by Paul Moomjean
As I type this on Jan. 1, 2021, I have just received my $600 stimulus check. It is a drop of water, in a country dying of thirst. What makes the $900 billion stimulus relief bill so frustrating is that our government decided that people are not worth bailing out, after decades of sending relief to other countries, bailing out banks, taking over the car industry, setting up the Affordable Care Act and all the other forms of socialist relief. I use the word “socialism” with purpose because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decided that this was the word to use to defend blocking a $2,000 stimulus check because he was afraid rich people would get it, too. If this is not the most partisan and staged act in modern U.S. history, then nothing is. What we learned from McConnell is that only lobbyists and donors are essential, and the American people are not.
When you look at how the rest of the world has treated citizens since March, you might be embarrassed to be an American. Compared to other free nations of the world, Americans got ONE $1,200 check, and only qualified people could earn unemployment checks. Canada gave residents $1,400 per month for four months to any Canadian who lost income after the virus hit. Costa Rica sent $220 in monthly aid to those who lost their jobs as well. Australia gave its people $750 a week to stay home to stop the spread. And it worked, allowing them to reopen and get people back to work faster. Many of these countries are still fighting new strands of the COVID virus, but their businesses did not go under as many have in America.
The $2,000 check could have been a bipartisan agreement for the history books, with President Donald Trump and the House Democrats all agreeing it was the right thing to do. McConnell instead claimed too many wealthy people would get the money, calling it “socialism for the rich.” McConnell fell on his own sword by explaining, “borrowing from our grandkids to do socialism for rich people is a terrible way to get help to families who actually need it,” even adding that it is “thousands of dollars to people who don’t need the help.”
Obviously, the fiscal hawks of the GOP don’t want to give money to voters when there are banks “too big to fail” and war contracts to hand out. Giving to the rich has never been a problem for the GOP before, and McConnell, a decisive winner in the 2020 elections, can go to bed at night knowing he probably will never face re-election again at his age of 78.
This act of Republican Party purity is a slap in the face to those who elected them into office, making sure there are still funds for the donors that funded them. Businesses are drowning, and that $2,000 could have kept millions of people afloat. Instead, Americans are going to have to beg governors with far less resources for help.
“I know multiple industries have been lobbying governors to stay open because closing means a huge loss of income to business owners and employees, even if it would be the best thing to do from a public health perspective,” claimed Tara C. Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University. “Federal relief would help to alleviate some of these concerns.”
Many people seem shocked that Trump would demand a $2,000 check now after months of being quiet. There are two potential reasons why, one being more cynical than the other.
The cynical view is that he wants to go out bribing Americans for their vote again in 2024 with one last act to run on in future elections. I think it has more to do with his lack of a political philosophy. In many ways, Trump could have won the 2020 election had he in May extended the Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,200 through the year while expanding healthcare so people could see a doctor without fear of staggering bills. He would have been a new breed of progressive Republican. His bully-pulpit style could have been an apolitical way to just do the right thing. Think Teddy Roosevelt with a Twitter account.
It is too late now. Trump sits as a lame duck for the next few weeks before Joe Biden gets his shot. Hopefully, Biden thinks the American people are essential. Lord knows McConnell doesn’t.