“President Trump and Mitch McConnell are trying to put a corporate bailout ahead of millions of families.”– Joe Biden
Let me be very clear here. I have no problem financially helping large corporations during this crisis. As we learned in 2009, not going big enough hurt the recovery. But giving Steve Mnuchin a $500 billion slush fund that he can use however he sees fit while giving millions of unemployed workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, a lousy one-time payment of $1200 is obscene. As I wrote in my last piece, in order to be of any use, these people would need no less than $2000 per month over a period of six months, with a provision for more if necessary.
Chuck Schumer was right to block this bill from proceeding to the floor. Below is a summary of the “highlights” of the Senate bill.
- It’s a taxpayer-funded corporate bailout with no strings attached.
Mnuchin, and by extension Trump, will have complete discretion to choose which industries and companies will receive $200 billion to $500 billion, and then hide the identity of the bailout recipients for six months.
- There’s no requirement that companies maintain payroll or benefits, no requirements to reduce executive pay, very limited restrictions on stock buybacks (that Mnuchin can waive), no oversight, no safety provisions to protect frontline workers, and no paid sick leave.
- It provides nothing for the tens of millions of American workers who have or will soon lose their jobs — no expansion of unemployment insurance, no health insurance, no direct cash payments. It provides nothing for hospitals and hospital staffs that are, or will soon be, inundated.
- It suspends the payroll tax.
What the country needs now is a real solution that will help the tens of millions of people who stand to lose the most during this pandemic. And to the rescue comes Nancy Pelosi.
The Speaker announced this afternoon that House Democrats will be bringing to the floor their own stimulus legislation which will include the following:
- Direct payments to individuals of $1,500 and up to $7,500 for a family of five.
- No cost-sharing for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, including for the uninsured. Expanded access to paid family and medical leave.
- $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans to small businesses. Strengthened unemployment insurance, with $600 per week for people affected by coronavirus and eligible for unemployment benefits.
- 150 billion in funding for hospitals, community health centers and government health programs.
- $60 billion in funding for schools and universities along with student debt relief.
- More funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other food assistance programs.
- $4 billion in state election grants and a national requirement for 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting as fears grow about coronavirus spreading at crowded polling sites.
There isn’t a single provision in the House bill that isn’t vitally needed. If anything, I still think the direct payout to individuals is woefully low, but I can live with it so long as it isn’t a one-time thing. If Republicans still insist on bailing out the airlines and other large industries, they can add that provision, but only with the following stipulations:
- Before receiving a single dollar of tax-payer money any company that used its tax break to buy back stock must first sell off that stock
- They must agree not to lay off any workers for the duration of this crisis. Absent that, they can fly a kite.
Politico looked at the two bills and compared them. You can read the analysis here for yourself. It’s clear which one is better. Thanks to several GOP senators testing positive for the Coronavirus, McConnell doesn’t have the votes to pass his bill without Democratic support, so Schumer has all the leverage here. It is imperative that he and Pelosi not cede that leverage. They must stand their ground. When Schumer meets with Mnuchin, he must make it crystal clear to him that any bill which gives him sole discretion to spend up to half a trillion dollars without oversight is dead on arrival.
With shit-for-brains now considering ignoring the medical experts and easing travel restrictions across the nation, we could be headed for a disaster. Our healthcare system is this close to being overwhelmed. It will need all the help it can get, as will the millions of people whose lives could be placed in peril because of this asshole’s recklessness.