Congressional negotiators are reportedly close to a deal on COVID-19 stimulus, a mere seven months after the House passed the HEROES Act. The December deal will likely come in at around a third of the size of the HEROES Act and take effect after the long months of Senate Republican inaction have pushed up to 8 million people into poverty.
The details reportedly include direct payments to individuals of around $600, far less than the already inadequate $1,200 included in the March CARES Act, along with extended unemployment benefits—months after the $600 per week expanded aid expired. An earlier version of a proposed deal added $300 per week for 16 weeks.
The deal also reportedly includes extra money for the Paycheck Protection Program, despite its many failures. (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.) Vaccine distribution, education, and health care are likely also on the list.
Democrats and Republicans are each giving up a priority, the media tells us. For Democrats, that’s the state and local aid needed to prevent millions of job losses. For Republicans, it’s a liability shield for corporations that risked the health and safety of workers and customers during the pandemic. These two things are not alike.
They are also not alike in that Democrats have already given up—or watched Republicans snatch—many other priorities. Priorities like the last four and a half months of expanded unemployment. Like the funding schools needed to safely reopen at the beginning of the school year. Like $300 more a week in expanded unemployment benefits. Like at least another $600 per person in direct payments.
We also have to watch the media recycle bullshit like: “The direct checks will likely be far less than $1,200 per person—likely around $600—in order to keep the cost of the bill in check.” As we know—and as Politico’s Jake Sherman and Burgess Everett damn well also know—Republicans do not care about the cost of a bill when it benefits rich people. “Keeping the cost of the bill in check” is a priority now only because the money in question would go to the people in the middle and below, not those at the very top. It’s on the media to call that out, and it’s not hard to do. There’s a perfect case study in the 2017 Republican tax law.
Added unemployment benefits of $300 a week for an additional 16 weeks, with $600 per person, is pitifully inadequate. Without aid to state and local governments, the economy is in serious danger. This is not going to be enough. But as Republicans know, and are exploiting, Democrats don’t want people to continue suffering and will do what it takes to alleviate that suffering, even if it’s not nearly enough.