Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Ro Khanna (D-California) have introduced a bill that would pay most Americans $2000 a month until the coronavirus pandemic is over. The proposal, called the "Emergency Money for the People Act," would make the payments available to any American over the age of 16 whose income is less than $130,000 a year. The payments would run for six months, and if the economy doesn't recover quickly, could be renewed for up to 12 months. It would be a national outpouring of EMPAthy, get it?

In a press release, Khanna and Ryan said that while the recent stimulus bill's one-time $1,200 checks to most taxpayers were "an important first step," that wasn't enough to live on, so how about really making sure people won't be devastated by the record unemployment? And while we're at it, by making it possible for people to pay their rent or mortgage, and their bills, the cash infusion might well keep the economy from going into a ditch, too. Honestly, it makes a hell of a lot of sense, so it's probably too good to stand a chance in America.


In addition to providing a real emergency income to Americans, the bill also addresses one of the huge inequities of the original CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus passed three weeks ago, by making the payments available to students, young people, and people with disabilities, even if they can be claimed as a dependent on someone else's taxes. So that's a good thing!

For couples filing jointly, the payments would be $4000 a month (for incomes under $260,000 a year), plus $500 a month for up to three children. People who were unemployed when the COVID-19 pandemic began would also be eligible for the payments. And to prevent the emergency money from mucking up anyone's eligibility for other benefits, the payments would not count as income.

Rep. Khanna said in the press release,

A one-time, twelve-hundred-dollar check isn't going to cut it [...] Americans need sustained cash infusions for the duration of this crisis in order to come out on the other side alive, healthy, and ready to get back to work. Members on both sides of the aisle are finally coming together around the idea of sending money out to people.

"Isn't going to cut it"? Rude! What if people just gave up their "iPhones"?


Khanna and Ryan called on House leadership to include the measure in the next economic stimulus bill, and if it is, we promise to stop calling generic white presidential candidates "other Tim Ryans," an admittedly easier promise to make now that the 2020 primary is all over but the shouting.

Not surprisingly, Andrew Yang is a fan.


The Ryan-Khanna plan is a bit different from another good idea, the Paycheck Guarantee Act, introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington). Instead of sending money to individual Americans, Jayapal's plan would work like what Denmark has done during the Rona EconoPause, by sending money to employers affected by the 'Rona, with the requirement that they keep all their employees on payroll during the crisis. Denmark is paying 75 percent of companies' payroll costs, but Jayapal would go further, having the Treasury Department make grants to cover 100 percent of employees' pay and benefits for three months, for all employees who make an annual salary of $100,000 or less. To qualify for the full grant, the employers would have to keep all their employees on payroll, but companies that furloughed or laid off workers could still get a partial grant, or qualify for the full amount if they hired folks back. If the crisis requires a lockdown longer than three months, the grants could be renewed, a month at a time.

Jayapal's bill is attractive for a couple reasons. For one thing, it bypasses the hodgepodge of state unemployment systems, many of which are overwhelmed, and some of which are absolutely terrible by design. It would be relatively efficient, since the applications for the grants would be made directly by Treasury, which would use the companies' payroll taxes as the basis for the grant amounts. That means the government already has the information it needs to calculate the payouts, which would avoid the bureaucratic clusterfucks, confusion, and banking inequities that have already beset the small business loan program. And Republicans could brag that since it's based on information the IRS already has, it would avoid fraud, hooray. Rs would presumably like the idea of businesses being bailed out, and since the grants would go to any company hurt by the Rona, they could make a great show of putting their "not picking winners and losers" money where their mouths are.

Hmm. That may not be a selling point.

Oddly, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), independently put forward his own proposal for an emergency income benefit, albeit in the form of an op-ed, not an actual bill. Hawley, normally a rightwing Trumper, suggested a much stingier package that would cover 80 percent of companies' payrolls, but only up for workers making the national "median income," which he hasn't really specified. The Washington Post estimates that depending on how you define it, that cap could be somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. Still, at least you're hearing a voice on the other side of the aisle call for aid for workers instead of sending them to their deaths for "economy" — and from a guy who'd like to be president and has clearly learned from Trump that at least talking like an economic populist won't upset rightwingers as long as you also praise the NRA a lot.

In his op-ed, Hawley justified his seeming departure from conservative orthodoxy by saying a bailout for workers would cost less in the long run than paying "mass unemployment claims for months and months to come." Jayapal tentatively welcomed Hawley's newfound willingness to depart from the usual free market bullshit, because the times, they are a-weird:

"This isn't about ideology anymore. The reality of the crisis allows people to put some of those things aside," she said. "Some of those red lines aren't there — they aren't for us."

As for her own proposal, Jayapal told Vox, "I really believe that mass unemployment is a policy choice [...] This proposal is directed to preventing mass layoffs and keeping the businesses going so they can quickly and safely restart." Like, assuming we have the goddamned testing capacity.

Frankly, we like both ideas. Jayapal's payroll subsidies for those with jobs, and Ryan and Khanna's emergency income for those who aren't employed. It would cost a hell of a lot of money, yes: Denmark's less-generous program could require an outlay of roughly 13 percent of the country's GDP in just three months, according to one estimate.

But as Jayapal points out, "We're paying it one way or another." The cost of letting businesses fail and leaving families with no income would be enormous too. Not only would it be painful economically, it would have consequences that would last years, not to mention resulting in poverty, homelessness, personal and business bankruptcies, and, let's face it, deaths. People with no income and no hope can't afford healthcare, can't afford food, and may do desperate things. Wouldn't it be better to go super-Keynesian and keep the economy, and Americans, alive?

We'd love to see these plans at least get debated. Republicans will carefully explain we can't afford to prevent an economic crash by giving money to people, because are they truly worthy of not losing everything? Wouldn't want them whooping it up too much. Then the Rs would offer a plan to hand an equal amount of cash to billionaires, and Jesus Christ riding on an electric bike could we please just vote the bastards out forever? I wanna be Denmark, damn it.

[WFLA / Congressman Ro Khanna / Vox / WaPo]

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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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