David Dayen writes a daily update on the pandemic crisis for the American Prospect. It is called “Unsanitized.” I highly recommend it.

In this post, he recounts the GOP’s lack of interest in helping anyone but their funders.

How about going to the voters with a promise to help the 1%, not them? Or just distract them by prattling about law and order and Antifa?

To read the links, open the post.

First Response

The second-to-last jobs report before the election would sound really great if you were airlifted in from the International Space Station after a year of isolation. The economy added 1.37 million jobs and dropped the topline unemployment rate to 8.4 percent. This is down from 1.7 million added in July, and remains 11.5 million jobs under the number in February, a 7.5 percent loss since the beginning of the pandemic. Permanent job loss is actually falling more quickly than it did during the Great Recession, at 3.4 million. In all 19 million workers are either unemployed or have lost their jobs, based on this report. And it includes 237,000 Census hires, who will lose their jobs shortly.

The report is indicative of a country where the rich have completely cleaved themselves off from the rest of society. As Tim Noah writes, the prediction that we were living in a plutonomy, a nation of, by, and for the 1 percent, has now come to pass. You can have an economy without caring about the welfare of an exceedingly large section of the population, if you just shut your eyes. Food bank participation and the stock market are nearing record highs, simultaneously. Threat of eviction and rental debt has never been this elevated, and neither have bank profits from investments and trading. You either have it or you don’t.

So expecting a bunch of haves in the Senate Republican caucus to figure out how to prevent disaster for the have-nots might be a foolish enterprise. Senate Republicans can enable a Federal Reserve bailout (“The Fed created a bubble where life could go on—not unlike the NBA bubble,” is one great quote from that above-linked Wall Street Journal piece), but helping invisible people they never come into contact with in a typical day? Come on, they’re not miracle workers!
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So it’s not surprising, then, that Senate Republicans can’t decide on what to do, or whether to do anything, about the continuing economic crisis. Mitch McConnell first announced a $1 trillion legislative effort, mostly as a coat rack for his scheme to give a liability release to corporations, hospitals, and schools for wrongful infections or deaths from COVID-19. That split the caucus almost in half.

McConnell has come back with something about half the size. There’s a $300 a week federal unemployment enhancement, down from the $600/week that expired in July. There’s a round of small business Paycheck Protection Program funding. There’s the $105 billion for schools, and there’s the conversion of an existing $10 billion line of credit for the Postal Service into a grant. (That’s only in there to make this bill line up with the measure House Democrats passed that was only about the Postal Service. It’s an attempt to limit the negotiation.) And of course, there’s that liability release.

Of course Chuck Schumer is outraged by the Senate GOP’s offer getting smaller, not bigger, as time goes on. And the lack of funding for state and local government (Los Angeles just announced the furlough of 15,000 city jobs), stimulus checks, rental assistance, and food assistance—those things the “other” Americans need—makes this wholly inadequate.

What McConnell wants to do is find something his entire caucus can agree on, or at least the majority of the Senate (so 50 of his 53 members), to make that the right pole in the negotiation. But that has now been threatened. Some Republicans are seeing this desire to find common ground as an opportunity to layer on unrelated ideological demands.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is pushing to add a $5 billion provision for private school vouchers to the relief bill. Few actually want this as part of the overall package, rightly reasoning that it has nothing to do with coronavirus relief. But you just need a handful of splitters—four to be exact—to derail the entire enterprise. The bill is supposed to get a vote next week, when the Senate returns to session.

One of the objections is that Cruz’ tax credit shouldn’t get in while others get out. You can imagine the mollifying of Senators playing out with the entry of other tax credits to get their grudging agreement, turning the relief bill into a tax bill with a little relief.

In the end we’re likely not to see any coronavirus bill at all. It’s already September, and at the end of the month government spending runs out. Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have reportedly agreed on a stopgap that avoids a government shutdown, regardless of the impasse over stimulus. That stopgap is probably the last chance before the election for any additional measures. But House Democrats want a “clean” continuing resolution, which means that it won’t be used to pursue other stimulus efforts.

Again, in a plutonomy, you can’t expect plutocrat-owned lawmakers (or plutocrats themselves) to see past their noses to the non-people in the streets. The stock market took a tumble yesterday, but it would take plenty more for official Washington to notice the pain