Editorial: Millionaire Lawmakers Balk at $2000 One-Time Payment for Struggling Americans

Millions of jobless, struggling Americans have been waiting most of the year for Congress to pass a coronavirus emergency relief package. When lawmakers finally passed a bill that would, among other things, provide $600 one-time direct payments to qualifying Americans, Donald Trump declined to sign it, citing the “ridiculously low” amount of the direct payment. He was right; it is low, and if Trump were some other president, we might conclude that this move came from a place of caring about Americans. We’ve already learned, however, that “caring about Americans” is one of the last items on the minds of Trump and many GOP lawmakers.

For nearly nine months, Congress has been unable to agree on a second coronavirus relief bill to follow the March 2020 CARES Act, as Americans have slipped further into financial distress resulting from fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Democrats proposed a bill that included a $2000 one-time payment to qualifying Americans— the same amount Trump specified when he refused to sign the current bill. Republicans, however, some afraid that Americans would squander their stimulus checks, others citing “the deficit,” and others fearful that helping jobless Americans equals socialism, voted against the Democrats’ bill. 

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) called the proposal for more funds part of the Democrats’ “socialist agenda” to universal basic income.

“Now, we know that what the Democrats are trying to do with this is to put us on a pathway to a guaranteed minimum income, which is one of their socialist agenda items,” she said.

Republicans like Texas Representative Kevin Brady think Americans will spend their stimulus money “inappropriately.” Brady speculated that the money would go toward paying off credit-card debt and “new purchases online at Walmart, Best Buy, or Amazon,” and argued that the money should instead go toward helping small and midsized businesses. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to Brady, tweeting, “’I don’t support $2k survival checks because it might help people get out of debt that our gov’t inaction helped put or keep them in in the first place.’ – GOP Congressman.”

Just days before Christmas, when the House and Senate agreed on the compromise bill that included a one-time payment of $600, Trump tweeted his criticism of it, leaving lawmakers uncertain as to whether he would sign it, veto it, or simply let time run out on it. “$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, it was China’s fault!” 

Trump criticized his own party, namely Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, for having proposed the $600 amount, on which all parties were led to believe Trump would sign off. Trump did end up signing the bill, without changes, on December 27, but by not signing the bill by Christmas, he allowed millions of Americans’ jobless benefits to lapse.

On December 28, the House passed a standalone bill to increase the one-time direct payments to Americans from $600 to $2000. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected it. 

“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” said McConnell, whose net worth is estimated at $22.5 million.

McConnell has maneuvered to package the $2000 payment proposal in a bill that includes two other items Trump has called for: the establishment of a commission to study voter fraud; and the repeal of Section 230, which provides liability protections for technology companies and other firms.

Republicans who had previously opposed the $2000 direct payment are in a bind. On the one hand, they fear being out of alignment now with the president by voting against it. What’s more, how would it look to their constituents if they voted against it? On the other hand, they sure don’t want their constituents to get their hands on $2,000. 

Not to worry. McConnell is an old hand at tactical gambiteering. He’s pushing Americans deeper into financial desperation by holding up the bill, but that’s not what matters to McConnell.

Knowing that most Democrats are likely to vote against a package that includes a repeal of Section 230 and a provision for a voter fraud commission,  McConnell has set up the perfect scenario for Republicans. If the the bill doesn’t pass, or if the clock runs out on the proposed bill, GOP lawmakers would still be able to say that they supported the $2000 amount. They would also be able to point fingers at the Democrats for voting against relief for Americans. 

Chuck Schumer said out loud what Trump and McConnell already knew— that the additions to the bill would doom its passage. “Any move like this by Sen. McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”

Meanwhile, many private citizens are not sleeping at night, worried about how they’re going to make ends meet for another month, week, day. Nearly 12 million American renters will owe an average of $5850 in back rent and utilities by January. Millions of Americans are thousands of dollars behind in monthly expenses as a result of losing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. Still, GOP lawmakers think a one-time payment of $600, let alone $2000, is too much for them. 

“It’s much better for Congress to err on the side of helping too much than too little,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “There’s nothing scarier than losing your home, especially in January with a pandemic out of control. That would be overwhelming.”

One thing is clear, though: Republicans have shown that they are willing to go to great lengths creating hoops to jump through, and cracks to fall through, in order to avoid helping “too much.”

On the other hand, the GOP isn’t worried at all about enriching themselves, or giving tax breaks to large corporations. And when it comes to seizing the opportunity to look like they care about their constituents without actually having to care, that’s a sweet spot.

Here, it should be noted that, according to OpenSecrets Center for Responsive Politics, most members of the current Congress are millionaires, with a median net worth of $1,008,767. 

What will happen when millions of people are evicted in the coming months? What will happen to their children? How will people eat? This is not the concern of the GOP lawmakers. Their concern is that Americans won’t appropriately use the crumbs they’re thrown, and they’re willing to let the country go down in flames in order to throw as few crumbs as possible.

Editorial: Donald Trump’s Scorched Earth Policy: Not So Much Enactment As Acting Out

With less than a month before he leaves office, Donald Trump has acted out a policy of (non-)governance that amounts to scorched earth on steroids. Whether he calmly walks out of the Oval Office (unlikely) on his last day as president, is escorted out by police officers (possible), or is forcibly dragged out cursing (most likely), Donald Trump wants to ensure that he leaves a wasteland for his successor, and for the American people. If we thought Donald Trump sowed chaos and division over the past four years, what he’s done during his last days in office (and what he could still do in the remaining month) could wreak even more havoc on our gasping republic.

Trump has succeeded in undermining millions of Americans’ confidence in the American election process and in American systems of government. He has reinforced the belief, especially among his supporters, that Joe Biden won the election because of massive voter fraud. A December Fox News poll indicates that more than one-third of registered voters (77 percent of those who voted for Trump) now believe the election was “stolen” from Donald Trump. Fifty-six percent of all voters, and 85 percent of those who voted for Joe Biden, see Trump as having weakened American democracy by contesting the election. 

Donald Trump has fostered and reinforced such vehement belief among his base that the election was stolen that many of them have taken to alternative social media sites such as Parler to share their grievances, and reinforce each other’s alternative take on reality. Without any proof (and, in fact, ignoring the many times votes have been counted and recounted to prove the opposite), some have made radical plans to rally, take up arms, and “take back the election.” 

Though Trump has a mob of supporters who care nothing for evidence, facts, or truth, and thus are fully behind him, the walls are closing in; the “mainstream media” (MSM), the majority of American voters, and most of the rest of the world recognize Joe Biden as president-elect. So what’s a lame duck president to do if he wants to continue to live in an alternate reality where he is king? 

There’s always martial law. If we thought Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election had put a crack in American democratic systems, his toying with the idea of using the U.S. military to overturn the election, and the fact that anyone, any American, sees that as a rational possibility, threatens to widen the crack.

As far as one can tell, it wasn’t Donald Trump who first suggested the idea, but instead was Michael Flynn, Trump loyalist, former national security adviser, and recently pardoned felon. On pro-Trump media outlet Newsmax, Flynn suggested that Trump invoke martial law, and send the U.S. military to swing states where Biden won, to make those states “rerun the election.” 

And though he didn’t suggest the idea of misusing military troops to displace local law enforcement and re-do a free and fair election in order for it to come out in his favor, Donald Trump has not denounced or discouraged the idea. In fact, he has held discussions in the Oval Office about the possibility. 

With tens of millions of Americans no longer trusting American democratic systems, and with many of those ready to take up their pitchforks (or their AR-15s) in defense of the president who lives and breathes falsehood and would misuse military might to stay in power, the president apparently still needed something more with which to shock Americans who were beginning to think they’d seen it all with this president. 

Enter the use of the presidential pardon. Raising a figurative middle finger to justice and integrity, Donald Trump has begun doling out pardons to shady associates and unprincipled campaign donors as if he were dealing out cards for Blackjack. 

Among the 29 people Trump’s pardon roster so far Paul Manafort, who was convicted during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election; Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress; and Charles Kushner (yes, Jared Kushner’s father, and Ivanka’s father-in-law), who was convicted of campaign finance offenses, tax evasion, and witness tampering.

Other lucky recipients of Trump pardons are two people who pleaded guilty and served prison time in the Mueller investigation; three former Congressmen who have been convicted of felonies; four Blackwater guards who opened fire in a traffic circle in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilian men, women, and children; and two border patrol agents who were found guilty of using illegal and excessive force against an illegal immigrant. Earlier, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, who was found guilty of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia during Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

Despite the president’s departure from anything resembling a leader of principle, Americans were led to believe on December 22 that they would at least finally soon get a little financial relief in the form of a coronavirus aid package Congress had just voted to pass.

After months of failing to pass a second bill to provide aid to financially desperate Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, Congress had finally agreed to a stimulus package that they thought President Trump was sure to sign. Though the amount of aid was paltry and included some hoops to jump through and cracks to fall between, unemployed Americans began to have some hopeful anticipation of their small stimulus checks and slim unemployment supplements. 

As if Donald Trump’s need to control situations just for the sake of controlling them hadn’t already been amply fulfilled, Trump shocked Americans, including GOP lawmakers, by suggesting that he wouldn’t sign the stimulus bill. Saying that the $600 one-time relief payment per qualifying person wasn’t enough for Americans (at least he was right about that), he told lawmakers to raise the amount to $2000 per qualifying person, the amount Democrats had in fact been lobbying for for months. 

Adam Schiff tweeted, “Listen, Democrats have been fighting for bigger relief checks for months. All while Trump was missing in action— playing golf, lying about the election, pardoning crooks. If he’s serious about the checks, he needs to get Republicans out of the way. Let’s make this happen.”

Said Nancy Pelosi, ”At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”

Republicans, who fought for months for a bill that would give hurting Americans as little as Congress could get away with, found themselves in a predicament: vote for Democrats’ original $2000 request and Trump’s demand to increase the amount of the relief checks, or disagree and risk backlash from their constituents.

Lest anyone believe Donald Trump had finally made an attempt to address the need of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, it should be noted that Trump’s behavior thus far has demonstrated that he cares little, if at all, about Americans’ desperation. He has been missing from the discussions and negotiations, and has only shown up to condemn the bill that some aides say he has barely read. 

Trump’s supporters latched on to the belief that Donald Trump was looking out for them by demanding more money in the relief payment, and this is no doubt what Donald Trump wanted… in addition to causing unnecessary uproar among lawmakers.

Now that House Republicans have blocked the $2000 payment measure, there is no clear path forward for the bill, Washington is in economic and political crisis, and millions of Americans stand to plunge into poverty as their current benefits expire the day after Christmas. Donald Trump will no doubt retreat once again, wearing a self-satisfied smirk

Donald Trump has fully absented himself from his job duties as president of the United States. Though his tweets and public appearances railing against the 2020 presidential election outcome might give the impression that he isn’t ready to abdicate his role, he already has. Judging from his scorched-earth approach to the presidential transition, it’s evident that he is aware that he will soon be gone, and wants to make sure he has decimated what he leaves behind. 

Trump says he won’t sign COVID-19 relief bill l Good Morning America

Trump pardons 15, including 4 Blackwater defendants who killed 14 innocent, unarmed Iraqis | Glenn Kirschner [2020-12-22]