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The Senate last night passed that $2.2 trillion stimulus package, but not before some DRAMA from the expected bunch of rightwing numpties. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), Rick Scott (Florida), and Tim Scott (South Carolina) held a press conference to protest that the bill's temporary unemployment benefits were far too generous, because the extra $600 a week (for no more than four months) would amount to more than some low-wage workers even get in their regular pay, and wouldn't that be terrible during a massive economic crisis? Calling the unemployment provision a "drafting error," which it damn well was not, the four offered an amendment that would limit emergency unemployment benefits to no more than 100 percent of recipients' wages. Fortunately, the amendment failed, and the bill went forward, but at least now conservatives can tut-tut about all the lucky duckies who'll be whooping it up and maybe not becoming homeless as the unemployment rate explodes due to the coronavirus pandemic and the world's economy peeks out from a scenic overlook at a new great depression.

The problem, the Great Minds declared, was that at a time when the pandemic can only be fought by keeping people home from work, some people might actually get paid to stay home from work, and they'd become so lazy after getting four months of higher pay that they'd never return to work once the crisis is over. Especially if the crisis is over before those four months are up! (Which isn't a likely scenario, but what if it happened?) The idea that unemployment benefits cause people to avoid work is kinda bullshit in normal times, but in an economic crash like we're trying to avoid, it makes even less sense than ever.

Here's the video if you're a masochist:


Sen. Graham addresses problems in coronavirus relief bill youtu.be



Before we dive into the the wingnut objections, let's have a very small Truth Sandwich — really, more of a Truth Finger Sandwich, for teatime — on that silly "drafting error" crap. A Republican spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee said the temporary $600-per-week boost over whatever someone gets in state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was by design, not a mistake, and the whole idea is to get relief to people who need it so the economy won't go tits-up:

Nothing in this bill incentivizes businesses to lay off employees. In fact it's just the opposite [...] The goal all along has been, first and foremost, to help businesses make payroll so employers don't have to lay off employees and to ensure that there's a robust unemployment insurance program to help those who have lost their jobs.

Each state has a different UI program, so the drafters opted for a temporary across-the-board UI boost of $600, which can deliver needed aid in a timely manner rather than burning time to create a different administrative regime for each state [...] This increase is designed to make the average worker whole.

The spokesperson also pointed out there won't be a surge of lazies quitting their jobs to collect enhanced unemployment for four months, because "nobody who voluntarily leaves an available job is eligible for UI."

Nonetheless, the Four Dipshits of the Coronapocalypse issued a statement that contended the prospect of all that big money (for four months) would cause greedy lazy people to go and get themselves laid off in the middle of an economic downturn, which makes all kinds of sense. No, really, they literally said the bill could provide a "strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work" to grab all the money, after which maybe they'd never have to work or pay rent again. The statement continues in that vein suggesting that somehow people who manage to hold on to work while the economy is going kerflooie will connive to get laid off, leaving us without food or healthcare:

This isn't an abstract, philosophical point — it's an immediate, real-world problem [...] If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families' tables.

Remember, no unemployment for people who quit, so this seems unbloodylikely. Besides, as Josh Barro points out at New York magazine, the whole point of this bailout package is to make it possible for people to be out of work, so the virus won't spread and the hospitals won't be overwhelmed. Mind you, if the crisis is miraculously resolved before the four months of emergency benefits run out, that would be a hell of a fine "problem" to face. It will take some time for the economy to get rolling again and for companies to call all their workers back. Says Barro:

In fact, it's likely that the shutdowns will persist long enough that the enhanced benefits will need to be extended. If we're in a situation by July where all the shutdowns are over and employers are eagerly hiring and our biggest concern is too many people don't want to go back to work, I will be overjoyed and very surprised.

Lindsey Graham offered some particularly stupid blather about how, in the middle of a healthcare crisis, a lot of nurses laid off by doctors who aren't doing elective procedures might decide they'd rather sit around eating bonbons and watching TV than help with the crisis. That didn't go over well with people who know, love, or are nurses:


Should make a hell of an ad for Jaime Harrison, Graham's Democratic opponent this fall. Hey, just thought of where those of us who can afford it could send some of our stimulus money!

In his floor speech to support the amendment, Ben Sasse wanted to let everyone know the real heroes of this crisis are the hard-working American workers who work hard. They're just the greatest! But unfortunately, if you help them too much by paying them a bit too much for four months, that there is a "perverse incentive" that will magically turn them from hard-working heroes into lazy taker zeroes, and that might actually leave us with NO FOOD OR MEDICINE! Because unlike CEOs who wisely improve America when they get a huge tax cut, the heroes can't handle a little extra cash, this is just science.

Sasse Fights for Pro-Worker, Pro-Recovery Amendment youtu.be


Here's what's wrong about the bill: As it's currently drafted, it threatens to cripple the supply chain for many different categories of workers, some in healthcare, some in food prep and food delivery.

This bill as currently drafted creates a perverse incentive for men and women who are sidelined to then not leave the sidelines and come back to work. This bill creates a perverse incentive for many employers who should be wanting to try to maintain the employer-employee relationship, it creates a perverse incentive for them to sever that employer- employee relationship.

You see, if employers know their employees won't starve if they're laid off because the government will lavish slightly more money on them, those employers might "sever" the sacred "employer-employee relationship" — and, incidentally, not go into bankruptcy trying to meet payroll when they're barely hanging on. Again, that's the point: Leave the small businesses with some capital so there's a better chance they'll still be around when the crisis is over. Can't preserve that sacred bond (it's like mawwage) if the employer has to liquidate their assets.

During the Senate debate, Bernie Sanders pointed out just what a crock of shit these guys were pushing:


Bernie Sanders unloads sarcasm on GOP senators: "Oh my God! The universe is collapsing." youtu.be

As for the very sad Republicans, Sanders had only scorn. It was a pretty good audition for Wonkette!

And now I find that some of my Republican colleagues are very distressed, they're very upset that somebody who's making 10, 12 bucks an hour might end up with a paycheck — for four months — more than they received last week.

Oh my god, the universe is collapsing. Imagine that. Somebody's making $12 an hour, now like the rest of us faces an unprecedented economic crisis, with the $600 on top of their regular unemployment check might be making a few bucks more for four months.

Oh my word, will the universe survive? How absurd and wrong is that? What kind of value system is that?

And yet somehow those very same Republicans all managed to vote for "a trillion dollars in tax breaks" for the wealthiest Americans and giant corporations. Golly, thank goodness they want to save us from the profligacy of unemployed Americans who'll merely spend their extra unemployment on food and shelter, the way they do. How will any yacht manufacturers be helped by that?

Ultimately, the amendment failed bigly and the Senate passed the stimulus package on a 96 to 0 vote, sending it on to the House of Representatives, where teabagger Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Tennessee Kentucky [Goddamn it Dok!]) vows he'll show up to vote against it, because "national debt." That would block the effort to hurry the bill through with "unanimous consent" and requiring the full House, which is in recess, to come back to Washington. It's unclear whether he'll actually hold the stimulus package hostage, but under House rules, he certainly can. Even so, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this morning she expects the bill to pass tomorrow, and that it will go through "with strong bipartisan support."

It's not like there's any real hurry here. Maybe a week of partisan grandstanding about the debt will help the economy recover faster.

[New York / Vox / NBC News / Sen. Ben Sasse / Newsweek / WaPo / Guardian / Louisville Courier-Journal]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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