March 4, 2021

COVID Relief Bill

“President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed to tighten eligibility limits for stimulus checks Wednesday… Under the legislation, individuals earning up to $75,000, and couples up to $150,000, would get $1,400 checks per person. The House-approved version would gradually phase down that amount, with individuals making $100,000 and couples earning $200,000 receiving nothing. Under Wednesday’s agreement, the Senate bill would instead halt the payments completely for individuals making $80,000 and couples earning $160,000.” AP News

Last Thursday, “the Senate parliamentarian ruled the chamber cannot include President Joe Biden’s proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill the party aims to pass without Republican votes.” Reuters

Read our prior coverage of the relief bill and the minimum wage. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports the bill but urges Democrats to continue pushing for progressive priorities, which are popular with the public.

“A major argument from Republican critics of the House rescue plan is that the states and localities do not need $350 billion in aid… [but] revenue statistics are meaningless without knowing outlays — especially outlays needed to make up for the economic hit and dislocation associated with the dual crises of the pandemic and recession…

“Considering that lack of in-person schooling has set many students back, especially those already at an education deficit, it is not unreasonable for states to seek summer school, year-round school or tutoring. How are they going to pay for that? In other words, the cost of making states and their residents ‘whole’ is more than the gap between revenue and expenditures…

“‘Public-sector employment hasn’t recovered. There are 1.3 million fewer state and local government employees than when the pandemic began.’… If Republican senators think local and state finances are fine, they should talk to their home-state mayors and governors.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

“Overall, 62 percent of people back passing the $1.9 trillion stimulus package as soon as possible, while 31 percent said they supported a targeted bipartisan option. Similarly, 83 percent of people said it was more important to get people the help they need than for lawmakers to find consensus on a stimulus package. Only 12 percent said getting to a bipartisan package was a bigger priority. Democrats and independents were more likely to favor swift passage of the $1.9 trillion plan, while Republicans were more divided, with 47 percent for doing so and 47 percent for a smaller option… These results suggest there’s broad support for Democrats’ larger stimulus proposal.”
Li Zhou, Vox

“Winning three Senate Republicans for the recovery bill in 2009 bought President Barack Obama and the Democrats exactly zero bipartisanship points with the media or the public; the same would have been true now had a smaller bill passed 53-47 instead of the likely 51-50 outcome… Meanwhile, the real headline here — again, assuming that the bill passes — is that this will be a major win on substance for the Democrats.”
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

Regarding the compromise on the stimulus checks, “[Multiple Democratic sources] told me that, aside from pressure by moderates, party leaders agreed to cut the checks for procedural reasons having to do with the rules of budget reconciliation, the maddeningly byzantine parliamentary procedure lawmakers are using to get around the Senate filibuster…

“To be clear: Some upper-middle-class voters who got a check from Donald J. Trump will absolutely not get a check from Joseph R. Biden, and I cannot possibly imagine that will help cement the Democrats’ new suburban Sun Belt coalition come 2022

“Thanks to the whims of a couple of moderate lawmakers and the bizarre jetties of Senate procedure, Democrats are having to make a politically unpopular choice that will probably antagonize a modest but vocal number of voters without saving a substantial amount of money that could be put to better use. The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is at it again.”
Jordan Weissmann, Slate

Similarly, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) states that “The $15 minimum wage is an incredibly popular and populist policy. It’s popular with Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. It has won every time it’s been put on the ballot, including in red states and in Florida, it passed with a supermajority of voters. It is something that we ran on as Democrats. We said, ‘Listen, if you give us the House, the Senate, and the White House, we’re going to deliver a raise for 32 million workers.’ We can’t go back to voters and say that the parliamentarian, procedural rules stopped us from doing this. We just have to figure out a way to get it done.”
Bridget Read, The Cut

“Twenty-five million people have fallen sick in the United States and 500,000 have died in the past year; 19 million are collecting unemployment; 25 million are facing hunger; and 30 to 40 million are facing evictions. While politicians debate raising the minimum wage, 30 percent of people in households with incomes of less than $25,000 a year report not having enough to eat. More than one of five people in households with incomes of less than $50,000 reported not having enough to eat in February. This is the moment to raise wages for all workers living in all communities.”
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, The Nation

From the Right

The right is critical of the stimulus bill, arguing that it includes wasteful spending and is not targeted towards those who truly need help.

The right is critical of the stimulus bill, arguing that it includes wasteful spending and is not targeted towards those who truly need help.

“The measure allocates $350 billion in aid to states, cities and counties, supposedly to address pandemic-created revenue shortfalls. New data, however, shows that state budgets have been much less affected by the pandemic than had been expected, with some even showing an increase in revenue from the year before…

“The bill currently includes $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, purportedly to enact measures that would enable distance learning or an earlier return to in-person instruction. Nearly $60 billion in previously enacted aid for schools remains unspent, however…

“The fact is that the pandemic has not seriously financially harmed most Americans, and many of those who have been harmed found relief in earlier measures. Savings rates are at a record high, and personal income as a whole is up, not down, since the pandemic struck. This is also true for average and low-income households. A December report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that checking account balances were up by as much as 40 percent for all income groups.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) writes, “It is disappointing that the new Democratic Senate Majority has decided to move forward with a budget resolution to quickly pass proposals that have failed to garner broad bipartisan support in the past, rather than focusing on policies that will boost vaccine distribution and help get people back to work and our kids safely back to school. The proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill comes just a few short months after a $900 billion package was signed into law, and ignores estimates that roughly $1 trillion in enacted stimulus funding remains unspent.”
Mike Crapo, Fox News

“The media have mobilized to warn us about the devastating fallout if the GOP opposes the Dems’ plan; not only for the future of the country, but for their own party. Do you remember when the Republican resistance to President Barack Obama’s partisan slush-fund ‘stimulus’ bill sunk them in the 2010 midterms? Nor do I. Although polls told us that a majority of Americans supported Obama’s efforts, not a single House Republican voted for the 2009 stimulus bill. By the next year, a majority had turned against the plan, and the GOP picked up a historic 63 seats, the biggest victory by a party in the midterm elections since 1938…

“The Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis of Biden’s plan found that more than a third of proposed funding, around $700 billion, wouldn’t be spent until 2022 or later…

“With the pandemic likely to recede, the best stimulus will be a return to normalcy, accompanied by a handful of narrow, targeted bills designed to assist those who were the most adversely affected by the government-induced shutdowns. Before long, there will be a backlash over the government’s zealous and ineffective behavior during the pandemic, and Republicans should make sure they’re on the right side of it.”
David Harsanyi, New York Post

“Under the guise of pandemic relief, the federal government would give a nonworking single parent with two preschool-age children and one in grade school $850 a month [for one year]. This would come on top of other government benefits, including $680 a month in food stamps, amounting to $18,360 in combined annual income. That’s the equivalent, without accounting for taxes, of working 28 hours a week at $12.50 an hour. On top of that, the family would receive health insurance from Medicaid, and it may also receive housing and child-care assistance…

“If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Sending monthly checks to nonworking parents was exactly how welfare used to work until 1996, when President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, for which Sen. Joe Biden voted. That law requires parents to work or train in exchange for welfare benefits and offered additional child care and other support to help them go to work. Once UBI for parents is here, calls for UBI for everyone will follow…

After the 1996 welfare reform, child poverty declined as single mothers increasingly worked and received benefits that supplemented their earnings. This combination of work plus aid made work pay, as Mr. Clinton used to say, and it allowed people to have the dignity that comes with earning one’s own living. Monthly welfare benefits with no expectation of work would reduce employment and earnings, establish lifelong government dependency for millions of Americans, and increase unwed childbearing.”
Robert Doar and Matt Weidinger, Wall Street Journal

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