Trump invokes emergency authority
Big 3 automakers closing
MINNEAPOLIS >> President Donald Trump on Wednesday invoked emergency authority to marshal industry to fight the coronavirus, as the economic fallout from the crisis mounted with word that nearly the entire U.S. auto industry is shutting down its North American factories to protect workers.
On a day of head-spinning developments:
• Stocks tumbled again on Wall Street on fears of a prolonged recession, falling so fast they triggered another automatic trading halt. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 1,300
points, or over 6 percent, and has now lost nearly all of the big gains it had posted since Trump’s inauguration. Oil dropped below $21 per barrel for the first time since 2002.
• More borders slammed shut across Europe and North America, with the U.S. and Canada closing their boundary to all but essential travel and Trump saying he plans to assert extraordinary powers to immediately turn back to Mexico anyone who crosses over the southern border illegally.
• The White House pressed Congress to swiftly pass a potentially $1 trillion rescue package to prop up the economy and speed relief checks to Americans in a matter of weeks.
Calling himself a “wartime president,” Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to steer industrial output and overcome shortages of face mask s, ventilators and other supplies as hospitals brace for an expected onslaught of cases.
The Korean War-era law gives the president extraordinary authority to compel industries to expand production and turn out vital materials. It was most recently used after the 2017 Puerto Rico hurricane to speed up contracts for food and other necessities.
“It’s a war,” Trump said, likening the anti-coronavirus efforts to measures taken during World War II and warning of national sacrifices ahead.
The virus has infected more than 200,000 people worldwide and killed over 8,700. The United Nations warned that the crisis could lead to the loss of nearly 25 million jobs around the world.
Theodore Peck, who owns a Brooklyn coffee shop and bakery, was in quarantine at home as a precaution when New York City this week ordered all bars and restaurants to close except for takeout. He had to shut down his business and lay off all his workers.
“My life’s work is being ... you know, destroyed, like picked over,” he said. He lamented that he didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to 22 of his employees.
Trucks stand on the highway close to the border between Austria and Hungary near Bruck an der Leitha, Austria, Wednesday. Hungary has closed the border due to the new coronavirus outbreak.