President Donald Trump has signed off on the $8.3 billion spending package aimed at combatting the spread of the Coronavirus within the United States. The bill went from Senate to signing in just a few hours, and lawmakers at all levels of government – with a few notable exceptions – think that the funding will do the job. But will it do what it’s designed to do, or is this perhaps just a wasteful demonstration being made to show that the good folks in government are actually doing something?
This sailed through Congress on the wings of hope, with an aim to combat the spread of the disease and provide future-proofing strategies. As Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said:
“We worked together to craft an aggressive and comprehensive response that provides the resources the experts say they need to combat this crisis. I thank my colleagues for their cooperation and appreciate President Trump’s eagerness to sign this legislation and get the funding out the door without delay.”
It all seems so joyous and cooperative. The problem arises when we think of President Ronald Reagan’s most prophetic statement regarding the scariest words you’ll ever hear: “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”
Here’s the issue: When the government gets involved in doling out tax dollars, they can’t just hand it over and let the experts do what they do best. For example, of the $2.2 billion designated for the CDC, almost one billion dollars must be earmarked for either grants or cooperative agreements with local providers. That includes “tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes.” These initiatives certainly do good work in Native American communities, but they are not at the heart of cutting-edge pandemic research and disease control.
Also, a large proportion of the cash must be handed out within 30 days of the signing, but grantees are not expected to file plans on what they intend to do with said funds until the 45-day mark.
Shelby touts the idea that the funds are going to the experts who know exactly what to do with their latest payday; why then does the bill provide page after page of requirements and stipulations on how that cash must be spent? Don’t they trust the experts, or is it yet another indication that this is more to do with creating a positive impression of government in motion?
A Lone Voice in the Wilderness
The single vote against this bill was, perhaps unsurprisingly, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has already taken significant backlash for his position. Paul’s crime was not to suggest that the funding not be approved, rather that the eight billion dollars should come from cuts elsewhere. He said:
“I support our government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. We also owe it to the American people to do it in a way that avoids piling billions more in debt on their backs. My amendment responsibly uses taxpayer resources by reducing waste to pay for this new spending.”
A Piece of The Pie
Reading through the bill, it appears that every government department is trying to get at least one multi-million dollar slice of federal cake. Whether it’s for oversight expenses, administration expenses, or “operation expenses,” every office gets its share. Are there budding microbiologists in each government office just chomping at the bit to get out there and stop the spread of a deadly infection, or are we just seeing the wheels and cogs of big government receive their regular greasing? It’s a shame that no actual experts will be in charge.
Read more from Mark Angelides.