Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Do You Trust Washington With Your Family's Well-Being?


Nabilah Islam, pictured above, is the most progressive candidate running for the open seat in the GA-07 seat in the suburbs and small towns north of Atlanta. This morning she shared an observation with us: "The House and Senate have had four opportunities to do what is right by the American people. At this point, I have faith in very few members in either chamber to put the American people first. We are on the brink of another great depression. We have 33 million Americans out of work. 90 million Americans uninsured or underinsured and those in the halls of Congress are debating on whether or not to expand COBRA. I've been saying for some time now that we need to be looking at policy proposals like FDR's New Deal. More immediately, we need emergency UBI, rent and mortgage cancellation, student debt cancellation, etc. Long term this is a great opportunity to implement a Green New Deal. It would create jobs with a federal jobs guarantee. Allow us to invest in ourselves and create an opportunity for working people to thrive not just survive. My biggest fear is ushering in the 117th Congress with people who would rather make austerity cuts that take on corporate special interests. That is why we need to fight to elect people like myself and other progressive candidates around the country who are committed to putting Americans first."

If he was a reader, I bet Catherine Rampell would trigger Trump every time the Washington Post published one of her columns. I'm sure that's already the case with Mitch McConnell. Yesterday's, Washington Shows Just Why The Country Shouldn’t Depend On It For Stimulus would have sent him into a screaming tirade. "Washington’s very Washingtonian behavior," she wrote, "has just underscored why a stimulus should not depend on Washington." Like many members of Congress, she thinks automatic economic triggers should determine aid to citizens, not DC finagling.

Last week, on the day the unemployment rate hot 14.7%, Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair of Congress' Joint Economic Committee, issued a statement:
We have not seen horrible, history-making numbers like these since the Great Depression.

“In two months, almost a decade’s worth of job growth has been wiped out, the unemployment rate has more than quadrupled, and more than 75,000 Americans have died because President Trump did not take seriously multiple early warnings about the global threat of the coronavirus and failed to lead a competent fight against it. This is President Trump’s economic legacy-- cracks in the economy as a result of his trade wars and tax cuts have now split wide open as a result of his ignorance and incompetence.

It could be months before the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs are able to return to work. If we expect them to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, then we need to make sure they can take care of themselves and their loved ones for as long as the public health and economic crises last.

A legislative proposal I introduced this week with Senators Reed and Bennet would extend unemployment benefits until states’ unemployment rates drop to acceptable levels. We should not penalize people for not having a job when there are no jobs to be had. I hope the legislation is included in the next coronavirus relief package.

In her column, Rampell went right to another statement on that same day, one from the White House-- "that those hoping for more help from the feds shouldn’t hold their breath. 'We're in no rush, we're in no rush,' President Trump said Friday. His economic advisers and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed this message. In other words, don’t plan on more aid to states, which are already so strapped for cash that they’re cutting Medicaid during a pandemic. Don’t expect extensions of financial lifelines for jobless workers."

She's speculated that "this is a negotiating ploy to extract concessions from Democrats-- even though red states would suffer from delaying federal aid, too. Whatever the reason, GOP dawdling is the latest reminder that Congress should stop leaving the fate of the economy to the whims of callous, dithering, dilettantish, hostage-taking charlatans, who see every crisis as an opportunity for a shakedown. Instead, build a stimulus system that triggers on (and off) automatically-- based on whatever the economy actually needs, using metrics agreed to in advance."

Economists are generally fans of policies known as “automatic stabilizers,” or programs that ramp up automatically when the economy tanks. For example, as people lose jobs, they become eligible for food stamps or unemployment benefits.

These forms of stimulus kick in without politicians having to debate, and they have huge bang for their buck. Both are useful features in a dysfunctional political system, especially when the country is struck by an unusually bad shock in which a speedy fiscal response is critical.

Unfortunately, our automatic stabilizers were never robust enough. Worse, the Trump administration and state governments have made automatic stabilizers much less automatic and stabilizing by adding red tape and reducing programs’ generosity in recent years.

This has left the country unusually reliant on Washington to devise a rescue program ad hoc during the worst economic crisis in nearly a century.

Congress has passed several rounds of relief, but more is undoubtedly necessary. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that without further stimulus, unemployment will be 9.5 percent at the end of 2021. Goldman Sachs estimates that even with another half-trillion dollars in yet-to-be-proposed fiscal stimulus, unemployment will average “only” 7.2 percent next year.

For now, most of Congress's existing measures are poised to sunset based on somewhat arbitrary deadlines unrelated to economic conditions. Enhanced unemployment benefits, for example, are set to expire July 31, even though the CBO expects the unemployment rate to average 16 percent that quarter.

Of course, nothing would stop Congress from renewing these emergency programs-- except, that is, Congress.

Each time measures come up for renewal, prolonged negotiation is more likely, with politicians exploiting “must-pass” legislation to make crazy, controversial demands. This already happens during debt-ceiling showdowns, the more common congressionally created opportunity for unnecessary crises.

If Trump’s “no rush” comments weren’t sufficient evidence of this risk now, recall that in the aftermath of the Great Recession, authorization for extended unemployment benefits lapsed five times. More recently, the small-business loan program ran out of funds for more than a week. And that was for a program virtually everyone supports, almost immediately after it began.

The next round of stimulus negotiations will be difficult and high-stakes. But it must include relief measures automatically linking stimulus to economic conditions, so that further rounds of negotiations can have lower stakes. Some Democratic lawmakers have proposed plans that would do this. Rep. Don Beyer (VA) and Senators Michael Bennet (CO) and Jack Reed (RI) recently offered a framework for linking enhanced jobless benefits to (duh) the joblessness rate. So did Sen. Ron Wyden (OR).

In these proposals, benefit extensions would automatically turn on while the economy is bad, and-- perhaps as important, at least to budget hawks-- automatically trigger “off” as the economy heals. Lawmakers, of course, can override their “autopilot” settings if they later change their minds.

Fair warning: Trigger-based programs are likely to have big up-front price tags. But they are no more expensive than the cumulative cost of multiple program extensions, such as those enacted after the Great Recession.

They could actually be less expensive, because they’d prevent costly program lapses and restarts. And they’d give states greater certainty around budgeting, and households greater confidence in their ability to pay bills. (Remember when Republicans used to complain about policy uncertainty?)

Most important, we need to minimize the number of desperate American families either party might take hostage. Especially when at least one party appears more than willing to actually destroy those hostages.
One senior Democratic congressman told me that he thinks Rampell's got it wrong. "If the GOP is going to act like callous jackasses," he said, "then you make them pay the price for it, just as Trump/McConnell tried to do with the Payroll Protection Program funding. Also, the trigger concept doesn’t really work here, because this may well be a once-in-a-century depression, not an unpleasant point in the business cycle. It also assumes that the Government has a limitless supply of funds, and in fact it doesn’t. Last month’s federal deficit is more than the annual GDP of Switzerland. Triggers make sense when you have only a demand problem; this is both a demand and a supply problem. Wendy’s is not running out of hamburgers because of a lack of demand, I assure you. At this point, even Keynes would not be a Keynesian. I’m not saying that I would vote against it, but I certainly don’t think that it’s a great idea."

Goal ThermometerTom Guild is running for the Oklahoma City district, currently held by GOP-lite Blue Dog Kendra Horn. "No rush is the operative phrase with too many members of the permanent political class in Washington, DC. It took a month for me to receive my stimulus check. If my rent or house payment or my need to buy food had been dependent on receipt of that money, I would have been a prime candidate for eviction or foreclosure and a casualty of nutrition deprivation syndrome. Many people I visit with on social media and otherwise are still waiting for their stimulus payment. They needed their money to survive and keep their financial heads above water. No rush. How asinine. Oklahoma’s unemployment compensation system has been fairly roasted for having an unduly complicated filing system and many intentional roadblocks to delay or deny claims for desperate Sooners. They may soon seek shelter with other homeless Okies or stand on the side of the road pleading for money to help themselves and their desperate loved ones. As Marie Antoinette coldly proclaimed before being beheaded by French revolutionaries, 'Let them (the hungry and desperate if bread was unavailable to them) eat cake!' No hurry. How barbaric. The national government has been an epic failure in addressing the desperation in America during these terrible dark days. The Reed/Bennet/Beyer proposal to extend unemployment benefits until states’ unemployment rates drop to acceptable levels is a sensible idea. As they indicate, 'We should not penalize people for not having a job when there are no jobs to be had.' This practical idea should be considered and included in the next coronavirus relief package. The Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, Wall Street, and big corporations moved through Congress and was signed into law in short order. Bailing out the wealthy and the big corporations among the political ruling class always takes priority over the lives of ordinary hard working and beautiful yet beleaguered Americans. The greed of some very BIG small businesses in snapping up forgivable loans authorized and funded by Congress, before the real small businesses, who lacked connections with the well-heeled and the big banks, had a chance to participate before the money set aside for them was gone, is despicable. When I taught a course called Contemporary Workplace Issues that I pioneered at the University of Central Oklahoma, I used a book to enhance discussion of white collar crime in the business world. The book is entitled The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. Graft, corporate welfare, and grifting has become a way of life for some privileged and entitled corporate citizens here in our country. Wealth and income inequality have reached critical mass and become one of the most serious systemic problems facing our country. The failure of the national government and many state governments to put the least among us first makes a tragic situation that much more horrific and intractable. No rush indeed. We better start addressing issues of poverty, privilege, inequality, and government incompetence now. The future viability and health of our republic hang in the balance."

Eva Putzova is the progressive running in AZ-01. The incumbent, a lifelong conservative Republican pretending to be an equally conservative Blue Dog, guarantees that voters have to real choice. Eva is ending that. "The failure of Congress and the White House to address the deteriorating conditions faced by American families," she told us this morning, "is disgraceful. I agree that there should be automatic triggers that guarantee increased unemployment benefits, food stamps and healthcoverage, until the economy recovers to full employment. However, that is not enough. With or without this current economic/public health crisis, we need universal healthcare, i.e, Medicare for All, a Green New Deal to completely retool the economy and invest in underserved areas, strong labor law reform and protections for workers rights to organize unions, a jobs guarantee, and much, much more. The Republican Party and its President are criminally negligent in failing to address the Covid-19 crisis as well the coming economic depression. But too many Democrats are willing to accept half-measures that don't address the social and economic problems that have gotten worse over the past 50 years-- well before Donald Trump became President."

Robin Wilt is a fully dedicated progressive running against a garden variety New Dem in Rochester, New York. She'll make a much better representative of Monroe County's working families, although not as much of a fighter to put corporate interests first, the way her opponent is! "Throughout March and April 2020, the U.S. government passed three main relief packages, and one supplemental one, totaling nearly $2.8 trillion. The overwhelming majority of that money-- over $2 trillion-- went directly to Wall Street. I want that to sink in. In the middle of a pandemic, the main spending priority of the Federal government was not to ramp up infectious disease testing, increase manufacturing of needed medical goods and PPE, or to provide health care coverage or a basic income for the tens of millions of people who would eventually be unemployed as a result of the health crisis. Once again, the first priority of those in Washington was to bail out Wall Street, not Main Street.

"The first COVID-19 relief bill passed on March 6, 2020, and rightfully went to response efforts to fund research for a vaccine and provide money to help with efforts to fight the spread of the virus. It totaled only $8.3 billion. On March 12, 2020, however, the Fed enormously expanded its repo operations to banks by a whopping $1.5 trillion dollars, then adding another $500 billion on March 16, 'to ensure there was enough liquidity in the money markets.' Yes, you read that correctly. That’s $2 trillion to banks within ten days of the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while only some $8 billion went to fighting the health crisis.

"Meanwhile, the second relief package for people-- the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (which, ironically, came after the Wall Street bail out packages)-- passed on March 18, and again, in comparison to the spending on the financial sector, allocated a paltry $3.4 Billion to: 1) provide money for families who rely on free school lunches in light of widespread school closures; 2) mandate companies with fewer than 500 employees provide paid sick leave for these suffering from COVID-19, as well as providing a tax credit to help employers cover those costs; 3) nearly $1 billion in additional unemployment insurance money for states, as well as loans to states to fund unemployment insurance; 4) Funding and cost waivers to make COVID-19 testing free for all.

"It was not until almost a month later, on April 9, 2020, that the Federal government got around to passing any direct aid to families in the form of cash payments through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

"I am fond of the saying: Don’t tell me what your priorities are. Show me your budget. Our representatives who demonstrate that their priorities and loyalties are first and foremost to the financial sector-- as opposed to the people who are the engines of it-- should be voted out. We need new, bold, representatives who are not afraid to truly put people first in their spending priorities."

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't trust Washington, you cannot, then, trust the democraps, who run the house.

And if you don't trust the democraps, and you should not because they haven't been trustworthy for nearly a half-century, why would you read the sheepdog's shilling for these democrap candidates.

In case you have no clue, if AOC (+ squad + pramila + ro + ted) cannot keep the democraps from getting worse, how will these cherry-picked democrap candidates?

the answer: they cannot. they will not. they'll endorse Pelosi for tyrant and then will go mute and disappear just like AOC (+ squad + pramila + ro + ted).

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no one to trust with my family's well-being. It's all been taken away for private profit.


Post a Comment

<< Home