Except for those invested in the stock market, most people are struggling mightily these days. Several million people are facing eviction in the very near future, and others are looking at foreclosure. The hardest hit are those in the service, hospitality, and transportation sectors where business has dried up with no foreseeable return.
These people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. This isn’t a recession caused by a housing or other bubble, or by reckless lending of money to people and businesses. The federal government came through with several financial packages in March to help those newly unemployed and small and large businesses to get them through the next few months when it was thought the coronavirus pandemic would be under control.
The best of hopes have not been realized, and when some semblance of normality will return to our way of life is at best a guess. In the meanwhile, our Congress and president are at loggerheads concerning legislation costing trillions of dollars to continue a supplemental unemployment compensation, temporarily stop evictions, provide some liability protection to businesses against lawsuits by anyone claiming to have contracted the virus on the premises, and money for states and local governments that are experiencing substantial shortfalls of revenue.
President Donald Trump is adamantly opposed to helping out the states and local governments claiming that the worst run of them are controlled by Democrats. That leads one to ask if that is a result of correlation or causation? Republicans want to reduce the $600/week unemployment supplement to somewhere in between $200-400/week, and tie it to a number of considerations. Democrats insist on the full $600.
Trump and a number of other Republicans claim that many unemployed are making more sitting at home collecting enhanced unemployment benefits, and are therefore not incentivized to go back to work.
There are anecdotes for sure to support that assertion, but considering there are some 30 million people out of work and about 5 million jobs available, the argument doesn’t make much sense. Also consider that that if an employer tells an employee his job is available and the employee chooses to sit it out, the employee becomes ineligible to collect unemployment. Then there is health insurance that the unemployed have to be thinking about that s/he gets through work. Also, with so few jobs out there, not returning to work does not seem like a strategy for a steady income in the long term.
Fraud exists in all levels of the private and public sectors. Two businessmen, one in Texas and the other in Florida who took government money during the crisis, were charged with buying Lamborghinis among other things. Tax cheats are probably as close as your next door neighbor. It’s a fact of life, but we can’t stop doing what is necessary in providing services to the American people, especially during this time of crisis because some people take advantage of the assistance.
Despite Trump’s allegation that Democratic states are badly run and don’t deserve any help, recently Republican Georgia House Speaker David Ralston came out in support of a $500 billion appropriation requested by the association that represents the nation’s governors. Income, sales, and fuel taxes are just the main sources of revenue that are way down, which is having an effect on paying for essential public services that include education, public safety, roads, and health.
When I served on Swift Boats in Vietnam, as an officer-in-charge I never had to account for all the ammunition we expended. Whatever we needed the Navy was there for us and fulfilled our supply requests, no questions asked. The exigent circumstances of serving in a war zone allowed for this. A military in peacetime can and should be held more accountable, and that’s the point.
No one seriously believes that the national debt will ever be paid off. The number is incomprehensible. Despite a campaign pledge from Trump in 2016 that he would eliminate the debt by the end of a second term, no one could take him seriously.
Franklin D. Roosevelt managed both the Depression and World War II. The brakes came off completely when we entered the war in December 1941, and whatever it took to achieve victory included no limits on spending. Ronald Reagan inherited a broken economy and was responsible for creating the highest deficits in history up to his presidency in order to fix the problem and put people back to work. Both presidents found solutions with their political opponents. Inaction is not an option during a crisis, and for sure there will always be miscalculations, but a failure by commission is preferable than failure by omission.
Republicans and Democrats have to come together and spend whatever it takes to get us through this crisis. Politics is said to be the art of compromise, and it’s past time for both sides to accept that neither will get everything they want in a relief package. Some of those things left out of a deal can be negotiated at a future date in other packages.
The alternatives to massive unemployment, evictions, foreclosures, and food shortages could make the recent social unrest around America look like a warmup for something unimaginable.