Congress is getting set to OK another trillion or three in spending sort of related to the pandemic, with not a lot more rhyme or reason than in prior rounds.
These are routinely called “stimulus” bills, even though much of the spending is more like “life support” for an economy dramatically slowed by lockdowns and deep uncertainty about even the near future. That includes cash for Americans thrown out of work — which is relief money. The Paycheck Protection Program, meanwhile, bribes businesses to keep on employees they’d otherwise lay off — in hopes those companies and workers will be able to move back to business as usual . . . soon?
In that light, it’s just as well that payroll tax cuts are off the table: People getting paychecks don’t need help and wouldn’t do anything entrepreneurial with any windfall.
Yet relief shouldn’t pay better than actually working: Republicans are plainly right to object to extending those $600 “bonus” unemployment checks and insist that Uncle Sam aim to replace no more than 70 percent of anyone’s working income. Reopening businesses shouldn’t have to outbid what “unemployment insurance” pays.
Democrats, meanwhile, are eager to toss hundreds of billions at state and local governments — holding their employees harmless even as the private sector hemorrhages jobs. Question: How much of the $100-plus billion to help schools reopen will go to areas where schools won’t be reopening?
It really shouldn’t be too much to ask government-to-government aid to focus on clear need involving vital services. New York’s MTA fits the bill; mass-transit projects in most of the rest of the country don’t, because so few people depend on them.
Similarly, the billions being tossed at coronavirus “testing” belie the fact that billions dedicated to tests in past “stimulus” packages still remain unspent. Given the national delays in getting tests back, maybe the cash should be going for new laboratories, instead?
Even in an election year, Congress should at least try to look at “emergency” spending to see if makes any sense.
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