May 18, 2020


“The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday narrowly approved a $3 trillion bill crafted by Democrats to provide more aid for battling the coronavirus and stimulating a faltering economy.” Reuters

The bill includes:

  • $875 billion for state and local governments
  • Extension of the $600/week increase in unemployment benefits through January 2021
  • $200 billion to provide hazard pay for essential workers
  • $1200 checks for each American
  • $175 billion to help with rental and mortgage costs

CBS News

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From the Left

The left is generally supportive of the bill.

“Inevitably, the 1,180-page bill—a bare-bones summary takes 90 pages—contains much good and some plain ugly. Its centerpiece is nearly $1 trillion in aid to states, localities, and territories, vitally needed to avoid massive layoffs and savage reductions in essential services from police to teachers...

“It extends enhanced unemployment benefits until January. It offers another one-off cash payment of $1,200 per person. Importantly, it would extend sick leave to all workers, correcting the cribbed program of the first rescue package. It provides expanded funding for food stamps and aid to women with children. Hazard pay rewards essential workers. The imperative ramping up of testing and tracing is funded. It would rescue the Post Office from bankruptcy. And $3.5 billion is allocated to help states prepare for vote-by-mail in the fall election.”
Robert L. Borosage, The Nation

“Americans have relied on low-wage workers to keep essential services running during the pandemic, from harvesting and delivering food to cleaning public spaces. But many of these workers who lack legal immigration status have done so without receiving any financial assistance from the federal government. Unauthorized immigrants make up about a quarter of farmworkers and 8 percent of the service sector and production workers. Many don’t have any choice but to continue working despite public health warnings to stay home because they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits or federal stimulus checks. The Heroes Act would at least give them some financial safety net and relieve them of fear of deportation.”
Nicole Narea, Vox

“As Congress gears up for the next installment of its stimulus package, Mr. McConnell has drawn a line: No more money for anyone until businesses get immunity from liability during the pandemic… The problem is that immunity doesn’t just shield the worst actors; it also punishes the best, by giving a competitive advantage to the businesses that decide to cut corners at the expense of worker and customer health and safety…

“There is no tsunami of litigation coming to engulf the country. As a matter of law, it’s already extremely difficult for workers or consumers to succeed with tort claims. In most states, as long as a business shows that it followed regulations or guidelines, or even just took common-sense precautions, it will usually prevail… To reopen safely, companies need good, clear and mandatory guidelines, not immunity from liability.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Some note that “When increased funding for food stamps and hazard pay for frontline workers are considered major symbolic bones thrown to the left, you have to wonder about this party's overall priorities… In early March [Pelosi] reportedly walked out of a Democratic caucus briefing after Jason Furman, who served as President Obama's chief economist, called for direct cash payments to Americans…  More than three months into this crisis, House Democrats remain strikingly reluctant to embrace continued cash payments, the simplest and most obvious method of economic stimulus.”
Sophia Tesfaye, Salon

The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom have all adopted a form of a paycheck guarantee program to keep workers employed and avoid the costs of displacement. Indeed, Germany's reaction to the 2008 recession and likewise relatively rapid rebound — without the oxymoronic notion of a ‘jobless recovery’ — provides a fine example of what a paycheck guarantee can offer… Paycheck guarantee legislation has a wide range of supporters, including economists, business owners and labor unions… [It] isn't included in the latest [bill], but it should be.”
Darrick Hamilton and Kyle Strickland, Salon

“Some Republicans have suddenly rediscovered their deep passion for guarding the deficit… Is now really the time to worry about the deficit, especially when interest rates are low and the economy is in such disarray?… Some states have begun to gradually reopen, but their economies aren’t bouncing back. It turns out people are not eager to crowd into restaurants and hop on planes while a deadly disease circulates… The Fed has taken extraordinary actions… it’s cut interest rates to near-zero and announced a series of sweeping measures to boost the economy and ensure liquidity in the markets. And still, [Fed chair Jerome Powell] emphasized, there’s a need for more, and a grave risk to underreacting… It’s not a time to test the waters, it’s a time to dive in.”
Emily Stewart, Vox

From the Right

The right is critical of the bill.

The right is critical of the bill.

“In this bill, Pelosi and the Democrats are advocating deeply unpopular issues… Providing money to people in the country illegally; Allowing illegal immigrants to work when more than 30 million Americans are out of work; Providing tax-paid funding for abortion (Americans opposed tax paid funding for abortions by 55 percent to 29 percent); Blocking voter identification laws (which 80 percent of Americans favor); Giving state and local governments, which already collect your tax dollars, $1 trillion more of your tax dollars; Giving a tax cut to the richest Americans in blue states… This bill could become a disaster for Democratic candidates if Republicans bear down and focus on it.”
Newt Gingrich, Newsweek

“More than $1 trillion of the $3 trillion package would be in the form of aid to state and local governments, with almost all of that money — $915 billion of it — in unrestricted cash. This will be a great boon to states and cities (largely but not exclusively Democratic) that have hamstrung themselves financially by promising government workers fat pensions and retirement benefits without actually spending the money necessary to fund those programs…

“Many states already are spending more on their retirees than they are on current priorities such as higher education. So out of whack are the state pension systems that the Pew Trusts estimated their 2018 liabilities at more than $1.5 trillion. That doesn’t mean that $1.5 trillion would solve the states’ pension problems… Even with those liabilities gone, the states would be required to continue to make ongoing pension contributions that are heavy today and only getting heavier. The question is: How much do you want to shortchange today’s first-graders and college freshmen in the service of tomorrow’s retired DMV clerks? Round your answer to the nearest trillion dollars.”
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

Employers are now struggling to rehire workers, who, understandably, have no real financial incentive to go back to work. Many perplexed entrepreneurs now find themselves in the odd situation where they want to hire their employees back—but their workers say no…

“In one glaring example reported by CNBC, Jamie Black-Lewis, a Washington small business owner, was shocked to receive backlash, not gratitude, when she tried to bring her laid-off employees back onto payroll after securing a government loan… This is happening across a wide variety of industries.  ‘When we asked our employees to come back, almost all said, ‘No thanks,’’ restaurateur Kurt Huffman wrote in the Wall Street Journal. ‘If they return to work, they’ll have to take a pay cut.’”
Brad Polumbo, The Dispatch

“The average state UI benefit nationwide is $373 per week. With the addition of the $600 weekly federal supplement [in the previous stimulus bill], the average total unemployment benefit is a record $973 per week. That $973 in unemployment benefits already exceeds the median weekly earnings of full-time workers, which was $949 in the first quarter of 2020…

“When the $600 supplement was created in March, supporters suggested its effect of paying bigger benefits than paychecks was a temporary byproduct of acting quickly to make ‘whole’ workers displaced by government-mandated shutdowns designed to quell a health crisis… Yet now the Heroes Act would make the $600 supplements payable for up to a year, without connecting their continuation to the health crisis, as another recent Democratic proposal did.  Especially as the economy reopens, that suggests Democratic leaders see the $600 supplements as an increasingly permanent part of the unemployment benefits landscape, independent of the health crisis that spawned it.”
Matt Weidinger, American Enterprise Institute

“GOP representatives support income top-ups, loans, and tax credits as part of a comprehensive plan to tackle the impact of COVID but want to see a more thorough analysis of the first stimulus package before spending more… In theory, this could leave room for meeting in the middle — but other parts of the package suggest it was designed for a public blow-up…

“The bill includes a provision giving undocumented migrants in the US the same access to a $1,200 stimulus check as legal residents… A handout to illegal migrants makes the bill ‘dead on arrival,’ as far as the Trump administration is concerned… This latest round of stimulus offerings hasn’t so much revealed the next phase of pandemic planning, but a new phase of merging the election with the COVID crisis.”
Kate Andrews, Spectator USA

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