Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on April 15, 2020.

President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on April 15, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

'An Utter Sh*t Show': Trump Effort to Enlist Private Companies to Reopen Economy Derided As a Disaster

Business leaders who took part in a series of calls with the president expressed fears they could be liable if employees went into work too early and got sick.

An attempt by President Donald Trump to enlist the assistance of private business leaders in his efforts to reopen the U.S. economy by early May was panned as a failure by participants and observers alike as the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic appears set to make an economic crash worse.

"He's got to stop talking about turning the economy back on and start talking about making people feel safe, things that are happening around testing, and the health care system," one CEO who commented anonymously for fear of White House reprisals told Politico. "That's the only way you will really get the economy reopened over a period of time."

The meetings and rollout of the president's "Opening Our Country Council" were reportedly beset by confusion and chaos as the White House announced a series of calls with executives on Tuesday night without consulting participants, many of whom had preexisting commitments on quarterly earnings they could not reschedule.

According to the New York Times, CEOs on a series of White House calls were most concerned about the lack of testing, which would make people feel less safe even in the event of a reopening, and the possibility company leadership could be held liable for putting employees back to work before it was safe:

Mr. Trump opened the call by saying that "testing is under control" in the country. But after each executive was given a minute or two to provide his or her overview of what was needed to reopen the economy, there was a wide consensus that more testing was needed before the economy could reopen, according to two people who participated on the call. Among those who made the point that the testing was necessary to track who was infected and who might have immunity before returning employees to work sites was Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.

Another issue of great concern to the executives on the call, one participant said, was the need to address the liability companies could face if employees got sick after returning to work, given the possibility that workers who felt that they were brought back too soon—or were not placed in a safe environment—could sue en masse.

"CEOs will go along with Trump's plan to force employees into workplaces against the advice of public health experts, killing many—for the sole purpose of juicing the stock market and his re-election effort—but only if workers have no legal recourse," Crooked Media editor-in-chief Brian Beutler noted on Twitter.  

As Vanity Fair reported, Trump's council on reopening the economy has already gone through a number of changes in just days:

Earlier this week, it looked as though Donald Trump, in all his infinite wisdom, had put his daughter and son-in-law on the council advising the White House on when to "reopen" the country. Given the president's long history of putting the dynamic duo in charge of matters they have literally no business being anywhere near, and his claim that Ivanka has single-handedly created 15 million jobs, the development appeared unsurprising if not completely absurd. Luckily, it seems that someone with some ounce of sense intervened, and told Trump he should probably speak to a few actual business executives, if not real-life economists. And what do you know? Those people have apparently told him it would be absurd to get back to regular life before the government has hugely increased testing capabilities.

Progressives derided the latest failure by the president to put together a coherent response to the ongoing economic and public health crises brought on by the pandemic and noted the reporting from the Times on the calls and task force had highlighted concerns from CEOs that they could be liable for forcing employees back to work.

"An utter shit show described here," tweeted Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, adding readers should note the desire from CEOs "to be immune from liability if employees are forced to go back to work and get sick and die."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


94% of Americans Oppose Big Pharma's Control of Global Covid-19 Vaccine Doses: Poll

Half of U.S. adults also consider it unacceptable that pharmaceutical corporations, which monopolized dose production, have profited substantially from vaccines developed using public funding.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


'Counseling Not Criminalization' Bill Unveiled to Boot Police From US Schools

"For too long our education system has been intertwined with the criminal legal system and the results have been tragic."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·