‘Spectacular Incompetence’ Deals Blow to Virus Response, Summers Says


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© Bloomberg. Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during an Economic Club of New York event in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. Summers discussed government, budget, and public investment.

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(Bloomberg) — Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says the U.S. government’s mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s self-confidence and global standing.“The United States, once a can-do nation, will have one of the worst records in dealing with a threat that faced everybody around the world,” the former Obama and Clinton administration official said in an interview on Bloomberg Wall Street Week.Summers spoke after the European Union this week extended a travel ban for U.S. residents, and infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci warned that the number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. could more than double to 100,000 a day. The number of new infections jumped the most in almost eight weeks Thursday, while Texas ordered residents to wear masks and Florida’s largest county imposed a curfew.

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Without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Summers criticized the government for “spectacular incompetence in the basics of national security.”“It affects the American people’s confidence in themselves and their ability to do anything else,” he said. “If people are fearful of being near other people, it doesn’t matter about shutdown orders, you’re not going to have a decent economy. It affects the standing of the United States in the world.”

Summers, a former Harvard University president who headed the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama, said historians will study how central banks expanded their policy playbooks to counter the economic blow from the pandemic.

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“You saw central banks do things that central banks had never before done in history,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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