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Trump after Tulsa Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The United States Blues

Four months before a critical election, the United States finds itself facing multiple crises – a seemingly out-of-control pandemic, a deep economic recession, rampant inequality, and a popular reckoning with racism – with a polarizing and unpopular president at the helm. Can policymakers mount the bold response needed to return the US to a position of global leadership, or is America’s strategic decline now inevitable?

In this Big Picture, New York University’s Nouriel Roubini views the ongoing protests in many American cities partly as a revolt by a growing “precariat” of alienated, insecure workers against an entrenched plutocracy personified by President Donald Trump. More broadly, but no less sobering, Princeton University’s Harold James sees in current developments in America disturbing parallels with the final years of the Soviet Union – and, most immediately, a threat to the US dollar’s long-standing international dominance.

Meanwhile, NYU’s Michael Spence and Chen Long of Luohan Academy show how the recent alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in the US South and Southwest increasingly resembles the pattern in much of the developing world. And Princeton’s Anne Case and Angus Deaton expect the pandemic to widen America’s already vast income and health inequalities, reflected in rising “deaths of despair” among working-class whites.

Looking ahead, the University of California, Berkeley’s Laura Tyson and Lenny Mendonca, former chief economic and business advisor to California Governor Gavin Newsom, propose a comprehensive economic-recovery plan, featuring support for unemployed and low-wage workers, affordable small-business loans, and additional federal funding for state and local governments. But Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University says a sustained rebound will also require well-directed public spending that promotes social and racial justice, improved health, and a shift to a greener, more knowledge-based economy.

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