$1.9 Trillion Too Much For COVID Relief? Great, How About $3 Trillion Instead?
This week, the Progressive Caucus, led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Katie Porter, the Progressive Caucus sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer making it very clear that Biden's COVID relief rescue package of $1.9 trillion is not a starting point for negotiations with Republicans, but rather a floor for the absolute least they should be doing. Really, they should be counting on spending at least $3 trillion.
With the economy in crisis, rockbottom interest rates, and no sign of inflation, the economic consensus is clear: the best hope for the economy is a massive public investment to create jobs, raise wages, and keep people out of poverty. If we aim too low, the financial consequences will be catastrophic, long-lasting, and borne by the American families who can least afford it.
We are concerned by the views of some in Congress who are advocating for a scaled-back, "wait and see" approach. This goes against both the economic consensus and the voices of our constituents, who are crying out for additional relief to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads. The families and small businesses that make up the economy do not have the luxury of "waiting to see" how this public health and economic crisis progresses -- they need relief now.
This is not simply because they are bleeding heart liberals who for some reason think it is super important that people can eat and have someplace to live. It is because it is actually what economists say is necessary for the economy to recover.
The economic experts are with us on the need for urgent and aggressive action. Just last month, leading economists estimated that we will need no less than $3 trillion in immediate relief to get our economy out of this hole. We cannot revive our economy in the short term and put our nation back on the path to growth in the long term without recommitting to the principle of fiscal responsibility, which directs us to pursue the appropriate level of spending to maintain a healthy rate of expansion. President Biden's rescue package, which comes in at $1.9 trillion, is a critical first step in meeting the economic need, but it is a minimum floor—determined by the needs of the American people in this dire moment. If anything, it must be strengthened, not weakened.
It is far more dangerous for our economy and our future to give people too little than to give them too much. Part of the reason the Great Recession lasted as long as it did was because all the economic relief was given to bankers rather than (aside from one lousy stimulus check) regular people who were suffering.
If we do not act now, a prolonged, sluggish economic recovery will surely result. The pain of a prolonged recession will be widespread -- but it will hit women and Black and brown people most. The American people cannot afford a repeat of the jobless recovery from the 2009 economic crisis and we must take bold action to prevent such an outcome.
The fact is, there are a lot of people still feeling the effects of the 2009 economic crisis. Many of those who graduated during those years ended up having to put their careers on hold because there just were no jobs to be had, meaning that many aren't in the same place in their careers as they would be otherwise. People took out loans or paid a whole lot of money to go to school and then could not get jobs. This impacted their ability to save money, buy houses, start families and do other things that previous generations took for granted as the norm.
It is also — and Republicans and Democrats who are more economically conservative may want to take notes here — why so many are dead serious about wanting things like Medicare For All, a Universal Basic Income, a minimum wage that is a living wage, publicly subsidized college, student loan forgiveness, and other economic reforms that "the adults in the room" so like to roll their eyes at. If they don't want more "petulant children" to contend with, they may want to consider steering clear of creating the conditions in which the economic reforms they fear start looking really good to people.
Our economy is on the brink, with millions of people unable to afford the basics, states, cities, and tribal governments facing dire budget shortfalls, and the pandemic continuing to surge across the country. Experts agree that the economic benefits of investing in recovery, helping families and small businesses stay afloat, and protecting frontline workers will far outweigh the costs of any new federal borrowing. Deficit-financed investments, especially those targeted toward poor, working-class, and middle-class communities, will drive broad-based economic growth. Manufactured concerns about the debt will only get in the way of urgently needed action and delay relief for millions of families.
We all know that if this were a war, we'd figure out a way to fund it, and that those who opposed it would be called unpatriotic. But what is more "patriotic" than taking care of our citizens during a crisis like this?
Helping Americans right now is also politically smart. It really is, because sure — if Democrats err on the side of giving people too much, there might be some people who criticize that later. But if they end up giving people less than they need to survive, that will come back to bite them in the ass in a far, far more serious way.
Take a moment and try to recall one single time when doing something to try to appease Republicans has worked out well for Democrats in the long term. I certainly can't think of one, but I can think of many times when it's backfired.
Of course, there are likely going to be difficulties with even getting enough Republicans to vote for the $1.9 trillion plan Biden is currently proposing — and it may have to be passed using budget reconciliation. Republican senators like John Thune are very upset about this, because they feel budget reconciliation should only be used to give tax cuts to the rich, not to refund regular Americans their own damn tax money in a national emergency. But here's the thing — Americans overwhelmingly support another COVID relief bill being passed and if that doesn't make things okay, they will support another still. No one gives a flying fuck about "debt" right now or a "balanced budget," they care about eating and having a place to live. If Republicans want to vote against that, they do so at their own peril.
In this case, Democrats need to have the courage to do the extremely popular thing and do everything possible to make sure that people have the money, food and shelter they need to survive this shit.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse