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Econ-comics: Trump, Biden and the Passing of the Torch at the White House

In a last-ditch attempt to cripple his successor, the outgoing Trump Administration tries a scorched-earth policy to undermine the Biden team

Illustration by Antonella Martino

Unconfirmed rumors circulating suggest that the fire at the White House might have been started by President Donald Trump himself, inspired by recent events in the Caucasus. No doubts however, that the economic sabotage enacted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who in November put an end to the Federal Reserve’s economic stimulus program, was deliberate.

WASHINGTON. January 18, 2021.

The Washington 911 operator initially thought of a joke when, shortly after 1 a.m. today, she received the first call from a driver on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue stating that he saw flames in the direction of the White House. It soon became clear that it was no joke at all when similar reports from area residents kept coming in setting off a general, citywide emergency alert. Soon enough an unknown number of emergency vehicles had completely engulfed the streets surrounding the presidential residence.

Although there have been no official statements coming from the Trump administration so far, rumors circulating immediately after the first responders’ arrival, if corroborated, would be nothing short of explosive: namely that President Donald Trump himself started the fire inside the building.

Shortly after midnight some members of the presidential staff who asked to remain Q Anonymous said they heard the president scream at the top of his lungs from one of the private rooms where, as is his custom, he had retired to watch television with a bottle of hair spray and a vegetable soup. Fearing the worst, Tim Harleth, one of the managers of the White House residential premises, rushed to the room and found the president in a state of confusion which, while not particularly dissimilar from his state of “normalcy”, was distinguishable by a purplish hue of his complexion that had definitely taken over his characteristic shade of orange.

At second glance it soon became clear to Mr. Harleth that the source of the presidential turmoil was not due to a sudden illness but it was rather some sort of hysterical crisis triggered by the news on the television about the recent armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.

Initially, the official believed that President Trump was belatedly showing a glimmer of interest for international politics, drawing America closer to that world leadership role he abandoned four years earlier.

Unfortunately, however, it soon became clear that the president’s enthusiasm was related to the images of the Armenian population forced into exile in the face of advancing Azerbaijani troops, setting fire to their own homes in a scorched-earth attempt to leave nothing behind for the arriving enemy forces.

It was at this point that Trump hastily left the room to reappear a few minutes later with a gas tank and a box of matches which he allegedly used to set the White House on fire in a last, desperate attempt to resist the forthcoming eviction.

These dramatic developments seem to have been concocted by Mr. Trump as a last-ditch effort to reaffirm his inalienable right to a second term against the Democratic usurper who is clearly guilty of having rigged the tally of the electoral ballots, but not smart enough to secure, on those very same ballots, the votes needed to get a majority in the Senate.

And yet, the idea of implementing a “scorched-earth strategy” against the incoming Democratic administration had already been advanced approximately two months ago by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Shortly before the 2020 election in fact, with cases of Covid-19 rapidly increasing, the specter of a new lockdown and the consequent contraction of economic activities, the Democrats tried to pass a new round of financial support programs for businesses and families similar to the one that, during the first spring wave, allowed many Americans to avoid bankruptcy.

An Armenian house burning in Nagorno Karabakh

Unfortunately, after creating roughly $2 trillion in public debt with their 2017 tax reform for the country’s rich and super-rich, the Republican majority in the Senate suddenly rediscovered its knack for fiscal thrift and categorically opposed the initiative.

With Senate Republicans determined to do nothing to relieve the pain caused by a second wave of infections, the only other remaining macroeconomic tool to soften the economic blow was the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve. On this front, an emergency program enacted in March 2020 attributed to the central bank the role of ultimate guarantor of the debt and worked in a way that is comparable to the safety net stretched underneath circus trapeze artists.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, (wikipedia)

Its main role was to reassure state and local administrations stiffed by the federal government, that, should they be forced to borrow money on the bond market, the Fed would have been ready to intervene and buy that debt in the event of a further deterioration of the economic conditions.

But, of course, emergency programs and financial aid to businesses and families are acceptable only when Republicans can take credit for them and, for this reason, in mid-November 2020 with Covid cases growing exponentially, Steven Mnuchin not only decided not to renew the program by the end of the year, but demanded that the Fed return to the Treasury, the 455 billion dollars left in the coffers, thus making sure that the Biden administration wouldn’t have even a cent available to help Americans in need.

Last spring, with the new, unknown virus spreading around the globe and the economy in freefall, it became clear that a massive financial aid program was badly needed to stave off financial catastrophe and the Care Act was passed. On that occasion, with an unprecedented self-promoting move, President Trump pressured the Treasury to make sure that the checks sent to the thousands of newly unemployed bore his signature.

Now, with a second Covid wave on the rise and a new Democratic administration taking over the White House, it’s clear that Trump and the GOP have lost any interest in aiding the economic victims of the pandemic. For this reason, Biden should probably send a letter to the nation to clarify who is responsible for the upcoming pain of the next several months.

Most likely though among the smoldering rubble of post-Trump American politics it will probably be very hard to even find a sheet of paper and a pen.

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