Should the $1.9T stimulus bill only include COVID relief?
- As of February 26, there have been 29.1 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with 522,262 reported deaths.
- For the first wave of stimulus checks in the spring of 2020, individual taxpayers received $1,200 each if their income was less than $75,000. Married couples received $2,400 if they earned less than $150,000. In August 2020, the Congress-passed Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) reported $138 billion left over with the stimulus plan set to expire soon after.
- Currently, over 18 million Americans currently receive “jobless benefits, including $300 in weekly enhanced federal unemployment benefits.” Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer aims to have the bill to President Biden by March 14.
- One major contention with the bill is the Democrat-proposed $15 minimum wage hike for business by 2025.
In the 2020 election, Democrats ran and won on a platform of delivering reforms to a number of key social services; they are right to attach many of these desperately needed items to their first major piece of legislation because it shows that Congress is committed to the needs of the people who put them into their seats. Further, this should be a bipartisan effort, with Republicans recognizing how the people have spoken.
Like so many disasters, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the poor hardest. It can be difficult to tell where Covid-19 relief ends and other priorities begin as many of the things the working poor need are the same things that people facing difficulties with loss of employment due to the pandemic need. Things like the need for an increased minimum wage have become increasingly obvious during a time when so many Americans are struggling to make ends meet due to lost work; Democrats are right to include them in the stimulus.
Democrats need to seize this moment to build political capital by delivering programs that work for the American people. By including more than just a bare-bones stimulus package, Congress will deliver reforms that improve people's lives. This can then translate into political capital for more ambitious Democratic priorities down the road.
When Republicans controlled the Presidency and Senate, they made sure to use their power to ensure little was done to control and mitigate the pandemic's effects. Now that Democrats are in control, they should use every opportunity to advance their agenda; Republicans would if they were in control.
Democrats blocked Republicans in their many attempts to get stimulus checks out in the Fall of 2020. They also stalled the PPP and CARES acts for months in early 2020. Pelosi insisted on including money for the Kennedy Center, NASA, $25 million for Housemembers' salaries and expenses, and other non-impacted governmental agencies in the CARES act. In the PPP act, she added same-day voter registration, collective bargaining of federal workers, carbon offsetting program for airlines, and diversity and inclusion programs. These are democratic policy goals and should be separate from COVID relief. These past bills prove that Democrats' priority is not the American people or small businesses, but their lobbyists and pet projects, AKA pork.
They are doing the same thing in this most recent bill, filling it with pork and pet-project payouts like Bay Area Rapid Transit Expansion, renaming buildings, $15 minimum wage hikes, and carbon emission reduction, etc.
A $15 minimum wage increase requires policy debates and time for Americans to call their representatives to voice their opinions. This wage hike would strain the already unsustainable impositions COVID has had on small businesses, along with killing millions of jobs and forcing many businesses to close. These types of questions need to be studied and debated instead of rammed through.
Increased wages don't equal more jobs or more pay, but fewer jobs and fewer hours for those remaining employed.
Representative Democracy requires a process; legislation shouldn't be rushed or made contingent on relief. Stimulus bills should be transparent and help only the lives of Americans harmed by the government's mandatory stay-at-home orders and the employees laid off without the ability to work remotely (restaurants, hairdressers, daycares, etc.). COVID relief should be checks and small business loans and nothing more; no pork from either side.