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Trump's reopening strategy will be lethal

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

Donald Trump is getting nervous. Internal polls show him losing in November unless the economy comes roaring back.

But much of the American economy remains closed because of the pandemic. The numbers of infections and deaths continue to climb.

So what is Trump's re-election strategy? Reopen the economy anyway.

Step 1: Remove income support, so people have no choice but to return to work.

Trump's Labor Department has decided that furloughed employees "must accept" an employer's offer to return to work and therefore forfeit unemployment benefits, regardless of COVID-19.

One of Trump's allies, Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, says employees cannot refuse to return to work for fear of contracting the disease. "That's a voluntary quit," she said, making someone ineligible for benefits.

 

GOP officials in Oklahoma are even threatening to withhold the $600 per week of extra unemployment benefits Congress has provided workers if an employer wants to hire them. Safety is irrelevant.

"If the employer will contact us ... we will cut off their benefits," said Teresa Thomas Keller of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Forcing people to choose between getting COVID-19 or losing their livelihood is inhumane. It's also nonsensical. Public health still depends on as many workers as possible staying home. That's a big reason why Congress provided the extra benefits.

Step 2: Hide the facts.

...continued

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