With the virus bomb ticking ever so furiously, the United States of America has become the first country to exceed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Saturday’s largest economic stimulus package is the first of its kind in US history.
Viewed through the fractured legislative prism, it signifies a signal consensus, as historic as it is rare, between the Republican-dominated Senate and the House of Representatives under the Democrats.
Beyond the legislative construct must lie the remarkably humane approach of Donald Trump, who has hopefully for once jettisoned the insensitive trait in his personality and has, with a sense of profound consideration for others, signed the $ 2.2 trillion bill into law, one that has been crafted to send federal assistance to workers and business enterprises.
“I’ve never signed anything with a T on it,” said the US President. “I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first.” Nancy Pelosi, we hope, will agree. The legislative package provides Americans with economic assistance during crisis.
It provides for tax-free payments to be treated as a refundable tax credit, giving immediate financial support they need. The number of confirmed cases in the US rose by 15,000 on Friday, fewer than the 16,000 reported on Thursday.
By Friday night there were more than 6,000 hospitalised Covid-19 patients in New York with almost 1,600 in intensive care while the state that bustles 24 X 7 had logged 519 deaths, the most in the US, and more than 44,000 infections. The bare statistics are chilling enough, with latest reports suggesting that the United States and Spain have surpassed China, from where the virus had germinated last December.
“This is going to be a long day,” said the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, “and it’s going to be a hard day, and it’s going to be an ugly day, and it’s going to be a sad day.” Beyond such effusions of rhetoric is the harsh reality that hospitals in New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and other virus hotspots have sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, medical supplies and trained staff.
Not only unrelated to his signature on the historic piece of legislation is that President Trump has invoked a national security law compelling General Motors (GM) to produce ventilators on a mass scale. This was clothed with the swipe that the carmaker had not been acting quickly enough.
Trump has invoked the Defence Production Act, that dates back to the Korean war. It allows the President to force companies to make products for national defence. It would be less than fair at this juncture to attribute President Trump’s robust response to his continuing feud with the company. GM has claimed that it is working “round-the-clock to help build more ventilators”.
For the victims, it is a cry to God for a whiff of fresh air. The Oval Office and Congress have scripted history, both in medical and legislative terms. It is, above all, the triumph of democracy.