Jeff Webb: Americans Suffer, Congress Feckless On Coronavirus Relief
While Congress fiddles and the U.S. economy is left to burn, the citizens are the ones being asked to bear the full weight of this crisis. Now is not the time for business as usual, it is time for a post-pandemic reality. The old ways of red tape and kick-backs to favored groups and special interests must end now.
A crisis of liquidity for individuals, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies will soon send our economy into even further decline unless the federal government acts quickly and decisively.
On Thursday, the Washington Times published my proposal for a Temporary Income Replacement Act that I challenged Congress to pass. The Act would authorize sending a $3,000 payment to every man, woman, and child in America. While I know that adds up to $1 trillion (330 million times $3,000), we are apparently about to spend that much anyway, but it looks like our leaders plan to do it in traditional pork-barreled and crony capitalist fashion.
Does anybody believe we are going to spend less than $3 trillion anyways before this is over? This time, if we are going to spend it, we ought to let the American people decide how to spend it. It’s their money after all.
I urged Congress in that piece just four days ago, an eternity in this rapidly moving story, to act immediately and not tie the program up in means testing and overly bureaucratic processes and determinations.
Sadly, every indication we have is that Congress is still behaving in its pre-pandemic partisan manner.
The bill proposed by Senate Republicans on Thursday, the day I made my proposal, is filled with means-testing requirements and bureaucratic red tape. Only some people appear to be scheduled to receive a direct payment under this proposal, and the qualifications to be approved look like they will take too much time to move through the bureaucracy. Instead of the simple and straightforward one-time, lump-sum payment of $3,000 I proposed, the proposals being discussed are of varying amounts, all depending on conditions.
This is not bold leadership. This is business as usual and middle-class Americans are being crushed.
And, as UPI reported on Sunday, Democrats and Republicans are squabbling over the elements of the program. While they indicate that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “I think we have a fundamental understanding and we look forward to wrapping it up today,” they further quote House Speaker Pelosi as saying, “from my standpoint, we’re apart.”
Incredibly, late Sunday, Speaker Pelosi announced she was not going to cooperate with the Senate, and instead will focus on her own proposal. Pelosi’s announcement is a stunning example of the pre-pandemic partisanship that has prevented the government from acting with the urgency this public health and economic crisis requires.
Our leaders are running in place and the American middle class is their treadmill.
It is time for our political leaders to elevate themselves above partisanship and recognize that in a post-pandemic world they are required to address the needs of the middle-class Americans who do the working, and paying, and living, and dying in this country. They keep it running day after day. We need to keep them running.
It is also time to reconcile the consequences of government actions that are shutting down economic activity with the impact those actions have on individual households. Some sort of temporary across-the-board shut down of “non-essential” business operations seems imminent. Without commenting on the wisdom of that decision or the scope of the policy, all political indications are that something is coming. People need cash to survive this centralized government intervention in economic activity.
Draconian actions produce commensurate results. Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, “He fears the public health measures that have shut down large swaths of the economy could cause their own health catastrophe, as lost jobs lead to poverty and hopelessness. Time and again, researchers have seen that suicide rates go up when the economy spirals down.”
No matter which side of the political continuum you call home, and no matter what you think the government should or shouldn’t do, they have been and will continue to do things. Those things are going to have a dire economic impact. The immediate challenge for every American is to survive physically and economically for the next 30 days.
Congress still will need to address other issues that are created by this pandemic. They are going to need to find out the best way to support privately-owned businesses in the country that do not have the financial resources of large corporations. Those companies are the backbone of America and employ the greatest number of our middle-class citizens. There will be other economic issues to address, as well, but we do not have to do everything at once.
We do, however, need to do this. America is its people. There are no businesses, schools, or governments without the people. Bringing stability to them must be the first order of business. As a general rule, I am not in favor of direct transfers of wealth. But this is an unprecedented time, and general rules do not apply. We have to address the one essential goal, stabilization of the American people to give them confidence that we will all come through this intact.
Since our elected leaders cannot seem to agree on what to do, let me suggest they come together and pass The Temporary Income Replacement Act. Perhaps this first step will lead them to come together for all of the next steps that are going to have to follow.