Friday, March 27, 2020

The COVID-19 Bill: The Largest Stimulus Package in U.S. History

After almost two weeks of partisan bickering, it appears that we finally have a bipartisan agreement on a two trillion dollar stimulus package aimed at jump starting the economy following a near total shutdown of everything thanks to the COVID-19 virus. President Trump has already said he would sign the bill into law as soon as it hit his desk. This was also the third attempt to produce a bill which everyone could get behind.

This bill, the largest in U.S. history represents almost half of the current federal budget, includes individual payments up to $1200 per person (individuals making over $75,000 may be required to pay back part or all of it) plus $500 per child, $130 billion dollars for hospitals plus tax credits for "charity" assignments, a $500 billion dollar loan and loan guarantee fund plus $150 billion dollars for state and local governments to use as part of their stimulus program. In addition there will be a $367 billion dollar loan fund set for small businesses which will include a six month loan forbearance which will allow a temporary break in payments.

Of the $500 billion dollar fund, $425 billion will be earmarked for businesses, states, and local governments. $50 billion will go to commercial airlines, $8 billion to cargo airlines. $17 billion dollars will directed to companies deemed essential to national security. The fund will be administered by the U.S. Treasury Department. Additionally, the stimulus package also includes an extension of unemployment benefits for individuals laid off as a result of closures due to the virus and paid sick leave.

The package includes $25 billion in emergency funding to keep to U.S. Postal Service going (there was fear that the shutdowns could wipe out the USPS by June without the extra funding). The Department of Defense will be getting an extra $8 - $10 billion dollars in emergency funding as well. $450 million will be earmarked for food banks and food stamps. The bill will prohibit internet and utilities cut offs, along with providing more power to the FTC and state Attorney Generals to go after price-gougers (shame it doesn't include hoarders). Consumer debt payments will also be temporarily suspended.

The bill is the result of intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate. Attempts were made by both sides to tack on funding for non-essential projects designed to help Congressional special interest groups such as money for abortion clinics, a provision to aid illegal immigrants and one to allow student loan forgiveness (repayments can be temporarily suspended), money for unions, and funds for expanded measures pertaining to environment protection were introduced by the Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Democrats demanded concessions from the Republicans that none of the money would be allowed to provide executive bonuses or for stock buybacks (as was done under Obama's 2008 Wall Street bailout) and restrictions on lobbyists. They also held out for extra funding for schools and universities (mainly to provide meals for students while the schools are closed) as well as WIC, child and earned income credits. While the Democrats didn't get the $15 an hour increase in minimum wage they wanted, they did get four billion dollars in funding to allow states to carry out election projects such as early and absentee voting under the Election Assistance Commission.

I suppose there's truth in the old saying that a "good crises should never be allowed to go to waste". Here we are, a month into the crisis, and we're just now getting a stimulus package put together. If Congress had done their jobs the way they were suppose to have, we would have had a package weeks ago and be that much closer to getting the economy back up and running. Instead, we had the usual petty bickering while both sides tried to sneak perks in for their favorite corporate special interest. Of course, I suppose you can't blame them. After all, these corporate sponsors fund their campaigns and keep them in power. It is them, not us, that they represent. So in that sense, they were looking after their constituents.

This is another reason that presidents, governors, and mayors should have line item veto power. A stimulus bill, no matter how imperfect, could have been on the president's desk weeks ago, and with line item veto authority, all those "add-ons" could have simply been removed with the stroke of a pen.

Another way to go about it is simply to require one measure per bill with no add-ons. Period. It would make it much harder to sneak through "pork" projects that taxpayers would be forced to pay, thus exposing more of the corruption by those who try. It would also cut back on lengthy bills, making them far more manageable easier to read and act on. No more, as Nancy Pelosi once said, "we have to pass it to see what's in it" nonsense.

Hopefully Congress will finally do their jobs and get a comprehensive emergency stimulus bill submitted to President Trump. From there, it has to be implemented which could take just as long as it did in Congress. Still, even the knowledge that relief is on its way will help. Meanwhile we all need to stay safe and follow the recommended guidelines. Remember, this too shall pass and we will come out of it stronger than we were before. If you want to know more about the stimulus bill, I've included some links below.

Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout

READ: House Democrats Offer Their Own 3rd Coronavirus Response Bill

How the House Democrats stimulus plan compares to the Senates

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