Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the U.S. Senate to take quick action on a trillion-dollar stimulus plan to help Americans with expenses due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The government would send a check after calculating an amount per individual or couple based on a taxpayer‘s adjusted gross income from 2018. Aid would be phased down at income thresholds of $75,000 per person ($150,000 per couple) and those individuals who earned six figures two years ago receive no relief.
This is an unnecessary exercise in jumping through federal government hoops to obtain a questionable result. McConnell is too shrewd a leader to fall for this. Democrats, meanwhile, seem mostly concerned with the name of the virus, bashing “corporations” and using straw man clichés like “workers over shareholders.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House Bill was so rushed that it needed nearly 100 pages (!) of corrections and arguably would accelerate small business lay offs.
The most straightforward objection to the Senate bill is why base everything on 2018 AGI. Two years ago, many people’s lives were different. You may have sold a business, bought a house, or married since. There is no good rationale in going back two years to test incomes.
The people who most need help to financially survive the current panic lack income because their jobs disappeared this month, thus swift action surely is needed.
Injecting liquidity is key to stabilizing the economy. Hospitals need help. Folks require money for groceries, rent, and maybe some proprietors can pay their remaining employees instead of shutting down. A public school teacher, “non essential” government worker, or an accountant still being paid their same salary every fortnight does not need money urgently. They’re doing just fine.
Think instead about the entrepreneur who invested his life savings in a business only to see his customers vanish. Or ponder the recent college graduate with $50,000 in student-loan debt — not ironically taken on with the encouragement of Elizabeth Warren types — now laid off from her first job.
And if someone who receives a check is not desperate, have faith that he or she can figure out where to donate the money without government edicts.
Two of the most impressive senators in recent days, as often is the case, are Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse. Both men offer realistic, responsible solutions.
Rubio told CNBC last week he wants to use a network of lenders for an existing program to help small businesses and employees. He hopes to “figure out the most effective way to get cash into the hands of small businesses so that they can maintain payroll for at least a six-week period.”
The Florida Republican is sponsoring legislation to match President Trump’s call for $50 billion in loans from the Small Business Administration.
Sasse, the only senator who lives his life completely outside the Washington bubble and has authored two recent books on related topics, gave a stellar St. Patrick’s Day Speech on the Senate floor. Everyone should watch it on YouTube.
The Nebraska Republican prefers letting governors direct spending instead of Washington-driven bailouts akin to “shoveling money out of a helicopter.” He instead called for most economic relief spending to be administered by state governors. He claims governors know how to target money more efficiently than U.S. Senators.
Sasse says we can’t mindlessly go down same path with spending people’s money. A dozen years ago, for example, President Obama irresponsibly tossed trillions into supposedly shovel-ready projects; most still can’t be found today.
“This is not an opportunity for Washington’s connected insiders to exploit personal relationships, to put their pet projects first on things that they wouldn’t have been able to get passed if it weren’t a time of crisis. We don’t have to go down that path. Instead, we can more efficiently and more wisely spend the people’s resources,” Sasse said. “We can give our states and our governors the lead in making sure the majority of the money and the majority of the resources get where they’re most needed. We can help families and businesses keep afloat during this storm by admitting that 50 laboratories of democracy are going to be more effective than a rifle shot approach from Washington.”
The Senator is non-partisan, sentient, and correct.
Governors know their people, what their workforce needs, how to target money, and how to build public-private partnerships. Minnesota is not California, and Nebraska is not New York. Every state has unique needs that others may not.
Polls show the least popular governors in America are still more popular than almost any DC-based Senator. There’s probably a reason.
While state and local governments aren’t miracle workers, they have the capacity to restore companies and livelihoods to their prior economic standing better and more quickly than Washington.
No industry, company or person has an innate right to public money, no matter how severe the crisis. The principled Nikki Haley, likely already the 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner, was correct to resign her board seat late last week over Boeing’s pursuit of a government bailout.
As an important Wall Street Journal staff editorial examined late last week:
“The politicians in Washington are telling Americans, as they always do, that they are riding to the rescue by writing checks to individuals and offering loans to business. But there is no amount of money that can make up for losses of the magnitude we are facing if this extends for several more weeks. After the first $1 trillion this month, will we have to spend another $1 trillion in April, and another in June?”
These are good questions. Bernie Sanders, who wants more and more spending and to “revolutionize” America and perhaps nationalize much of the economy, has no answers.
Instead we receive the standard vacuous “these policies seem like socialism to me” claims from retired schoolteachers and assorted lazy lefties.
They ignore that it’s PRIVATE companies developing a mass testing system, treatments and vaccines for coronavirus. Several private companies now have in place reliable testing systems already being mass-produced and distributed.
A government-run “single-payer“ Bernie Sanders healthcare system is clearly not the answer in times of crisis (or normal times).
That would sap innovation, research and incentive. No cures would be found. We’d probably have millions dead already. As usual, the private sector works best for perilous moments.
But let’s give state and local governments a shot at this before another capricious, bloated federal plan.
A former teacher and historian, Ari Kaufman has worked as a journalist in various roles since 2006. He currently resides with his wife in Minnesota