Finally, in a pageant of faux unity, the Senate passed a massive $2.2 trillion dollar CARES bill to keep America on life support during the COVID-19 national shutdown. To be sure, it is needed. But I’m not so sure “Congratulations” are in order.
I haven’t had time to read the 800+ page monster (read it here), and maybe we’ll just have to pass it to find out what’s in it. But the main pillars are:
- Expanded unemployment benefits: adding $600/week to payouts, expanding eligibility, and adding 13 more weeks of benefits, among other things.
- Checks in the mail: $1,200 for every adult with a Social Security Number. Subject to the awful and crazy 2018 declining schedule I wrote about here. High earning (in 2018) singles and couples (over $199k) will receive nothing.
- Small business loans and grants: All kinds of grab-bag of SBA loans and grants, loan forgiveness for payroll, rent, mortgage interest and utilities. The red tape here bothers me–it needs to be simple, and we’ve yet to see the government do anything simple since Cash for Clunkers.
- Large business loans and guarantees: This mostly bails out the airlines (which will absolutely 100% fail without it), and firms related to national security.
- Open the Fed vault: A half-trillion to set up a $4.5 trillion Federal Reserve fund to loans to businesses, states and cities.
- Direct aid to state and local governments: $175 billion in cash.
- Healthcare: $100 billion for hospitals, and a potpourri of preparedness, community health centers, Medicare telehealth, additional CDC/FDA/NIH/IHS/others funding, and $20 billion for veterans health.
- Welfare entitlements: $25 billion for food stamps, and another $17 billion for child and family services and housing support.
- FEMA: $45 billion. (For what? The next disaster is always the one we didn’t prepare for.)
- Tax relief: About $10 billion for a bunch of small changes, and one I like. Raising the cap for charitable giving is a wonderful thing, and should be given a bigger role.
- Business tax handouts: This is a handout. $280 billion in tax changes that allow businesses to deduct expenses that the government is now paying (see above). So essentially the government is handing businesses money and not taxing it back.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a better breakdown.
Of course, Democrats are cheering because they got their Kennedy Center money and probably a whole lot of pork projects they’ve had drafted and sitting in a staffer’s drawer waiting for a crisis like this.
What I don’t like at all is that all parties behaved like starving hogs at a trough of slop, pushing each other out of the way to see which nose goes deepest into the gooey mix.
The so-called greatest deliberative body in the world, the U.S. Senate, took a week to pass this pig, and that’s shameful. In the meantime, the previously enacted FFCRA created massive incentives for businesses to lay off and RIF large numbers of employees. And that has happened.
(But there is no shame in the Senate, which just a few months ago made a mockery of itself in Trump’s impeachment trial, and before that, in the last two Supreme Court nomination hearings. This is simply playing for par.)
Now, we need to see how many of those employees will have jobs waiting for them, and how many companies will make it to hire them back, at the end of this long dark tunnel. But the Senate behaved abominably, with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer giving Nancy Pelosi political cover to add her magic liberal pork dust to the dough.
America will be paying for this giant cash effluent for decades. Our kids and their kids will be paying off this multi-trillion dollar river of sludge. Yes, we needed it, but we didn’t need the Democrats holding a gun to the nation’s head to give it to us (good and hard).
I am not so sure we should be congratulating anyone.
Let’s get through this, and help those who desperately need help, and then we’ll see about celebrations, lauds and awards.