'It's the economy, stupid' all over again

The April jobs report shows the US has the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. CNN Business' Christine Romans breaks down what the numbers mean historically.

Posted: May 9, 2020 12:01 PM
Updated: May 9, 2020 12:01 PM

After the majority of the country spent weeks in lockdown to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Labor Department announced Friday that the US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, with unemployment rates soaring to 14.7%. We now face an economic fallout that could rival the Great Depression ― a historic downturn that lasted a decade and destroyed the economic security of our country. This time, some are calling it the Trump Depression.

The situation today is even worse for African American and Latino communities, where the unemployment numbers have reached 16.7% and 18.9%, respectively. While the President suggested the employment figures were only temporary, saying, "Those jobs will all be back, and they'll be back very soon," many economists disagreed.

"The damage that we're seeing from the great coronavirus recession is traumatic. It's going to take a long time before the labor market recovers to its prerecession state," said Gregory Daco, a US economist at Oxford Economics.

Jobs will now be a defining issue in the 2020 election. President Trump, who has spent much of his tenure boasting about low unemployment rates and job growth, has lost a basic foundation of his political rhetoric. No matter what chaos was brewing in the first three years of his presidency, Trump could always rely on taking credit for the strong economy.

No more. The state of the union, as President Gerald Ford famously said in 1975, "is not good." If the situation continues to worsen in the months ahead, voters will decide President Trump's fate, taking into consideration their own bleak prospects for their futures. With tens of millions of Americans out of jobs, the electorate won't be happy.

In some ways, the situation could echo the 1992 election, when President George H.W. Bush saw the political bottom of his reelection effort fall out, due in large part to a recession that left many Americans out of work and in debt. In the months before the election, Bush enjoyed booming approval ratings in the wake of Operation Desert Storm, which saw US forces successfully ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

But Bush went on to lose the election to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who focused on the recession and used it to paint an administration that was out of touch with the electorate. Clinton's strategist James Carville famously reminded his team in the campaign war room, "It's the economy, stupid!" whenever anyone veered off track.

But Democrats would do well to think about the many ways Trump still holds an advantage. His base of support, for one, remains much more solid than anything Bush enjoyed.

We are, of course, in the middle of a global pandemic. President Trump, using his conservative media propaganda machine, will point to the economic situation and try to shift the blame, arguing that China, or the World Health Organization, failed to sound the alarm in time. It's possible that he will try to cast social distancing and other public health requirements (which his own White House task force recommended) as a "Democratic hoax" foisted on the nation to devastating effect. So far, polls show that the majority of people are concerned that states are reopening too quickly.

Joe Biden will have to offer voters a better sense of how he will lead an economic recovery should he become president. The Democratic Party needs to lay out a clear agenda as to how it would move the country from its current state back into a period of growth.

Biden's campaign should take Carville's words to heart and make it clear to voters that the administration's laggard response to Covid-19 helped lead to the dire situation we find ourselves in today.

Democrats need to make the point that public health initiatives and economic recovery go hand in hand. If we rush to reopen businesses without contact tracers, aggressive testing programs and sufficient hospital supplies, we will face a second wave of outbreaks that will ultimately deal an even more devasting blow to the economy.

America is in the middle of an economic freefall and the President has not offered a realistic way forward beyond the stimulus bills passed by Congress. The buck stops with him. This presents a massive weakness for the GOP going into the election, with both the Senate majority and the White House at stake.

The question is whether Democrats can respond to the situation in an effective manner. Joe Biden and congressional Democrats will need to do more to explain what their New Deal would look like and how they would offer a better economic program that could make the country great again.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 483790

Reported Deaths: 6543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1003791583
Ramsey42945800
Dakota36091387
Anoka33200384
Washington21986254
Stearns18703200
St. Louis14746262
Scott13209107
Wright12489115
Olmsted1176188
Sherburne869772
Carver765240
Clay688887
Rice667191
Blue Earth591035
Kandiyohi578474
Crow Wing518381
Chisago496844
Otter Tail481370
Benton444890
Winona416649
Mower402731
Douglas392268
Nobles386547
Goodhue384468
Polk342262
McLeod338349
Beltrami336751
Morrison323547
Lyon312444
Itasca311646
Becker309941
Isanti305354
Carlton299848
Steele299211
Pine281916
Freeborn279823
Nicollet256041
Todd246330
Brown243537
Le Sueur233920
Mille Lacs226747
Cass219124
Waseca208617
Meeker206934
Martin188228
Wabasha18613
Roseau179617
Hubbard160640
Houston157114
Dodge15154
Renville149040
Redwood146527
Fillmore13708
Chippewa135935
Cottonwood134520
Pennington131816
Wadena130220
Faribault122716
Aitkin118733
Sibley117110
Watonwan11708
Rock115614
Kanabec107319
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9438
Jackson93310
Swift87918
Pope8025
Marshall77615
Stevens7398
Lake73518
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66910
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5052
Grant4908
Norman4768
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3025
Lake of the Woods2161
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 361499

Reported Deaths: 5412
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58007549
Linn20606312
Scott18279207
Black Hawk16223290
Woodbury14924211
Johnson1380473
Dubuque13522194
Dallas1132690
Pottawattamie10762143
Story1018945
Warren553474
Clinton542484
Cerro Gordo532781
Webster517687
Marshall495572
Sioux493469
Buena Vista472736
Des Moines457061
Muscatine450691
Wapello4314108
Jasper416266
Plymouth394277
Lee374752
Marion358469
Jones294354
Henry293037
Carroll285348
Bremer279154
Crawford273435
Boone259130
Washington253747
Benton252054
Mahaska223846
Jackson221138
Dickinson217238
Tama212965
Kossuth208154
Clay193125
Hamilton191942
Delaware188639
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan184629
Fayette184335
Page182619
Hardin180839
Wright179531
Harrison179469
Cedar177023
Clayton168053
Butler165831
Mills162820
Floyd162740
Madison154018
Poweshiek153630
Cherokee153535
Hancock146729
Lyon145941
Allamakee144946
Iowa144223
Grundy138830
Appanoose138647
Jefferson138232
Winnebago137730
Calhoun133311
Cass133351
Mitchell130640
Louisa128341
Union126331
Chickasaw124813
Sac124218
Emmet120940
Shelby120433
Franklin118419
Humboldt117225
Guthrie116228
Palo Alto104921
Montgomery103936
Howard102821
Clarke100320
Unassigned9850
Keokuk97829
Monroe93128
Adair91928
Ida90832
Pocahontas85219
Davis82523
Monona81527
Greene76910
Lucas73221
Osceola70314
Worth6947
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5749
Van Buren56018
Ringgold51820
Wayne48721
Audubon4869
Adams3264
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