$3 trillion coronavirus relief package : Last Friday the U.S. House of Representatives painstakingly passed in a 208 to 199 vote a sprawling, Coronavirus $3 trillion relief package. The bill marks the Democrats’ starting point for talks with Republicans and the Trump administration on the next round of stimulus, in addition to setting the stage for dueling political messages in an election year—fourteen Democrats, many of whom were elected in 2018 from swing districts, voted against it; one Republican, Rep. Peter King of New York, voted in favor of the bill.
The $3 trillion coronavirus relief package is supposed to provide $1 trillion in direct aid to states and localities, including grants and education assistance, to deal with the effects of the pandemic. It would, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, put a new round of one-time cash payments into Americans’ bank accounts, extend the duration of enhanced jobless benefits, help cover some rents and mortgages, forgive some student-loan debt and send premium pay to essential workers in fields such as health care.
$3 trillion coronavirus relief package : What’s in it for us?
There are, however, two problems with the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package the House passed. First, it has absolutely no chance in passing the Republican-controlled Senate. Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell opposes it on the grounds that it does not include measures to shield companies from liability during the pandemic. Second, and perhaps more vital, the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package does not detail an infrastructure program that would provide Americans with stable employment, especially for those who may not have a job after the crisis is over.
It was in late March, after the first stimulus bill was passed when President Trump encouraged Congress to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill as the next piece of legislation to boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. He tweeted: “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” Thus far there has been no serious follow-up from both Democrats and Republicans on the matter.
$3 trillion coronavirus relief package : The Failure to Meet the Challenge
Ryan Girdusky, author of They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the National Populist Revolution, stated that the Trump administration lost control of the narrative that it had taken proactive steps to solve the crisis various opportunities passed to fundamentally restructure country in a way that would have benefitted the working class and his voters.
The original stimulus package in March provided about $500 billion loan program to small businesses was designed to keep workers employed ran out of money. Yet some main street business owners hit by the coronavirus pandemic say that it simply was not enough to keep their businesses afloat.
- 20,000 have 500 employees or more, equaling to about 50% of jobs in the U.S.;
- 25% have less that 50 employees;
- the remaining 25% account for 4.3 million employing 4 people or less.
It is the third group which the stimulus package did not provide the necessary aid since they only received up to $1,000 per employee, making the blue collar business unable to meet their other expenses, such as rent and utilities. Also, more than 1.6 million loan applications were approved, but many small firms did not receive money in the initial funding.
Not to take anything away from the federal government’s continual push to help businesses, such relief, unfortunately is conditional on the containment of the coronavirus, with the hope that the economy would subsequently pick up in the fall. The question to be asked is what is the plan if the novel COVID-19 is not defeated by then, or worse resurfaces?
$3 trillion coronavirus relief package : Learning from FDR
President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, when many Americans were poorer than field mice, took advantage of the crisis by taking on the political status quo and imposing his New Deal programs to ensure Americans could get back on their feet. help the population, such as
- The Securities Act: it regulated Wall Street and lessen fraudulent activities with securities in the hopes of avoiding another stock market crash.
- The Home Owners’ Loan Act: it established to help not only increase the number of people and families buying homes but avoid foreclosures from those struggling to pay their loans.
- The National Labor Relations Act: it guaranteed basic rights of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining for better terms and conditions at work.
- The Social Security Act: it provided a federal safety net for elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged.
- The Works Progress Administration: created with an executive order on May 6, 1935— when the unemployment rate was 20%—it provided jobs and income for millions of Americans. Renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939, it employed mostly unskilled men to carry out public works infrastructure projects. They built more than 4,000 new school buildings, erected 130 new hospitals, laid roughly 9,000 miles of storm drains and sanitary sewer lines, built 29,000 new bridges, constructed 150 new airfields, paved or repaired 280,000 miles of roads and planted 24 million trees.
FDR even went so far as to threaten to pack the Supreme Court by increasing the number of Justices from nine to fifteen in order to ensure his plan of economic reconstruction would get through. In other words, he took it upon himself to get things done as opposed to letting the lawmakers fight and delay, if not reject, the programs necessary at that time to keep Americans from further sinking into the financial crisis.
$3 trillion coronavirus relief package : What Trump Could Have Done
Girdusky said that President Trump could have simulated what FDR did if he were to have a coherent vision that would have already drained the swamp, simultaneously creating the infrastructure he mentioned in March.
Trump made the right call on January 31 to suspend travel to the U.S. from China—he was the first leader to do so before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Nevertheless, he did not provide substantial plan for the country, such as:
- To initially press the governors to come up with a plan to protect senior citizens in assisted living facilities, since they were the most vulnerable group in the country;
- To utilize the Defense Production Act at a much earlier stage to have manufacturers in the U.S. make masks and build ventilators. Aside of potentially having saved more lives, this would have halted the media from its inauspicious reports of medical supply shortages.
- To make a provision in the stimulus package that would have offered billions of dollars to training programs for Americans out of work in low-wage jobs, allowing them to learn new skills during the quarantine—this system was pioneered by Germany during the 2008 recession and laid the groundwork for the country’s successful rebound as the engine of Europe over the past decade.
It is still not too late for the President to take matters into his own hands and create the national infrastructure that is so desperately needed. Unfortunately, the loans are not going to cut it, especially with both Democrats and Republicans barking at each other. However, given that Trump is up for reelection in just under six months, it is not as if he can afford to pace through this with the risk of the coronavirus resurfacing.
Just like when President Thomas Jefferson seized the moment with The Louisiana Purchase (1803) in which he purchased approximately 827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River from France for $15 million—he only asked Congress to ratify purchase after it was a done deal—it is Trump’s moment to likewise seize the situation in front of him.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is author of Islam: Religion of Peace – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.