easter because Jesus is coming, see, and He’ll be pissed if we’re all sitting on our asses at home. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump asked Fox News yesterday. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it’ll be a beautiful time.” Fox News host Bill Hemmer described Trump’s Easter resolution scenario as “a great American resurrection,” because of course he did.

For the record, the number of U.S. coronavirus cases is spiking. Those in and around New York City are taking it on the chin right now, with new cases doubling every 72 hours. More than 53,000 people have been diagnosed nationally, and over 700 are dead. Spain, France, Iran and Italy are getting clobbered, while Germany and its superior testing regimen is standing strong.

As for Great Britain, well, Boris Johnson’s Trumpian disdain for science has reached into the House of Windsor; on Wednesday morning, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Charles, heir to the throne, has tested positive.

It was terrible yesterday, it will be worse today, and it will be worse again tomorrow. If the pattern holds, the Easter Bunny will be delivering eggs with tongs and oven mitts.

Personally, I think Trump is floating the preposterous notion that this will all be resolved by the time the rock rolls back because he’s trying to bait Anthony Fauci into melting down on national television. Trump has grown weary of being corrected by Fauci during those daily COVID-19 briefings/gibberish festivals. He wants to fire Fauci, but he knows he can’t, so maybe if he says enough terrible and dangerous things, Fauci will pull a Billy Madison on Trump in public and fire himself.

It’s hard — ha, it’s flatly impossible — to square Trump’s Easter Egg hunt with the deal that went down in Congress in the wee hours of the morning. After five ugly days of negotiations between the Democratic House, the Republican Senate and the Trump administration, a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at blunting the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been nailed down.

“Help is on the way,” reported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer once the deal was struck. “Big help and quick help. We’re going to take up and pass this package to care for those who are now caring for us, and help carry millions of Americans through these dark economic times.” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, sounded as excited as a dead whale wafting slowly toward the bottom of the ocean. “At last we have a deal,” he droned. “I’m thrilled…” And thud.

The package is set to blow through both chambers at flank speed, and will be signed into law by Trump unless he goes sideways, again. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Trump will “absolutely, absolutely, absolutelysign the bill into law. Probably he will, because the markets will love him for it for a day, but any expectations for rational behavior on the part of the president of the United States went by the boards years ago. We shall, as ever, see.

Few details have emerged about what went down during the House-Senate negotiations, but McConnell was spitting hot nails at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a key procedural vote for an earlier version of the bill failed three days ago. The GOP wanted to bail out big business first and most — the same wealthy folks who took their massive 2017 tax cut and spent it on stock buybacks instead of reinvesting it, and who now need a bailout because of it — but Pelosi and the Democrats ran that bus off the road. Today’s bill is a direct result of their action, and is better because if it.

As it stands and unless the Trump creek rises, the bill that will be signed cuts a $1,200 check for most adults and a $500 check for most children. A $367 billion loan program to help small businesses will be created. The legislation also included $150 billion for stimulus funds at the state and local level, as well as $130 billion to help hospitals deal with the tsunami of COVID-19 cases that threaten to swamp the system. Also included is $250 billion for unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for “distressed” companies. This last, presumably, is some version of the Mnuchin slush fund that blew up the process earlier in the week.

Leave aside for a moment the idea that this is all socialism, that George McGovern and Andrew Yang were right about the usefulness of a universal basic income, that Nancy Pelosi ate Mitch McConnell’s lunch during these negotiations, that even Chuck Schumer emerged from his own slumber and comported himself well, or that $1,200 won’t be nearly enough to sustain people’s essential needs in a crisis that Trump’s own government predicted may last 18 months.

The idea that this will be over by Easter cannot rationally exist in the same universe as the fact of this stimulus package. They may not be done licking the stamps on these checks by the time the bunny brings the chocolate. Trying to merge these concepts is like trying to push two magnets together on their opposite poles. They bounce and wiggle, and refuse to join.

I’m calling it the Bunny Bailout from here on, because it is fantasy to imagine this stimulus will be enough to stem the tide that is now only swamping our ankles but will soon rise, and rise. It’s the Bunny Bailout because Trump is publicly espousing things that simply cannot exist: There will be no Easter ending to this crisis, any more than there will actually be an anthropomorphic rabbit dropping Cadbury products into your basket, though both would certainly be nice.

We will need more stimulus packages, the people will need more checks, and don’t make any plans for Easter beyond your own four walls.

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