Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch MCconnell announced that he will be putting two standalone COVID-19 aid packages to the Senate vote this week. On Tuesday he will vote on a paycheck protection bill to help small businesses, and on Wednesday he will bring back the same $ 500 billion stimulus package that the Democrats rejected last month.
Democrats have repeatedly pushed for a much broader plan that provides more funding for COVID-19 testing, and especially for state and local communities that have been doubly hit by the pandemic and have lost significant revenue due to the economic slowdown -down and cause at the same time significant costs to remedy the effects of the pandemic. Months ago, a US $ 2.2 trillion aid program, the HEROES bill, was passed in the House of Representatives to languish on McConnell's desk and never get a vote in the Senate.
It may initially be a good idea for Senate Democrats to pass relief laws bit by bit to get aid to as many suffering Americans as possible as quickly as possible. In fact, with the recent aid drying up earlier this year, 8 million more Americans fell into poverty. The need is urgent.
And yet, with these standalone bills, McConnell and the GOP are trying carefully to play favorites and have the right to choose exactly which people or sectors will benefit from aid and which will be effectively punished by being excluded from their bills. If the Democrats approved these aid packages in isolation, the Republicans could simply step back from the upcoming bills, which are other discrete pieces of a comprehensive package tailored to meet the needs of all suffering Americans.
Funding from state and local governments has been the biggest goal for Trump, McConnell, and the GOP.
In fact, as Claire Hansen reported for US News and World Report last week, discussions between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were taped:
Mnuchin said Wednesday that there was disagreement not only over the total cost of the package, but also over specific policy provisions in the bill, including state and local funding. Trump has repeatedly signaled his opposition to the "bailout" of states and cities run by democratic leaders.
The dynamic here is clear. Trump, McConnell and the GOP have made a pledge to represent and serve only part of America in what some have called Trump's "United Base of America".
We must recognize that the attack on states has built in another target – unionized public workers, who often have state-funded pensions.
And this attack on public sector workers is equally an attack on all of us living states, as states may not be able to pay for teachers, firefighters, police officers, and a whole host of vital services that we all depend on for roads, Parks, libraries, public schools, affordable government universities, clean water supplies, police and fire prevention, garbage disposal, snow removal, public health services, and more.
We have to ask ourselves: why should the federal government not give similar support to states that are losing important revenues due to the pandemic so that teachers can educate their children, the police can keep the peace, the workers can maintain the infrastructure, the hospitals help can get and the firefighters can address emergencies and so on?
These services may be far more important than the t-shirt shop on the block. Why is it such a problem to fund states and help keep state employees employed and thus essential services available to the people?
While McConnell and the GOP seek to protect private sector workers' paychecks, public sector workers are hung out to dry on their schedule, as are all of us, depending on the vital services these workers provide.
In previous iterations of aid funding proposals, McConnell has simply said he refuses to save states that have created their own tax problems through mismanagement and underfunding of pension systems. He believes that states should file for bankruptcy when in fact it is illegal for states to file for bankruptcy and fail to meet obligations, including pension obligations.
As I explained elsewhere on the PoliticusUsa pages, McConell is actually taking advantage of this moment – and the plight of Americans – to continue his long-awaited political conspiracy into states, especially blue states, with a robust public sector and a sizeable unionized one Workforce to bring under control the budget jurisdiction of the federal justice system. Bankruptcy proceedings are overseen by federal courts. So if McConnell can pass laws that allow states to file for bankruptcy, he can bring those blue state budgets – and their government policies – under federal control.
We can see that these actions are simply nefarious political maneuvers when we look at the recent past.
First, remember the Great Recession, when banks behaved badly and irresponsibly issued toxic loans and mortgage-backed securities and derivatives, causing the US economy to collapse almost completely? They were not punished for their behavior, for "problems they created for themselves". They were allegedly saved to save the economy because they were "too big to fail", even though many Americans still suffered from foreclosures, evictions and job losses.
If states are having trouble funding pensions, it is at least one problem caused by trying to help people enjoy decent retirement. While banks created their troubles in the Great Recession because they were greedy and tried to rip people off.
Aren't states too big to fail? States that lay off workers and are unable to provide basic services and maintain infrastructure will have a major impact on the economy.
Trump, McConnell and the GOP just don't think about the economy and the pressing needs of the people this way.
They are too busy politicizing this situation and taking revenge on their political enemies – a form of government that inevitably harms the American people and leaves us hanging out to dry.
Tim Libretti is a professor of American literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A longtime progressive voice, he has published numerous academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, and the National Federation of Press Women and the Illinois Woman & # 39; s Press Association.