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September 21, 2020

No economic relief

Opinion

September 21, 2020

With tens of millions unemployed, inevitable eviction merely postponed for a few months and low-wage jobs and small businesses drying up like the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque, you’d think the federal government could negotiate some help for stranded Americans. Democrats had a bill ready back in May. But it just sat on Mitch McConnell’s desk till the last minute, when government aid ran out. Then the GOP said no. That’s called negotiating – in some, demented quarters. Anyway, the Dems halved their price-tag. The GOP said no again. Trump passed a bunch of legally questionable executive orders – most of which did little to help desperate Americans. Meanwhile the Biden campaign idiotically indicated it might not repeal the odious Trump tax cut for billionaires, if Biden wins.

Then in early September, GOP senators proposed an even stingier bill than they had previously. It died an ignominious death. On September 15, a bipartisan group of 50 legislators promised a $1.5 trillion stimulus. Afterward, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would stay in session through the election to get a stimulus deal. In a sane world, these moves would bring GOP leadership back to the bargaining table. But so far, prospects for that are poor.

Amid this dysfunction loomed the very real prospect of a government shutdown. But someone must have told Trump that would collapse his shaky reelection chances, because on September 5th Pence announced that the white house and congress had agreed to avoid a shutdown. No pandemic relief, however. CNBC quoted Pence at the time: “Now we can focus just on another relief bill, and we’re continuing to do that in good faith.” Well, that was novel. I’m all for good faith, especially since not doing a freakin’ thing since May smacked of, um, bad faith. But Pence’s remarks came before the talks collapsed. Hopefully he’ll put that good faith to work by urging his white house colleagues to continue bargaining. Maybe in addition somebody should tell the Trump campaign that if they really want an October surprise, stop rushing a vaccine, which only makes people skeptical of it, and sign a bill that puts money in the pockets of the over 30 million unemployed. Rent forgiveness might really boost Trump’s sagging popularity, too.

But Republicans in congress apparently have their own agenda. It may not be the Trump re-election campaign agenda, which might logically embrace help for desperate Americans in exchange for their vote, but the GOP has an agenda, all right – it’s the Tea Party agenda, which is by no means limited to congress, being ably represented in the white house by chief of staff Mark Meadows. If you thought the Tea Party went away sometime after the 2016 election, think again. The Tea Party philosophy percolates through a substantial horde of congressmen, and they have no intention of spending money on dispossessed Americans – no matter how badly Trump wants those votes, no matter how many times Democrats yield in their negotiations.

Radical right-wingers have once again taken the federal government hostage. This, of course, has happened before. They did so in 1994 with the Contract for America and earlier, when the Reagan regime came to power. But rarely have they barricaded the doors to government power in such parlous times: a pandemic that his killed roughly 200,000 Americans; the worst unemployment and homelessness since the Great Depression. As of July 24, 30 million were collecting jobless benefits, while millions more, unemployed, have no lifeline. Homeless tent cities bloom in cities across the nation. And states teeter on the brink of insolvency, laying off thousands of government workers.

Through it all, our Tea Party hostage-takers want more tax cuts and deregulation. Suicidally currying favor with them, Trump threatens to defund social security. So their agenda stands naked before us, stripped of its lies about freedom and limited government. Because what it’s really about is freedom for corporations, lavishly funded by the state, to plunder the captive American people and, indeed, the world’s people. Government is not limited, when it prints money to boost the stock market and hands out billions of dollars to rich.

Excerpted from: ‘Surprise! Still No Economic Relief from Washington’

Counterpunch.org