Congress must produce a balanced economic rescue package that focuses on the middle class — our country depends on it.
With American lives and livelihoods on the line, both parties must balance lessons of the past with the realities we face today.
This essay was written by the Co-Chairs of the Blue Dog Coalition, Reps. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Lou Correa (CA-46), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), and Anthony Brindisi (NY-22).
The coronavirus pandemic has become a national public health and economic crisis. With people’s lives and livelihoods on the line, both parties must balance lessons of the past with the realities we face right now as the federal government responds to this pandemic.
There is no question Congress should produce the next economic rescue package with recent history in mind. During the 2008 financial crisis, big banks used hard-earned taxpayer dollars to give bonuses to CEOs and other senior staff while many Americans were losing their homes and their jobs. When Republicans implemented a tax cut for large corporations in 2017, many of those corporations used their increased income for stock buybacks rather than increasing the wages of their workers. It’s no wonder that Americans have developed a deep distrust of large corporations, and Congress should ensure that corporations do not misuse our hard-earned taxpayer dollars going forward.
At the same time, Congress should recognize that businesses who do right by their workers must be given the necessary resources to survive, because the fate of these employees and the future of our economy depend on it. Ultimately, any taxpayer dollars that Congress makes available to support companies of any size should, in turn, be used by those companies to protect their workers’ jobs and benefits to the maximum degree possible.
The reality is that the economic turmoil we face today is due to a pandemic — not bad behavior by business. Congress should legislate with that fact in mind, while also establishing clear guardrails for the business community in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used in a completely transparent, responsible, and pro-worker fashion.
This moment in history revealed how intertwined we are around the world, both as human beings and as an economy. Last week, the Department of Labor announced that the number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by 70,000 from the previous week. That’s a 33 percent increase in one week — a higher week-to-week percentage increase than was seen during the Great Recession. And we know these shocking numbers will only increase as time goes on if nothing is done. The coronavirus pandemic could dramatically compound the level of inequality we saw in the country prior to the outbreak, and both the public and private sectors are reliant on one another to prevent that from happening.
When it comes to addressing the economic crisis, Congress must do all that it can to keep workers tethered to their jobs, support the unemployed and ensure businesses survive so that workers have jobs when we emerge from this crisis. Businesses must do all that they can to act in good faith by protecting as many employees as possible while also keeping their operations afloat. If one or the other does not hold up their end of the bargain, the consequences will be felt for far longer than this pandemic will last. If both the federal government and the private sector succeed, we could become far more united and stronger as a nation.