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COVID financial relief should be targeted

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I have to say I agree with Republicans on one thing: COVID financial relief should be targeted to people who really need it, rather than widely distributed to people like me and my family, who don’t.

The Democratic plan, as best as I can determine, is to send $1,400 stimulus payments to Americans. (That’s in addition to the $600 that’s already being sent out.) From my reading of the news, I can’t determine the specifics. Is it every adult American? Is there an upper income limit? I can’t tell, but it certainly seems to be most Americans, which is a large part of why the total amount of Biden’s proposed COVID relief package is a whopping $1.9 trillion.

Republicans in Congress seem united against this, preferring instead a more targeted approach. And for once, I agree with them. Look: I’m hardly rich. Those of you who have followed my story on this blog for years know all about my financial struggles. I wouldn’t mind getting that extra $1,400.

But my point is, I don’t need it. Nor does anyone in my extended family. We’re all doing quite well. Now, in talking about this with my friends and neighbors, they generally say two things: first, “If you really don’t need the money, then give it away to a charity.” The other thing they say is, “Take the money, and spend it locally, on endangered businesses in your neighborhood.” Both of these ideas have merit.

Yet for that $1,400 to get sent out, it needs to survive a vote in the U.S. Senate, and that’s looking increasingly precarious. As the news media are reporting, “moderate Republicans” are “pushing back” on the scope of the Biden stimulus. They simply feel it’s too much money. Now, I have two reactions to that. First, as I just said, I agree with them that the stimulus should be targeted: to the poor, to the unemployed, to those front-line workers (often people of color) who clean our houses and pick our crops, to small-business owners on the verge of closing. My second reaction is that these Republicans are once again showing the hypocrisy for which they are infamous. They never seem to mind budget deficits or the national debt when it’s incurred by Republican presidents (Reagan, George W. Bush, trump), who usually run them up for tax cuts for billionaires and bloated military spending. But when a Democrat proposes spending a lot of money on ordinary, working class Americans, look out! The Republicans get themselves in a frenzy.

Well, we can dismiss such crocodile tears from Republicans for what they are: bullshit. But we can’t dismiss political reality: as long as the filibuster is in effect, Biden will need at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything, and if he’s lost moderate Republicans on the stimulus, it’s not going to pass.

That’s why the negotiations are happening even as I type these words. As the Wall Street Journal reports, “Republicans and some Democrats…discussed trying to pass a smaller, more targeted aid package focused on vaccine funding before the beginning of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial,” which begins the week of Feb. 8. I think it’s great that both sides are talking, which almost never happened during the trump years. (Finding common ground will also help to marginalize the worst of the worst, like Cruz, McCarthy and Hawley.) As much as I loathe Republicans and think they’re spineless, insane freaks, I recognize that we need a degree of bipartisanship to pass anything in the Congress (not to mention avoiding a possible civil war). There are certainly things that Democrats can never compromise on (such as protecting gay rights, or defending the Dreamers), but surely, the size of a COVID stimulus package isn’t something to go to the mattresses for.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    I totally agree with you. My wife and I got the $2400 last spring, then $1200 this month. While we’re not rich, and I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, we really don’t need it. Yes, we’ve tried to give much of it to charities, and spend more locally, we shouldn’t get any more. Give any more payments to those who truly need it.

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