The United States has long since passed the time when a stimulus check could live up to its name sake. Almost nine months have passed since the Cares Act sent out $1200 checks and expanded jobless benefits to millions of Americans. In the last six months, any type of Covid aid to individuals and small businesses has been stalled or shelved. That may finally be about to change, but to what degree?
Americans will finally get another check, though it won’t be much. For individuals who have had to rely on nothing but that original stimulus check, that’s the equivalent of living on an average budget of $4.50 a day. The added $600 checks that Congress agreed to (in large part thanks to only two senators) will be welcomed, but leave people literally begging for more.
The new aid deal agreed to on the weekend by Congress also extends unemployment benefits for about eleven weeks, saving those estimated 12 million Americans whose benefits were set to expire at the end of December.
In addition, the evictions moratorium that was set to expire at the same time will be extended until the end of January. A whole extra month, postponing only briefly the devastating consequences on average Americans.
An estimated 12.4 million adult renters say they are reportedly behind on payments. Nearly 83 million adults report they are finding it somewhat difficult or very difficult to cover their household expenses. No doubt it is also the main contributor to the enormous amount of hunger facing average citizens. In the end, up to 40 million Americans could be at risk of eviction come the end of January. For those keeping score, that’s roughly 12.5% of the population facing homelessness.
The United States, the wealthiest country in human history, is the only country in the developed world not taking proper care of it’s inhabitants. In Canada, the ruling parties came together to give every nonworking citizen $2,000 a month. Germany has a wage subsidy program that allowed over five million laid off workers to receive up to 87% of their salary. Meanwhile, the only checks Americans have seen the past few months have been on President Trump’s power.
Currently, daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 are topping off at 250,000. Daily deaths are at an all time high and so too are hospitalizations and ICU occupancy. Meanwhile, despite all the suffering in the hospitals, at homes and in the streets, congress had been debating whether a new round of “stimulus checks” should be $300, $600, or even be given out at all.
It’s easy to blame Trump for the state of the country given the lack of a national response, Trump’s denials, ineptitude and lies, but the absence of Covid aid does not fall squarely on him. Trump has been calling for more stimulus checks, both before and after November’s election. In fact, just the other day, Trump advocated giving out checks as big as $2,000 to the American people before an aid talked him down.
Unfortunately, Covid assistance has come down to politics, power, and greed. All champions of an unfettered capitalist/oligarchic system. Both parties were not willing to do what is required in fear of upsetting donors or making the other side look good.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an opportunity before the election to compromise on a bill brought down by Mitch McConnell’s Senate worth $1.8 trillion. The deal was far from perfect, but it would have allowed Americans to get some desperately needed Covid relief back in early October. Pelosi refused to negotiate, put it to a vote or force McConnell’s Senate Republicans to go on record with a vote of its own.
Pelosi had claimed at the time that the bill was inadequate, but the reality was, she didn’t want checks with Trump’s name on it going out a month before the general election. The American people got nothing. Now in December, Pelosi finds her party still fighting for Covid aid, but willing to fight for much less.
At the same time, back in October, Trump was also complaining alongside Pelosi that McConnell’s stimulus bill did not go far enough. “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” he tweeted. Still, McConnell didn’t budge. The Senate Majority Leader answers to his donors, not the President.
It can be argued that McConnell’s unwillingness to go big cost Donald Trump re-election. It can also be said that Pelosi’s reluctance to compromise cost Democrats many seats in the House of Representatives. In the end, everyone lost, especially the American People.
As the pandemic raged out of control like never before in November and December, there has been only two U.S. Senators, one Republican and one independent, working hard to ensure that a new Covid aid package includes a direct payment. Josh Hawley and Bernie Sanders.
“What kind of negotiation is it when you go from $3.4 trillion to $188 billion in new money? That is not a negotiation. That is a collapse,” Sanders said, referring to the current bipartisan Covid relief bill that he wanted Democratic leaders to rebuff without a direct payment. It can also be seen as a jab at Nancy Pelosi.
According to a poll conducted by Data for Progress, 93% of Democrats, 83% of Republicans, and 87% of likely independent/third party voters would support the distribution of “another one-time payment of $1,200 to most Americans as a coronavirus relief measure.” 9% of likely voters say they are opposed to such Covid aid.
It truly is the shame of the nation when only two Senators represent 91% of the electorate. When the same congress can pass a bipartisan $740 billion dollar defense bill. When all the Covid relief bills, passed or simply introduced, did more for corporate interests than individuals. This is the Democracy we were supposedly saving from Donald Trump.
In the end, the deal struck over the weekend is better than nothing, but it will be too little too late for too many. After six months of literally nothing, the American people will have to settle for half of what they received in the beginning. $600 direct payment checks and a $300 bonus to unemployment and by the end of January, the same fears are set to come back for renters. God Bless America…