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Editorial

Rising Unemployment and the Political Consequences

The number of applications for unemployment benefits in the United States increased to 1.4 million last week from 1.3 million in the previous weeks.

For 18 consecutive weeks, the number of applications has exceeded one million/week.

Before the Coronavirus – if one still remembers that time – the number of applications for unemployment benefits did not exceed 700,000/week.

The unemployed have been receiving an extra $600/week allowance as an additional financial 'cushion' during the pandemic but that will cease at the end of this month.

It is really difficult for an employed person to grasp the despair, psychologically and financially, of people who are unemployed.

And while there are undoubtedly those who take advantage of the system and prefer to receive benefits rather than going to work, I believe the vast majority would prefer to work instead of sit around.

The question is, why does the number of unemployed continue to increase? Shouldn’t the number be decreasing so many months after the advent of COVID-19? But instead of the economy and businesses opening up – especially small ones – and workers returning to their jobs, boosting their psychological mood and securing the financial means to take care of their families, we are moving in the opposite direction.

Ultimately this, I think, has to do with the election.

It is the pressure of the forthcoming November elections that has distorted the way in which, at another time, our political leaders would have reacted to this crisis.

It is this pressure that probably led President Donald Trump to first try to deny the reality of the Coronavirus, and then to downplay its significance and the disaster it was causing. This, in turn, led him to politicize the issue, to refuse to lead and to call for nationwide measures.

And so, while the Northeastern states took the right steps in a timely manner, as did most of Europe, which resulted in dramatically reducing the number of cases and deaths, other states in the South and the West are still setting records for infections.

The result is that the economy continues to be shut down – companies are closed instead of open for business – and consequently, we see increases instead of decreases in the number of those who apply for unemployment benefits.

Of course, the people of the United States are observing Trump’s behavior, and it will not be long before he … gets his reward.

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