As U.S. House and Senate leaders argue over rival Republican and Democratic bills, it becomes obvious there is no crisis so urgent that it prevents our political class from looking out for its own interests above all.
As a result, Congress was still wrangling Tuesday over a coronavirus relief package that was supposedly a done deal this past weekend.
Senate Republicans are backing a bill that gives huge bailouts to airlines, banks and aerospace companies — the usual suspects when it comes to GOP-aligned interests.
Don’t think the Democrats are any better. Their proposal is packed with wish list items they’ve wanted for years and that have no relevance to helping get though a prolonged period of coronavirus-driven economic inactivity. They’re seeking everything from a bailout for the U.S. Postal Service — long sought by the postal union — and student loan forgiveness to limits on airplane emissions and nationwide same-day voter registration.
Both sides are pointing fingers at each other, and their social media propagandists (inside and outside the U.S.) are hard at work trying to frame the issue as either #TrumpSlushFund or #DemocratsAreDestroyingAmerica or some other ridiculous Twitter hashtag. Unfortunately, with many Americans stuck at home, more than usual are probably seeing this sort of Team Red vs. Team Blue nonsense that never really abates online.
There is no excuse for the two parties to load what should be a simple first-step rescue bill with goodies they’ve had on their shopping lists. People who are laid off or who can’t work because of the growing number of cities issuing “shelter in place” orders still have groceries to buy and utility bills to pay. Small businesses still have to get from here to whenever normality returns in good enough shape to survive.
That small businesses and not large corporations — which have more capital and more access to it — should get priority should be a no-brainer. That the COVID-19 outbreak had nothing to do with voter registration is obvious. And a moratorium on student loan payments rather than loan forgiveness — which is largely a subsidy for the middle class, not the poor — is more in order.
Emergency situations require emergency measures. They are not the time to implement a new status quo you wanted all along but that voters wouldn’t in normal circumstances abide. Attaching irrelevant measures to the rescue bill is nothing more than political extortion, no better than the price gouging every state’s attorney general is busy threatening to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
Americans want a simple bill that gets money into the hands of individuals and families to tide them over. (It can be means tested retroactively via next year’s income taxes so that it doesn’t become a giveaway to people who don’t need it.) They want to shore up small businesses teetering on the edge. Everything else is politics as usual, and we have no time for that.