A COUNTRY IN CRISIS
Want A Win In November? The Ball Is In Pelosi’s Court.
Trump and the GOP have proven that they have no interest in leading the country out of the COVID-19 crisis. Are the Democrats up to the task?
- Trump, February 7, 2020
Republicans have attempted on at least 70 different occasions to repeal Obamacare, many of these during the presidency of its namesake. With Obama as president, there was absolutely no chance that they could succeed, but they kept on taking votes as a symbolic measure. Every one of these votes was a chance for the GOP to signal to their base where they stood on the issue and to make their opponents go on the record.
As the country struggles to climb out of the hole left by Trump’s ineffective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and with the November election quickly approaching, the Democrats need to follow this example. A clear message must be sent to the electorate that they were the party that tried to help the American people while the Republicans in the Senate refused to act.
On May 15, 2020, the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act to provide needed relief to the American people, but the bill was not even taken up by the Republican-led Senate. Two months later, Senate Majority Leader McConnell attempted to gain consideration of the HEALS relief act, but he could not get enough of his fellow Republicans to get behind this $1 trillion package. Americans continued to suffer as the Senate refused to take further action.
After another couple of months have now passed, McConnell will make another attempt at getting his party to pass something that shows they took some type of action. According to reports, the highlights of this bill would include the following:
- “More PPP (Payroll Protection Program) money ($257.7 billion).
- Extension of jobless benefits, but at $300/week instead of $600/week.
- Forgiveness of a $10 billion loan made to the USPS.
- Tax credits for private/homeschooling.
- COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, universities, hospitals, and health care workers.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that McConnell’s proposal is “headed nowhere,” but this is the wrong strategy to pursue. Yes, it is true that the bill “is laden with poison pills [that] Republicans know Democrats would never support”, but ignoring the proposal allows McConnell to pretend that it is his opponents who are being the obstructionists. Instead, the House should pass a bill that matches the Republican bill point for point, forcing the other party to defend the bill that they have proposed.
The House bill should look something like this:
- The PPP should receive additional funding. However, the benefits should be specifically aimed at small businesses. Large corporations and charter schools should not be able to participate. The amount available should also be reduced to help pay for increased jobless benefits.
- Jobless benefits should be extended, but in an amount that takes into account the differences in the cost of living in different states. For states with a low cost of living, the amount should be $300 per week. For states with the highest cost of living, the amount should be $600 per week.
- The forgiveness of a $10 billion loan made to the USPS should remain with the added stipulation that mail processing capabilities should be returned to the point where they were on January 1 of this year.
- The amount that would have funded tax credits for private schools and homeschooling should be replaced with assistance for public schools.
- Instead of offering COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, the Democrats should provide a payroll tax cut for those outside the upper class. This would be accomplished by exempting the first portion of annual income equal to the poverty rate (currently $26,200 for a family of four in the contiguous 48 states) from FICA. The current cap should then be lifted and capital gains included in the calculation of the tax. This would ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund continues to remain solvent.
Trump may have “wanted to always play it down,” but the threat from COVID-19 was always real. Now as we deal with the economic results, Trump pretends that a surging stock market indicates that everything is fine. But even before the current crisis, 40% of Americans were unable to cover a surprise $400 expense, never mind scraping up enough cash to participate in the stock market. With 8.4% of Americans unemployed, more than 100,000 shuttered small businesses, an expected bankruptcy boom on the horizon, and over 40 million people at risk of being evicted from their homes, the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 continues even as the stock market rises. If the Democrats want to prove to the voters that giving them the legislative majorities and control of the executive branch will change their lives, they need to show the blueprints now.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.