We Are Left Holding the Bag In New Emergency Relief Package–Again (Video)

The good news: House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve another $484 billion emergency relief package.

The bad news: Most of that amount–$310 billion–will be put toward replenishing the small business loan Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

That means, once again–as expected–Americans whom the economic fallout from the coronavirus affects most are left with nothing but the price tag.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) was the only Democrat to vote to reject the bill.

She took to the House floor to explain:

“On behalf of my constituents in the Bronx and Queens, New York’s 14th Congressional District, the most impacted district in America, calling people, losing their families every day, it is a joke when Republicans say that they have urgency around this bill. The only folks that they have urgency around are folks like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Those are the people getting assistance in this bill. You are not trying to fix this bill for mom-and-pops. And we have to fight to fund hospitals, fighting to fund testing. That is what we’re fighting for in this bill. It is unconscionable. If you had urgency, you would legislate like rent was due on May 1st and make sure that we include rent and mortgage relief for our constituents.”

Perhaps the key priorities Democrats have been proposing about more funding for rent assistance, election security, and the U.S. Postal Service will have to wait until “phase four.”

The American Prospect executive editor David Dayen, author of the book The Fight to Learn Who the Fed Will Bail Out, told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman:

“You know, in the last big bill in March, you had a giant corporate bailout. Now you’ve had the small business relief that has been put in. That ‘small’ is a relevant term. It’s 500 employees or less, and franchises can still apply. So, you know, that’s kind of what the Republicans wanted. And now Democrats are going to try to get their priorities through, and it’s, I think, going to be a pretty difficult road.”

Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed the Republican party has no interest in assisting Democratic states in their time of need.

McConnell, the self-described “Grim Reaper,” told radio talk host Hugh Hewitt that rather than depend on any help from the federal government, states should just declare bankruptcysaying:

“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It’s saved some cities, and there’s no good reason for it not to be available.”

Despite all the talk of “fiscal responsibility,” and people needing to “lift themselves up by their bootstraps,” Republicans have never had any problem with “bailouts,” “stimulus packages,” “rescue packages,” or whatever euphemism is ascribed as long as their wealthy Wall Street donors are taken care of, as a quarter of the $2 trillion CARES ACT, the bipartisan relief package Congress passed this month, does.

Conservatives love to blame our economic woes on social safety nets, specifically Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka “food stamps,” public employee benefits and pensions.

McConnell admitted:

“There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”

But when massive transnational corporations come to Congress pleading for financial assistance, or corporate welfare, there isn’t a moment’s hesitation.

We are incentivizing the most profitable corporations to keep workers poor so their CEOs can pocket billions, no questions asked.

Quoting a recent Slate piece:

“Regardless of how quickly state governments act to lift restrictions on economic activity, there will need to be at least one more major relief bill. PPP [Payroll Protection Program] will run out of money again. Hospitals will need more money. Human beings will need more money! At least 22 million jobs have been lost in the past few weeks—and we have no idea how long it will take for them to come back. The damage is incalculable. It is untenable for a legislator or president to say their hands are tied because of the deficit, because that legislator or president will risk blame for a worsening economic depression in an election year.”

We are rapidly descending toward Republican Great Depression unemployment numbers because the coronavirus shut-downs are accelerating the demise of an economy that was already teetering on a precipice.

It took four years for the unemployment rate during the Great Depression to reach its 25% apex.

It’s taking us four months.

Many economists warn we could be headed for an historic–and crippling–32%.

As David Sirota wrote in his newsletter TMI:

“His [McConnell’s] goal is to use the coronavirus crisis to realize one of the most radical long-term goals of the conservative movement: empowering states to break existing contracts and slash previously pledged pension benefits for teachers, firefighters, cops, first responders and other public-sector employees.”

People are waking up to the con in republican.

As every economic crisis has demonstrated, we are about to fundamentally change our economy and society.

The question is, what direction will we choose–social democracy or fascism?

Image credit: www.progressive-charlestown.com

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.