Unemployment claims this week were 6.6 million, added to the 10 million claims in the previous two weeks (3.3 + 6.6). This is reportedly about 10% of the entire US labor force, and may be higher because unemployment offices have been overwhelmed. This exceeded the worst projections of economists: 5 million claims for last week which are 76% of what happened. Senate Republicans proposed adding $250 billion to the $350 billion ($600 billion total) to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that provides forgivable loans to small businesses to keep people on the payroll. The initial $350M allowed loans of up to $10M but averaged out to about $16K per small business. Because of the urgency, loans were provided on a first-come-first-served bias through already established mechanisms ... Small Business Administration (SBA) loans administered by banks. PPP is already overwhelmed by applications.
Keeping people on payrolls allows them to continue making a range of monthly payments, for example, one-third of renters failed to make their April payment. It also keeps them from being dropped from their employers' medical insurance. And importantly, it speeds recovery because surviving businesses don't have the delays of deciding whether and who to hire.
So what was the response of Senate Democrats? They blocked the bill until next week and are insisting on a range of additions. Some would delay aid by adding complexity and requiring a significant portion of the funding be administered by banks not already set up to handle SBA loans. Some were for programs for worthy recipients (hospitals, states, ...) that aren't in dire need, for example, still having funds available. And some was just left-wing ideology.
Unemployment destroys lives, both physically and mentally. Senate Democrats have made it clear that their ideology takes precedence over the lives of Americans, and that they are willing to hold us hostage to get what they want.
After passing the "CARES Act" (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), the Republican-dominated Senate and the Democratic-dominated House adjourned for a multi-week vacation. According to multiple political analysts, the power of the majority and minority leadership of both houses was strengthen by the (deliberate?) failure to provide for remote voting. During this recess, bills can only pass by unanimous consent.
Congressional Democrats similarly delayed the passage of the CARES Act, although it was only by a few days -- from Monday March 23 to Friday March 27 -- those were critical days because people who lose their job typically lose their medical insurance on the first of the next month. This delay makes a mockery of Democrats purported concern about people having medical coverage.
During the weekend of March 21-22, some Senators from both parties worked out a compromise CARES Act that had broad support and was expected to be quickly passed on Monday. Although corporate Democrats and Republicans dominated the Senate, a small group of Senators managed to get a significant amount included for individuals and small businesses. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is widely mentioned in media reports as the primary advocate for small businesses, with some also mentioning Ben Cardin (D-Maryland). For direct payments to individuals, the primary advocate seems to have been Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), with Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) providing supportive words from the campaign trail.
However, on Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democratic Senators to vote against the bill, and only one disobeyed (Doug Jones, D-Alabama). Pelosi's objected to the amount for big corporations, that is, it wasn't enough and needed to include more of the ones "supporting" Democrats. And she wanted funding for parts of the Democratic agenda unrelated to the coronavirus crisis. And she wanted to impose additional costs and regulations on businesses -- what better time than during a recession/depression (dripping sarcasm).(foot#1)(foot#2)
The bill included an "oversight" provision that was toothless and would not report until well after its findings had become irrelevant (except to historians and their equivalents in academic Political Science and Economics). Such oversight is a well-established mechanism for politicians to escape accountability.
Pelosi said that she would appoint a special House committee to monitor the spending, although to make it official she will have to wait until the House returns from vacation. And who did she say would be the head of this committee? James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) who is number 3 in the Democratic House Leadership (title: Majority Whip). In a phone call of March with Democratic House members, he said that the bill provided "a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision."(foot#3)
A rant: Establishment/corporate Republicans in the Senate deserve their own call-out: They wanted to cut the unemployment provision by half on the theory that "too generous" benefits would encourage workers to quit their jobs (without good cause). This ignored that you are eligible for unemployment if you quit. It ignored decades of psychological research on the importance of jobs to most people. It ignored almost 100 years of experience. This faulty assumption that people don't take pride in working and their work is part of the dominant ideology of the current Republican Party and its contempt for the working class and much of the middle class.
As opposed to the dominant faction of the current Democratic Party which is corporatist -- transferring wealth and power to the already rich and powerful -- and dividing the spoils to maintain the loyalty of various constituencies (details in video ^The Rules for Rulers^ (9:32) - CGP Grey, 2016-10-24). The lesser faction believes that people outside the elite/select (known elsewhere as a the "vanguard") need to be micromanaged to do the "right" thing, including forceful measures being needed and justified to eliminate "wrong-think". While this faction will be allowed some influence, it is likely to continue to be marginalized and patronized. Why? Because the Left has over 200 years of history of "eating its own", interspersed with self-sabotage. Its opponents need only wait for it to eviscerate (gut) itself.
Although populists seem to be the most numerous in the Republican Party base/electorate, they are very thinly represented among the elected officials. However, its Congress members have demonstrated outsized influence in critical areas on the coronavirus bills and funding. Democratic Party discipline appears to have suppressed the equivalent within their ranks.
Aside: The phrase "America held hostage" comes from the title of an ABC-TV late-night news show during the 1979-1981 ^Iranian Hostage Crisis^. That show morphed into Nightline.
----My other blogs on coronavirus (COVID-19)----
"Is Palo Alto prepared for a Coronavirus outbreak?", 2020-01-30.
"Coronavirus (COVID-19): Underappreciated Unknowns & inexplicable failures", 2020-02-28.
"Preparing for COVID-19: An epidemic is not a hurricane. Panic buying harmful", 2020-03-03.
"COVID-19: Critiquing News Releases: What's missing + teachable opportunities", 2020-03-19.
"Remember the failures for when it's time for fixes: COVID-19", 2020-03-27.
"Profiteering off medical equipment and its export unimpeded", 2020-04-03.
1. Conservative opinion writer's view on Pelosi version:
"^Democrats try to hijack coronavirus stimulus for liberal Christmas in March: Every time the country faces a crisis, real or perceived, there is a rush in Congress to pass massive bills that go far beyond responding to the matter at hand^" by James S. Robbins, USA Today, 2020-03-23.
2. New York Times spinning the news to favor Democrats:
They changed the headline of one article:
(1) "Democrats Block Action on $1.8 Trillion Stimulus"
(2) "Democrats Block Action on Stimulus Plan, Seeking Worker Protections"
(3) "Partisan Divide Threatens Deal on Rescue Plan"
I didn't find an archive site tracking these three changes, but they reportedly occurred within one hour. They were widely ridiculed in the media, for example, "^Trump rips NY Times for altering coronavirus negotiations headline 'to satisfy the radical left'^" - The Hill, 2020-03-23.
There was ^another set of changes recorded^, apparently after the above:
(a) "Emergency Economic Rescue Plan in Limbo as Democrats Raise Objections" (Sunday March 22, 4:25 PM ET)
(b) "Emergency Economic Rescue Plan in Limbo as Democrats Block Action" (later on Sunday March 22).
3. Clyburn's statement to House Democrats
The articles I saw all appeared to be based upon "^Dem Rep. Told Colleagues Coronavirus Bill Is 'Tremendous Opportunity to Restructure Things to Fit Our Vision'^" by Tobias Hoonhout, National Review, 2020-03-23 (^archived^). National Review is an establishment/mainstream Conservative magazine.
An ^abbreviated index by topic and chronologically^ is available.
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