'What I feel is better than what I think': Trump says economic decisions based on his gut and dodges question about 20% unemployment

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President goes upbeat on economic recovery even as top aide says situation is 'as bad as anything we've ever seen'

World | The Independent

Donald Trump sidestepped a question about whether he agrees with a top adviser that US unemployment could hit 20 per cent, instead signalling his economic policies to deal with the coronavirus will be based not on his mind, but his gut.

Kevin Hassett, who returned to the White House last month as a top economic adviser to the president, said earlier this week that 16 per cent to 20 per cent of the American working population could be without a job in the coming months. Mr Hassett, a career economist, said during a television interview that economic data from now until the summer "will be as bad as anything we've ever seen." (The unemployment rate rose to 12 per cent on Thursday, according to the Labor Department.)

The president, however, has struck a much more upbeat tone this week and he has shifted towards a communications strategy of talking not about fighting the virus from a medical and scientific standpoint to an approach of focusing on getting the economy revved up and open.

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"I think we're going to have a great third quarter," Mr Trump said when asked about the comments from the man he calls "Kevin" and brought back into the fold this spring. "I think next year is going to be a spectacular year."

As he frequently does, the president also echoed one of his favourite lines, this one about his assessment of the US economy and what will happen as states begin to end their stay-at-home orders and allow businesses to open.

With many people unable to go shopping or out to dinner or otherwise spend money, the economy has shed jobs and grown slowly. But the president "feels" a "pent-up demand."

He is betting the economic recovery, and possibly his own re-election, that consumers and businesses will begin spending again once the country is back to normal -- or something resembling that.

Among the decisions Mr Trump must make soon is whether to support giving federal funds to help cash-strapped states, especially ones hit hardest by the coronavirus.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has drawn the ire of some by suggesting last week that Republican legislators would block any efforts to give states what Republicans view as a "bailout."

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was seated alongside Mr Trump in bright yellow chairs in the Oval Office following a meeting about the coronavirus. Mr Murhpy's state was among the hardest hit.

The Garden State's leader told the president New Jersey will "need a significant amount," quoting former professional boxer Mike Tyson by saying, "Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth."

"We don't see it as a bailout," Mr Murphy said. "We see this as a partnership."

The president replied by praising the governor for having done a "great job" dealing with the pandemic, saying only: "That's a tough question. Whether you call it a bailout..." He took no position on whether states should get federal help.

But Mr Trump did explain how he will make such decisions.

"I feel it. I feel it," he said of the "pent-up demand" he senses. "I think, sometimes, what I feel is better than what I think. Unfortunately or fortunately."

  • 'What I feel is better than what I think': Trump says economic decisions based on his gut and dodges question about 20% unemployment photo


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