Former President Donald Trump, In the final days of his term, demanded a simple relief bill with $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals and $2,400 for couples. Instead, Republicans and Democrats stuffed the coronavirus legislation with $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan and $85 million for new furniture. Now that President Joe Biden’s party controls both the House and Senate, his $1.9 trillion proposal should have been a done deal by now, right? Not quite. It still has to clear some hurdles, trigger feigned outrage and handwringing, and force both sides to clutch at their pearls. Political theater is the American way.
In the early hours of the morning on February 27, however, the bill passed the House by a vote of 219 to 212. Every Republican, along with two Democrats, voted against the legislation.
Fight for 15 > COVID-19 Relief?
A key component of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic package had been a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Despite being a contentious subject that could derail direct relief for millions of Americans, House Democrats were trying to use the legislation to pave the way for the years-in-the-making progressive proposal. However, the Senate parliamentarian disqualified the provision from the stimulus plan, ruling that it violated strict budget reconciliation rules.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asserted that Democrats would retain the language in the bill, leaving their Senate counterparts to erase the measure as they insert their own changes to this “great bill.”
“If it doesn’t prevail because of Senate rules, we will persist. But we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage,” Pelosi told reporters. “This is a spectacular piece of legislation. While the Senate has prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be distracted from what is in here, because it is a great bill.”
Liberty Nation recently reported that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) opposed any aid package that includes the $15 minimum wage. Manchin would be open to a more “responsible and reasonable” $11 hourly wage, while Sinema will only support bills that are directly related to short-term coronavirus relief.
But President Biden’s spending plan has a treasure trove of funding for everything imaginable, from direct-income support payments to elementary and secondary schooling money.
What’s in the Bill, Joe?
Before he unveiled his near $2 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, President Biden promised $2,000 stimulus checks, telling Georgia voters that if they cast a ballot for the Democrats, the money would be sent “immediately.” Well, nearly two months later, and Biden has fallen short of this promise.
Under the House bill, direct payments would be worth up to $1,400 per person to families earning less than $200,000 annually and individuals making less than $100,000 per year. Americans with an income of less than $75,000 would be given the full $1,400, while couples earning under $150,000 per year would receive $2,800. Families with children would be eligible for an extra $1,400 per dependent. The payments would be calculated based on either 2019 or 2020 income.
For households with minor children, families could claim a larger child tax credit for this filing year. Those who qualify could receive up to $3,600 for each kid under six and $3,000 for every dependent between six and 18.
For those out of work, federal jobless benefits would be enhanced by $400 through the end of August. Moreover, freelancers and independent contractors would stay in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for up to 74 weeks, and recipients of expiring conventional state benefits could apply for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for 48 weeks. It is a race against time for policymakers because many of the pandemic programs will run out of benefits beginning in the middle of March.
Food stamp benefits would increase 15% until September. Employers would be provided with an incentive to offer paid sick and family leave. Small business funding could top $200 billion in loans, grants, and outreach. State, local, and Native American tribal governments would receive $350 billion in direct aid. This would include funding for shoring up finances, low-income households, and unemployment programs. The proposal would establish another $129 billion for elementary and secondary schools.
Are the financial markets running out of steam? If so, U.S. stimulus checks could serve as a hefty injection for stocks, according to Deutsch Bank AG analysts. The financial institution estimated that the checks could insert $170 billion of fresh retail inflows into the equities arena, further fueled by free trading applications.
“Retail sentiment remains positive across the board, regardless of age, income or when the investor began trading,” the strategists wrote. “Retail investors say they expect to maintain or add to their stock holdings even as the economy re-opens.” Following the substantial losses among the leading benchmark indexes in the week of February 22, these checks cannot be mailed out fast enough.
While lawmakers were quick to pass the CARES Act last year, Congress has been slow to approve rounds two and three of stimulus and relief. Officials were aggressive in shutting down the country, and the government forces are always quick to confiscate your money. But when it comes to helping people with a mess the state created, everything moves at a snail’s pace. Another economic package will inevitably be passed, and the Democrats will likely move ahead with a fourth endeavor later this year. So, why the political theater? It is comparable to George Costanza in Seinfeld when he appears perturbed to give the illusion he is busy. Politicians, too, seem to engage in this frenzy and chaos to reaffirm their self-importance, much to struggling Americans’ dismay.
Read more from Andrew Moran.