the national interest

Trump Wants Coronavirus Bailout for Oil and Hotel Industries

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Yesterday evening, President Trump held a press conference and announced he would soon unveil an aggressive plan to head off a recession. “I will be here tomorrow afternoon,” he promised, “to let you know about some of the economic steps we’re taking, which will be major.”

This announcement “stunned” Trump’s own advisers, who had not yet figured out what the plan is going to be, reports Eamon Javers. But the press conference had been announced, so Trump’s advisers have been scrambling to backfill their boss’s promise of a “very substantial,” “very major,” “very dramatic” plan.

At his press conference, Trump mentioned a few possibilities for what this package might include. One item is a bailout for owners of hotels. “We’re also talking to the hotel industry.  And some places, actually, will do well, and some places probably won’t do well at all. But we’re working also with the hotel industry.”

By the way, did you know that the Trump Organization is in the hotel field? Weird coincidence. In fact, it’s possible the people in the hotel industry the president is talking to about giving a federal bailout might even include members of his own family.

Today more details of Trump’s hastily emerging plan have leaked out. The Washington Post reports Trump is “strongly considering a bailout for oil and gas producers.” The president and his advisers “have been taking calls since Monday from concerned energy sector allies.” You might wonder what the energy sector has to do with the coronavirus. The answer is, almost nothing! They’re in trouble because Russia and Saudi Arabia are ramping up production and cutting into their market share. This move is a benefit to consumers, who will enjoy cheaper energy prices, which will help offset some of the contractionary hit from the slowdown.

Of course, cheap energy is the primary rationale for the Republican Party’s refusal to do anything about climate change or air pollution. Yet now, Trump wants to backstop that industry with a check from the taxpayers. Where is the logic? The Post notes, “One of the companies hardest hit was Continental Resources, founded by Harold Hamm, a Trump supporter and an adviser to the president on energy issues.” Ah, well, that explains it: Trump’s supporters are also advising him, and perhaps their advice is not being offered at a fully arm’s-length distance from their narrow interests.

Meanwhile, Trump is agitating for a payroll tax holiday, which is a controversial measure — it does nothing to help people who aren’t collecting paychecks — but would at least inject some demand into the economy. But he cannot help himself from framing his proposal in the most self-serving way possible:

Does Trump realize this bill can’t pass without the Democratic-controlled House, and Democrats might not be crazy about a plan to cut taxes geared around Trump’s reelection needs?

Trump’s meeting with Senate Republicans concluded “without any concrete plan” having been agreed upon, just a couple hours before the president was supposed to have unveiled it to the world. It is slightly unnerving to see the president of the United States putting less time and planning into a several-hundred-billion-dollar proposal to revive the world’s largest economy than a college senior puts into a midterm paper.

Trump Wants Coronavirus Bailout for Oil and Hotel Industries