The Washington Post SubscriptionThe United States is in a unique position among the world’s most advanced countries. Far from having flattened the covid-19 curve, it is watching as cases spike in several populous states, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci is recommending that these places “seriously look at shutting down” their economies again. Meanwhile, in other rich countries — as diverse as Germany, South Korea, and even Spain and Italy — the number of new cases plummeted months ago and has stayed low. America is still exceptional, but no longer in a good sense.
To understand why this is happening, let’s start by examining something the United States got right: economic stimulus. In March and April, despite the most polarized political climate since the aftermath of the Civil War, Congress provided $2.4 trillion in relief, and the Federal Reserve provided even more. This adds up to about 25 percent of gross domestic product, one of the largest spending efforts in the world. That might explain why the stock market has barely noticed that the economy remains in its worst condition since the Great Depression.