The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill – A Perspective
Children should be left an abundance of awe rather than gold.
– Plato, Republic 375 bce
As the proposed $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill bumps its way through the congressional sausage factory, it is important to envision it as a pinball (do people play pinball anymore, I used to love it) bouncing from one legislator to another, traversing quasi-ideologies, ringing up talking points and making noise with cable news hosts, editorial pages, and finally the public at large. No one involved has argued we need something. The argument is for how much, and, of course, since this is politics, who will win the day, the week, the next news cycle. People are still hurting. Businesses, even if opened in states like Texas and Florida, have already endured heartache and will be courting wary customers whose trust in politicians is shaken. Can you blame them? They’ve been repeatedly lied to about the severity of the virus, its statistical results, and anything to do with this ongoing pandemic. This is a very important piece of economic legislation that will affect us all one way or the other and it has devolved into the usual D.C. donnybrook.
You would expect, and if you do, you must be pretty naïve, that some manner of solemnity might be displayed by lawmakers in these grave times, instead of shameless grandstanding for extra perks, half-baked doomsaying, or parliamentary shenanigans, but, alas, this has not come to pass. This has already taken far too long, as the looming deadline of mid-March when much of the federal government’s protections for unemployment benefits and eviction immunity go bye-bye. Time is of the essence, but so is politics.
The most important element is this “fight” is the electorate, or it should be. As of this writing, the steady and overwhelming popularity of President Biden’s bill stands at 77%. And considering we can’t get 77% of people to agree that Biden is actually president, it is a truly remarkable number. Shit, 59% of Republicans want the package passed, even if it includes the fifteen-dollar minimum wage hike, which frankly should not be part of this, and due to a ruling by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough last week, it shan’t. Doubling the pay of millions of Americans cannot be tacked onto a relief bill. It is silly. Nice try, Democrats. I give them a gold star for trying. Surprised Republicans didn’t try to tack on another billion for defense spending.
So, this thing is wildly popular everywhere, even in deep red strongholds around the country. Making it rather curious and courageous (maybe suicidal is more on point?) that zero Republicans have signed on. Many Democrats signed onto the first of these last year when the pandemic hit. This worked out for them politically. The last guy to hold the presidency became the first since Herbert Hoover to lose his gig, the House and the Senate in one term. But, alas, they are taking the “Not If This Guy Proposes It” road. Risky, but mostly consistent. This explains a week of debating the Dr. Seuss canon.
As for Democrats, they are predictably getting slammed from the further reaches of the left for the Senate’s messing with the economic parameters of who will receive the all-important $1,400 checks from the IRS, who, we all agree, have enough of our money to begin with. Despite much consternation in that chamber, it will nevertheless send the bill back to the House for review and passing, then onto Biden to sign and have the money flowing by April. Important for two reasons; Tax Day is a-comin’ and the aforementioned deadlines loom.
One talking point that falls rather flat for me is this constant haranguing from the minority party about Biden’s campaign claims to work across the aisle to get things done. This was always bullshit. Good bullshit, because it rid us of the grand game show dunce, but no one, not even Biden thought Republicans were going to help him do anything. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has dug deep into partisanship. It is his sweet spot now. What else does he have left? He is despised from all sides. Even those who voted for him did so reluctantly, probably motivated by Jesus and guns, and now that he’s taken to trashing the former president as treacherous imbecile, it has eradicated what’s left of the core support of the new and disabused Republican Party.
This ain’t on McConnell anyway. All that rooting for the Georgia run-off elections to go the Democrats way came to pass. They have the ball, and they have to stop pretending they don’t. They also have to cease considering the crashing and burning of the system like eradicating the filibuster is somehow “out of bounds”. There is no such thing anymore. Burning the system is in vogue. What’s good for the proverbial goose is… well, really good for the geese with the gavel. We are through some twenty-first century looking glass now, in fact, I’m not even sure the mirror is still intact. I thought I heard it shatter when the executive branch instructed a mob to attack the legislative branch after months of creating dangerous fictions. This is the framework the 116th congress works within, not some pollyannaish nostalgia that never existed. If Lincoln had waited for decorum slavery would have gone on for another century or more.
The most laughable of angles is discussing the deficit. No one anywhere gives a shit about this anymore. It is passé, like music on MTV or Evangelicalism. Party is over for that debate. There’s a better chance heroin is legalized, and Harvey Weinstein makes movies again than anything resembling legislation to pare down the national debt. This used to be a GOP thing, but the glaring evidence of the drunken spending of the previous administration sealed the deal. Glad everyone is on board with my mantra; “Fuck the Children”. It feels good to write it. Say it out loud. It works the spine. Better than yoga and tantric sex. Okay, let’s not get nuts. Nothing is better than sex. Least of all stimulus checks.
But things are dire and the dire has reached a saturation point. Time to poop or get off the proverbial pot. This is what the people want, and the people have spoken, and get to speak again by the end of next year. Vaccines are rolling along at a swift pace and an actual functioning human is running things. Next step is to get this money out there; open up the schools with protections for teachers and kids, support for shuttered businesses, provide greater testing and increased delivery of the good stuff. This should have been done months ago. What’s the point of all those taxes we pay for in the first place?
Hell, Rush Limbaugh is dead. Things are looking up.
Let’s get on this.