One of the more irritating aspects of the governmental response to COVID-19 hasn’t just been that fact it’s a virus nobody seems willing to cure, or that the supposed “experts” said a vaccine availability this year was impossible, or that across America bad political leaders have insisted on economy-killing shutdowns and restrictions.
Those have all been irritating, of course. But what has also been irritating is the pathetic politics being played with respect to the bailout packages bandied about in Washington.
The current round of those bailouts, which passed Tuesday night, should have come in October, if not July. Most of the contours of the package were agreed on then. But it didn’t come in July or October, and for a very obvious reason. Had President Trump been able to sign a bipartisan package before the election, it would have been harder to fashion Joe Biden as “president-elect.”
Can’t have that, right, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer?
“The facts are not irrelevant,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after the current $900 billion package was agreed on. “I said back in July what the country needed was a package roughly of a trillion dollars focused on kids in school, small businesses, health care providers, and direct cash payments … We started advocating that in July and August. The talks were unproductive, so I essentially put that bill on the floor of the Senate in both September and October. Not a single Democrat supported it. Their view was, give us everything we want or we won’t give you anything.
“It’s noteworthy,” he added, “that at the end they finally gave us what we could have agreed to back in July. I think what held it up was they did not want to do anything before the presidential election. I think they felt that would disadvantage the president.”
Wonder whether Pelosi’s surprising 13-seat loss in the House, after she spent months bragging about all the seats the Democrats would gain, had anything to do with this.
Let’s keep all this in mind going forward when, if we’re saddled with a Biden–Harris administration (to be referred to in future entries in this space as the Bidenlonian Captivity), we’re told that conservative politicians don’t want to help the American people because “POLITICS.” The petty projections of these dirty SOBs can no longer be tolerated after what they’ve put America through this year.
It’s also worth noting that a few weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package to Pelosi as a counter to her $3.2 trillion HEROES Act. That was double what Pelosi just accepted. She left $900 billion on the table.
Pelosi is either that bad of a negotiator, or she’s just “Biden” her time until there’s a Democrat in the White House. Either way, we’re now looking at a record $3.2 trillion deficit for fiscal year 2020, and if the Democrats win the two Georgia Senate seats and there’s another monster bailout, this time aimed at crappy state and local governments, the fiscal year 2021 deficit could be upwards of $4 trillion, setting a new record and boosting our debt to nearly twice our GDP.
But, hey, it’s Christmas. Let’s not be so dour.
What does this package contain? What did we not get in July that we should have had?
First, it extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and adds deductibility for PPP expenses. Businesses whose 2020 revenues fell off from 2019 can apply for a second-draw PPP loan. It also sets aside $15 billion in funding for entertainment venues, movie theaters, and museums that are experiencing significant revenue loss. Meanwhile, churches, faith-based organizations and 501(c)6 organizations are eligible for PPP loans, but unions are not.
It puts out a lot of money to get people vaccinated. The package includes $20 billion to make COVID vaccines available at no charge for anyone who needs them. It also includes $8 billion for vaccine distribution; $20 billion to assist states with testing, which isn’t a great thing given that COVID testing has been one of the most monumental medical-industry scams in American history, but at least testing in this case will keep the vaccine from being wasted on people who are already immune; and a $20 billion distribution from the existing provider relief fund.
A nice win for the GOP was that the package rescinds $429 billion in unused funds provided by the CARES Act for the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facilities. By terminating those facilities’ power to distribute that money, the package ensures that a Biden–Harris administration can’t use those funds to bail out poorly managed blue states like Michigan, New York, and California. That isn’t to say the Biden crowd won’t find a way to bail out failed Democrat-run jurisdictions; they’ll just have to do it after another round of bloody legislative warfare on Capitol Hill, as noted above.
It cuts a $600 check for every adult and dependent, and supposedly blocks that money going to illegal immigrants. Of course, the stupid COVID shutdowns have done a whole lot more than $600 worth of damage to American families, but at least you get a little more of your money back after what they’ve done to you. As Thomas Sowell said, “First you take people’s money away quietly, and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly.” It is the nature of modern American government that we might actually celebrate this process as something to be grateful for, given that the alternative is for the political class, none of whom have missed a single paycheck (or in Pelosi’s case, a hair appointment) due to COVID, to sit around eating ice cream while our countrymen descend into hopelessness and poverty.
We’re going to need to work on our standards in 2021, which will be difficult to do if Dirty Joe occupies the White House.
Anyway, the package includes help for the unemployed. The package provides unemployed individuals an additional $300 per week for 10 weeks from December 26, 2020, to March 14, 2021. It extends and phases out the PUA program, which is a temporary federal program covering self-employed and gig workers, to March 14 (after which no new applicants) through April 5, 2021.
Then there is support for institutions clobbered by COVID. The package includes $10 billion for grants to child-care centers to help providers safely reopen, which should allow millions of Americans to get back to work. There is $4 billion in the package for substance abuse; before COVID came along there had been significant progress made on opioid addiction, and all of that disappeared just in time for our streets to be awash in Chinese fentanyl. Which is surely a coincidence, right?
Also in the package, there is $82 billion in funding for schools and universities to assist with reopening for in-person learning that also includes $2.75 billion in designated funds for private K through 12 education. There is $25 billion in temporary and targeted rental assistance for individuals who lost their source of income during the pandemic. But the package extends the eviction moratorium until January 31, 2021, which really just kicks that can down the road, because those landlords aren’t collecting rent and they’re not paying on their loans to the banks.
Something to watch, particularly in the early weeks of a Biden administration if we’re stuck with one, is community banks beginning to crumble under the weight of the rental-property mortgage crisis about to hit. Let’s remember that the hard-left communists to whom Biden owes his administration have been screaming about their desire to get the Post Office involved in the banking business. What better way to make that happen than for the Post Office to play vulture-capitalist with banks destroyed by COVID?
Maybe that won’t become a big political initiative. But maybe it will. And if it does, it’s surely a coincidence.
Interestingly, the package includes $7 billion for broadband funding, nearly $2 billion of which is for “replacing foreign-manufactured broadband equipment that poses national security threats.” Take that, Huawei! Also, $300 million to build out rural broadband is in the package, which will help accelerate the depopulation of the Democrats’ failing cities, though by dispersing Democrats to the exurbs and small towns you might be exporting their terrible voting habits to reliably red places, and $250 million for telehealth.
There’s $45 billion in “infrastructure” spending in the package, though $16 billion of that goes to the airlines to help them prevent the layoffs of giant swaths of their employees. And another $13 billion in farm support payments.
And in other items of interest, the omnibus spending bill agreed on in tandem with COVID relief includes a provision that purportedly ends surprise medical billing. It requires a “true and honest” cost estimate for patients three days prior to scheduled procedure, and it institutes an independent dispute resolution process with no benchmark rate and multiple factors (but not government program reimbursement), which would appear to be the “baseball arbitration” plan most conservatives were for.
Is this a great moment in American legislative history? No. Does it fix anything? Not really. Is it too little, too late? Of course. Is it better than nothing? Maybe, though nobody should be happy or satisfied with attempts to put Band-Aids on COVID’s economic gunshot wounds.
The worst of this is Pelosi’s pig-headed obstinance in moving this package forward for the sole purpose of attempting to hurt President Trump. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said it best of Pelosi: “The American people needed help months ago. Make no mistake: this relief package will do a tremendous amount of good for families and workers, but it is only happening now because Speaker Pelosi gave up on her obscene and radical demands.”
He added, “Republicans focused on effective, targeted relief, and now help is on the way.”
Forcing open the economy and returning the country to some semblance of civil rights while clawing back the monopolistic centralization corporate America has pursued at the expense of small business while this pandemic has gone on would go significantly further. But giving Americans some recompense is at least a little bit of a bright spot for the holidays, and it’s something.
With 2020 as our standard, this will have to do. But we’re going to have to work on our standards next year.