Well there it is, a culmination of months of negotiation while the battle against COVID-19 raged ever onward and upward.
And in the end, the bill represented about as much as any citizen of the United States would expect from
Rushed, but bloated; fiscal windfall, but lean for most American families; purposeful in it’s expenditures, and yet confused as to it’s purpose.
This is exactly what you can expect from a dvidied congress with separate priorities, a group of whom have to suddenly pull something together in hopes that the public relations look better than the meat of the bill.
Before going further, it is important to note that the bill isn’t without it’s merits and positives. Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy fought for more funding for education and testing, respectively, and Congressman Garret Graves pushed for funds to be included for mitigation projects around the country. These pools of money will help with economic stimulation and recovery.
More Paycheck Protection Program money is on the way for businesses who have remained down-and-out during the pandemic, with easier paths to forgiveness as well.
There’s also rental assistance baked into the bill, as well as some unemployment stimulus ($300 extra) to help those who either have been in and out of the unemployment line, or unfortunately remain within it.
Those unemployment benefits, combined with a $600 direct payment to those making $75,000 or less (and $600 per claimed dependent) which runs out at $99,000, have some Americans scratching their head.
Others are downright mad.
Why? Because within the bill are billions for art and cultural institutions, as well as other countries. The earmark for those dollars, going to other countries, is for their efforts to vaccinate their populace.
The idea of the vaccination is to help prevent the spread and, of course, prevent individuals from being sick.
That seems counter to the slow roll out of the vaccine in America, which is in dire need of the treatment as soon as possible. Is that an America First comment? In a way, yes, but based on the fact that so many are unemployed due to hits in the service industry – which is the most vulnerable to this pandemic.
It shows that America, at least on the governmental level, still considers itself a world power with the ‘duty’ (suppose you can call it) to help others. The problem with this strategy is the old mantra, ‘you can’t offer anyone a drink with an empty cup.’
America has problems, this much is known with a slightly down economy and growth in the tech sector that is, undoubtedly, at the cost of small businesses which have been closed or restricted due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
So when congress decided to ship money to other countries to help with their efforts, well – the gesture rang hollow on the American people, even those who would not receive money.
Whether it’s because there was no time to debate that portion of the bill, or members of congress are so out-of-touch that they could not see those expenditures were unnecessary at this time, remains to be seen. But what’s truly fascinating about that expense portion of the bill is that someone, somewhere lobbied for those outlays.
Whether that be a specific group of lobbyists, companies, members of congress, or all the above, it doesn’t matter – the culmination of this bill represents two different issues. First, there are individuals with greater access to representatives than you, citizens, have. That may not be universally true, but the only way those foreign expenses make it into that bill is due to that issue.
The second is a fiscally irresponsible congress, and a series of presidents who have the gumption to sign bad spending bills. Right behind the sitmulus bill was a $1.4 trillion expenditure bill to run the government through September 2021. That’s right, only three quarters of a fiscal year will cost $1.4 trillion, on a year following a pandemic – wherein COVID-19 will still be a problem.
But why such fiscal irresponsibility? A divided country with a divided congress, combined with an executive branch with no vision makes for poor monetary choices.
The United States was already close to defaulting on debt, that seems all but inevtiable in 2021. The country has to find a way to be more responsible with it’s money, or else the United States will find itself in an even worse spot than ever imagined during COVID-19.
McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.