President Trump said Thursday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s “defeatist” approach to addressing the coronavirus pandemic would result in long-term damage to a U.S. economy that is already showing signs of recovery.
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Trump warned against further lockdowns shortly after the U.S. Department of Labor announced that unemployment claims had dropped below one million last week for the first time since the pandemic brought the economy to a near-complete halt in March. The president claimed that Biden “rejects the scientific approach in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months on end.”
“He wants to shut down our economy, close our schools and grind society to a halt,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. “He wants it done by a federal decree. This would lead to a crippling, long-lasting depression.”
The coronavirus pandemic has already done significant damage to the country’s economic outlook. In a June letter to lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office said it expects the U.S. economy to grow by $7.9 trillion less from 2020 to 2030 than it had projected in January. The shortfall would represent a decline of three percent in U.S. gross domestic product compared to previous estimates.
Trump touted a rebound in the U.S. auto and housing markets in recent days, as well as signs of strength in U.S. stock indices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 have posted steady gains from their lows in March.
“The economy is coming back,” Trump said. “The employment numbers over the last three months are a record in the history of our country. We’ll be back next year. I think we’ll be maybe even stronger than the previous year, where we set every record in the book.”
Earlier Thursday, Biden and newly named running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, expressed support for a nationwide mask mandate requiring Americans to wear face coverings for at least the next three months.
Biden has not called for a second shutdown or federal action dictating lockdowns. He has cautioned against reopening the economy too quickly without adequate protocols in place, such as enhanced COVID-19 testing and necessary safety supplies for workers.
Trump argued that Biden’s hesitance to reopen the U.S. economy could have other negative impacts on Americans.
“If we did what Biden wanted to do, it would shut down our health care system and lead to a massive increase in mortality, including suicide, overdose, heart disease and countless other physical and mental harms,” Trump said. “It is very, very bad on the other side of the equation when you do something like that. Those shutdowns are very punitive. They hurt a lot of people in a lot of different ways.”