Nobel-winning economist says US 'will have a Great Depression' if Trump, McConnell lead pandemic response

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A Nobel-winning economist widely touted by progressives has criticized President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying Republicans are leading the country toward another Great Depression.

“If you leave it to Donald Trump and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell we will have a Great Depression," Joseph Stiglitz told the Guardian in an interview published Wednesday. "If we had the right policy structure in place we could avoid it easily.”

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Stiglitz accused Trump of encouraging states to reopen their economies before they are ready, which he predicted would lead to a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus.

“In those circumstances it won’t be the government enforcing the lockdown, it will be fear," he said. "The concern is that people are not going to be spending on anything other than food and that’s the definition of a Great Depression.

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“We were unprepared but, even given the degree of unpreparedness, Trump’s decision to make this about politics rather than about science has meant we have responded far more poorly," Stiglitz added.

The Columbia University professor went on to criticize America's "inadequate" safety net, which he said was "propagating the disease."

"This disease has targeted those with the poorest health," Stiglitz said. "In the advanced world, the U.S. is one of the countries with the poorest health overall and the greatest health inequality.”

"There is very weak unemployment insurance," he added, "and people don’t think they can rely on it."

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Stiglitz's comments came as Democrats and Republicans battled over provisions in another coronavirus stimulus package. While Democrats sought more social spending, President Trump accused the party of leaving Americans high and dry during the crisis.

"Today people started losing their jobs because of Crazy Nancy Pelosi, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, and the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, who should immediately come back to Washington and approve legislation to help families in America. End your ENDLESS VACATION!" Trump tweeted last week.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Monday that "we cannot bow to the logic that a dime and a crumb is better than nothing."

In a fourth round of stimulus -- known as Phase 4 -- Ocasio-Cortez called for expanded health care and $2,000 in monthly reoccurring payments to all families, regardless of immigration status, and $1,000 per child. The calls from both sides of the aisle for such massive amounts of government spending have started to raise alarm among fiscal hawks, but lawmakers largely have not been discussing ways to offset these costs.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has also insisted on augmenting federal relief for state and local governments during the crisis. The New York senator indicated on Sunday that Democratic tactics had worked. "I actually say the very things we Democrats have been fighting for are now going into the bill," he said.

Trump and Republicans have started advancing plans to reopen state economies as millions have already filed for unemployment claims during the pandemic. Democrats have lambasted these attempts as putting economic sustainability over human lives, given the likelihood that the virus will spread if governments lift pandemic-related restrictions.

Fox News' Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.