Congress Diddles While Americans Suffer

By Mark Anderson

A bipartisan group of senators has worked for weeks on a $908 billion “Covid relief package,” much of which has been agreed upon in theory. As of Dec. 8, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted that these lawmakers were “still in negotiations” over how to work out the two thorniest components: 1) funding for state and local aid; 2) what sort of legal protections to provide to businesses, schools, and other entities operating during the pandemic.

The bipartisan proposal is to include enhanced jobless aid, but, as of Dec. 10 as AFP goes to press, it didn’t yet include another round of direct payments for most households. The only successful Covid aid package to date, which passed in March, had a $3 trillion price tag. Nothing has been forthcoming from the federal government since then, and some lawmakers don’t want the next package to go into the trillions.

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“Including payments similar to the $1,200-plus checks in the spring would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and Republicans have been clear that $900 billion is already more than they would like to spend. Many Republicans are terming this round of talks an emergency aid package, rather than a stimulus plan,” WSJ noted. “But the White House has pushed Republicans to pursue a new round of checks . . . of at least $600 a person.”

This shows Donald Trump’s populist side. He understands that large corporate interests are bailed out every day to the tune of billions, and yet everyone whines about “excessive spending” when money is slated for the people. Consider that the House had no problem finding the money for a war-funding bill worth $740 billion. Stimulus checks are not necessarily “anti-capitalist” since they align with the basic economic principle that you cannot simply boost the production side of the economy—putting people back to work—if there is not enough consumer demand in the form of purchasing power to help producers meet their costs and turn a profit.

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Even prior to the Nov. 3 election, President Trump urged Congress to send him legislation for additional Covid-related aid that included another round of direct checks. Then, on Dec. 7, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) urged Mr. Trump to veto any bill that didn’t include stimulus checks. Many Democrats are also still hoping to see them included, representing a rare instance of bipartisan unity, with even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (DMass.), who barely agrees with President Trump on what day it is, concurring.

The Associated Press noted Dec. 9 that a new $916 billion package would include the paltry $600 direct payments but would omit a $300 per week “bonus” unemployment benefit favored by the bipartisan group of senators who have been in talks about the relief measures. Meanwhile, a moratorium on evicting tenants from rental properties is slated to expire after Christmas.

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As AFP goes to press, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that negotiators were close to reaching a deal. Whatever that means, Congress should include direct payments to struggling Americans, many of whom have lost their livelihoods through no fault of their own.

Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. Email him at [email protected].