Not a single Republican in Congress has voted to give Americans a $ 1400 stimulus check; or to extend a $ 300 per week unemployment addition through September 6th; or to relieve $ 80 billion of multi-employer pension liabilities; or to fund billions for Covid vaccination, States’ depleted funds, or support small businesses. The question is, WHY ? Why HAVEN’T a single Congressional Republican voted Yes ?
Probably no Republican response is better stated than Senator Susan Collins’s. This is how she justifies her Nay vote :
“There is widespread support in Congress to pass a sixth package to increase funding for the distribution of the vaccine and to help struggling families, workers, small business owners, and health care providers. I led a group of 11 Republican Senators in proposing a targeted $650 billion bill that would have done just that. Among other provisions, our amendment would have supported rural health care providers, helped students return to their classrooms, extended unemployment assistance, sent direct $1400 checks to low- and middle-income Americans, expanded access to child care, increased resources for substance use and mental health, bolstered nutrition assistance programs, and sustained small businesses and jobs across the country.“Regrettably, there was no interest from Democratic Leadership in negotiating a targeted, bipartisan relief package that meets the challenges at hand. Instead, Democrats chose to ram through a partisan bill using a partisan process. The only thing bipartisan about this package was the opposition in the House. Under the guise of providing COVID-19 relief, the Democratic leaders proposed a bloated $1.9 trillion package stuffed full of provisions that have nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus, from either a public health or economic perspective. The bill also picks winners and losers. For instance, rather than allocating state aid based on population size as Congress did previously, a new formula will result in a cut of $155 million for the State of Maine.“
Fair enough, as far as it goes: yet her statement doesn’t really go very far. What are the features of the Covid relief bill that “have nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus” ? She doesn’t say. Here are the major provisions :
- $1,400 stimulus checks capped at individuals making less than $80,000 per year and households earning $160,000.
- $300 per week jobless benefits through September.
- $350 billion for states and local government.
- Payments up to $3,600 per child.
- $34 billion to expand Obamacare subsidies.
- $14 billion for vaccine distribution.
- $130 billion for schools.
There is more, of course. i will get to it. First, let me address the provisions listed above. Of course the $ 34 billion for Obamacare subsidy isn’t directly a Covid relief matter. Yet All major Federal spending bills include dozens of earmarked items. Congress members all have local interests to advance as well as interests entrusted to them by actiuv9ist and donors., it has been thus since the beginning and is of the nature of a government by representation. One wants to say that the Republicans’; objection isn ‘t to earmarking but that the wrong interests have received earmarks. that’s hardly a persuasive objection except to partisans.
Much of the $ 1.9 trillion goes to very specific budget items, State and local. These allocations don’t make for headlines but to enumerate them is to grasp their crucial Covid relief nature :
- The Senate bill provides $510 million for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program. That money would support homeless services providers for overnight shelter, meals, one month’s rent and mortgage assistance and one month’s utility payments.
- The Senate version expands the Employee Retention Tax Credit for start-up companies and other businesses hit by the pandemic
- The bill also increases the value of the federal COBRA health insurance program from 85 percent to 100 percent
- The bill adds a $10 billion infrastructure program to help local governments continue crucial capital projects.
- The bill makes all coronavirus-related student loan relief tax-free.
- The bill increases the total amount of Amtrak relief funding by $200 million.
- For education funding, the bill sets aside $1.25 billion for summer enrichment; $1.25 billion for after-school programs and $3 billion for education technology
- The Senate bill also adds $8.5 billion in funds for the Provider Relief Program to assist rural health care providers.
Much of the $ 1.9 trillion gows to a one-year child tax credit which sends up top $ 3,000 per child aged 6 to 17 and 4 3,600 per child aged up to 6 years old :
- Under the Senate plan, most Americans would receive $3,000 a year for each child ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for each child under age 6.
- The provision in the bill would last one year and be sent via direct deposit on a “periodic” basis. It is also a major expansion of the existing child tax credit, which currently provides $2,000 a year for children from birth through age 16.
- More regular payments are intended to help offset costs families face day to day, instead of sending families one annual payment.
Of course this large subsidy isn’t all a matter of Covid relief; yet it addresses an economic problem that the Covid crisis aggravated : child poverty. The child credit will greatly increase the consumer spending power of millions of low income families. I do not see how that can be anything but hugely beneficial for the economy as a whole.
Republicans seem unready to accept the basic facts of money in an economy : that it does not stop moving; that allocating dollars to one purpose does not end the flow of those dollars; that increasing the flow of money, and the breadth of its flow, lifts the entire economy, which consist, or should consist, of all who live within that economy.
I am not advocating equality of money distribution, far from it : a major gradation of money allocation spurs ambition, innovation, and dedication to work. But I Am saying that a society suffers badly if many people in it live in poverty, require public assistance in order to get by, and cannot participate in the discretionary economy. wages in America have decreased for at least 40 years relative to process and asset values. this cannot stand. It cannot co0ntiue for even another day. People who work must be able to earn enough to spend into the discretionary economy and to not need public assistance. We cannot pass a $ 15/hour minimum wage in a budget bill, of which this Covid relief is one, but we can take such budget measures as will enable similar economic benefits. And we have now done this. I do not find Republican objection valid in any way.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere